October 9, 2012
Essay #2: “In what ways are women objectified and what are the consequences?”
On any street corner or at the turn of a page there are advertisements showing men, women and children for various products. Whether it is trying to sell a simple beauty product or lingerie using a scantily clad model, the images depicted somehow catch your attention. But have we ever stopped to think what that ad is really trying to accomplish? While evaluating that photo, has it ever made you feel somewhat inadequate? Well it is supposed to do just. That advertisement’s sole purpose is to make you feel insecure enough so that you wholeheartedly believe that particular product will miraculously change your life and appearance. Why was that advertisement able to impact us in that fashion? I think the more important question to be posed is what exactly “beauty” is and why are we so obsessed with it?
Advertising is a form of communication for marketing and used to encourage or persuade an audience (viewers, readers, or listeners, sometimes a specific group) to continue or take some new action and virtually any medium can be used for advertising. Commercial media can include wall paintings, billboards, printed flyers, radio and cinema ads, web banners, and countless other methods. The television commercial is generally considered the most effective mass market advertising format. By visually seeing the transition of how that person has been affected by the product, especially when you already feel inadequate, one will almost feel compelled to at least try that product hoping for the same results. Another channel used, though equally as effective, are the still photos found in magazines.
Jean Kilbourne, a feminist author, speaker, and filmmaker, wrote an article “Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt”, in which she talks about the negative effects that magazine advertisements are having on the respect that people are shown or acknowledge in themselves, namely women. Through carefully depicted images and snide catch phrases, these still portraits are objectifying women and narrowly portraying them as simple sexual characters. “Sex in advertising is pornographic because it dehumanizes and objectifies people” says Kilbourne,” especially women, and because it fetishes products, imbues them with an erotic charge” and it “dooms us to disappointment since products never can fulfill our sexual desires or meet our emotional needs.” But if you are a teen who already has low self-esteem issues or a woman who is not content with her body size, shape, or textures, you fail to realize that those ads prey on you and are made to break you down.
Throughout the article, Kilbourne shows examples of the types of ads that can be found in almost any magazine today. There are numerous ads that are trying to sell anything from a wrist watch to deodorant, from a designer pair of jeans to a tee shirt, where companies use any tactics they can think of to be uniquely entertaining enough so the consumer does not overly analyze it. Sometimes, as in one ad included in this article, even children are placed in them even when the product is not even marketed for a child. The hope is that the reader might get distracted just enough by the cute little derriere captured, not to question the purpose of it especially when the product is a pair of women’s briefs.
The problem though is not necessarily in the way the product is presented, but in the already deeply rooted self-hatred that the person receiving the message already has for themselves. In 2007 director, Darryl Roberts created a film “America the Beautiful” to capture that very issue. In this American documentary, the worth of self-image and the problem it creates in the United States is depicted through a series of interviews with various men, women, and teens. His original goal was “to explore why as human beings we were so obsessed with beauty as a means to...