Critical Thinking Media Competence

Sexism in Advertising

When watching TV commercials nowadays, it goes without saying that a lot of them can be regarded under the aspect of sexism. In the following text, we want to concern ourselves with the questions what images of men and women are depicted in these commercials and how these images changed throughout the years.

First of all, one must however define the terms sexism. In the sense of law, sexism refers to discrimination based on the gender without any justification. This issue is often illustrated in advertisements which has the purpose to arouse interest, to influence consumption behaviour and further to convey an image of what we should be like.

In the beginning phase of advertising, the classical image of women was illustrated. Women were shown in their role as a caring mother who had to stay at home in order to do the household while simultaneously taking care of the family and children and serving her husband. This portray of women in TV commercials has radically changed over the last decades.

It can namely be observed that our society distinguishes values into masculine and feminine. Stereotypically, it is widely believed that strength, dominance and power are masculine values whereas servility is regarded to be a feminine value. This automatically conveys to women that they should acquire a passive position: the man has to be the dominant partner in a relationship with distinct emphasis on their desire for the women’s body. Advertisements stress the fact that men are not interested in the women’s character in the first instance but in their body. This is for instance evident when pointing out that often only parts of the women’s body are shown. It goes without saying that this results in a devaluation and dehumanization of women in society as women are objectified and reduced to their outer appearance. What counts are not their inner qualities or intelligence, but solely their attractiveness and influence on the opposite gender. This is the reason why all advertising campaigns use beautiful women for their spots. It is namely the purpose to present the ideal of a perfect woman who doesn’t say much to the men, thus being even more desirable. Cases in points are those commercials that present thin, shy, quiet women that are similarly treated as sex or decorative objects for the men.

Let us take the advertisement of Paco Rabanne we dealt in class with for instance:

The man is the main receiver of advertisement because they are regarded to be the main consumer. This simultaneously creates the idea that women are another product of the market that can be easily bought – just by snapping one’s fingers. Furthermore, it conveys the image of the perfect man: he is considered to have strength, power and influence.