The Impact of Advertising on Women

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Everyday of our lives, we are exposed to dozens of advertisements, whether it be on television, the radio, in magazines, on billboards or signs, or anywhere else that companies try to reach us in an effort to promote the products they sell. Advertisers appeal to our hopes, dreams, wants and desires, and exploit our insecurities in an effort to sell us a product, ranging from cars, to household appliances, to a bottle of shampoo. Advertising affects everyone, whether they acknowledge it or not, and it often promotes something that is out of reach to the average person, such as great wealth, or a perfect body. Advertising often carries an overload or excess of meaning, such as statements of power, wealth, leisure, and sexual allure, and they also convey meanings of race and gender. (“Introduction: Media Studies”) As this paper will demonstrate, advertising is an extremely powerful tool which has the ability to change the way we perceive ourselves. Of particular interest is the effect that advertising has on women. Women are continually bombarded by advertisements in which they are told, directly or indirectly, that they must be thin in order to be beautiful, and they are marketed products that they are led to believe will help them achieve their desired body image of being thin. Women become convinced that they must look like sexy all the time, when in reality, it is almost impossible. Women often begin dieting in order to attain the perfect body that they are striving for, and they occasionally undertake more extreme measures to lose weight, such as bulimia or anorexia, all because they are led to believe, by advertising, that they must have a perfect body. Women are also sexually objectified in advertising, and viewed as merely sexual objects. This paper will explore in depth how women are portrayed in advertising and, more importantly, the impact which it has on them. In western culture, a slender physique has come to be regarded as the standard of feminine beauty; although it is an unrealistic benchmark for nearly all women. The average woman has a seven percent chance that she will be as slim as a catwalk model, and an even lesser chance that she will be as thin as a supermodel. (Konrad, 2008) A 2000 study found that the body fat of models and actresses is, on average, 10 percent less than that of a typical active, healthy woman. (“Behind the Hype: Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign”) The models that companies use in advertising are also getting thinner relative to the average population. Twenty years ago, models weighed 8 percent less than the average woman. Today, they weigh 23% less than the average female population. (“Beauty and Body Image in the Media”) However, these truths do not stop women from trying to attain the perfection they see in every day advertisements. Since advertising continually implies that women should be slender, those who do not have this particular body type often suffer from low self esteem and hold a negative self image of their body. After a study in which women viewed sexual and non-sexual ads, the women who viewed the sexual ads rated themselves as being larger, on average, than the women who viewed the non-sexual ads, and women who viewed the sexual ads also expressed greater dissatisfaction over their current physique than the women who watched the non-sexual ads. (Tygart) George Lipsitz has argued that consumer culture and media representations play a greater role than ever in defining identities. (“Just Do It”) When women see thinness represented in advertising, they would like to look like the models they see and have that same identity that is being shown to them.

In addition to women feeling pressure to conform to the desired body type due to their constant exposure to it in advertising, they also are under pressure to attain the perfect body because they believe it is what men feel they must look like. According to a study published in American Behavioural Scientist (Choi et al.,...
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