Sex Role Stereotypes in Advertising

Today advertising is considered to be one of the strongest methods that can influence our mind and subconscious. The numerous sex role stereotypes that exist in the modern society are applied in advertisements. Modern campaigns use these tricks to attract attention to their ads.

A blonde with limited intellectual abilities is one of the most famous female images that is presented in the ad industry. An image of a blonde is a common stereotype applied for an attractive woman with blond hair who has limited mental abilities and simple view on life.

There is a common category of jokes which are based on the blonde stereotype. This category is widely used by the advertisers as it creates a successful combination of a simple but beautiful woman. It is a perfect opportunity to show a woman as a sexual object spicing it with humor and making an accent on the male superiority at the same time. All of campaigns brightly illustrate this fact, for example, in Architect, Builder, Contractor & Developer magazine the advert for window equipment “Fenestrator” depicts a blonde woman wearing lingerie and the text of the ad is the following: “Makes opening sash windows a breeze for the elderly, the disabled and the blonde.” Devon, Dorset, a woman who worked in the construction industry, tried to complain about the ad content, but her complaint was not upheld, as the Authority noted that the advertisers “intended the advertisement to be humorous. It considered that the advertisement was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to the readers of Architect, Builder, Contractor & Developer magazine” (Holtzman, 38).

According to most ad researchers, such an attitude to women lies beyond the ethical norms and regulations. One group of human beings cannot be humiliated only on the bases of their physical appearance. What is interesting, there is no such a category for men. Statistics show that intellectual level of men and women is equal. Researches also indicate that women with blond hair are in no way less intellectual than other men or women. This stereotype is only used as a convenient tool for man to show their false superiority.

The modern investigation of ads on television concludes that sexually directed ads are the most popular and spread category of advertising.

If we try to analyze the modern advertisements, we will notice that ads of such subject-matter constitute more than half of all ads taken together.  This kind of advertisement attracts attention by showing nudity, sexual attractiveness and by making its participants the sexual objects. Such commercials are designed to make the customers believe that using the good advertised, they will become more attractive for the opposite sex. The statistics show that today it is hard to find companies which don not use females as sexual objects in their advertisement campaigns. The latest ad of Miller Lite is a very vivid example. In this ad beer, which is considered to be a mainly male product, is advertised by two model-looking girls who start fighting for the bottle and finally finish their catfight almost completely nude. It is a typical ad depicting women as a sexual object in order to advertise a good for men. In this case, a woman becomes nothing but a sexual object, a pleasant addition to the thing advertised, which “can be used and thrown away” (cited in Gunter).

There is no need to say that such an approach does not add respect to women. Proponents of sexually directed ads state that using women as sexual objects cannot be justified by any social, moral or ethical norms. These types of ads have one more negative impact, along with reducing the role of women to sexual objects, designed to correspond the needs of men. Psychologists have found that beautiful models which surround us in advertisements create a perverted ideal of beauty in other women whose appearance is “average” and brings a serious damage to their self-esteem.

However, there have been also noticed new tendencies in the world of advertisement. Today appear ads which depict women’s professional and intellectual qualities depicting them as valuable members of the society. Kenko ad is a very bright example of such an attitude. In this ad woman is checking up the quality of coffee beans and wants to buy them. Mail shop assistant says to her “I’d better o.k it with the boss”, pointing to the man, accompanying her. “You just did” woman replays assuming that she is the boss. However, even in this ad superficial attitude to women and their business abilities is expressed through the shop assistant’s words. Such ads reflect the tendencies of modern society to equality between men and women and stress women’s ability to occupy high positions and take important decisions. It is obvious that such steps do not contradict any ethical norms and even vice versa, show high level of ethics is realized through the equal women and men treatment. Unfortunately, these ads are not so widespread as other categories, mentioned above. It can be explained by the historically patriarchal basement of our society and conservative views on gender roles in life in general and in ads in particular.

Traditionally, in accordance with television reality, the role of women in media was reduced to the role of a housewife. Morover, such categories as submissive mother or a blond-haired women with limited mental abilities only expand the role of housewife. These advertisement characters are centered on their houses, know nothing but cooking, cleaning and watching children. Ad psychologists make a conclusion that this category is completely asexual and represents women’s passive social role taking its roots in the history of the mankind. Later sexual revolution and some other factors have added new role to women in advertisement. Advertisers realized that using women as sexual object can help them to sell anything.  The profitability of this method became evident and advertisements with sexual pretexts occupied major part of the advertisement techniques.  The last category of ads which depict women as professionals appeared only recently. This new tendency proves the fact that women are tired of their passive role of housewives and sexual objects and want to take an active role in the social life and have equal rights with men. This type of advertisements describes women as good professionals centered on their working statues and qualification.

To draw a conclusion, advertisement is a most powerful influential medium in modern society and ideals and stereotypes it expresses have a very important influence on the society. It is important to mention that ads which portray women in a negative perspective and decrease their social position become an obstacle for future social progress and development. Only harmonic society, where both, men and women are equally appreciated, can give an opportunity for growth and development.

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