Monday, February 28, 2011

Objectifying Women in Advertising

Dear America, please stop using women and sex to advertise your slimy burgers.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here it is:

I attended panel a couple weeks ago about the way the media uses women, particularly the objectification thereof, to sell products. It's been marinating in my brain and a rant had to come out sooner or later, so here it is...

Why do we need to see half-naked women (and men for that matter) in a ad for clothing? Isn't that counter-intuitive? Why do we need sexual references embedded in an ad for a burger?! How is a greasy slimy burger sexy in the least?

Why do companies only advertise yogurt, and chocolate a lot of times, to women? Have you ever seen any man but Mr. Clean in a cleaning commercial? Why do magazines feel the need to lighten the skin of minority women on their covers?

For health food commercials, women are always supposedly tricking and nagging their husbands into being healthy. Women are never the ones driving pick up trucks. In fact, according to ads, men should be skeptical of any woman driving, especially their wives:

Uh, what?! I can use a drill. Does that make me less of a woman?

Not only are these ads perpetuating a stereotype of women to our culture, but it's also giving women a ridiculous standard to live up to. It's physically impossible to measure up to Barbie without plastic surgery. It's giving men an unrealistic picture of women. It's also perpetuating the "woman's work" myth. Not only is it pushing women into this domestic sphere that many have fought so hard to break out of, but it's excluding men from entering this domestic world. It's damaging to both sexes. Men can do laundry. They can clean up kitchen messes. But you would never know it if you ever watched a laundry detergent or cleaning product commercial. Objectifying and perpetuating stereotypes of women hurts both sexes. It's still not okay to be a boy with an Easy Bake Oven. It's not okay that girls still feel the need to act weak or unintelligent to gain favor. One of my favorite representations of this is in a Crimethinc poster that I have hanging on my bedroom wall:

This is only a symptom of a larger societal problem. Think women are equal in the workforce? Then why are women STILL only making .77 to every dollar a man makes for the same job? Why are there only a handful of female CEO's to match a huge number of males? Why do many major religions still exclude female ministers?

This is larger than just a few ill-advised ads. It's a huge societal problem that needs to be addressed.

Why do we feel the need to demean women to sell products? Obviously it must be working in some respects because it continues to pop up all across the board, from food to cars to web hosting.

I don't have the answer. I think the first step is to become more conscious of ads, to realize who is being targeted and how it is being done. It's easy to blindly and numbly watch TV or flip through a magazine, but we need to be more active as consumers because if there's anything we have in common, it's that we are consumers. We have to realize that these ads are not just silly things intended to get our money. They want our money, but they also carve a niche in the network of pop culture. Is this what we really want our culture to reflect of us?

Out of all of the ads I've come across, this one may be the most sickening to me:

I'll let you all come up with your own reactions to this because I can't even fathom why this would ever be thought of as acceptable.

So, are there any ads that you really hate? Any reactions to the ones I've listed? Thanks for reading!!


  1. I thought the BK ad was ridiculous, until i saw the Durex one. That's disgusting.

  2. I often wonder how difficult it would be to start changing the perspectives of what people see through advertising. I know they're trying to sell a product but does that mean they have to be so single minded about it? we have a burger and we have something to grab someone's attention,.. hm, sex . yeah, sex. let's go with it. It's been done. yeah but we're going to make it really grab their attention. Couldn't the attention grabbing part be questioning the norm rather than playing into it and forcing us to stay on this path of ignorance and stereotypes?

  3. I agree. A little creativity goes a long way. Companies should be hiring creative and inspiring people to do their marketing, not people that have to fall back on sex to sell products. I mean, look at that adorable VW commercial with the kid dressed up as Darth Vader ( That was just pure creativity, and it became hugely popular.