Welcome! This website features my final project for my Rhetoric and Pop Culture class (Comm 2360). I chose to look at how women are objectified in advertisements, as well as some of the effects of this objectification. I became very interested in advertising when we learned statistics about how many advertisements we are exposed to each day--more than you could imagine! My project includes a research paper where I summarize four articles related to my topic. The other element of my project is a creative aspect. My creative aspect is a powerpoint video where I look at the different methods advertisements use to objectify women. Please take a look around! Thank you!
Even when we are unaware of it, we are being influenced by the messages of advertising. Advertising is such a great part of our consumer culture that we often do not register when we are looking at advertisements. I took an interest in the objectification of women in advertisements because I find it fascinating how advertisements are able to influence our subconscious. To guide my research, I focused on the question of how advertisements objectify women and the effect that this objectification has on society, especially as our culture grows accustomed to this objectification.
In her essay, “The Communication Function of Advertising,” Sofia Bratu discusses how advertising communicates sexual objectification. She first looks at midriff advertising, where a women’s midriff is the focus. Midriff advertising is supposed to represent empowerment and playfulness. However, Bratu argues that it shows a shift from women facing the judgment of the male’s gaze to women internal, self-judgment. Bratu characterizes this as sexual subjectification, which is when women choose to be identified as sex objects. Bratu also looks at how advertising plays an important part in assigning sexual identities. Men have been socially trained to use their visual sense for arousal, and advertisements play on this fact. They appeal to men to take charge by being a consumer of the product, when the product is a woman. She says that the cultural messages in advertisements are often restrictive because they reinforce stereotypical gender roles. Bratu also explains how advertising and cognition work. Incongruities in advertisements act to excite the consumers. Advertisements utilize subliminal messages to reach consumers. The absence of a product is a tool in subliminal advertising. In advertisements that objectify women, women are often shown without the product the ad is trying to sell (11-16).
In their article, “Women as Sex Objects and Victims in Print Advertisements,” Julie M. Stankiewicz and Francine Rosselli look at the prevalence of advertisements that objectify and victimize women, as well as the effects of these advertisements. Stankiewicz and Rosselli first mention that people do not often consciously attend to advertising. Therefore, advertising is not exceptionally as likely to have its social messages questioned. They argue that women as sex objects and victims in advertisements make violence against women seem more acceptable, and our culture can trivialize sexual violence. Stankiewicz and Rosselli propose that advertisements that sexually objectify women create an attitude that women are there for men’s pleasure. Advertisements that objectify women give the message that submission is desirable. Some of the characteristics present in advertisements have been taken from violent pornography. In recent times, there has been an increase in advertisements where women have less sexual power than men and are shown as objects of desire. In Stankiewicz and Rosselli’s study, a woman is a sex object “if her sexuality was being used to sell a product” (583). Their study looks at women in advertisements and classifies them as victims, sex objects, or both. This study looks at a total of 4136 full page ads from 58 magazines of various categories. Stankiewicz and Rosselli found that women are portrayed as sex objects in 51.8% of advertisements across magazine categories. In men’s magazines, advertisements that included pictures of women showed them as sex objects 75.98% of the time. On average across magazine categories, 9.51% of advertisements with women depict them as victims. Women are more likely to be depicted as victims in advertisements in men’s magazines. About 73% of the time, advertisements that showed women as victims also showed them as sex objects. The authors mention that the overlap of women as sex objects and victims reinforces a connection between a woman’s sexuality and her experience of pain. The prevalence of these advertisements accustoms our culture to violence against women. Images where women are sexually objectified make men more accepting of the rape myth. The overlap of a woman’s sexuality and her victimization suggests an association of sex and violence against women (579-589).
In their essay, “The Sexual Objectification of Women in Advertising: A Contemporary Cultural Perspective,” Amanda Zimmerman and John Dahlberg explore how today’s women are growing accustomed to being objectified in advertisements. Advertisements where women are sexually objectified are becoming more prevalent, yet women are becoming less offended by the advertisements. Zimmerman and Dahlberg conducted a study similar to one done by Ford, LaTour, and Lundstom in 1991. Both studies gauged women’s interpretations to advertisements that objectified them. Zimmerman and Dahlberg found that college aged women today think that women are more often portrayed as sex objects compared to women in 1991. Even though the sexual objectification is seen as more prevalent, these women are still less offended by it than the women in 1991. Zimmerman and Dahlberg point out that the advertising has a large effect on culture because it can accustom us to things like objectification (71-79).
Dr. Saswati Gangopadhyay looks at anomalies in objectifying women in advertisements in his essay, “Use of Women in Advertisements and the Issue of Social Responsibility.” Dr. Gangopahyay mentions that advertisers try to secure consumer confidence by appealing to the stereotypical hierarchy of gender. Advertisements that sexualize women make women look beautiful which evokes jealousy in other women, which is a demeaning emotion. He also mentions that women are used in advertisements even when men are the target consumers because sex is thought to help men recall brands. Dr. Gangopadhyay proposes that the media needs to scale down on the use of objectifying women in advertisements as a profit seeking method. He says that because the media is so influential, it has a social responsibility with how it portrays women in advertisements. The business of advertising will be better in the long run if it sticks to ethical practices.
Through my research, I arrived at the conclusion that the objectification of women in advertisements can have very serious consequences for both men and women. Women can start to objectify themselves, and men will become accustomed to viewing women as objects. When men view women as objects, they are taking a step towards violence. Dehumanizing someone for profit is not a safe or ethical practice.
Bratu, Sofia. "The Communication Function Of Advertising." Annals Of Spiru Haret University, Journalism Studies 14.2 (2013): 11-16. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.
Zimmerman, Amanda, and John Dahlberg. "The Sexual Objectification Of Women In Advertising: A Contemporary Cultural Perspective." Journal Of Advertising Research 48.1 (2008): 71-79. Business Source Complete. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.
Gangopadhyay, Saswati. "Use Of Women In Advertisements And The Issue Of Social Responsibility." Global Media Journal: Indian Edition (2011): 1-7. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.
Stankiewicz, Julie, and Francine Rosselli. "Women As Sex Objects And Victims In Print Advertisements." Sex Roles 58.7/8 (2008): 579-589. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.
The following ads are examples of the ways in which advertisements objectify women:
Get a garage, you two.
"It's nice to have a girl around the house."
An ad for deodorant...men's deodorant
Stay classy, PETA
In competition for men:
Mmm...smells like a middle school boy
And just because...