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By Racquel M.

Sexism in advertising has been an issue from the early 1900s.  According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, advertising is defined as the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements. Sexism is defined as prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially against women. These two words are very different in meaning but they are related. Sexism in advertising speaks about the discrimination, stereotypes and prejudice against sex in advertisements. Sexism in Advertisements has created the idea of how men and women should look and should be portrayed in society. However these ideologies of men and women have negative effects and consequences on the average men and women who do not fall into those ideals. It affects both men and women however it is more focused on women.

Women have always been discriminated and stereotyped against in advertisements. These stereotypes were influenced by the gender roles of men and women in olden days. Men were primarily hunters and providers while women were the nurturers. Men compared to women did the jobs which required a lot more strength. Women were usually found at home taking care of the children, cleaning and cooking for their husbands.

This ad is one such example; it emphasized that women belonged in the kitchen and were subservient to her husband. They focused on highlighting the different gender roles between women and men. A popular 1940’s Hardee’s ad had this to say:

"This ad among others portrayed the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. The commercial highlighted the fact that women belonged nowhere else but at home slaving away in the kitchen for her husband. It was as if women were not capable of being anything else than a housewife. Other ads also depicted that a woman’s jobs besides cooking, is to clean and take care of the children. They did not portray women has being equal to men or being able to do the same work that men did."

There were also Advertisements which focused on the fact that women and men were not equal. They made reference to women being physically weaker than men. Women need men to do the heavy lifting around the house or to open lids to containers. With this idea in mind a company focused on making ketchup which was easy to open. Its tagline was “You mean a woman can open it? Easily—without a knife blade, a bottle opener, or even a husband! All it takes is a dainty grip, an easy, two-finger twist—and the catsup is ready to pour.”

If women were not depicted as being housewives; always cleaning and cooking then they were used as sex symbols. Women were used as sex symbols to sell just about everything. The idea or notion that surrounded this was that sex sells.  There were many commercials ranging from as early as the 1940s which used sexy women to sell their products. These commercials dehumanize women into mere objects of desire. These messages are portrayed in car commercials which have women lying on top of the cars or even women in revealing clothes advertising beers.  There is a commercial which came off as funny but it was very offensive. A picture of the focus of the commercial is portrayed below.

This picture is from a South African Nando’s commercial. It shows a blonde woman who can't find her French fries, which are on her plate, because they're obscured by her enormous breasts. This commercial is to promote Nando’s new burger “the bigger, fuller, bouncier double breasted burger.” However the entire commercial was on the fact that the lady could not see over her big breasts. In this commercial, they are using sexual innuendos to relate the woman’s breasts to the burger. It also went along with the stereotype that blonde women were stupid by using a blonde woman to act stupid in the commercial.

Over the years there has been a reduction of sexism in advertising. This reduction was as a result of people being enlighten about the effects that these advertisements had on people. The women rights and feminism movements also played a part in the way women were viewed and portrayed in the media. However some companies are still remembered for their controversial advertisements. This was the focus of the article written by Richard Pollay and Steven Lyonski “Advertising Sexism is forgiven, but it is never forgotten.” The discrimination and stereotyping of men are still present in today’s society but it is less than it was before.


Works Cited:

"Advertising." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

Ferguson, Jill H., Peggy J. Kreshel,, and Spencer F. Tinkham. "In the Pages of Ms.: Sex Role Portrayals of Women in Advertising." Journal of Advertising 19.1 (1990): 40-51.Journal of Advertising. Mar. 1990.  Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Jacobsen, Michael F., and Laurie Anne Mazur. "Sexism and Sexuality in Advertising." N.p., 1995. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Lavine, Howard, Donna Sweeney, and Stephen H. Wagner. "Depicting Women as Sex Objects in Television Advertising: Effects on Body Dissatisfaction." N.p., 1999. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Lysonski, Steven, and Richard W. Pollay. "Advertising Sexism Is Forgiven, but Not Forgotten:     Historical, Cross-Cultural and Individual Differences in Critism and Purchase Boycott Intentions." International  Journal of Advertising (1990): 317-29.From the Selected Works. Richard Pollay, Jan. 1990. Web. 19   Oct.  2013.

"Sexism." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.