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Women and Gender Studies, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1610

Essay

Advertisers are famous for putting out media that appeal to the consumer’s base level desires. Advertisers have spent millions of dollars and countless man hours analyzing how people react to advertising to find out what sells products the best. One of the most commonly used advertising techniques used to sell products is by using sex and gender. Sex sells, as can be deduced from the flood of half naked women and men that appear in advertisements next to everything from shoes to toothpaste. How sex and gender are used to sell products depends on who the advertising is geared for. Magazine ads appear in both men’s and women’s magazines but are targeted specifically to appear to the gender that is reading the magazine. Advertisers know what appeals to people and they use gender roles that are stereotypical in order to appeal to a large audience and ultimately sell their product.

Shoes are something both men and women need. Shoe ads in women’s magazines tend to show sexy women wearing shoes. This appeals to women, who then want to buy the shoes to feel, and look, sexy. The ad for Candies shoes with singer Britney Spears featured in high heeled, patent leather shoes is a good example of how women are typically portrayed  in shoe ads. Britney is dressed in a swimsuit and wearing high heels. While women are attracted to this ad because Britney looks sexy and cute, there is not much reality in this photo. This is obviously not an outfit that most women, in the real world, would ever find themselves in. It is not common for women to wear high heels to the pool or to go to the pool in full make up with their hair perfect, like Britney in the ad. However, the appeal is real. Britney looks sexy, confident, and makes the shoes look easy to walk and stand in. Women looking at this ad in a magazine may feel inclined to go check out the Candies store nearest them in order to get these sexy shoes so they can look sexy themselves. Sexy is the key word here because it is sex that is being sold. The ad has definite sex appeal.

While ads of sexy women are in women’s magazines selling women’s shoes, we also find sexy women selling shoes in men’s magazines. Men also appreciate sexy women it seems. A shoe ad for the men’s shoe store Jeffery West appeared in the U.K. Men’s magazine Ology (Creative Match). The advertisement shows a scantily clad woman, wearing nothing more than a leopard print coat it seems, her crotch barely concealed, and driving an old convertible. On the the seat next to her is a large gun. Next to the gun are a pair of men’s shoes. To be honest, it is not the shoes that one’s attention is drawn to in this advertisement. At first glance, it is actually difficult to determine from the ad what is even being advertised. This ad was caused a great deal of controversy because of the gun that is next to the woman. The ad and was eventually removed after a ruling from the U.K. advertising watchdog group, the ASA, banned the ad.

The fact that the ad was removed due to the gun high lights an interesting point. No one is bothered by the fact that the woman’s crotch in the picture is barely concealed or that the advertisement really has nothing to do with shoes. The ad for Candies shoes, with Britney Spears, also features a half naked woman and has little to do with shoes either. Both these ads rely heavily on sex appeal to capture the attention of the consumer. Both companies want consumers to relate sex with their product. In the Candies ad, targeted at women, the advertisers count on woman wanting to be more like Britney so they will want to buy the shoes Britney is modeling in order to, hopefully, gain some of her sex appeal for themselves. In the Jeffery West ad, they are targeting men, who hope that by buying the shoes, they will be able to get a hot woman like the one in the advertisement.

Women are reduced to mere sex symbols in both of these ads. Their bodies are being used to sell the shoes in both cases. In the Candies ad, women are being used to make other women aspire to be sexier, so they can be more appealing to men. In the Jeffery West ad, women are being used to appeal to men who want to attract sexy women. The gun in the Jeffery West ad also adds a bit of danger into the mix. We see that this woman is ‘deadly sexy’ and that it takes a true man who is not afraid of danger to go after her. This gives the shoes being sold a more edgy appeal. However, it also associates danger and violence with sexy women. While this is nothing new, pairing sexy women with violence is another stereotype that has a negative affect on women. Women in today’s world are often the victim of abuse by fathers, husbands and boyfriends. They are the victims of violent rape and other sexual attacks. Media that portrays sexy women with violence could be said to be unethical and promoting an atmosphere where violence against women is fostered. However, advertisers would most likely deny this scenario, saying their advertisement is harmless and that they are just taking artistic license. However, the ruling by the ASA in the U.K. shows that watchdog groups perhaps see this as a negative trend as well, which is why they removed the ad from circulation.

Shampoo is another item that both men and women use. There are countless magazine advertisements out there promoting shampoo to both men and women, but in completely different contexts. The two shampoo ads, one by L’Oreal and the other for Head and Shoulders, show an interesting contrast of of gender roles that are being targeted. The L’Oreal ad features singer Beyonce. Her hair is shown flowing in the wind, apparently because of the L’Oreal shampoo she has been using. A curious thing about this ad is that Beyonce is a black singer but her hair, as well as her skin, look very ‘white.’ This advertisement appeared in women’s magazines in the U.S. including Elle, Allure and Essence. There was some backlash in the U.S. when L’Oreal was accused of ‘whitening’ the ads to make Beyonce look more Anglo (Sweney). Though L’Oreal denied altering the images in any way, it brings up an interesting point. Beyonce, a black artist, does not look black in the photo’s. Her hair is ironed and dyed a golden blonde color. Overall, L’Oreal is trying to appeal to a large number of women who want to fit a certain ideal. While they may not have photo-shopped or “whitened” the image, Beyonce is still being used to sell a gender role stereotype. The ad could be seen as a negative image for young African American women living in the United States since the role model being held up in front of them is of a black woman who is conforming to a more “white” image in order to be famous.

On the other side is the ad for Head and Shoulders, a shampoo that, though used by both men and women is typically advertised to the male population. The ad shows only the top of a man’s head. It appears that advertisers do not think that most men want sexy men selling them shampoo. Instead, what advertisers count on is that men like football. The ad cleverly combines football with the advertiser for dandruff shampoo in order to capture the male audience. The stereotype being targeted here is that men to not care much about personal care products like shampoo so in order to capture their attention, a diversion, in this case football, is used.

It is easy to use stereotypical gender roles in order to sell products because most people can relate to these cues on a primal level. Everyone wants to be sexy and have fun, and to be appealing to the opposite sex. However, advertisers can go too far with using gender roles, and especially females, in a negative way that is harmful to the gender being portrayed. More often than not, women are portrayed as simply a sexy body instead of unique individuals with intelligent thoughts. On the same token, men are not given much credit either, and advertisers appeal to men’s primal needs instead of to their intelligence or humor in order to sell them products. While there is a difference in the way similar items are advertised in men’s magazines versus women’s magazines, there is a common thread. Both men and women are targeted through their perceived gender roles, that is consumers who are obsessed with sex and looking good. When young people see these ads, their own gender identity can be influenced. Young girls want to grow up to be ‘sexy’ like the models so they can attract lots of male attention. Young boys are shown that their role is to be hot blooded youths obsessed with sex, loose women, violence and football. These stereotypes can be damaging and can cause unrealistic expectations and inevitable disappointment among both genders.

Resources

“Ad Featuring Gun was Bang Out of Order say ASA” Creative Match. Retrieved October 5, 2010 from http://www.creativematch.com/viewNews/?92637

“Britney by Photoshop” Mama Mia. Web Retrieved October 5, 2010 from http://www.mamamia.com.au/weblog/2009/04/britney-by-photoshop.html

Head and Shoulders ad from a men’s magazine http://www.adrants.com/images/head_shoulders.jpg

Sweney, Mark  “Beyonce Knowles: L’Oreal Accused of ‘Whitening’ Singer in Cosmetics Ad” UK Guardian (August 8, 2008) Web. Retrieved October 5, 2010 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/aug/08/advertising.usa

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