Gender Analysis

Topics: Advertising, Gender, Gender role Pages: 47 (14729 words) Published: December 5, 2012
Consumption, Markets and Culture
Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2004, pp. 21–52

Mirrors of Masculinity: Representation
and Identity in Advertising Images
Jonathan E. Schroeder & Detlev Zwick

Through explication of a visual research method, this paper theorizes how masculine identity interacts with consumption—of imagery, products, desires, and passions in advertising and consumer culture. We analyze the male body as a discursive “effect” created at the intersection of consumption and several marketing discourses such as advertising, market segmentation, and visual communication, balancing between brand strategy—what the marketer intends—and brand community—the free appropriation of meaning by the market. The paper’s contribution rests in extending previous work on male representation into historical, ontological, and photographic realms, providing a necessary complement between understanding advertising meaning as residing within managerial strategy or wholly subsumed by consumer response. We argue that greater awareness of the connections between the traditions and conventions of visual culture and their impact on the production and consumption of advertising images leads to enhanced ability to understand how advertising works as a representational system and signifying practice.

Department(Print)/1477-223X (Online)
000000MarchMarkets and Culture and ManagementRoyal Institute of TechnologyS-100 44 StockholmSweden 1
Original Francis
1025-3866 of Industrial Economics
Consumption 2004
Taylor &Article Ltd

Keywords: Advertising; Imagery; Identity; Representation; Gender; Masculinity Introduction
Consumption plays a major role in the construction, maintenance, and representation of male bodies. Almost all products are gendered in a practice of normative sexual dualism reinforced and maintained within the interlocking cultural institutions of marketing communication and market segmentation. As an engine of consumption, advertising plays a strong role in promulgating dualistic gender roles and prescribing sexual identities. Most ad campaigns invoke gender identity, drawing their imagery Jonathan E. Schroeder is Professor, Director of Marketing at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. Detlev Zwick is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Marketing at the Schulich School of Business, York University, Canada. Correspondence to: Jonathan E. Schroeder, Department of Industrial Economics and Management, KTH-The Royal Institute of Technology, S-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:

ISSN 1025-3866 (print)/ISSN 1477-223X (online) © 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080/1025386042000212383


J. E. Schroeder & D. Zwick

primarily from the stereotyped iconography of masculinity and femininity.1 In this way, masculinity and femininity interact smoothly with the logic of the market-advertising representations and consumption practices provide a meaningful system of difference, which has established strong limits to the possibilities of male and female consumer ontologies (e.g., Leiss 1983; Lury and Warde 1997; Nixon 1996). Within this system, iconic masculine activities such as shaving the face, driving fast cars, having a hearty appetite, smoking cigars, and drinking liquor are juxtaposed to feminine visions of applying makeup, driving a minivan, eating “light,” doing the laundry, and decorating houses. This paper analyzes the cultural construction of masculinity via a look at the male body and its visual representation in advertising. We focus on the way contemporary images express and inscribe a number of contradictory conceptions of masculine identity. We bring ontological considerations to bear on advertising imagery, that is, how representation, consumption, and identity intersect to construct, maintain, and circulate conceptions of masculinity via advertising...
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