How useful is the notion of either ‘objectification’ or ‘stereotyping’ for issues of gender representation in contemporary advertising?
This essay evaluates whether the notion of objectification is relevant to study the issues of gender representation in contemporary advertising. The objectification theory was developed to explain the concerns of women on their portrayal in the media. Since the 1960s the feminist movements has criticises the portrayal of women in advertisements. The women have been portrayed as sex objects and in suggestive poses to entice male attention and sell products. There has been a change in the portrayal of women in advertisements as the status of women changed in society. The plethora of sexual imagery in advertisements raises the question whether women are stereotypes or objectified in advertisements.
sexual objectification is described as where women are only viewed as objects of desire and sexual pleasure. In contemporary advertisements women are sexually objectified to sell various products and gain attention. Objectification in advertisements shows women as decorative objects and the emphasis is on physical attractiveness including prominent displays of the body and sexuality. When a woman is objectified in advertisements her being human is undermined. Objectification limits a woman to her appearance and she becomes a tool for some other purpose. Many advertisements show women as passive and as an object of desire. The objectification of women suggests that women can be touched or used since they have been commoditised. This objectification of women is obvious in contemporary advertisements; erotic imagery has become a part of advertisements.
The 1920 s, 1930 s, and 1940 s are often considered three of the most controversial, radical, and progressive decades in American history. Many politically, socially, and economically vital events took place during these eras that forever transformed America and its citizens. However, while domestic and global catastrophes such as the Great Depression and World War II enabled certain minorities, ...
Tuchman a prominent feminist sociologists, introduced the notion of “Symbolic annihilation” to study sexism in media and the phenomenon of media trivialisation of women. The nascent women’s movements also addressed the issue of images of women in the media and social roles. Betty Freidan’s book the Feminine Mystique is accredited for initiating the second wave of feminism in the US analysed the women’s images in magazines. As early as in the 1967 some pressure groups advocated the removal of media stereotypes and the collective understanding of gender roles and stratification (Tuchman, 1979).
Tuchman (1979) argued that the sexism in media can be described by two dominant explanations, women’s position in media organisation s and the socioeconomic organisation of the media. Some researchers take the view that the toxic or harmful portrayal of women is common because women do not have any responsible positions within the media. There were women hired in the TV stations during 1970 but the women were unable to hold administrative positions. The second explanation for media sexism was the socioeconomic organisation of the media. The professionals in media encourage male domination while overlooking issues relating to women. The women are portrayed in submissive roles and their portrayal is limited to sex objects, housewives and mothers, these are passive roles that lack any assertiveness.
Griselda Pollock (1987) in her “What’s wrong with images of women” explored the gap between the political interest in images of women and the women’s movement and lack of advanced analysis in this context. Pollock study are similar to Gay Tuchman’s views The dominant assumption underpinning writing on images of women reflect the meanings which originate in the interactions of the media producers or exists in the social structures.
The images of women are divided in bad (distorted, glamourized) and good images that depict a realist image of women in photographs that show older women, housewives and working women. Pollock challenges this notion and argued that they need to be replaced by a more adequate theoretical model. Images are never direct or unmediated reflections. Pollock examining the representation of women in art stated that structures constructed by Rossetti paintings and structures compared by contemporary advertising. The contemporary images cannot portraits but they can be seen as a fantasy (Thornham, 2007).
... to colourfully over-dressed or under-dressed women. Media images have created stereotypes of men and women – men as confident, ... is high time that the stereotypical portrayal of women in mass media should give rise to the ... Buñuel in his film That Obscure Object of Desire, remarkably records the absurdity of ... Dixit, Pooja Bhatt, Seema Biswas in leading roles. There is marked seriousness in these films. ...
The gender stereotypes are general beliefs about sex linked traits and roles, psychological characteristics and behaviours that describes men and women. The gender identities are socially constructed and advertising advocates lifestyle and forms of self-presentation that individuals use to define their role in society. In the 1960s there was a resurgence of feminist thought in the 1960s that focused on women’s portrayal in advertising and promoted a systematic investigation in the realm of female roles in popular media. The feminist called for systematic investigation in the female role stereotypes and sexism. During the 1960s and 1970s the feminist perspective was advanced but in the 1980s and 1990s this movement weakened. By the 1990s the notions of feminism and sexism became outdated as the issue of sexuality rather than gender became the focus of discourse and debate. During this period sexual imagery of women was viewed as radical and cutting edge instead of being exploitative (Plakoyiannaki & Zotos 2009).
Each decade has its own ideal of feminine beauty that is disseminated through mass communications. The new feminine characters that became fashionable in the 1960s depicted the woman as independent, active and dynamic. However during the 1970s the feminise ideal became more ambiguous and the women in advisements were displayed as detached and emotional distance. Most they were portrayed in seduction poses. It was during the 1970s the feminine body was represented as a fetish object of desire. This tendency was more explicit in the 1990s (Ruggerone, 2006).
In the contemporary media and advertisements sexual imagery is ubiquitous, the interest in the portrayal of women in advertising stems from the 1960s when women’s movements campaigned for change in the media representation of women. Most advertisements today show women as alluring objects of sexual gratification and as seductive objects. Between the 1960s and mid 1990s the overt portrayal of women as sex objects has dramatically increased. The portrayal of women as sex objects focused on her body and they used as decorative elements. Furthermore there has been an increase in advertisements that objectify them; many advertisements with tempting images of women also contained sexual objectification. Studies shows that the portrayal of women in advertising is offensive and such ad campaigns can have negative influences. The attitudes of women towards advertisements today can be correlated with the changes in feminism (Zimmerman & Dahlberg, 2008).
The Term Paper on Important Women. Rosa Parks, M.Thatcher (Feminist? Hero? + Quotes with Comments H.Clinton
Rosa Parks: The “mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat triggered important change in the United States and became a major moment in American history! “People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, ...
The content analyses conducted in the past three decades shows that the media has consistently portrayed a stereotypical image of women based on their physical characteristics. Most women in advertisements are shows as young, think and White and all the portrayals depict them as inferior. The most dehumanising role of women projected in the media is that of a sex object and a woman’s value is based on her appearance. This image is conveyed through images of women in little clothing and their sole purpose is to be sexually desirable and attract male attention. Most of the advertisements for younger girls focused on the importance of physical appearance. The advertisements promote the perception that a woman’s worth is in her physical appearance and sexual appeal (Gordon, 2008).
Laura Mulvey in her seminal work on film studies combined psychoanalytic and feminist perceptive to analyse images of women. Her analysis constructed women in film as passive objects of the male gaze, she descried the male gaze as voyeuristic, rational, distanced, and sadistic and controlled. Mulvey described the narcissistic identification as the process that allows the male spectator to have a sense of power and control. Mulvey (1975) described the make gaze as “fetishtic scopophilia” that builds up the physical beauty of the object and transforms it into something satisfying (Patterson & Elliott 2002).Tuchman et al(1978) examined the objectifications of women as being an object of the gaze, most advertisement portrayed actors in an objectified way for the consumption of gendered audiences. According Mulvey (1975) the gaze was defined by patriarchal society as a male activity when looking at females. Mulvey’s studied gendered messages in cinema her basic insight in explored in the objectification of women in advertisements (Monk – Turner et al, 2008).
The media can have a low self body image on women. The media concentrates so much on how thin women should be and there are so many advertisements with women who are very thin. Women begin to believe that they can never add up to the models shown in advertisements. This can lead to many eating disorders such as Bulimia, anorexia nervosa and overeating. These eating disorders are very serious and ...
The Third wave of feminism emerged in the 1990s looks at women governed by their own version of feminist ideas. The position this movement took was distinctly different from the second wave of feminism, especially in the areas of sexuality, body aesthetics and what constitutes feminist resistance. The third wave witnessed a rise of sexual freedom and empowerment (Bronstein, 2005).
The new feminism or the third wave influenced the modern feminist thought process. The third wave feminism professes new ideals that are not old fashioned but instead is bold, fun and corresponds with popular culture. This version of feminism embraces sexuality and sees sex a power. This third wave sees women as the dominant sex. It is argued the rationale of representing women as sex objects by men is a desperate attempt to regain power from the femme fatale who is in control. The new feminism embodies a new attitude that is more strong and powerful. Even feminists such as Naomi Wolf have embraced the concept of girl power that favours women using their bodies as works of art. Wolf argued that women can be glamorous as long as they are not forced. Feminist ideals have undergone change and a new face is now emerging. The sexually objectified portrayal of women in advertisements also influences the views of sex and sexual behaviour. Sex has been commercialised and it is seen as a recreational activity, one that is exploitative. Such portrayal has made girls more sexually aggressive and they are now experimenting with sex (Zimmerman & Dahlberg, 2008).
CHICANA FEMINISM The Chicana Femisnist movement evolved between 1970 to 1980. It addressed concerns of Chicanas due to the interplay of race, class, and gender oppression. The Chicanas struggled to gain equal status in the male dominated movement. Both liberal and radical feminists hope to achieve gender solidarity through the politics of identity. Poet Robin Morgan called the anthology of ...
There have been several books such as The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, Backlash by Susan Faludi, and Unbearable Weight and Twilight Zones by Susan Bordo that criticise modern advertising. All these authors have criticised the advertising industry for representing women negatively and argue such images have harmful consequences for women. The beauty, cosmetics, healthcare and fashion deliberately control and manipulate women’s images to entice them for their beauty products. Bordo stated that the feminism image analysis goes beyond objectification issue; the individual response is not limited to a particular body part or their shape. The response is to the meaning of such images create which makes the feminist charge of “Objectification” inadequate to describe what happens when women’s bodies are depicted in a sexualised way. The notion of women as objects that reduced women to bodies is more disturbing than the depiction of regressive ideas of feminine behaviour as attitudes are profound than appearance(Schroeder & Borgerson , 1998).
The disagreement of these authors is not based on the subliminal forces in advertisements but on the patriarchal society that is based on reproducing patriarchal industry like advertising, cosmetics and definite that cannot deal with the changing role of women. This is the reason why they are using women into sexual stereotypes. Women in ads are shown in two types of social symbols that include aggressiveness and attractiveness. The women images signal glamour and submission. Young women are shown in advertisements as dolls, mannequins or displays to sell a product. The model does not possess any social, intellectual or business role, she is merely a body. Ads use close cropping tetchiness and advertisements can focus on a shoulder, a breast, a thigh without showing the body as a whole. Such images in advertisements perpetuate a pattern of viewing women as collection of body parts. Like pornographic representations these ads abstract body parts from the whole person (Schroeder & Borgerson, 1998).
The sexist portrayals of women result in their objectification and use of one dimensional character to sell products. The objectification is presented through decorative portrayals that imply that women do not have any functional relationship to the advertised products. The physical attractiveness and conspicuous displays of the demand body and sexuality highlight the decorative portrayals (Reichert et al, 2007).
It happened suddenly, surprisingly and overnight. One day I was a child and the next I was a sex object. Catching everyone from friends to teachers, parents to siblings off guard I had grown into a women and to some, a piece of female specimen that welcomed sexual advances, harassment and jokes. The one thing that has defined my womanhood more then anything else has been my breasts. I was thrown, ...
According to the theoretical framework sexual objectification is a form of gender oppression that can be equated to other forms of woman oppression such as employment discrimination and sexual violence. The sexual objectification tends to be monotonous. The common theme in all forms of sexual objectification is the experience of being treated as a body or collection of body parts. The feminist have argued that objectifying treatment to women is harmful to women (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997).
The bias for women is “Body-ism” where the focus is on women’s bodies or body parts and sometime their heads in the image are not included. The objectification theory has been used to examine the effects of sexually objectifying media exposure. This theory contends that the women can be acculturated to internalise a viewer’s perspectives as a main view of their physical selves. This perceptive is referred to as self-objectification, where individuals view themselves and objects that must be appreciated by others. Self-objectification is the tendency to define the self in terms of how the body appears to others instead of focusing on how the body feels or what it can do (Aubrey, 2006).
The contemporary representation of women in advertisements employs a feminist tone. There has been a shift from objectification too sexual subjectification that is portrayed in advertisements through the discourse of playfulness, freedom and choice (Gill, 2009).
Traditionally sexually objectifying images have described the portrayal of women in the media, although men appear more frequently in media advertisements the exposure of women’s body is greater (Snigda & Venkatesh, 2012).
The change in the context of feminism can be described by Postfeminism that renounces the tenets of 1970s feminism. The concept of Postfeminism embraces the pleasurable feminity and regarded men as potential friends, or partners. Postfeminism draws on the elements of the third wave such as politics of pleasure which agrees to a de politicised post feminism ethos. Post feminism talks about feminism leaving out feminist activism, collectivism, social justice and transformation of prevailing gender orders. Postfeminism enacts fantasies of regeneration and transformation and also advocates the desire for change. Postfeminism includes a variety of positions that are inconsistent with feminism (Lazar 2009).
Objectification has been the key term critiquing visual culture, for decades it has been used an analytic concept to understand the power is operated in terms of representation. In the postfeminist era the women are no longer passive objects of an assumed male gaze, the women are increasingly represented as active; playful that possesses the power to entice men. This shift from objectification to sexual subjectification is framed in advertisements through a dialogue of playfulness, freedom and choice. Within this new conceptualisation of power in the contemporary advertisements the notion of objectification seems redundant, the notion of objectification does not connect the representation of women and subjectivity (Gill, 2008).
Gill (2009) examined women’s sexuality in advertising and stated representation of women has changed drastically. The young women are depicted as active, independent and sexually empowered. She introduced the “Midriff” identity where women use their sexuality to exercise power. This mid riff is a newly constructed subject of a new feminine identity. This concept rejects the notion of passivity and objectification to favour a modern version of heterosexual feminist as feisty, sassy and sexually empowered. In contemporary advertisements feminity is depicted as powerful, playful and narcissism.
The notion of objectification to describe images of women in advertisement is centred at being an object of gaze. The advertisements today common feature the over sexualised images of women. The objectification of women in media and specifically advertisement has been studied since 1970s. Objectification represents women as an object and like an object for sexual pleasure. During the 1960s the feminist criticism targeted advertisements for stereotyping roles where women were shown as dependent on men and men were only interested in women as sex objects. The feminists saw such portrayal as limiting and criticised the depiction of women in advertisements. The objectification of women is not just limited to advertisements but also includes other media outlets such as movies, video games and TV. However the emergence of postfeminist discourse the notion of objectification is no longer valid. There has been an increasing notion that feminity is bodily properly which has led to the shift of objectification to subjectification.
The advertisements today emphasis on female narcissism and the concepts of liberation have been collapsed in specifically private desires. The representation of women’s bodies has also changed from being passive in the past to being desiring sexual objects today. The new wave of feminism embraces sexuality and perceives it as a source of power. Today some feminist also accept the concept of women using their bodies. The advertisements have commercialised sex as a frivolous activity and forwarded the notion that women can be exploited. The new portrayal of women shows them to be aggressive and willing to engage in casual sex for pleasure. The shift in the advertising industry’s representation of women now shows women as powerful, independent and sexually active. The images in advertisements no longer show women as passive and objects of male gaze.