The 21st century has not seen women move very far from sexual objectification and domestic servitude. Marketing has been part of maintaining the status quo. So, advertising plays a central role in shaping how society sees women and how women see themselves. Ergo, I am happy that the Advertising Standard Agency (ASA) will be helping to liberate women with tougher standards on gender stereotyping.
Advertising Is Powerful
The naysayers believe that advertising does not influence society. But being a billion pound industry, packed with psychologists, says otherwise. But I understand their sentiment. As a society, we have become desensitised to advertising. We accept it as background noise, letting it invade our public space.
However, all the while, we are consuming and normalising ideas and notions on beauty and intelligence. Often the line between choice and compulsory behaviour blurs. Take Veet‘s advert that told women ‘Don’t risk dudeness.’ by not removing body hair. In other words, women need to shave or be less of a woman.
Advertisers use women’s bodies to arouse the desire in men. It can be as simple as a bus ride advertisement as the image demonstrates. So, men are constantly dictating women’s standard of beauty.
In conforming to male taste, women’s bodies are always ‘pushed up, pinned down, sucked in, tucked in, and airbrushed. It’s only presentable state is when it’s altered, and so when we look at ourselves in the mirror (naked, untucked, and vulnerable) we say “My body must be wrong.”’ (Shedding Light On Collective Beauty).
Advertising Makes Women Less Than
Consequently, females take hundreds of selfies then, spend an inordinate amount of time editing the least bad. Just so strangers say, they like it. Is there a better definition of insecurity? Value wrapped up in a fake picture. How sad that we cannot even live up to ourselves.
It’s little wonder. Advertising has us in competition with Khloe Kardashian and perfect but dismembered lips, feet, boobs and legs, etc. Or at least that is how 90% of advertising promotes.
So of course women hate parts of their body. My taller friends hate their size eight feet never stopping to think how ridiculous they would look with my size five’s that they covet. Then as a collective, there is surprise and outrage that girls as young as age nine want labiaplasty. Advertisers teach women that they are not enough in their natural state.
Intellect and Value
In an increasingly visual society, how a female looks is in danger of becoming the only currency. It reinforces sexual objectification at the expense of our real and intellectual values.
Unlike men, women are rarely the intellectual in adverts. We are never far away from domesticity. Adverts usually show men as buffoons when cleaning. That upset me but it is more than made up for with their intellectual portrayals elsewhere.
The ASA is responding to evidence that those harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities for girls and women. Their tougher standards will not be a panacea to gender inequality; there is no objection to the overtly sexual nature of the Khloe Kardashian advert.
However, I cheer every step that manages over-sexualised pictures and gender segregation.
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