Sexism in Advertising Essay

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The images are evident examples of how advertising uses women as a tool for sexualization and objectification to sell products. Unfortunately, these images are sourced from an article that was published only four years ago, in 2015 (Chaudhary, 2015). This establishes that over the years the portrayal of women in advertising has evolved from typically stereotyping women to using them as sexual tools for visual appeal. An advertisement for a jewelry brand has a woman opening her legs up for a man, a car brand uses an attractive young lady in lingerie to sell the product, and Dolce and Gabbana’s advertisement showcases four men eyeing one woman. The easiest comparison between the portrayal of a man and a woman in advertising is the advertisement for the unisex t-shirt. While the gentleman in the advertisement is dressed appropriately, the same t-shirt when worn by a woman, has her showing most of her upper body, with all the buttons of the t-shirt open. A gaming advertisement showcases a woman with breasts on both front and back sides, with the copy “Touch both sides for added enjoyment”, reducing the body of a woman merely to a tool that is required to provide pleasure.

Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) explain sexual objectification as reducing a woman to merely her body, body parts, or sexual function. This sexual objectification therefore dehumanizes women into enticing objects that solely exist to appease the male gaze. Kilbourne (1999) states that on average an individual is exposed to relatively 3,000 advertisements in some form or another every single day. 1,988 advertisements were examined in 58 U.S. magazines. Stankiewicz and Rosseli (2008) identified that across all categories, including men’s, women’s, news, and business; 50% of the advertisements showcased the portrayal of women as mere objects of sexual pleasure. Advertising has become more and more sexually provocative over the years and the content can be described as closer to pornography than advertising (Soley and Kurzbard, 1986).

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Lanis and Covel (1995) suggest that there has always been a stereotypical portrayal of women in advertising. Early advertisements of women portrayed solely as housewives and mothers, have evolved over the years and led to the sexual portrayal of women. Unfortunately, this stereotypical portrayal of women impacts the attitude that society at large has towards women. The major issue with using women as tools in advertising is that there is an impression that is formed in the minds of society at large because of this consistent portrayal of women as sexual objects. It is easy for people to learn values via symbolic environments such as media and advertising (Weaver, Graber, McCombs, & Eyal, 1981). Sexually provocative advertising has therefore led to not only men but also women believing that women are the inferior gender in society, deeming a lack of equality between both genders in the minds of people. The big issue of gender inequality has therefore been formulated by content viewed by people via different media. This establishes the inherent sexism that has always existed in society. What is as, if not more dangerous than women considering themselves to be inferior, is the fact that the male gender considers themselves to be superior to women.

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines sexism as “(actions based on) the belief that the members of one sex are less intelligent, able, skillful, etc. than the members of the other sex, especially that women are less able than men ('SEXISM | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary', n.d.). The stereotypical beliefs that accuse the victim, exonerate the perpetrator, and trivialize the trauma and violence are called rape myths (Brownmiller 1975; Burt 1980; Lonsway and Fitzgerald 1994). Research formerly conducted suggests that hostile and benevolent sexism towards women are linked to rape myth acceptance and victim blaming (Abrams et al, 2003; Glick and Fiske 1997; Viki et al, 2004). Hence proving that it is this sexism and gender inequality that has been ingrained in society that leads to rape myths that accuse victims, exonerate the perpetrators, and trivializes the violence of rape.

It is those men that have cynical, adversarial, and hostile ideas of male-female as well as intimate relationships that rape women. These feelings include feelings of shame and a sense of being inadequate. This sentiment is masked by anger in addition to the urgent need to control women (Malamuth, Sockloskie, Koss & Tanaka, 1991). It is this kind of men who embrace interpersonal violence to a higher degree and also have adversarial sexual beliefs (Malamuth, Sockloskie, Koss & Tanaka, 1991; Malamuth, Linz, Heavey, Barnes & Acker, 1995; Abbey & McAuslan, 2004). It is clear that when men, who believe themselves to be superior, do not internally feel that superiority and feel incompetent instead, resort to the means of rape to feel better about themselves and to feel adequate and competent again. In addition, those men who cannot fulfill provider roles, rape women in a quest for the attainment of this sense of power (Bourgois, 1996; Wood, Jewkes, 2001; Wood, Lambert & Jewkes, 2007). The act of assault, force, and rape is conducted to achieve a sense of entitlement.

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Sexism in Advertising Essay. (2024, February 23). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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