Presentation on theme: "'Keep her where she belongs': Gendered codes and sexist representations of the female figure in advertisements Maria Troullou Researcher in Cultural Studies."— Presentation transcript:
'Keep her where she belongs': Gendered codes and sexist representations of the female figure in advertisements Maria Troullou Researcher in Cultural Studies University of Western Macedonia Greece
Gender is a human invention, like language, kinship,religion, and technology; like them, gender organizes human social life in culturally patterned ways. Gender organizes social relations in everyday life as well as in the major social structures […] is embedded in the images, ideas, and language of a society and is used as a means to divide up work, allocate resources, and distribute power. Judith Lorber (1994: 6)
>>>Gender refers to the culturally and socially constructed differences between females and males found in the meanings, beliefs, and practices associated with "femininity" and "masculinity. Judith Lorber (1994: 6)
Gender identity is a person's perception of the self as female or male. Although this identity is an individual perception, it is developed through interaction with others. As a result, most people form a gender identity that matches their biological sex. Body consciousness is a part of gender identity. Body consciousness is how a person perceives and feels about his or her body; it also includes an awareness of social conditions in society that contribute to this self- knowledge (Thompson, 1994). Virtually everything social in our lives is gendered. Gender is an integral part of the daily experiences of both women and men (Kimmel and Messner, 2004).
A microlevel analysis of gender focuses on how individuals learn gender roles and acquire a gender identity. Gender role refers to the attitudes, behavior, and activities that are socially defined as appropriate for each sex and are learned through the socialization process (Lips, 2001).
A macrolevel analysis of gender examines structural features, external to the individual, that perpetuate gender inequality. These structures have been referred to as gendered institutions, meaning that gender is one of the major ways by which social life is organized in all sectors of society.
These institutions are reinforced by a gender belief system, which includes all the ideas regarding masculine and feminine attributes that are held to be valid in a society. This belief system is legitimated by religion, science, law, and other societal values (Lorber,2005).
Sexism is the subordination of one sex, usually female, based on the assumed superiority of the other sex. Sexism directed at women has three components: (1)negative attitudes toward women; (2)Stereotypical beliefs that reinforce, complement, or justify the prejudice; (3) discrimination-acts that exclude, distance, or keep women separate (Lott, 1994).
The media, including newspapers, magazines, television, and movies, are powerful sources of gender stereotyping. Although some critics argue that the media simply reflect existing gender roles in society, others point out that the media have a unique ability to shape ideas.
advertising has been called: the most influential institution of socialization in modern society advertising as a cultural form: displays a preoccupation with gender that is hardly matched in any other genre (Sut Jhally, 1987).
A study by the sociologist Anthony J. Cortese (2004) found that women- regardless of what they were doing in a particular ad were frequently shown in advertising as being young, beautiful, and seductive. Although such depictions may sell products, they may also have the effect of influencing how we perceive ourselves and others with regard to issues of power and subordination.
Advertising has the power to change a set of values held by the collective majority. It can influence people to switch their attitude regarding things which they might ordinarily think of as morally wrong – to an attitude that its morally right or acceptable.
Previous research on images of women has suggested that: Fail to portray a representative range of women's real skills and occupations, particularly in positions of authority;
Fail to reflect the increasing diversity and richness of women's lives, or the range of women's contributions and achievements;
Fail to represent the real variety of women's ages, shapes, sizes and colours.
The sexist representation of women is problematic because it can generate adverse perceptions of women:
validation of masculine behaviours, language and values as though they represent the universal norm
reinforcing perceptions that may legitimize violence against women
limit the range of behaviour considered acceptable for women
Sexism in the portrayal of women in advertising has been studied in a variety of different cultures including the United States, Australia, Britain, Italy, India, Japan and Kenya. A number of broad patterns in the portrayal of women can be discerned from this body of evidence. Ford, Vooli, Honneycutt, & Casey 1998, Gilly 1988, Lysonski 1985, Mazzella, Durkin, Cerini, & Buralli 1992, Bretl & Cantor 1988, Furnham & Voli 1989, Gilly 1988, Livingstone & Green 1986, Mazzella, Durkin, Cerini, & Buralli 1992, Mwangi 1996, Ferguson, Kreshel, & Tinkham 1990, Griffin, Viswanath & Schwartz 1994, Kilbourne 1987, Lysonski 1985, Sengupta 1995, Wyckham 1987, Wyckham 1993.
SEXISM- PATTERN No1 Women are more often portrayed as young and concerned with physical attractiveness than their male counterparts
Women are less likely than men are to be portrayed as authority figures and more likely to be shown as product users SEXISM- PATTERN No2
There is a tendency for women to be shown: as subordinate to men, as decorative objects, or as alluring sex objects SEXISM- PATTERN No3
Shaming has proven to be a quite successful advertising technique. By sending the message that women are flawed, advertisers seek to convince us that we somehow need their product in order to be liked by men and at the same time be socially acceptable.
Ads never let us forget that a woman's worth is determined by her appeal to men.
She is an object to be judged, evaluated and deemed desirable enough by the observer. Her only power lies in controlling and manipulating her appearance and even in that she is set up to fall short of the perfect ideal.
Women are held to this standard and are bombarded with shaming messages that remind them that they will not succeed, be loved, secure or happy unless they conform to the icons identity, which is flawless appearance. The response evoked is guilt, fear and shame. As a consequence ads have the power to create a limited standard of beauty – young, thin, white – that is impossible for most women to attain.
Naomi Wolf (1992) says that the beauty myth isn't good for men or women. It prevents (men) from actually seeing women...in suggesting a vision in place of a woman, it has a numbing effect, reducing all sense but the visual...
As John Berger (1973:47) has put it: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.
Feminity is signified by the female figure, an icon connoting attractiveness through several modes. Basically, every characteristic that could detract from the beauty myth has been erased. Attractiveness- beauty Acceptance, success, security, love Female figure content Sign vehiclereferent sign
Ads that revolve around womens appearance usually make use of one of the following conventions (Berger, 1973):
woman with mirror
woman displayed for viewing
woman appearing and man doing
Infantalize women- while turning them into sexual objects:
Baby pink accessories and a matching teddy bear. The real message here seems to be "innocence" rendered as helplessness. Such ads hold out the possibility of being both sexy and childlike. Adult women pretending to be children pretending to be adult women. (Retzinger, 2004.)
Again the stereotypical image is that of a powerless female figure that has nothing to offer but looks and sex. Portrayed like a sex object – a product to be consumed, innocence play is connoted by the baby-face appearance and childish gestures gaze and pose.
Ads offering young women with the face of a small child posed in a sexually suggestive manner are appealing both to men and women.
SIZE As Goffman (1976:28) explains one way in which social weight- power, authority, rank, office, renown- is echoed expressively in social situations is through relative size, especially height.
Rarely do we see women looking straight at us and meeting our gaze, unless they are crouched, nearly naked, or otherwise restricted or vulnerable (Dittrich, 1999). ATTENTION
Concerning positioning women are often portrayed lying, bending, slumping and reclining or posing in awkward ways. POSITIONING
People in charge of their own lives typically stand up straight, alert and ready to meet the world. In contrast, the bending of the body conveys unpreparedness and submissiveness.
A classic stereotype of deference is that of lowering oneself physically in some form or other prostration. Correspondingly, holding the body erect and the head high is stereotypically a mark of unashamedness, superiority and disdain (Goffman, 40).
When women are shown in positions of powerlessness, submission, and subjugation the message to men is clear. Women are always available as the targets of aggression and violence, they are inferior to men and thus deserve to be dominated, and women exist to fulfil the needs of men. (Kilbourne, 1999).
Dismemberment or body-chopping Women's appraisal of self-worth is determined by appearance, particularly as revealed by the female body or body parts.
Women's bodies without heads, faces or feet lead us to believe that all that truly matters about woman lies between her neck and her knees (Cortese, 1999)
Hiding or severing a person's features, particularly facial features (which often reveal cues about a person's identity/uniqueness), enables the observer's attitude to shift towards objectification: treating and thinking about the subject as an object without needs, feelings or humanity (Dittrich, 1999).
The objectification of women (Schur, 1983) Women are often seen as the objects of sexual attraction, not full human beings- when they are stared at Women are seen by some as depersonalized body parts Women are seen as being decorative Women are evaluated according to prevailing, narrow beauty standards and often feel pressure to conform to appearance norms. Objectification based on cultural preoccupation with looks
Jean Kilbourne, a nationally known expert in raising awareness about how women's bodies are depicted in the media says that: turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step in justifying violence against that person.
The ads from the past were blindly chauvinistic. What is noticeable in more recent ads is the level of sexual violence.
TECNIQUE Women putting on a show for an outsider, not having a passionate lesbian love affair for themselves Girl to girl action
Degrading bondage positions Women being bound, twitched and literally controlled by men. Women appearing in passive roles accepting violence.
>>>>With the transfer of those conventions seems comes sexism comments Sex stereotyping is not a matter of intuition or self-evidence detection of sex stereotypes requires knowledge of gender codes or of how gender messages are encoded in ads or other media The codes or signs are not gender- bound, and so role reversals are possible
A woman portrayed in a MCU shot looking up right. Blonde hair, lip-stick on, neck and shoulders naked. She is positioned on the left part of the picture diagonally placed. Her gaze is directed upwards to the right corner. The object of her attention is not seen but is somewhere above her, in a position higher than hers. Behind her, in the background, faces of women imitate the same posture. All females are concentrated to the same object of attention. As Richard Dyer (1982) has observed when a model is looking upwards it always connotes a spirituality. Maybe she is there to show her face or her body, but her mind is somewhere else. On the upper level of the image several signs inform us about the object that attracts the female attention. Photos of three men in military outfits portrayed like heroes honored with medals serve as connotations to the womens thoughts. Admiration, worship and devotion to men is the second meaning of the picture transferred to the reader through the interrelations of iconic signs and written text.