Gender Representations in Advertising

Gender representations in advertising have and always will be an issue. What is depicted in these adverts is what people aspire to be, and often it is not realistic. Often a lot of the connotations of these adverts are decades behind today’s society.

Women are usually depicted as being dangerously slim, with a thigh gap and long flowing hair. Men are usually depicted as muscular, clean shaven and tall. Obviously neither of these two examples are what every male and female in this world looks like. Everybody comes in different shapes and sizes, and no shape or size is wrong.

In the lecture we were given on this topic we were shown two magazine covers, one featuring a female model and the other a male. My notes on each of the covers are as follows:

Female: childlike language; colour palette very stereotypically feminine and soft – lots of pastel pinks; perfect hair and makeup; sending message of ‘this’ is pretty.

Male: masculine colour palette – greys, dark blues, quite harsh contrasts of dark vs light colours; abs; shirtless; low wasted jeans exposing pubic bone – sexuality; ‘tall, dark & handsome’.

The last sentence in my notes for that lecture are: ‘Both of these adverts send the message that we are not good enough’. Which is true, and ethically not great.

We also watched a TED Talk by Jean Kilbourne on advertising, in which she discussed the sexual nature of today’s advertising. She discusses how sex and the whole idea of sexuality is one of the main features of modern day advertising. She discusses how both genders are stereotyped but how female stereotypes are more personal and aimed at the body. Women should be submissive, and the attitude towards sex in these adverts is quite pornographic. Women are also clean shaven, ever notice how in the adverts for razors the lady’s legs are already hairless as she runs the razor up them? Apparently women are not supposed to grow hair anywhere but their head. Through this form of advertising and these examples of how a woman ‘should be’, we teach girls to hate themselves from an early age. This leads to a plethora of problems, from depression and to eating disorders; and sometimes even sexual assault.

Whilst scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook a few days ago I stumbled across an article by the Telegraph slating a recent Victoria’s secret advert, pictured below.

victoria secret.png

The issue raised by this article is that the above advert implies that anything other than what is pictured cannot be deemed a ‘perfect’ body. Many people contacted the company with complaints about how these kind of adverts encourage body image issues, like Jean Kilbourne discusses in her talk; forcing the company to amend the advert. Dear offered an alternative, more realistic version of the advert pictured below.


Adverts opposing the ‘norms’ are popping up everywhere, with Dressmann’s male version of this advert being much more realistic.


The problem with adverts like the Victoria’s Secret example, and similar adverts that depict men in an unrealistic light, is that unfortunately we will never be completely rid of them. As I mentioned in my post on the Photoshop issue, we will never have the ‘perfect’ body as what the media defines as ‘perfect’ is constantly changing

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