Critical Thinking Media Competence

Sexism in Advertising—Group 3

The modern media, like television and the internet in particular, is becoming more and more important in the advertising business. Marketing departments and ad producers always have to be one step ahead to reach their audience and sell their products. Since the beginning of the active promotion of products in the 1950's, strategies have changed-- some strategies have been dropped while others have changed form. At first, companies concentrated on the product. In the following decade--the 60's—“state-of-the-art” was a keyword used to sell a product at any price, no matter how old the technology, as long as the product sold. In the 80's, the leading merchandise strategy was to sell an innovative edge, while in the 1990's the focus was laid on market orientation and the consumer’s wants. Yet through the history of marketing, there has been a common theme tainting marketing and merchandising: sexism. Sexism is not a phenomenon which appeared in the new millennium - it is ubiquitous. The reduction of people to their physical appearance—especially women--is the main selling point of most television commercials and advertisement posters. In those cases the product no longer stands in the spotlight. It is also important to take a closer look at the former role that women often played, because in the advertisement the woman is often reduced to her role as a kindhearted but stupid and naive housewife and mother.

So summarizing you can say we elucidate the different stages of sexism through the last six decades.


As already mentioned in the introduction, sexism and the advertising itself went through a development. Sexism has been an issue as long as there have been advertisings, but it was different in every decade it went through. In the 1950's and 1960's women were shown as the right-hand of their husband. The housewife should support her hard working husband and cover his back as much as possible. In the best case they accepted a subordinate role to their spouse. She should have had good cooking skills, run a tidy household and relieve her husband’s live in general. The advertising for women aimed only for things they could use in the household. Washing powder, cooking and baking recipes and of course a lot of devices like 'the perfect vacuum cleaner'. In general they ‘were not able to drive a car properly' and if they were one of those extraordinary women who had a job, they worked as a secretary or a stewardess. Those jobs of course fit into the concept. The secretary as support for her male boss and the stewardess, subordinate to the pilot, as a kind of mother figure in the plane. This concept went through three decades until in the late 1980's first resistance against this image of women came up. The transitions from decade to decade are fluent, but you could say that in the early 90's the role of the female performer in advertising changed. The image of a good housewife and mother faded more and more into the background. Instead commercials, especially on television, worked more with the sexuality itself. Attention should be paid to the fact that this way to merchandise is not gender-specific. The quality and the product itself become less important, the focus is basically laid onto the physical appearance of the actors.


Today advertisings are all about beauty. The descriptive word beauty has a specific meaning. A word with meaning that tends to describe the positive and delight presence that thing or individual carries to enlighten its surroundings. When referring to women and beauty, the descriptive word has definitely transformed its meaning today and in the presence. From the days when women portrayed an elegant “beauty” of expressing and encouraging pale skin and full figured body types and the transition it has taken in the twentieth century. Although it does not apply to all cases, today the media plays a large role in the advertisement of what defines women and the descriptive word that really, defines beauty. The argument and constant trend of this subject is how times and the image that once created celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, have changed into this obsession and morphing young women to be what you see in a magazine; super tall, stick thin, photoshopped to perfection. There are many articles, commercial, and so on  using women in a more sexual way then before. In the past, women were expected to clean, cook, and make love but the respect carried a larger role than it does today. We use females in all outlets such as music, TV, and commercials. Whether it is the shaking of their bodies in a sexual way, wearing provocative things, or simply versing inappropriate sentences, it comes off as a form of sexism. But the nakedization of advertising isn't female-specific. In particular in cologne advertisements men are shown in a certain way. Mostly shirtless or just wearing pants, very muscular and flirty. With of course at least one of the above described type of girl on their site.


In conclusion you can say that sexism in advertising exists since the advertising itself. What changed is the role in that especially women are seen today in comparison to the role they were seen in the past. In the last couple of decades advertisement became “sexier”. Furthermore, you can say that sexism in advertisements will never stop changing. It is a never ending process which is linked to the meaning of beauty and comes with the change in this meaning. The media forces us into a certain behavior and media makes us trying to change our look with giving us these models as an example.  Beauty does not have to define a half or full naked human or the touch up distributed all over their face for the advertisement. If we stop focusing so much on the superficial expectancies and more on the roots of where we all came from, sexism can be redefined or non-existent. However, that is probably not going to happen because the general consensus under marketing experts is: Sex sells!