Advertisements use gender to attract their audience. Throughout history gender roles and stereotypes have been enforced, however there appears to be a difference in how men and women are portrayed. Certain techniques are used to stereotype gender roles, such as; beauty, power, seduction and association. According to Lukas (2002), when men and women appear in ads together, the women are usually depicted as a lot weaker compared to the male, either through composition of the ad or particular situations through the scene. Below is an advert from the 1950’s which supports Lukas’s point about women being lower and weaker. In the image, the woman is portrayed as a slave like figure towards the male. This is how women were stereotyped 70 years ago and even though it has improved, there are still similarities when it comes to adverts featuring both men and women.
Above, a more recent ad shows the male figure as topless and towering over the female, whilst she is looking up and grabbing him for support. Again, the woman is shown as the weaker sex within this advert.
One example of an advertisement which depicts a stereotypical way a man should be is the Old Spice commercial ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’. When reading the title, you see the ad is going to be about a desirable figure ultimately in association with a product. The commercial features a well built, attractive man surrounded by luxurious things that most viewers desire. Throughout the commercial, without it actually being stated, the ad cleverly creates the idea that if the viewer buys this product, you too will be as handsome and fortunate as the featuring model. Furthermore, we can see in the title the commercial is pushing gender roles on to the ideal man; strong, sexy, muscly and wealthy.
Whilst Men are shaped as powerful, dominating and attractive; women are also stereotyped in a similar way. Below is an example of a Carl Jr’s commercial featuring Paris Hilton in a sexy swimsuit whilst washing a car and eating a burger. In her book entitled Sex Stereotype, Courtney (1983) explains how the underlying advertising message for a product advertised in this manner is that the ultimate benefit of product usage is to give men pleasure.
The ad portrays the womanly figure as sexy and provocative. Instantly, when a viewer watches this commercial, they see it as sexually appealing to both sexes’. Men believe that by buying this burger they will get the enjoyment of watching sexy women washing their car whereas women will view it as eating the burger will make them look sexy and attractive like the two models.
Typically, most people think that women are sexualised when realistically both men and women are. It is just as sexist to call men womanizers as it is to portray a woman as shown in Carls jr’s ad. What agencies that create these ads are failing to understand is that portraying gender this way raises awareness and conflict within society on stereotypes and what the ideal male or female should look like. Chatila (2013) elaborates on this by saying People are not products. They have unique traits, emotions and capabilities. Instead of advertising to these needs, marketers tend to illustrate all the things an individual should be.
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