Media's Views on Women

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In the twenty-first century women have become one of the most targeted groups in advertising. Women's magazines, often referred to as the "glossy bible" are infested with ads trying to sell women their product or idea. On average, when flipping through a magazine a woman or girl would see ads for cosmetic surgery, makeup, wedding dresses, perfume, diets, home cleaning products, jewelry and the list goes on. Women are also affected by the flawless, airbrushed and idealized models who are in these ads. How women are portrayed in magazine advertisements affects how women are thought to portray themselves, and because of this "idealized woman" women have had plastic surgery, worn colored contacts, developed eating disorders and have tried to change their appearance in order to fit into the norms that they have heard, seen or read every day.

Beauty culture developed in America as a commercial venture and social religion in the late nineteenth century and became a mass consumer industry after World War I. In previous years, only a handful of small businesses dispensed minimal beauty goods and services, mainly to upper class Americans. "Victorian gender ideology taught the middle class that beauty was the duty of white middle-class women, while fashion plates and such women's magazines as Godey's Ladies Book depicted idealized female images. Much of the prescriptive literature of the period, however, decried external and artificial beauty, preferring instead to encourage cleanliness and moral living as keys to better appearance."()

By the middle of the 1880s a group of businesses such as, chemists, perfumers, beauty salons, drugstores, and department stores, began to inaugurate a "profit-making infrastructure for new notions of beauty." At first abandoning makeup as a hoax for "natural"methods, but after World War I the blossoming cosmetics industry promoted rouge lips, face powder, and eye pencils as "necessary artifice." Its governing message was that every woman could achieve beauty, no matter their class or age.

By the 1920s many women had adopted beauty culture as a part of modernity. They believed that an aesthetically pleasing appearance was essential in the job market. "New dating patterns, mixed-sex leisure, and companionate marriage reinforced the advertisers' messages."() Immigrant and second-generation women frequently turned to beauty culture as a way to represent themselves as "American". In the post-World War II period, the beauty industry greatly increased their marketed products to young girls and teenage girls. These girls were then trained by schools, clubs, and mass-circulation magazines on grooming and makeup applications; they were taught that beautifying was necessary to acquire femininity and a pleasing sexual image. "Revlon's famous "Fire and Ice" advertising campaign of 1952, featuring a sophisticated and sensual woman, marked a turning point in cosmetics advertising. The magazine was one of the fastest growing commodities in Victorian Britain, with about 12,500 titles appearing between 1824 and 1900. When Victoria came to the throne in 1837 the number of women's magazines was increasing rapidly as the mass market itself grew and diversified. Consumer culture was on the rise, and central to that were the commodities on sale."()

Many social and cultural historians believe that the commodity as a spectacle pervaded the entire Victorian social system. Women's magazines, with their lavish images, became spectacles in themselves. "An interest in and celebration of fashion was something that all commercial magazines shared and even the non-commercial titles, such as those devoted to reform issues, covered fashion (constructed as so important to women's lives), if only to critique its pervasive and pernicious influence."()

In the past thirty years advertising in every shape and form has reached new and daring heights, to the point where as a culture we are banal to the shocking images...
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