Women and gender studies
Every day we come across various advertisements either in print or on television. The most common factor in these ads is the recurring use of women to sell products. Whether it relates to the subject matter or not, an image of woman is used. The core reason for this extensive use is the fact that women are the best source to sell products. An average American is accustomed to seeing an image of a blonde selling score of products such as alcohol, clothing lines, food stuffs, perfumes and even construction materials!
Advertising is a multi-million dollar industry and to keep generating as much income, advertisement makers make liberal use of women. As advertisements are the foundation of mass-media, they cause a strong impact on the minds of people, especially youngsters and adolescents. The portrayal of women as mere sex objects is becoming much more rampant in print as well as television ads. Tall, slender women, without blemishes or scars and a thin body, is what an ideal woman is projected to be. But in the actual world, how many of us can relate to that image? By being intimidated by such images in commercials, more and more young women are giving up healthy eating habits just to look thin and ‘fit’ into the culture. Sadly commercials which do not relate to women also make use of women images, such as the ad of the magazine Sports Illustration on the airplane of Southwest Airlines, showing a scantily clad model or that of Budweiser Beer again showcasing a model in a bikini. Such exploitation of the image of women merely to increase sales is disheartening.
As a woman, there is nothing more demoralizing than being depicted as mere sex objects or as housewives. Why aren’t women shown in another light? Apart from being a woman, there is a personal identity which needs to be acknowledged. No more are women just home makers but are equally forging ahead in the commercial arena; then why aren’t they shown as entrepreneurs and achievers? One fitting example would be of that of the jeans brand Levi’s. This brand has been famously endorsing skinny women as perfect ones; this was further reinforced when in its latest campaign the tagline read ‘hotness comes in all shapes and sizes’ but in the imagery shown were skinny girls wearing Levi’s jeans. What message is it sending across? Being skinny is equaled to being hot, sexual and more desirable.
Women have been depicted in advertisements right from the 20th century, but alas the image has not changed. Whether it is to sell home care products or be it a mobile phone, every ad today uses women either as a central character, but more often as decoration. Advertising maybe used mainly to sell products and services, but it is a powerful tool in determining attitudes and changing mind-sets.
1. Vaishali Shrikhande. “Stereotyping of women in television advertisements”. 10 August 2003. Web. http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-0516103 41609/unrestricted/Shrikhande_thesis.pdf
2. Jean Kilbourne. “Center for media literac”. Beautyand the Beast of Advertising. Web. http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/beautyand-beast-advertising
3. Shields, Vicki (2003). Measuring up, how advertising affects self-image. NWSA
Journal, 15, 199.http://bit.ly/w8jHpz
4. Kilbourne, Jean (2000). Killing us softly 3: advertisings affect on women.