Jun 2, 2020 in Informative

Advertising’s Image of Women


This research paper is devoted to the image of women in advertising. It analyzes such questions as images of women, the representation of the employed women, the portrayal of woman as a housewife, and representation of women as sex objects in advertisements. The introduction of this research paper underlines the sharpness and actuality of the research problem and sets the objectives for further analysis and discussion. The section ‘Images of Women in Advertising’ reveals the ways women are presented in the advertisement. The section ‘The Representation of Employed Women in Advertisements’ shows how advertisers see those women who work.  The section ‘The Portrayal of a Woman as a Housewife’ underlines the parallel between the unequal treatment of women and stereotypes created by the community. The section ‘Women as Sex Objects’ explains the ways of depicting women as objects of sexual desires and analyzes the advertisements that put women in such light. The conclusion summarizes the key roles of females in the advertisement. 

Women’s image remains the main object of the modern advertisement. One should mention that most advertisements focus their attention on women’s sex roles and portrayal of a woman as a sex object, housewife, and employee. In fact, such attention of media to women only reinforces the problem of gender inequality and discrimination. It means that advertisers regard women as a weak sex who can be targeted by the promotion campaigns. Moreover, advertisers see women as the most potential group of consumers for different items. Consequently, this research paper intends to analyze the image of women in advertisement and their portrayal as employed women, housewives, and sex objects and prove that their representation is insulting and biased. 


Images of Women in Advertising

Most commercial messages of advertisement are directed at women as the primary target audience. It means that women are regarded as those who can be easily manipulated. Thus, every advertisement contains something that can attract women’s attention. The pictures of women vary from females in wrenches to eroticized and sexualized ones. One should say that in most cases, women are depicted performing subservient, subordinate, and male pleasing roles. Thus, the mass media only reinforces the problem of sexism in the society. Hereby, such attitude to females’ role in advertisements provokes the stereotypes about women as a weak sex and the individual that can be easily targeted and manipulated. For example, Lynx advertisements had been banned for degrading women. The motto of their advertisement for shower gels was ‘The cleaner you are, the dirtier you get.’ It means that women are regarded as sex objects. Thus, this advertisement is offensive for women’s dignity. 

Jean Kilbourne started collecting advertisements in the late 1960s to see the evolution of the image of females. She was inspired by her experience as a model, interest in the media, and the women’s movement. It means that Jean Kilbourne faced the challenges of discrimination and unequal treatment. Thus, she understands what it is to be a woman in the American society. Jean Kilbourne states that the women’s movements cannot influence the advertisers, and advertising’s image of women is getting worse compared with the past years. 

The most common themes in the representation of females are the artificial look, dismemberment, commodification, feminine touch, relative size, function ranking, and ritualization of subordination. The advertisers impose on the society the idea that female beauty is in her artificial look. The images of women in the advertisement are created artificially by computer enhancement, air brushing, and studio lighting. Moreover, the advertisers involve only those models who are slender, tall, and long-legged. However, they do not indicate that the beauty of these models is not natural as most of them have undergone plastic surgery. Kilbourne says that this idealized image of female beauty presupposes the idea that women should transform themselves to achieve perfection. For example, Victoria’s Secret’s advertisement depicts women with perfect body. Thus, it implies that women with other parameters cannot wear their lingerie. 

Dismemberment is another image of women in the advertisement. It means that some advertisers present only some idealized parts of women’s body (lips, breasts, and legs). In such advertisements, heads are not showed. Apparently, women are not appreciated for their intellect, feelings, and dreams but their appearance. Advertisers depict women as objects for consumption. Moreover, one should mention that women are always presented as the products for male consumption and pleasure. Thus, advertisers underline the parallel between the female forms and products (alcohol, cars). They present females as a commodity and thing. Their role is to satisfy males’ desires and needs. Thus, women’s hands are depicted being engaged in utilitarian and practical activities, while men’s hands are usually manipulating or holding something. 

Relative size is another aspect that clearly demonstrates the difference in the depiction of males and females in the advertisement. When women and men are shown together, men are always taller than women. When a woman is taller than man, it underlines her superiority and higher social status. Consequently, most advertisers depict women taking care of children. It means that even in the media, females have the decorative accessory, assistant, and supportive roles. As to men, they are shown in the leadership and executive role. The way of placing women in advertisements also proves that they are in the subordinate position. For example, women can be depicted on the floor or a bed. Thus, this is the way men see the place of women. Furthermore, one should mention that women are pictured in a childlike role, for example, sitting on the man’s knee or being protected by the male. 

Advertising has a powerful impact on the females. Consequently, it dictates women how to look by imposing the image of ideal female beauty created through computer retouching, cosmetics, and airbrushing. However, there cannot be an ideal picture without Photoshop. Advertisers have created the idea that women of color can be beautiful only when they have Caucasian features, straight hair, and light skin. Hereby, African American women are depicted in the advertisement but often in jungle settings wearing leopard skins, thereby looking like exotic animals. Kilbourne insists that all kinds of advertisements regard women’s bodies as ‘objects’ and ‘things’. Consequently, the objectification in the advertisement provokes violence against women. Women’s bodies are always dismembered in advertisements. Thus, advertisers focus consumers’ attention on one part, for example, breasts. It means that they do not regard a woman as a unity of beauty, intelligence, and good manners. 

Kilbourne states that cases of actual surgeries such as eyelid surgery, liposuction, and breast implants increased to 114%. There is also an increase in non-surgical procedures such as laser treatments and Botox. It is worth noting that women perform 91% of all cosmetic procedures. It means that females live in the world where their bodies are judged, criticized, and scrutinized. As to men, they live in another world that gives them the opportunity to bias and discriminate females. Since childhood, girls have been taught that women are attractive when they are young, white, thin, shaved, plucked, polished, and perfectly groomed. In case there is any deviation from this ideal picture, such woman is condemned to failure. 

Advertising creates the cult of thinness and involves celebrities to promote this trend. Those who gains weight are mocked. As a result, the obsession of thinness leads to physical and mental disorders. Girls begin to restrain themselves from eating to have the smallest size. It has happened because advertisers involve only model girls for the promotion of their products and services. Sex symbols of the past years could be considered fat by today’s standards of beauty. Consequently, some advertisements encourage eating disorders and unhealthy attitudes. Women feel ashamed of eating, giving the opportunities to advertisers to create the erotic advertisements for food. 

The Representation of Employed Women in Advertisements

Employed women are also depicted in an advertisement. However, in most cases, women have domestic roles, while men are busy with non-domestic activities. Moreover, one should say that men have high-status jobs. In the advertisement, women appear as housewives. If females are employed, these will be traditionally female occupations. For example, advertisers of Mr. Clean depict a woman and her child cleaning together. It means that they only reinforce the stereotype that women are responsible for domestic duties. This advertisement demonstrates that all females young or old must know how to clean. 

It is evident that over-representation of women performing home and family roles exacerbates the problem of gender inequality and the gap between sexes. The statistics demonstrate that only a few women are depicted outside the home in the advertisement. However, their duties there are related to entertainment. In addition, they are rarely pictured having executive and professional roles. The frequency of the representation of employed women in advertisements is increasing when men and women are depicted together. One should say that women are rarely shown when they interact with each other. Many adverts depict a typical overworking mother, especially beauty, supermarket, and cereal advertisements offering their products as a solution to her problems. 

The Portrayal of a Woman as a Housewife

Housework is always considered as a waste of women’s talents, energy, and time. Not without a reason, feminists criticize those who impose on a woman the status of a housewife. The representation of women as housewives presupposes that the society sees them as sex objects from the early age and dependent on men. One should mention that feminist movements and the desire of women to be independent shift the role of women in the advertisement from housewives to career women. However, the problem is that advertisements perceive such women as tired and depressive or depict them as bad mothers. The career woman in advertising is depicted as a stressful, nervous, and irritated person who is in a total mess at home and work. It means that advertisements criticize women who leave their families and household duties for the sake of career opportunities. On the contrary, advertisers depict a housewife as a happy woman who cleans, irons, and washes with pleasure. Consequently, they place the diverse mottos on billboards and transport. For example, ‘Career women make bad mothers.’

Mostly, the advertisements for household products portray women in household-related roles. The depiction of women using and buying the household products for their homes and performing household duties suggests that women’s appointment is being a housewife. The portrayal of women as housewives has changed when it comes to the quality of the depiction and application of the innovative technologies. However, it remains the same with regard to quality. Most advertisements depict females as stupid, dependent on males, and performing simple tasks that do not demand intellect. One should say that a new image of women in advertisement does not bring progress in their life as they should combine their career with family and household duties. In fact, women are highlighters in promoting any product. Thus, advertisements represent women performing roles of wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. However, advertisers pay much attention to the role of women as carrier women or housewives as it is suitable for the promotion of most products. 

There is a crucial difference between male and female advertisements. Females are usually shown performing domestic duties related to the product. If males advertise the product, they are depicted giving instructions and advice without using it. Females advertise predominantly home-related and personal products, while women and men together or only men represent non-domestic products. It means that women do not make expensive purchases since they are responsible for shopping for domestic items. Female representation in the advertisement is grounded on such features as manipulative, ditzy, unintelligent, dependent upon a man, provocative, seductive, jobless, maternal, and childlike. It is evident that these characteristics are comfortable for men who see their women as housewives. Thus, advertisers use this and focus their attention on subservience of female model, inadequacy, and body image. 

One should mention that advertisers present housewives as those who are obsessed with cleanliness and guilty or embarrassed about dirt. They are frequently shown as envious of other women’s achievements, while condemning career women, and boastful about her own cleaning or cooking accomplishments. Although the number of housewives is decreasing, advertisers continue to depict housewives as dependent on male assistance and advice as it is their way of promoting household products. For example, advertisers of washing powder Tide has created the motto ‘Tide’s got what women want’ and depicted the woman being excited by washing process. This advertisement shows that washing is the most favorite activity of housewives. 

Currently, women are also employed fully or partially. Consequently, their husbands help them with all household chores. However, advertisers omit this fact portraying women in household product commercials. Advertisers do not want to represent the modern career women who do not receive pleasure from cleaning, washing, and cooking. The reason is that it is comfortable for advertisers to depict females as weak creatures dependent on males. For example, the advertisement ‘Harpic Toilet Cleaner’ shows how a housewife attempts to clean the toilet but fails. Then, a male comes to her telling about Harpic. In this advertisement, a man is an instructor and adviser, and a woman is a doer. Moreover, advertisers reinforce the message that women need men. Another example of the advertisement is depiction of ‘Wheel Power White.’ Advertisers show a woman as a person responsible for washing, and when her husband smells his clothes washed with ‘Wheel Power White,’ he falls in love with her again. 

Women as Sex Objects

Most advertisements show women as sex objects, especially when they depict beauty products. Advertisers use the female body as a decoration or an attention-getting tool for buying their products. However, they ignore the fact that they diminish women’s self-esteem and do not evaluate them as personalities. Moreover, advertisers omit the harmful impact of such woman’s depiction on children and relationships between a man and woman. One should mention that advertisers also reinforce the problem of sexism in the society. As women are conscious about their appearance and beauty, advertisers take this into consideration and present it in their way. 

Depicting women as objects of sexual desires, advertisers believe that advertisements need to be presentable and appealing. However, their images are not always relevant and related to the product they promote. Sukumar and Venkatesh state that men have positive emotions and feelings associated with nude models. As to women, their feelings are negative. It means that women and men have different sexual appeals in regard to advertisements. Moreover, Sukumar and Venkatesh insist that modern portrayal of females is more effective in promotion and  of products than the traditional one.

Xiaowei believes that the aspect of sexuality in advertisements builds females’ confidence as they want to be as attractive as models. Currently, the depiction of women as objects of sexual desires is accepted by the public. However, the problem is that sexuality is not appropriate for the promotion of every product. It is a social norm for males and advertisers. However, feminists regard this as bias and discrimination. 

One should say that advertisers also send wrong messages persuading women that they can become beautiful and successful only by using their product that can help to get the attention of their man. Thus, advertisers suggest women anti-aging creams guaranteeing them youth and beauty. For examples, the advertisements ‘Fair and Lovely’ present their products as those that can fulfill females’ dreams. They depict that an ordinary girl becomes a winner of the dance competition with the help of the fair & lovely cream. According to the advertisement, this cream has helped her to become fair and beautiful for 7 days and achieve her objective without hard work. It means that women need only beauty and glamour to be successful, and advertisers impose this wrong message on young girls. In most advertisements for beauty products, advertisers demonstrate how women always try to attract and seduce a man, creating the idea that the main role of females is to draw the attention of the man with the help of beauty. 

The advertisements ‘Jui Hair Oil’ demonstrate the picture when a newly married wife tries to attract the attention of her husband, but he ignores her showing that he is extremely busy. However, suddenly, he notices her beautiful hair after using ‘Jui Hair Oil’ and falls in love with it. Thus, this product makes their common life romantic. It is necessary to mention that women are also depicted in advertisements for male body spray accompanied by men, thereby stressing their style and power. Many advertisements show women as objects and men’s attributes. The products in the advertisement are females’ secrets of success and beauty. However, the dependence on men is always an essential message of all advertisements that is applicable to both career women and housewives. The representation of active women engaged in sports and physical activities also has the sexual implication rather than the athletic one. 

It is necessary to underline that such depiction of females in the advertisement changes or influences gender roles. Advertising reinforces and supports the stereotypes about women as weak creatures who should be good mothers feeding their children with instant noodles and health drinks, ideal wives who take care of their husbands and their cholesterol, and mothers who wash their babies with soap that makes their skin soft. Advertisers do not take into consideration the fact that women are changing and continue to impose on the audience insulting, humiliating, and damaging pictures of women. Furthermore, they ignore the fact that women can be good architects, politicians, business ladies, and lawyers exacerbating the stereotypes and stressing traditional canons of the society. 


One should say that the way of representation of females in advertisements remains insulting, discriminating, and biased. An advertisement is grounded on stereotypes and traditional vision of a woman as a good wife, mother, and housewife. It is necessary to mention that advertisers represent females through such aspects as the artificial look, dismemberment, commodification, the feminine touch, relative size, function ranking, and ritualization of subordination. The employed women are also depicted in the advertisement. However, they perform their domestic roles or have traditional women’s occupations. 

The portrayal of a woman as a housewife is the leading aspect in the advertisement. The females are showed cleaning, washing, and cooking. They are doers in every advertisement. As to men, they are their helpers in giving instructions and advise. Thus, advertisers impose such gender role as a housekeeper on the woman. In most advertisements, women are depicted as sex objects. Consequently, advertisers impose on the society the idea that women are appreciated for their beauty, sexuality, and body rather than their intellect and feelings. Advertisements insist that it is essential for the woman to have good domestic abilities, style, and beauty to satisfy needs and demands of her business-minded, competitive, tough, and rough man. 


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