Women and Advertising

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In the year 1999, $120 billion was spent on marketing products to consumers (Killing Us Softly 3). Along with products, the advertising industry sells the intangible: "Ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success of worth, love and sexuality, popularity, and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be. Sometimes they sell addictions" (Kilbourne, Beauty and the Beast). When the average person is bombarded by 2,000-3,000 ads a day (Kilbourne, address), it is impossible to remain unaffected by the aforementioned concepts and stereotypes (Still Killing Us Softly, video). Ads use insecurities to promise betterment with the purchase of a certain product. They are breeding grounds for stereotypes; most, if not all, are negative. They provide impossible body images for women to strive towards, and sadly, many women do. The repercussions of these images and stereotypes are quite serious. The female body image is distorted, and many women and girls, in effort to reach the distorted image, develop serious eating disorders. The perpetuation of sex in ads creates a casual attitude towards sex. Sex is used to sell almost anything: from lingerie to makeup, perfume to food and household items. Advertising tells viewers that if they aren't sexy, they are not acceptable. The female body is repeatedly objectified in advertising, and whenever a human is turned into a thing, violence is going to follow. Rapes and beatings often result from the dehumanization of women (Still Killing Us Softly, video). Advertising creates unhealthy and even dangerous stereotypes and mindsets in the people of today's society.

Advertisements play upon people's insecurities, promising the viewer that, with the help of the product in question, the viewer can become a better person. There are many insecurities taken advantage of, but the most obvious and frequent is beauty. Women are strongly affected by this. After all, how could they not be when media is promoting a body type thinner, taller, and sexier than their own? Less than 10% of the female population is genetically able to be as thin and tall as the women used in the ads (about-face.org). Advertising sells an impossible image for most women. Many times there is an indirect message such as a beautiful woman wearing the makeup the ad is selling, but sometimes it's more blatant, such as in one advertisement for Philips' FLAT TV (see fig. 1). The text reads: "Introducing a television so thin it will give regular TVs a complex." Not only is this extremely unnecessary to sell a television, but it is very offensive. There have been many people who claim that advertising doesn't affect them; they say that they don't let the images of advertising affect them and they don't buy into what they're being told. $28 billion was spent on cosmetics last year (Ode, Mirror, Mirror). If no one buys into the idea that beauty is essential to happiness and success, no one would be spending so much money on products manufactured to enhance a woman's looks.

Advertising enforces and teaches damaging stereotypes. "After all these years, advertisers have shown women in almost every mode possible… it amazes me, though, that after all of these stereotypes, advertisers have yet to come up with a realistic woman that will leave no hang-ups or illuminate unnecessary insecurities (Friedrich)." Women are told through ads that they should first and foremost be beautiful and thin. Women are taught to seek power through beauty. Seldom is a woman encouraged to seek power and security on her own grounds, and it is hardly ever looked upon with approval when one does (Friedrich). However, men are encouraged to seek power through materialism: something that they can control much more easily than a woman her beauty. Almost all domestic items sold in ads are geared towards women (Still Killing Us Softly). The stereotype of the "domestic woman" still...
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