Companies and brands rely heavily on advertising to market their products to consumers. The practice of using media to advertise has been around since the mid-1950s and has grown with the widespread use of technology. Today, companies rely on mainstream media as well as social media to reach the largest number of consumers. Many of the ads appearing on the media are aimed at women, and there have been numerous debates about the depiction of women in such advertisements. Since the 1970s, there was growing outrage over the representation of women as domestic and feminine, the objects of male pleasure. In the twenty first century, women have become increasingly sexualized in commercials, showing that not much has changed in the sixty years or so that have passed.
Today, women in ads are still sexualized and shown as feminine. Women are used for advertising all sorts of items, including clothing, furniture, cars, fragrances, cosmetics, among many others. For example, makeup advertisement shows that women rely on makeup to bring out the beauty in them, insinuating that without makeup they are not considered beautiful enough (Kemp). Many ads also show scantily clad women who are the objects of male attention. Women are increasingly sexualized even in unnecessary situations such as the advertisement of cars and furniture. In selling cars, women are used to show that men can catch women’s attention by owning such cars. Such a notion is demeaning as it shows women to be shallow creatures.
There are double standards when it comes to the treatment of men and women in advertising, and a perfect example of this is in the advertising of Dove and Axe, two brands from the same Unilever firm. Dove celebrates women’s natural beauty over the stereotypes carried by the media. The Dove ads show women that they should have a positive body image because they often view themselves harshly while others see the real beauty in them (Kurtzleben). In contrast to this, Axe, a male brand, usually features scantily clad women objectified by men. The women fawn over the men for their alluring fragrance from Axe. Unilever shows a case of double standards by trying to empower women with one brand and then using Axe to encourage the narrative that degrades women. Unilever defends itself against such criticisms explaining that each brand makes ads unique to its target audience.
In conclusion, advertising in the past and the present has mostly remained the same. In both cases, women are demeaned and shown to be lesser than men. In the past, women were shown to be domestic people whose place was in the home. They were used to advertise detergents, foodstuffs, clothes, and other household items. Today, the narrative is mostly the same, with women shown to be juggling work and home in frustration, sex objects, and domestic obsessive (Kemp). These portrayals of women in advertising need to change because women play an important role in society. They make significant contributions to areas such as business, politics, and the economy, and depicting them as feminine, demure, and sexual beings is an insult.
Kemp, Nicola. “Six stereotypes of women in advertising.” Campaign. 07 March 2017. Retrieved from https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/six-stereotypes-women-advertising/1426391Kurtzleben, Danielle. “Do Dove and Axe sell the same Message?” USNews. 18 April 2013. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/04/18/unilever-faces-criticism-for-real-beauty-ad-campaign
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