Women and Advertising

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2AHIFA?JELAI
It’s the Image that Is
Imperfect
Advertising and Its Impact on Women
Advertisements and media images have a stronger impact on
shaping gender images than books on feminism and scholarly
experiments on gender equality. Stereotypes and generalisations in ads continue to objectify women, and place stress solely on their appearance, thus devaluing their innate worth.
INDHU RAJAGOPAL, JENNIFER GALES
Prologue

I

n examining higher education, there
is a tendency to assume that all students have equal opportunities and only merit matters. There are, however, some
unique factors that mitigate chances for
equal treatment for all groups because of
different ascriptive characteristics of students who wish to access, and achieve merit in, higher education. Gender is one
such ascriptive characteristic that blocks girls
and women both socially and academically
from realising their fullest potential.
In this paper, we will examine how
gender-based social images that are transmitted through the media act as barriers to realising students’ full potential in their
life. Could higher education intervene in
and vitiate these media images? As far as
gender issues are concerned, it can be
proven that the power of advertisements
and media images has a stronger impact
in shaping gender images than what books
on feminism and scholarly experiments
have on gender equality. On the assumption that education shapes our intellect, we proceed to explore in this paper how media
shape the images, especially those of girls
and women.

The Image-Making
As we sit here watching the new Levi’s
commercial – yes, the one with the catchy
tune with the singing belly buttons – we
find ourselves becoming a victim to the

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power of advertising. We were thinking
how good these jeans would be especially
for someone with my body type as we hum
the song and do the dance. Then it hit us
we are turning into the advertiser’s best
friend – the one who believes anything
they say. Furthermore, we are getting ready
to tell our friends about the new ‘item’
on the market and how there are jeans to
fit women with the wide hip too! The
power that advertisements carry with them
is sensational. They have the ability to
change and shape people’s opinions of
themselves with one picture of an image
that is technologically modified to represent the advertiser’s perspective of what is seen as perfect by viewers. The key word
is advertiser’s perspective because often
the person who has created what she or
he deems as the ideal image has also
created the model. Often advertisements
do not correctly represent the majority of
society or even a small percentage of how
women actually look. This analysis is intended to enlighten readers on the effect advertisements carry with them, specifically on women. First the discussion will expand on the societal milieu that ads

hold, and then continue to explain the
effects consumerism and promotional
messages on this group of individuals. By
looking at advertisements, and at theoretical and scholarly literature as well as popular culture material on the topic, this
analysis will show how the images advertisements allude to can influence and shape a woman’s perspective of herself.
Matlin (1987) explains how the media’s
misrepresentation of women in advertise-

August 10, 2002

ments has created plenty of stereotypical
representations of women. She lists seven
empirically documented stereotypes that
have been created by advertisements.
Matlin’s1 sixth stereotype states that
women’s bodies are used differently from
men’s bodies in advertisements [Matlin
1987: 43]. In advertisements, men are
shown accompanying the female and
looking directly into the camera whereas
females are portrayed with their eyes
looking away from the camera. Women
are often shown in a sexual or vulnerable
position in order to sell the product, whether
it is...
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