March 13, 2015
Mama Said, “Advertising is the Devil.” If you can, try to think back to the earliest you can remember ever watching TV. Now, make an estimate on the overall hourly amount of television you have watched since then. It’s a lot, right? You’ve probably spent so much time in front of a television that “a lot” is all you can possibly sum it up to. Things like television, magazines, books, even music play a big part in our lives. And as we’ve learned, they have a lot to do with our views on a range of different topics, especially ones related to gender. Mass media does a horrible job at representing gender. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re watching your favorite TV show and those pesky stream of ads come along and try to ruin the experience, instead of changing the channel actually watch a few of them. More often than not, you’re going to come across some that either display something along the lines of a woman cleaning the house with a company’s new cleaning product, or a deathly thin woman trying with all her might to take a bite out of a cheeseburger almost half her size. Mass media has a very, very bad habit of depicting women as sex objects, housewives, dependent on men, and weak. Whether you are aware of this or not, it has a horrible effect on the people who view these depictions, especially women, and it needs to stop. The sexist portrayals and objectification of women in advertising has gone on for a very long time. Even now it is rare to watch television, read a magazine, or even browse the internet without coming across an advertisement for a product that features some half-naked, suggestively portrayed woman. Zimmerman and Dahlberg (2008) clearly point out the different ways in which women are portrayed:
Studies of advertisements in a variety of men’s, women’s, and general interest magazines have categorized women in various roles: housewife, decorative element, sex object, and dependent on men (Ferguson, Kreshel, and Tinkham, 1990); housewife, concerned with physical attractiveness, sex object, career oriented, and neutral (Lysonksi, 1983); alluring objects of sexual gratification (Mayne, 2000); and erotic and suggestive stimuli (Henthorne and LaTour, 1995) (72).
It is important for you to realize that even though these are just depictions, they still have an effect on society. From early childhood and on to adulthood we accept what we see in the media as truth. Fox, R.F. , in his book, “Harvesting Minds: How TV Commercials Control Kids,” says that even three-year old children who are heavy television viewers have demonstrated more rigid attitudes about what jobs men and women should have, as opposed to their peers who view less television. Roy F. Fox is Professor of English Education and former Chair of the Department of Learning, Teaching, & Curriculum at the University of Missouri (“College of Education”). Also, in an article written by Kathryn P. Thill and Karen E. Dill that looked at young people’s perceptions of gender roles from sexist depictions in video games described a study by a woman named Kristen Harrison in 2003. Dill and Thill (2007) stated that using a sample of 231 male and female college students (average age 20) Harrison found that exposure to curvaceously thin images of females predicted the personal acceptance of this figure as an ideal by both men and women (852). Some may say that advertising is just a means of gaining exposure for a certain product and that it has no negative effects. To that I say, both yes and no. Yes, advertising is a great way to sell a product. The right kind of advertising can make a product that is only known of by a small amount become a product that everyone knows and uses. But to argue that it is completely harmless is just wrong. Many advertisements feature very slim women. Female viewers who see these depictions develop the idea that thin means beauty. This creates a gap between the actual appearance of an