Gender advertisements: the endless women’s struggle

What we mean with gender advertisements?

The term gender advertisements refers to images in advertisements that describe man and woman in a stereotypical way and it reflects a world with gender roles defined and constructed: femininity and masculinity.

We all know that advertising and marketing reflect culture, also contribute to create it, what usually the gender advertisement show is that being a woman means to be feminine and being a man means to be masculine. The inversion of these roles has not much space within the world of marketing and advertising.
It is important to say that gender roles exist solely because the society chooses to recognize them, they are perpetuated by the media and pushed through the advertising. gender advertisements

Gender roles in advertising show off equalities or inequalities?

Since the beginning of its use, advertising has exploited the image of women and has used it as an element of seduction and appeal for the buyer.
Together with the evolution of society’s customs, advertising has become increasingly explicit as long as sexual references are concerned, but in reality the gender roles in advertising has been and it’s mostly sexist.

The gender stereotypes in advertising are widespread, and it’s not a secret that marketing, advertising and tech industries have gender issues.
Also if in recent years, advertising has begun to show images where the male figure seems submissive to the female this is not representing a real emancipation of the female image in advertising and marketing.

Advertisements constantly show women with unrealistic images of stereotypical beauty, situations that often refer to the sphere of sexual pleasure and representations of what it means to be “female”. Regarding this, Badger & Winters, has produced a video that sarcastically denounce all extremely sexist advertisements. The video is called “We Are #WomenNotObjects” and if you didn’t watch it, you need to do it.

This gender stereotypes in advertising reinforce the superiority of white males in our society and hold female role as inferior, and the real problem is that these sexist images and messages are accepted as “normal” and spectators accept everything passively without asking questions.

We Are #WomenNotObjects gender advertisements

How the advertising represents gender roles in advertising?

While the masculinity in advertising is usually portrayed as “standing upright” with “eyes open and looking around” and the “mean expression is on face”, the femininity is portrayed as “lying on the floor” with “eyes close” and “confused”.

A study done by Nielsen Italia together with the Department of Philosophy and Communication of the University of Bologna entitled “How advertising tells Italians” has examined nearly 20 thousand campaigns of the tv, radio, press and web. They examine the way in which men and women are represented in advertising, the result has led to 12 types of women and 9 types of men: rather indicative stereotypes.
Women are often represented as dummies: body only; in pre-orgasmic phase: expression of sexual pleasure; models: uniquely beautiful or “grechine”: decorative elements.
Men are always represented as professionals who work and fight against the world to achieve their goal, almost never as fathers.
We may, however, gloss over the feeling that we are always and only sexually available, on appearing only and exclusively interested in thinness and beauty, on being happy only when the courier arrives with our new shoes, on wanting the last vacuum cleaner as a gift, but when advertising becomes dangerous, we can no longer keep silent.


When does advertising become dangerous?

When a Dolce & Gabbana model forces a woman to land while a group of other men watch, when Jimmy Choo shows a lifeless female body in a car with the man probably guilty of murder or when Tom Ford to advertise a men’s suit use the headless female body as a table.
Responding to these advertisements full of stereotypes and non-veiled violence there is Audi, that in Spain launched an advertising where a doll decides to drive its own car (watch it here); the famous “The Fearless Girl” the statue idealized created by McCann in USA symbolically positioned in front of the bull of Wall street and the video of the French man who lives in a world on the contrary: women that sexually harassed men in the street: (watch it here).

While the women still struggling and looking for gender equality in everyday world, may we also ask for less gender stereotypes in advertising?

Daniela Cozzolino