Gender, Advertising, and Stereotypes
Advertising has evolved over the years and with each new generation comes different factors that influence adverts. With the growing technological enhancements and diversifying demographics, advertisers have been forced to improve adverts to depict what is happening in modern society. This has undermined gender equality in the world despite the high tide of women emancipation running fast as a wildfire across the globe. This is because stereotypes have been developed from adverts and accepted by audiences as everyday norms. Below are the stereotypes that have developed over the years as a result of advertising.
1. Role Portrayal.
Advertisers portray women as home mothers and caretakers while men are portrayed as breadwinners. This reflects the assumed hard work of men over the less work done by women in society. This further shows that as men go out into fields looking for money in form of employment, women are portrayed to always be at home and doing parental work.
[Ad.1a] [Ad. 1b].
These adverts were chosen by advertisers because they portray the home-caring role of mothers in society. Advert 1a was used to depict the role of mothers giving their children breakfast in the morning while advert 1b was used to show a mother helping her daughter wash her hands. Both these adverts represent the parental role of the mothers in society as compared to the men who are not depicted in the advert.
Further still, advertising times play a part in the role portrayal stereotype. Kim Bartel Sheehan (2013) noted,
“During daytime programming, most women in commercials are shown in traditional homemaker roles. Men are rarely seen in the commercial as husbands, professionals or spokespeople. During primetime television, women are shown more in positions of authority and in settings away from the home.”
This shows that during day hours, men are considered to be at work thus won’t be watching the adverts in comparison to women who are thought to be at home. Therefore advertisers make adverts that relate to the women at home. Primetime hours represent the time when large audiences of all demographics are watching television. Therefore advertisers know that not only men are watching but career women as well, thus making adverts that appeal to both sexes.
As trends change and the women emancipation wave takes its toll in society, women are being portrayed more in adverts as independent and into career as compared to the past. More adverts these days have female sports personalities who display strength and athletic abilities as compared to the past. However, advertisers still mildly portray women as weak and vulnerable in society whereas men are portrayed as strong and more energetic.This is evident in sports adverts that mainly feature male athletes especially companies like Pepsi.
Advert 1c is one of the many common sports adverts on television that depicts men as being more athletic than women. This portrayal of men represents the superiority and dominance men have over women in society. However, with changing tides, women have continued to be shown as equally strong in many adverts of the current era. More athletes continue to grace adverts and advertisers have embraced the idea of depicting women as having considerable strength as men in society.
Serena Williams, the best female tennis of this generation, is depicted by Nike Company in advert 1e as strong, vehement and athletic. Advertisers used this advert to show that women can also be champions in life. However business wise, advertisers used the advert to entice more women to buy Nike sports products if they want to be as athletic and victorious in life as Williams.
In Uganda today, advertising companies try as much as possible to depict gender balance in society. It is very rare to find adverts depicting males alone or females alone; however, adverts representing the societal family structure are more evident. A father-mother/ husband-wife relationship is most times showed in many Ugandan adverts reflecting the importance of a basic family set up in African culture as showed in the advert below where a husband from his office sends money to his wife who is at a different workplace.
2. Beauty Stereotypes
Beauty remains one of the most important factors advertisers seek in an advert. The world has set competitive grounds for adverts basing on facial and physical outlook. Models have been employed to do photo shoots for adverts. Celebrities have also broken into the advertising world in order to bring their fan bases to the brands being advertised. Well built men with bulging biceps and explosive upper torsos are mostly depicted in adverts of shower and shaving products. Facial hairs like beards, goatees, and mustaches are mandatory of male models who pose as wealthy men in adverts especially for car companies like Mercedes-Benz and Ford.
Women, on the other hand, have mostly been depicted as slim and slender with model-like features. The young models in adverts mostly represent the innocent young girls while the old women can represent mothers or bad women.
[Ad. 2a] [Ad. 2b]
Advertisers used the above adverts to depict physical beauty. Advert 2a is a model advertising a perfume. This means that once a woman uses this product, they can become as beautiful as the model portrayed. This depiction leaves a gap between the reality in society and the world showed by advertisers. Other classes of women like the fat and obese are left out and segregated by these adverts which in turn promotes further divisions in society.
Advert 2b still focuses on masculine physicality showing the well built upper torso with facial beauty focused on by the advertiser. This is to appeal to men viewers who always view themselves as athletic every time they watch adverts. With this in mind, advertisers use such well-built models to attract male viewers to buy their products since they(male viewers) can easily relate themselves to the models in the advert.
Uganda uses beauty as a factor but much emphasis is put on females. Ugandan advertisers have the mentality that women are more appealing in adverts in order to attract the men who have the money. Further still, Ugandan advertisers commonly use local celebrities to act as brand ambassadors of their products. Big companies like mobile telecommunication companies have “faces” of their companies and these are mainly local celebrities like comedians, musicians, and presenters.
[Ad. 2c] [Ad. 2d]
Advert 2c represents the beauty stereotype in Uganda where women are used to advertise products. The model has the features of beauty like the pretty smile, classy hair and nice makeup to comprise of her beauty. Advert 2d is of Salvador Idringi, a popular local comedian with a big fan base who was one time the face of MTN. His huge fan base attracted the mobile company to use him in order to attract his fans to the network. This is the advertising part of using celebrities and renowned personalities in adverts.
3. Decorative&Sexual Stereotypes
Action in adverts in regards to using the advertised product is mostly shown in male oriented adverts. This can be in form of the male model using a product, racing to get the product or being directly in contact with the product. This active portrayal of the male gender is meant to show athleticism and the agile ability of the males over the females.
However, this is less popular in adverts with female models. The decorative portrayal of female models is used in most adverts and it involves them passively involved with the product through parting lips, shaking the waist or bending over to display the hip curves in the promotion of the product. This decorative advertising whereby suggestive language is used in advertising is to promote a product through sexual imagery.
[Ad. 3a] [Ad. 3b]
Sexuality emerges as a result of decorative portrayals. Suggestive language depicted in the advertisement creates imagination among the viewers. For example, advert 3a shows a woman licking her wrist before eating the burger while the same woman lies on a beach eating the same burger. Such adverts create imaginations of sexual encounters with the models in the advert.
Advert 3b is of Hunky Dory, a rugby sponsor. The model used can be seen in active motion but the focus of the audience could end up on her cleavage and waist areas thus sexually arousing the male audiences.
Advertisers mainly use such adverts to grab the male audience’s psychophysical attention towards the product being advertised. Since rugby is mainly dominated by males, using a female model in advert 3b as a sex symbol can automatically snatch the male audience’s attention towards the product since the audience is already hyped for the rugby game.
Talking of sex symbols, advertisers have taken a drastic step of explicitly showcasing women in adverts as sex objects. Though mainly in western countries, women are shown naked in some adverts baring it all in the advert or dressed skimpily all in the name of promoting a certain product. Such adverts are meant to match the hyper-sexual society that thrives today on sexual pleasure and immorality. Men have also been a victim of this as they have also been branded as sex symbols especially celebrities. Such depictions have increased the rate of societal debauchery, especially among the youths.
[Ad. 3c] [Ad. 3d]
Aggression against women in society has increased in society over the years and advertisers have a big contribution to that. Advert 3c is of Dolce&Gabbana, an international fashion house that makes clothes, jewelry, watches, and bags. The advert depicts a woman in a controversial position of sexual harassment; rape to be precise and looks to be overpowered by the man holding her down.
Further still, it looks like the three other men are getting ready to take turns in indulging with her sexually. Such depictions render women as helpless sex victims and men as sex pests plus the models used are seen as sex symbols. The advert could have been used to attract people to buy clothes but the advert instead shows that once you put the Dolce&Gabbana clothes, your sexual pulse hits to a maximum.
Advert 3d depicts women as willing to do anything for Badcock Furnishing Company even if it means losing their clothes. This paints a picture of women being cheap and easy to manipulate in society. It further reflects a woman’s lack of self-will and morals since she can do anything(even lose her clothes and dignity) for mere material objects. It was used by advertisers to show the need to use Badcock Furnishing Company for your home fittings in order to please your wife but it ended up demeaning women as cheap and valueless.
Conclusively, advertising and stereotyping affects both men and women. This, however, is influenced by the product being advertised. Demographic factors have also influenced stereotyping where several youths prefer seeing beautiful models being used to reflect their lifestyle. With technology improving per day and products increasing on the market, competition is bound to increase among companies and so are the stereotypes in adverts thus undermining gender equality in the world.