Thursday, May 22, 2008

Advertisements- What are they really selling us?

These pictures may strike some as inappropriate and down right disturbing, but the truth is that these types of advertisements surround us on a daily basis. However, their prevalence has made American society accept that this is "just the way it is". The messages being sent about women in particular are both insidious and degrading and perhaps taken much more lightly than they should be. “Sex sells” seems to be the motto for all advertisement from perfume to post-its. Most marketing agencies have adopted this route for it has proven to be an effective strategy in selling any product. A deeper look into any sexualized advertisement of a woman will unravel the idea that “the perfect woman” is something both men and women strive for, whether it is to conquer her sexually or become her.

Naomi Wolf’s article, “The Beauty Myth”, discusses what beauty means to a woman and why it is important to males and females. She analyzes the “beauty myth” and comes to the conclusion that its entire existence is really about men and the standards they set for women, which results from living in a patriarchal society. As Wolf describes beauty, “Women must want to embody it and men must want to possess women who embody it” (Wolf, 121). Sexualized women in the media do not merit upheaval because women use these images to police themselves and make sure they are on their way to attaining the “ideal” body and look society has convinced them to obsess over. The picture above of the woman in the shower with the words “wash me” on her stomach is an example of an advertisement that men respond to because a sexy woman is involved. The message behind the product tells the consumer that by using this shower gel they will either have the confidence or the power to get a naked woman in the shower with them, which may be reason enough for a man to buy the product. The woman in this advertisement has not even been given a head or face, as if those are the least important parts of the body. This encourages male viewers to think of women as objects of sex rather than human beings. The disembodied woman in the purse advertisement above goes so far as exclude all other body parts but the legs, which of course are long, lean, and are complimented with four-inch high heels. The only purpose of these legs is to provide support for the table and the purse which sits on top of it. It is interesting to notice that this ad is directed at women and female objectification is still the tactic of choice.

Women amount their own self-worth to the reactions they receive from men. If a woman is frequently told she is pretty or sexy than she has earned a higher status for herself because she has been approved by a man. Hesse-Biber quoted Delia, a college senior, describing how she determined her self worth saying, "My final affirmation of myself is how many guys look at me when I go into a bar". (Hesse-Biber, 11). This seems to be quite an arbitrary way to assess one's value, but so many women truly do this. If a woman is a bit overweight and spends less time on her appearance then she will not get much attention because she has obviously not worked hard enough to reach the "ideal" beauty in our society. She might even be ostracized for not caring enough or just being lazy because our society actually believes that these ridiculous stnadards of beauty are attainable. One advertisement particularly shocking is for DeBeer’s, a large diamond and jewelry company. In this picture the viewer should assume that the man gave a woman a diamond ring and now she “pretty much has to” give him oral sex. This is a perfect example of how women aren’t valued the slightest bit and their only purpose of existence is to serve their dominators- men. It insinuates that women will also do anything for material objects, a common "gold digger" stereotype. This woman as well as the woman in the BMW ad are simply sex objects for men. The BMW advertisement says "the ultimate attraction" as the man has covered the woman's face whom he is having sex with a magazine flipped open to a picture of the new BMW. This shows how the man has conquered this beautiful and seemingly perfect woman, yet she is still not good enough and finds more beauty in an inanimate object. Sexualized advertisements reinforce women what they should be working to look like and tell men that women's only value is for sexual purposes, so they should strive to have sex with only those who are ideally beautiful.


Deckadance [Online image] Available (dj mixing application), May 22, 2008.

Dolce and Gabbana [Online image] Available, May 22, 2008.
Handbag [Online image] Available, May 22, 2008.Hesse-Biber, Sharlene N. The Cult of Thinness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2007.
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene N. The Cult of Thinness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Post-it [Online image] Available, May 22, 2008.

Wolf, Naomi. "The Beauty Myth" Chapter III: Gender and Women's Bodies, p. 120-125, 1991.