Sociology of Advertising and The Stereotyping of Women in the Media: Gender Roles, Personal Dissatisfaction and Issues of Patriarchy- Who Is Really to Blame?

Topics: Gender role, Body shape, Sociology Pages: 9 (2525 words) Published: March 22, 2006
The Stereotyping of Women in the Media: Gender Roles, Personal Dissatisfaction and Issues of Patriarchy- Who Is Really to Blame?

We live in a consumer world. Everything we do and perhaps everything we are is based on consumption and commodity. Daily life has become a constant juggle of products and services - needs verses wants. People and objects become interchangeable. People become identified and classified with material goods.

While advertising and the consequential high levels of consumption are juxtaposed and allied to economic expansion, they are also coupled with personal dissatisfaction, the commoditization of culture, the decline of public and family life, the destruction of true and meaningful human relationships, and the constant fortification of patriarchy.

The first major work of understanding media on a sociologic level was completed by Marshall McLuhan in 1964. In this book, Understanding the Media he wrote:

"After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding. During the mechanical ages we had extended our bodies in space. Today, after more than a century of electric technology we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man - the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society." (McLuhan, 1964) He points out that "in the mechanical age, now receding, many actions could be taken without too much concern. Slow movement insured that the reactions were delayed for considerable periods of time. Today the action and the reaction occur almost at the same time. "(McLuhan, 1964)

Thus, we are now linked to every other person in the world, through the media, and this means it is now impossible to be disconnected from what is happening in other places. We have no time to absorb ideas and ideologies because the "action and the reaction occur at the same time" (McLuhan, 1964). We are all connected; a small part of a larger system, but the underlying issue is that though we are all "connected", human relationships are now commodified.

The outburst of media and advertising has challenged the Marxist theory. Marx specifies that people can be classified by the products they acquire. Advertising blurs this idea. People are now identified by what they consume. Class and self-worth tend to be based on what we own. As a result of this, consumption and advertising attempt to blur the class distinctions which could lead people to take class action and attempt to change society. Consumption and promotion offer the promise of a classless society - never to deliver, but infact reinforce the idea that higher class individuals will always maintain what they have and the lower class groups will always struggle to obtain.

Advertising definitely affects the quality of cultural and social life. It also strengthens learned gender expectations and reinforces patriarchy with the use of negative portrayals and stereotypes of women.

Bombarded with messages and ideas on a daily basis, the constant invasion of advertisements not only plagues or emails and mailboxes, but our minds. Whether we are cognitive of this or not, the unceasing onslaught of messages infects our mind-sets and contributes to the way we, as a society, think and act; particularly, the image we shape of women in our culture.

Jean Kilbourne, perhaps one of the best-known advocates of raising awareness about the exploitation of women in advertising, claims that, "we are exposed to over 2000 ads a day, constituting perhaps the most powerful educational force in society (194)". Kilbourne also indicates that the representation of women in advertising has a negative impact on the way men see the women in our society and how women...
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