Advertising and image : To what extent do advertisements reinforce female gender stereotypes?
Advertising and image
Before any discussion about female gender stereotypes in advertising, it is important to be clear on the difference between sex, gender and sexuality. And it is important to define what a stereotype is. Helen Macdonald (2003) gives good definitions:
* “Sexrefers to a person’s biological sex : whether they are male or female
* Gender refers to the role or behaviors a person has been socialized into according to their sex, whether they are masculine or feminine
* Sexuality refers to a person’s sexual preference: whether they are heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.”
And she explains that “The issue of gender is not static. […] In our societythere are certain attributes and behaviors which are seen to be more appropriate for one sex than the other.” (Magazine advertising and gender , 2003). For example women should be feminine, submissive, weak, passive, intuitive, emotional, communicative…and like different things as men, for example shopping, make up, relationships etc. All these things are stereotypes because it is received wisdoms.And according to Helen Macdonald “these stereotypes exist, because they are easier than getting to know every man and women in the world personally. Advertisers are especially prone to using stereotypes to sell products for the same reason.” So we know that stereotypes already exist and are used by advertising to sell products, but to what extent do advertisements reinforce female genderstereotypes? The society is in perpetual evolution, it is why certain stereotypes should disappear. However it would seem that the advertising play a role in the obstinacy of the stereotypes. We shall thus study the influence that the advertisements can have on the perception of what has to be a «female gender ", then we shall wonder about the reasons which drive the advertisements to maintain thesestereotypes and finally we shall wonder to know if it is possible to change the representation of the woman in the advertising.
The image of woman in advertisements: what has to be a “female gender” ?
Timothy Sexton tell us that “to judge women by the typical advertisement, to be a female means to subjugate one’s personal desires and contentment to the needs of family and husband” (Televisionadvertising : its effect on the development and reinforcement of gender stereotypes, 2008)
Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki (2008), according to Belkaoui and Belkaoui (1976), Mitchell and Taylor (1990), Lysonski (1985) and Zotos and Lysonski (1194) classifies female role stereotypes in advertisements under four categories : women in traditional roles (dependent and housewives), women in decorative roles(concerned with physical attractiveness and sex objects), women in non-traditional roles (career-oriented women or voices of authority), and women in neutral roles (portrayed as equal to men).
1) Traditional roles
Advertisements for cleaning products speak hardly just to women. The stereotype of the Queen-of-the-house shows us a woman, who is really happy, when she has the feeling to have cleanedwell her house. And when a man is present in cleaning products advertisements, either it is because he is a specialist or it is in a humorous form, to mean the simplicity of use of the product: if a man can do it, it is because the product is simple to use. Even if a man is present in the advertisement, the message speaks to women. Erving Goffman explains that “to present the man as ludicrous orchildlike, unrealistically so, as if perhaps in making him candidly unreal the competency image of real males could be preserved” (Gender advertisements, 1979, London, 36). As an example we can hold up the French advertisement for the brand Eau Ecarlate, in which we can see a man who is reading a note of his wife which says “my love, do you see the big brick there? It’s a washing machine!! So you...
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