Gender advertisement

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Gender advertisement refers to the images in advertising that depict stereotypical gender roles and displays. Gender displays are used heavily in advertising in order to establish the role of one gender in relation with the other, and some scholars argue that advertisers are obsessed with gender.[1] Advertisers focus on gender relationships, because people define themselves by gender, and gender can be "communicated at a glance," making it easy for advertisers to use this theme in their work.[1] The effects of advertising on body image have been studied by researchers, ranging from psychologists to marketing professionals.[2][3][4] "These days we know that the media and body image are closely related. Particularly, the body image advertising portrays affects our own body image. Of course, there are many other things that influence our body image: parenting, education, intimate relationships, and so on. The popular media does have a big impact, though"[5] This is because thousands of advertisements contain messages about physical attractiveness and beauty, examples of which include commercials for clothes, cosmetics, weight reduction, and physical fitness.[6] Researchers have conducted studies in an attempt to see if such advertisements have effects on teenage body image, and what those effects might be.[2]

Creation and maintenance of gender normality[edit]

Advertising is a significant agent of socialization in modern industrialized societies, and is used as a tool to maintain certain social constructions, such as gender. Men and women are depicted as differing in attitudes, behavior, and social statuses.[7] These differences are what separate the sexes into different genders. Gender advertisements give the viewers a glimpse into a world laden with socially defined and constructed gender relations, displays, and roles.[8] These images are crafted to mimic real life and many mistake the concepts of fantasy and reality in regards to advertising.[9] Erving Goffman would call it "Commercial Realism", when advertisers try to present the advertising world in ways which it could be real.[10] Goffman argues that advertisements do not look strange to us, when they should. Advertisements take something that exists already in the world and they change it, forming a distorted reflection. "They emphasize some things and de-emphasize others," it is a hyper ritualization of the world, and we recognize, and even relate with some of the images.[1]

Role of gender in advertising[edit]

It is argued that these images could be teaching the viewers a vast array of social cues, and even the most subtle ones make an impact on the viewers.[11] Further it is said that gender relations are learned through advertisements.[1] Among these learned gender roles are those of femininity and masculinity. Men and women are portrayed in advertisements according to the constructed definition of femininity and masculinity. To be a woman is to be feminine and to be a man is to be masculine. There is little room for variation or a reversal of roles, except within the smaller frame of niche marketing.[12]

Masculinity in advertising[edit]

In advertising, men are often portrayed in the following ways:[12]

  • Alert and conscious of surroundings
  • Standing upright
  • Eyes open and looking around
  • Bodies are controlled
  • Mean expression on face
  • Gripping things tightly with hands
  • Hands in pockets
  • Serious
  • Physically active

"Bravery, adventurousness, being able to think rationally, being strong and effective, for example, are all "manly" traits that are usually encouraged. So also are the ability to think independently and take the initiative. Media images supporting these behaviors include the strong, silent Marlboro man and military ads telling young men to be 'all you can be'."[13]

Social pressure on men to endorse traditional masculinity and sexuality in advertising[edit]

Since the 1980s, men's bodies have been used more for advertising, depicting a similarly idealized body image to that portrayed of women.[14] Research suggests that men feel social pressure to endorse traditional masculine male models in advertising. Research by Martin and Gnoth (2009) found that feminine men preferred feminine models in private, but stated a preference for the traditional masculine models when their collective self was salient. In other words, when concerned about being classified by other men as feminine, feminine men endorsed traditional masculine models. The authors suggested this result reflected the social pressure on men to endorse traditional masculine norms.[15] Researchers, such as Mary Martin and James Gentry, have found that teen advertising negatively impacts teenagers' self-esteem by setting unrealistic expectations for them about their physical appearances through the use of idealized models.[2] Other researchers, such as Heidi Posavac, acknowledge this, but believe that this only applies to teenagers who already possess low self-esteem or a poor self-images.[3] Further, a growing number of advertisements are showing men as sex objects.[16] A study on male body obsession found that advertisements for everything from cars to underwear depicted bodybuilder images with "washboard abdominal muscles, massive chests, and inflated shoulders, a mixture of muscularity and leanness probably attainable only by drugs."[17] In contrast, researchers, including Terry Bristol, have found teenagers to be generally unaffected by these advertisements due to the idea that repeat exposure can create an immunity to images and messages in advertisements.[4] Moreover, some researchers, such as Paul Humphreys, have concluded that exposure to such advertisements can actually create higher self-esteem in teenagers.[18][19] Though women's equality is advancing in society, men have become more fixated with muscularity because it is still seen as a cultural symbol of masculinity. In addition, it has been suggested that a muscular body has become an aesthetic norm for heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.[20]

In a content analysis study of exclusively male images in men's magazines, it was found that most of the bodies in advertising were not 'ordinary', but those of strong and hard 'male figures'. The study showed that males in the advertisements were usually objectified and depersonalized.[21]

The representation of ectomorphs (thin and lightly muscled) was limited predominantly to the advertising of clothing that may look more appealing on slimmer, taller men. Endomorphs (soft and round) were rarely depicted and if they were, tended to be the object of humour. It is important to note that representations of male bodies are often used irrespective of their relevance to the product being promoted.[22]

A study published in "JAMA Pediatrics" in January shows concerns about physique and muscularity in particular, among young males are "relatively common." The researchers said approximately 18 percent of participants in their study (which included 5,527 males) were "extremely concerned for their weight and physique." Furthermore, the researchers found 7.6 percent of young males were "very concerned about muscularity" and were using techniques that could be harmful to obtain an ideal body.[23]

Femininity in advertising[edit]

This ad suggests that using this hormone cream will in fact make you look younger.[24]

Portrayals of women in advertising:[12]

  • Touching self
  • Caressing an object
  • Lying on the floor
  • Sitting on a bed or chair
  • Eyes closed
  • Not alert
  • Confused
  • Vulnerable
  • Body contorted
  • Dressed like a child
  • Holding an object or a man for support
  • Sexy and sexually available
  • Seductive
  • Playful
  • Careless

These are positions of submissiveness and powerlessness. This can be clearly seen when women are shown lying on the floor as men are standing over them, literally depicting women as being beneath men. Women are urged to pursue beauty and sex appeal, and part of the sex appeal is submission.[13] Currently there are campaigns such as the Because I'm a Girl (campaign) that have worked to change the way in which women are perceived for the better. These campaigns aim to reclaim the saying "like a girl."

The body – and particularly here the female body – is always inevitably controlled by social norms[25] and the commodification of the body through industries such as fashion and beauty that exhibit femininity.[26]

The discursive constructions of these female bodies are quite plainly 'prepared for consumption' by men. These constructions not only reveal the inevitable gender-power relations about the body but also suggest the cultural ambivalence about sexualized bodily display and image management. This sort of ambivalence both idealizes and denigrates individuals' explicitly performed efforts to produce and portray bodies that conform to societal 'ideals'.[27]

History of gender advertisement[edit]

Toys for girls from the 1920s to the 1960s focused heavily on domesticity and nurturing. For example, a 1925 Sears ad for a toy broom-and-mop set proclaimed: "Mothers! Here is a real practical toy for little girls. Every little girl likes to play house, to sweep, and to do mother's work for her" Such toys were clearly designed to prepare young girls to a life of homemaking, and domestic tasks were portrayed as innately enjoyable for women. While girls' toys focused on domesticity, toys for boys from the '20s through the '60s emphasized preparation for working in the industrial economy. For example, a 1925 Sears ad for an Erector Set stated, "Every boy likes to tinker around and try to build things. With an Erector Set he can satisfy this inclination and gain mental development without apparent effort. … He will learn the fundamentals of engineering":However, late-century marketing relied less on explicit sexism and more on implicit gender cues, such as color, and new fantasy-based gender roles like the beautiful princess or the muscle-bound action hero. These roles were still built upon regressive gender stereotypes – they portrayed a powerful, skill-oriented masculinity and a passive, relational femininity – that were obscured with bright new packaging. In essence, the "little homemaker" of the 1950s had become the "little princess" we see today.[28]

Gender displays in advertising[edit]

"If gender is defined as the culturally established correlates of sex (whether in consequence of biology or learning) then gender display refers to conventionalized portrayals of those correlates."[10] Gender displays can otherwise be defined as rituals of gender behavior, and they are used to help interpret social reality.[1] This is what advertising mainly borrows from, and for Goffman this is the reason as to why ads do not look strange to the public.[1] Further, Goffman argues that there are codes which can be used to identify gender. These codes of gender can be seen in the portrayals of men and women in advertising. There are four categories under which we can see these codes of gender: the family, the feminine touch, the ritualization of subordination, and licensed withdrawal.[10]


Erving Goffman explains the ways that men and women in advertising are portrayed. Goffman chooses to discuss the social purpose of advertising, how advertising portrays what people want to have or gain rather than how people act. Some examples of Goffman's ideas include:a man is always taller than the woman unless socially inferior; a woman will barely touch or make any form of contact with surfaces or objects; a man will be the one issuing instructions to the woman in the photo shoot regardless of who is controlling the set; a woman or child will be the most likely candidate to sit or lie down; and women will be depicted as mentally empty when in contact with a man. Goffman mentions that women are often represented as children or have childlike characteristics. Another main point Goffman makes is the representation of what clothes mean in advertising. If clothes are being worn by a male, then it is strictly being worn for advertisement. When women are wearing clothes in advertisements, the clothes are being worn as costumes.[29]

Goffman's theories remain a relevant source of study today, with their implications still being studied in college classrooms and reflected upon by scholars. Although strides have been made in advertising, current studies find that the tropes that Goffman describes are still largely shown in advertisements today.[30]

Feminine touch[edit]

Erving Goffman developed the theory of "feminine touch." In advertisements women are often seen touching items or themselves delicately. The delicate touch is most commonly associated with women portraying female characterization as delicate and gentle; whereas masculine touch portrays males in advertisements as individuals with a firm grasp on their environment, themselves, and the items at their disposal. Additionally, "Women more than men, are pictured using their fingers and hands to trace the outlines of an object or to cradle it or caress its surface."[31] This delicacy assigned as an inherently feminine characteristic perpetuates the biased notion that women by nature are weak, docile, and lack control of their environment.

Furthermore, women also often portray self touch, a variation of Goffman's "feminine touch" theory, in advertisements. "Self touching can also be involved, readable, as conveying a sense of one's body being a precious and delicate thing."[31] Women are often seen as more gentle and have a tendency to appear submissive and objectified in advertising media. The sociocultural implications of the covering of the mouth with the hand, a variation of self touch, include speechlessness, coy behavior, and situational helplessness that is usually associated with women in advertisements and editorial fashion photography. In addition, the sucking or biting of the finger has similar but slightly more sexually suggestive sociocultural and situational conditions. The covering of the mouth with the hand also lends itself to symbolizing surprise or shock, which further perpetuates the idea that women are meek and in need of delicacy or protection.

Function ranking[edit]

According to Goffman, "In our society when a man and a woman collaborate face-to-face in an undertaking, the man-it would seem is likely to perform the executive role, providing only that one can be fashioned. This arrangement seems widely represented in advertisements, in part, no doubt, to facilitate interpretability at a glance."[32]

Function ranking refers to the hierarchy in occupation and/or relationship a man has over a woman. When a man and a woman are both featured in an ad, the man is more likely to perform the executive, dominant role while the woman takes a more submissive, secondary role. For example, in an ad for medicine, a man is most likely pictured as being a doctor while the woman is a nurse. In a car ad, a man is pictured driving the car, while a woman is sitting in the back seat. Based on these examples, women are only intended to do more feminine tasks or help the men, while the men perform more masculine tasks and take control in situations. Although Goffman's observation is intended for advertisements, it can also apply to other media, such as television shows and films.

Many advertisements that have male leads feature the man as performing more adventurous, rugged, actions and holding higher, executive positions. Their female counterparts usually are more reserved and more dependent on the male. Whether or not function ranking is a strategic move on the part of media programmers or a reflection of society's standards is to be debated, but either way this can be problematic. The constant bombardment of function ranking may be internalized into the audience's' minds. It is possible for those who aren't media literate to be swayed by the images they see and assume the world views men as more powerful than women. Of course, there are many ads that include women taking the executive role over men.

Function Ranking is one of the main points that Goffman argues because it can be seen in almost any advertisement, TV show, movie etc. Function Ranking can be seen in children a lot more as argued by Goffman. He states "Function ranking is also pictured among children, albeit apparently with the understanding that although the little actors are themselves perfectly serious, their activity itself is not, rather something that touchingly strikes an anticipatory note."[32]


Erving Goffman provides some interesting arguments regarding how families are portrayed in advertisements in order to adhere to imposed social norms. As Goffman states, all members of almost any family can be encompassed within one picture, and if properly positioned, a visual representation of family members can serve as a representation of the family's social structure.[33] That said, family pictures in advertisements are not always realistic. In fact, they seem to be unrealistic more often than not. Families in advertisements are consciously positioned in a specific way so as to exhibit a particular social standard. Goffman also suggested that families in advertising often show the presence of at least one girl and one boy, which enables the symbolization of the full set of intra-family relations, including the presumed special bonds between the mother and the daughter as well as between the father and the son.[34] Special bonds between mother and daughter and father and son are often portrayed through spatial positioning.[33] While these bonds (mother-daughter, father-son) are so often portrayed, the bonds seem to have a different nature. Goffman claims, "... there is a tendency for women to be pictured as more akin to their daughters (and to themselves in younger years) than is the case with men. Boys, as it were, have to push themselves into manhood, and problematic effort is involved."[33] So, according to Goffman, relationships between males and relationships between females within a family, in correlation with social standards, are drastically different. In fact, they are almost polar opposites. Mothers relate to their daughters as much as daughters relate to their mothers, and young female children just sort of fall into womanhood. On the contrary, sons are supposed to want to be like their masculine fathers, while a father relating to his less masculine son would be viewed as abnormal. Furthermore, while females simply reach womanhood whenever it happens, males are pushed towards masculinity and manhood from a very young age. Goffman provides numerous examples of advertisements in "Gender Advertisements" to support his claims, and many advertisements today can be used to support his claims as well.

The ritualization of subordination[edit]

The ritualization of subordination is a term coined by Erving Goffman to identify and classify techniques used in gender advertising. The other components identified by Goffman in gender advertising that fall under this banner are: The feminine touch, lying down, bashful knee bend, tilted head or body, licensed withdrawal, and infantilization. All of these components form the collective basis for gender in advertising and we will touch on all of them however as the focus of this article the ritualization of subordination; that will be the topic most highlighted and defined in what follows. In a nutshell, the ritualization of subordination is achieved by manipulating and framing social connotations that are associated with body posture, location, positioning, and elevation between males and females in an image. The individuals portrayed are often strategically positioned, postured and placed in relation to one another within these images to suggest a certain social stature and power. In almost all cases it portrays the woman in a manner that is subordinate to the man, with the male being elevated above the female in the image in a masculine and dominating fashion whilst the female is further postured to reflect submissiveness. There have been advertisers that have experimented with reversing these roles however this remains an exception and not the rule.

Erving Goffman identifies several components that make up a list of techniques used in gender advertising that display ritualization of subordination. These components include: the feminine touch, lying down, the bashful knee bend, a tilted head or body, licensed withdrawal, and infantilization. After closely examining these components, Goffman was able to link these with the overall theme of ritualization of subordination for the use of each one suggests that a female's role in advertising as being powerless and out of control to their surroundings as well as being subordinate to male figures.

The first of these components is feminine touch. Feminine touch is the motion and placement of a female's hands in a way that is represented delicately. Erving Goffman examined how when female models are used in advertisements to hold or touch objects that they do so in an elegant manner. This can be compared by examining the way in which male models are shown when they are used to hold or touch products. With male models we see them gripping objects firmly. This suggests that males are more in control and use their strength more than females do.

The next of these components is lying down. Goffman examines how females are commonly shown lying down in advertisements, and in many examples females can even be found lying at the feet of a male. Erving Goffman's examining of this concludes that by displaying a female lying down an advertisement is suggesting that the female may be too weak to stand, or that they are implying that because a model is a female, they should be shown lying down because it is a more vulnerable state. This links to the ritualization of subordination by again stressing the ideas that females lack power and that if they are portrayed in a vulnerable state, surely they must be subordinate towards a male who is shown standing over them.

Next we have the bashful knee bend. The bashful knee bend is a very common pose used by females in advertisements. Again, the repeated use of this posture was identified by Erving Goffman as displaying females as weak and objects of sexualization. The bashful knee bend displays women in a way that makes them appear more sexually appealing as well as in a weaker state of posture versus the way males are displayed, which is typically standing up straight with no knee bend. All of this can also be linked to displaying females with a tilted head or body, which is the next component Goffman suggests fits under the ritualization of subordination. Again, we can see females postured differently than males through tilting their heads and bodies in awkward, but visually appealing ways that suggests they are subordinative.

The next component that Goffman suggests fits under the ritualization of subordination is licensed withdrawal. Licensed withdrawal is described when a female is positioned in a manner that suggests she is not aware of her surroundings. When females are used with this component they can be found gazing off to the sides of the camera to give the impression that they aren't paying attention to what is going on around them in their surroundings. This suggests subordination because they are depicted as not being engaged in the setting they are in and would therefore be dependent on others.

The final component that we have is the use of infantilization. Infantilization is used in advertisements by depicting females as being childish and immature. This can be done by showing them smiling or laughing in a playful manner, or by having them engaged in an activity, such as a pillow fight etc. that could be classified as immature behavior. This almost directly insinuates the ritualization of subordination because children, for obvious reasons, are expected in nearly every case to be subordinate for they are children and adhere to a more mature and in-control parental figure. Displaying females in such a manner suggests they are equivalent to children, and therefore, suggests that they should be subordinate as such.

Anthony Joseph Paul Cortese quotes Goffman in his book, Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, saying "People in charge of their own lives typically stand upright, alert and ready to meet the world. In contrast, the bending of the body conveys unpreparedness, submissiveness and appeasement". It's amazing how using this method today remains extremely popular and one would assume successful. It's understandable where some of these concepts originate from but finding similarities between that origin and the modern woman could prove extremely difficult, with the exception of childbirth, that is. Do women today really see themselves as submissive, powerless, and dependent? Do they want to reinforce cultural definitions and stereotypes that they've fought so hard to erase?

Advertisers are very aware of the images they are putting out. Bovee and Arens (1986) concluded that, "most readers of advertisements (1) look at the illustration, (2) read the headline, and (3) read the body copy, in that order." (p. 47) That order means that even without knowing what the advertisement is for, the highest percentage of viewers will simply associate women with this concept. This continued practice begs the question of why this is still so common and acceptable? Do advertisers think that little of women or do they assume that women think that little of themselves? Sadly, as the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." "It", in this case being the system. Their methods make them money and until those methods cease to accomplish their goal, it's unlikely anyone will be inclined to change them.

Is it even possible to change an entire culture? Possibly, but it can't be done overnight and it assumes a lot of risk. Risks of failure, peer alienation, bankruptcy, and possibly public humiliation. The only way to change a culture is to prove that there is another way. Employing strategies that convey women with strength, dignity, and respect is risky. It seems odd to even think that in the equality obsessed society we live in. I have hope that there are those who want and can buck this trend that someone has the creativity and resources to go outside the box. Surely women deserve to be viewed as more than objects to feed our masculine appetites.

Licensed withdrawal[edit]

The idea that women in ads are often depicted as physically and psychologically unaware of her surroundings, while men are shown as alert, and prepared to fend off any potential threats. Additionally, women and men can be seen as overly alert. Women are seen as dependent on those around them, compared to men who are seen as independent or overly dominant.[10]

Licensed of Withdrawal simply means that any person who is physically and psychologically uninvolved with their surroundings, showing they are socially dependent of those around them. Women are usually portrayed in pictures not paying attention to what is going on around them. They are often gazing off somewhere, like they are lost. They are not active participants in the scene, therefore are often dependent on others. Women may also show this withdrawal by turning their head or body away from the camera or covering their face with their hands or an avert gaze looking into the distance. Even if an individual is looking at the camera with no feminine touch or subordination, this may still be classified as licensed of withdrawal due to covering their face.[35]

In advertisements, licensed withdrawal is most often seen in women. They are "zoning-out", covering their faces, and disengaged. They can be portrayed as nervous, vulnerable, helpless, and unaware of their surroundings. In extreme cases, they are seen sleeping, or even dead. They cover their mouths with their hands, symbolically silencing themselves.[36] When women are not withdrawn, they are shown as overly-active. Laughing\shouting with their mouths fully open, looking foolish, spilling things, overcome with extreme emotion. Men on the other hand always have control of their emotions. They are engaged with their surroundings, staring deep into the camera, or something "off-screen". This portrayal of women being oblivious, or out of control is dangerous, because it glamorizes the image of vulnerability and weakness in women. Women become objects to gaze upon, while men remain fully human, and in control.[37]

Athletics for both males and females are portrayed differently instead of being unbiased. Males are usually the dominant figures in the world of sports. Male athletes during conferences or interviews are asked questions about the performance they had out on the field or in the court while females are asked more personal questions about their physical appearances and non-sport related activities. Females get more attention about their appearances than their athletic performances. Female participation in sports was not always a popular idea until Title IX passed in 1972 which states, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." The media covers sporting events with a heavy biased for men and women. In different media, you see how things vary by quotes, how long the segment is played for, the placement of the photos, and finally in the size or importance of the headlines of media.

Not only do we see license withdrawal in advertisements and sports, but we also see it in the social media we use everyday, for example Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter are all but a few examples. The portrayal we have of women and men are being reflected in the videos, images, and statuses that are uploaded to the internet everyday. Many models, celebrities and athletes have personal social media accounts they share with the world. They take, "selfies," and videos of themselves, and in these mediums displaying licensed withdrawal. What makes this area of licensed withdrawal different, is that these are real people taking real pictures, videos, thoughts, and ideas that they hold to reflect themselves. They are often not attracted to a product or a company. This makes the act of license withdrawal look even more natural. Because it looks so natural, it looks common, which means we see people conform to licensed withdrawal everyday in our own personal world, and people we interact with.[38]

Again, licensed of withdrawal is any person who is physically and psychologically uninvolved with their surroundings, showing they are socially dependent of those around them. Women and Men both portray this in different ways. Licensed withdrawal can be seen anywhere and in any form, advertisements, athletics, and social media were just a few of many.

Role reversal[edit]

Sometimes the traditional gender roles are reversed. When this happens, one can see men behaving in ways that are generally associated with femininity, and women behaving in typically masculine ways. This is often the case in gay[39] and lesbian[40] advertising. Witnessing these ads can be a shock to most, as they are not accustomed to this reversal of roles. This is an indicator that there is in fact a distinction between the genders in advertising.[12]

Human body in consumer culture[edit]

Within current consumer culture, the human body is celebrated as a site of pleasure. It is desirable and desiring and the closer the body is to the idealized images of youth, health, fitness, and beauty, the higher its exchange value. Consumer culture allows for the unabashed display of the human body.[41]

In modern times, clothing is designed to glorify the 'natural' human physique, a stark contrast to the 19th century in which clothes were created to conceal the body. Victorian male garments (see Victorian fashion), loose fitting and conservative in subdued colours, reflected the emphasis for respectability of the male body. Victorian women had to be squeezed into corsets to accentuate the hourglass figure despite the vigorous propaganda against tight-lacing. In the bedroom, the naked body was not considered a source of beauty and joy—sex should take place in the dark.[42]

Conversely, with the rise of consumer culture in America after World War II,[43] the body was no longer an embodiment of sin but secularized and found increasingly in contexts for display both inside and outside the bedroom. Furthermore, the cultural popularity of the outdoor Californian lifestyle and warm climate destinations has made leisure clothing and thus, the exposure of the human body, more acceptable.[42]

Effects of advertisements[edit]

Beauty can be defined largely as a perception. It is a group of social norms that interpret a particular form of appearance that is valued. Both men and women strive to achieve this beauty which influences them to shape themselves and alter their appearance in order to conform to those norms.[44] These norms are largely derived from the medias presentation of models and well known stars through advertisements for products and magazine covers. As our society is now filled with these advertisements in all aspects of life, such as on TV, billboards, in supermarkets displayed with the products (particularly beauty products) and on social media, children are now viewing this material at a younger age and in turn creating the perception that this is the ideal appearance whilst they are still very impressionable.

In the early twentieth century, society began to pursue material goods with the goal of fulfilling a general desire to own the item rather than for later use.[45] This is largely due to the use of advertising media and the perception, particularly with beauty products, that the models pictured obtain their looks buy using these products.

It is very common for young men and women to compare themselves to models in ads, in terms of their physical attractiveness.[46] The appearance and body size of the models within the advertisements in the final image seen buy consumers are more often than not altered through editing programs such as Photoshop, in order to achieve the perfect (or impossible) desired look. The use of these images creates a false beauty ideal for both men and women to aspire to, as well as creating the use of extreme dieting and surgical procedures in order to resemble a similar image that is displayed in advertising. This emphasis on an ideal body appearance has been regarded as being psychologically detrimental to the well-being of many young men and women, and on their self-image.

Magazine advertisements highlighting a thin, attractive female model yield greater self-objectification and the process of inspecting this type of advertisement can encourage women to think about their physical appearance as if looking on as a critical observer.[47] Images from the media are frequently exposed to Western women, and the usage of skinny idealized women in advertising is prevalent.

When sexuality is used in advertising, certain values and attitudes towards sex are 'sold' along with a product. The message may be that "innocence is sexy", that women enjoy being dominated, that the use of a certain product is naughty but legal, or that use of a certain product will make the user more attractive to the opposite sex, and many other messages. The way beauty is portrayed in the media causes dissatisfaction and negative thoughts about oneself when those results are not achieved. Sociocultural standards of male images are presented in almost all forms of popular media, barraging men with images that portray what is considered to be the "ideal body." Such standards of beauty are almost completely unattainable for most men; a majority of the models displayed on television and in advertisements are well below what is considered healthy body weight. Mass media's use of such unrealistic models sends an implicit message that in order for a man to be considered beautiful, he must be unhealthy. The mindset that a person can never be "too rich or too thin" is all too prevalent in society, and it makes it difficult for males to achieve any level of contentment with their physical appearance. There has been a plethora of research to indicate that men are negatively affected by constant exposure to models that fulfill the unrealistic media ideal of beauty.[48]

On the other hand, back to our daily lives,from the minute boys enter our classrooms, masculine identity building is taking place in one form or another. At some level, teachers and students, both male and female, often act in accordance with a set of unspoken tenets that are subtly or explicitly reinforced through tacit approval, willing indifference, or a lack of awareness. William Pollack (as cited in Neu & Weinfeld, 2007) calls this set of culturally embedded expectations about masculinity the Boy Code. An examination of this "code" yields new insights about the troublesome behaviors exhibited by many struggling boys in our classrooms and reveals why boys with certain styles (SF/Interpersonal and NF/Self-Expressive, specifically) might experience its negative impact more deeply than their peers.[49]

In the book Helping Boys Succeed in School, educators Terry Neu and Rich Weinfeld (2007) capture Pollack's Boy Code in the form of a "dos and don'ts" poster.

  1. Do not cry (no sissy stuff).[49]
  2. Do not cower, tremble, or shrink from danger.[49]
  3. Do not ask for help when you are unsure of yourself (observe the code of silence).[49]
  4. Do not reach for comfort or reassurance.[49]
  5. Do not sing or cry for joy.[49]
  6. Do not hug your dearest friends.[49]
  7. Do not use words to show tenderness and love. (2007, p. 24)[49]

The research of Terry Neu and Rich Weinfeld shows that the process of developing ideal male images is taking place in our classrooms.

Much of the existing literature on ideal male images has either focused narrowly on the impacts of media on adolescents' views towards ideal male images or parental style on the impacts on this topic. As a result, it often lacks the information necessary to systematically compare different groups' cultural backgrounds.

Body image[edit]

In today's society, the media and body image share close ties. 30 percent of all television time is directed towards advertisements. The media and body image share close ties due to the amount of time spent watching advertisements. The average fashion model wears a size 2 or 4, while the average women is a size 12 or 14. The body image portrayed by advertisements shows a "false body image" of the general population. "False body image" has become well known, as people portrayed in advertisements are often "touched up" and edited to be thinner and flawless. These representations are often not realistic images of the body.[50] Through the media portraying these false body images, it has also impacted body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.[51] It is common that these body images, ones that are often unrealistic, lead to anxiety, depression and inadequate feelings towards the ideal body image.

Current feminist studies are striving towards including heavier than normal models in high end, top selling women's magazines. In one study, including an editor of one of the top selling women's magazines, she claimed her view of feminism demonstrated an understanding that the issues revolved around women's bodies (8). In addition, she also claimed she understands the culture surrounding women's bodies is likely unchangeable as sample-sizes would not fit normal-sized models. Clothes hang better on thinner bodies, and photographers personal complaints when asked to shoot women who were not "conventionally thin" . These factors limit any efforts to lose the body image issue of "thinness" in society and advertising. Though the word "feminist" does not have a definition that is completely set in stone nor does it have a set standard of beliefs, a "feminist" would issue a larger sized model who represents, or nearly represents, the average woman.

Gender stereotypes and roles[edit]

People organize their knowledge about the world around them by sorting and simplifying received information. Therefore, they create cognitive schemes, which are certain representations of the reality displaying its most typical and fundamental elements and properties. These schemes are responsible for defining the essence of our worldview and have a significant influence on social cognition – understanding, anticipation, situation and emotion control.

Gender roles have also been impacted by the media and advertising. SlutWalk is one phenomenon that emerges through incontemporary "third-wave feminism". The SlutWalk movement helps increase victim visibility and reintroduce sexual violence issues to the public.[52] Gender roles within media and advertising have also been impacted by sex and relationship commitments. Men have positive attitudes toward casual and recreational sex, whereas women value the emotional intimacy and commitment around a sexual relationship.[53] Difficulties in differentiating gender roles in the modern societies can be a perfect example of the negative social effects of using stereotypes. A division of gender roles is deeply rooted in today's society. Through the ages men have been considered to be financial providers, career-focused, assertive and independent, whereas women have been shown as low-position workers, loving wives and mothers, responsible for raising children and doing housework. Nowadays a family model is based rather on a partnership than on patriarchy and women have more rights and possibilities on the labor market. Feminist environment had a significant impact on the change in this situation. Women's liberation movement fought for the rights of women and for redefining traditional gender roles.Although females and males are still not equal, the differences between gender are not so vast anymore. Nevertheless, many social institutions, such as mass media, still use gender stereotypes, basing on the assumption, that they are well known to everyone and help the receivers to understand the content of the message.[54]

Gender roles in media and advertising is impacted by humor. Advertising frequently uses gender roles to promote products. There are various stereotypes in regards to humorous advertising with both males and females. Stereotypes can product oversimplified conceptions and misapplied knowledge evaluations. Humor is generated on two steps. First, some kind of incongruity that violates a predominating view has to be recognized and, second, if people cognitively resolve this incongruity, they experience humor. Humor occurs when it seems that things are normal, while at the same time something goes wrong that breaks our expectations. Men could be depicted in domestic roles doing chores, whereas women would be presented in independent roles. This would break our expectation and society norms that revolve around the gender roles. Exaggerating these gender norms would have a potential to be humorous.[55]

Advertising strategy[edit]

Media and advertising has also taken a strategic role in today's society. Women's behavioral intention is enhanced more through a transformation message strategy than an information message strategy. However, a man's behavioral intention is an information message strategy as opposed to a behavioral intention.[56] Advertisements rarely portray people that look like "us", or the norm. Women are frail thin, and often are edited or "touched up" to look thinner and flawless. The people whom advertisements are aimed at, rarely look the same as those portrayed in the advertisements themselves.[50] The Females process self-efficacy and behavioral intention emotionally rather than rationally like males do. Another gender difference that has emerged is consumer effectiveness and message strategy significantly predicted self-efficacy. These findings show a gender role within media and advertising.[56]

Research suggests that there are four different and independent components. They are trait descriptors (self-assertion, concern for others), physical characteristics (hair length, body height), role behaviors (leader, taking care of children), and occupational status (truck driver, elementary school teacher, housewife). Each component has a masculine and a feminine version. Stereotyping becomes problematic when stereotypes lead to expectations and judgements that restrict life opportunities for subject of a social category. This is the reason why public policy is concerned about marketing activities that promote stereotypes. Each gender stereotype component can lead to negative consequences that restrict life opportunities, particularly for women. Physical characteristics can lead to reduced self-dignity, role behaviors may lead to restricted opportunities of self-development, and stereotyping of occupational roles may lead to disadvantages in women's careers.[57]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Classic advertisements[edit]

Modern advertisements[edit]