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By Alistair N.

When looking at ads from today and comparing them to the 1950’s it is clear that there has been a huge amount of progress in the portrayal of stereotypical gender roles. For example, in the 1950’s most advertisements portraying women were about house cleaning or home cooking. Today we see women in a much larger range of ads and commercials. Though there has been a huge amount of progress, we still see women being depicted as the cleaners, homemakers, or as a sexual object, and sometimes even a joke.

In the 1950’s most ads that portrayed woman showed a blonde stay at home mother, or submissive sexual object, or both. Today these aspects can still be found in many advertisements; however they are nowhere near as blunt as they were in the 1950’s. Advertisements in the 1950’s were also very racist. “Black people who did not fit into White people's standards of beauty (i.e., light skin, long, straight hair, thin lips, thin figure) were excluded from advertisement images.” (Race and gender in Media, pg 2) .  This means that the black woman was not accurately portrayed in American advertisements.Today we see another type of sexism that was not prevalent in the 1950’s. Hypersexualization. It is well known that sex sells and the use of sex appeal in America is definitely not an unusual occurrence.  The difference between the sexism in the 1950’s and today is the extremities that we take it to. Almost every advertisement in America is an example of this. Even Club Orange, a soft drink, is guilty. The commercial does not show a single man, and every time the word “bits” is mentioned there are breasts somewhere on the screen. Every image somehow relates to breasts. The commercial ends with “We know you boys can’t wait to get your hands on our bits.” The commercial blatantly targets men by objectifying women. Not only that but every woman in the commercial has an almost identical body image. The same ideal as in the 1950’s; tall, fair complexion, thin nose, and thin lips. Sexualizing only that body image creates an ideal that is not obtainable by everyone. People with dark skin or of a bulkier build will never be able to achieve the American ideal of “sexy” as portrayed in advertisements.

This can be very damaging to the self-esteem of young girls and teens. An article by Kay Hymowitz on the hypersexualization of US children says that preteens are “very concerned with their "look," Friend says, even more so than older teens.” The advertisements we watch are changing American culture to the point that 10 to 12 year olds are trying to look like 16-year-old models. 16 year olds are trying to look as sexy and attractive as possible and are aiming for an impossible body type, the impossibly thin, perfect skin, large breasted women.

Not only do American advertisements create an unrealistic and sometimes completely unachievable body image, but they also continue to push an archaic gender role onto women. For instance Brinks Home Security recently released an advertisement demonstrating a new lock. In these ads we see a man, in a business suit and hands full opening a door, then we see a woman carrying washing and groceries. This advertisement reinforces the same gender roles that we saw in the 1950’s. The man works and the woman cleans and cooks. These gender roles portrayed on TV reflect our culture and make the children, teens, and women watching them feel that they will never be as good as men. Even once a women finally does “make it” we often see cases of imposter syndrome.

The media plays a very important role in American society. It effects every demographic and shapes how we view each other, and our ideal behaviors. Advertisements infiltrate into every aspect of American life. They intrude into the home over TV and Radio; they creep up in websites and stand domineeringly over freeways. Each one of these advertisements effects how we view the world, and how we view whomever is in the advert. The social situations portrayed in these advertisements, reinforce or perpetuate social stigmas, for better or worse.  We can do little to prevent the intrusion of these ads into our lives. Leaving us with a responsibility to make sure the advertisements we see represent each race and gender equally.


Gray, Emma. "Brinks Ad Reminds Us That Gender Roles Are Alive And Well." The Huffington Post., 01 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

Hazell, V., and J. Clarke. "Race and Gender in the Media: A Content Analysis of Advertisements in Two Mainstream Black Magazines." Journal of Black Studies 39.1 (2007): 5-21. Print.

Hymowitz, Kay S. "Hypersexualization of US Children." (n.d.): n. pag. Web.