The mass media has always been a great way for businesses to reach out to the people and indeed marketers have well utilised this medium of advertising. Nonetheless, they have also been traditionally criticised for portraying strong gender stereotypes, especially negative stereotypes of women. Unfortunately, such criticisms had little effect and today, gender stereotypes in advertising still exist (Tsu, Lee & Phua, 2002; Cortese, 2008; Hung & Li, 2006). The following will explore the changes in gender roles in advertising and the challenges still faced by women today.
Women today generally have more opportunities for advancement, thanks to greater western influences (Tsu, Lee & Phua, 2002, p. 853), resulting in an overall improvement to their financial well being (Hung & Li, 2006, p. 7). Not surprisingly, this change had an unusual effect on their male counterparts. (Klien, 1995, as cited in Cortese, 2008, p. 72) According to Anthony Cortese (2008), bodybuilding may be men’s answer to the increase in women’s economic, political and social power. He explains if men can no longer lead women in such areas, then at least they must be able to physically intimidate them (p. 72). This insecurity in men possibly confirms the improved status of women, which lays the foundation for greater change in gender roles, such as new gender identities.
The success of women’s rights and feminist theory has largely been aided by their improved status, resulting in new identities for both men and women. (Tsu, Lee & Phua, 2002; Cortese, 2008; Hung & Li, 2006) According to Anthony Cortese (2008), men have replaced women as the sex object in postmodern advertising because women’s rights groups successfully made it politically incorrect to portray women as seducers. Counter-intuitively, this role-reversal has brought advertisers good business, (p. 73) and might explain why advertisers still continue to give men the role of the sex object. In modern China, there is a similar, but...
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