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Public Gender in London and the U.K.

This particular study extends the focus of the Gender Ads Project to the U.K. In 2004 I taught in London and had the opportunity to observe the contexts of gender in London and U.K. popular culture. Because I have focused on U.S. popular culture almost exclusively, I wanted to use this opportunity to reflect on the ways in which gender is utilized in non-U.S. popular culture.

When I arrived in London, I had a magazine that I had picked up at the LAX Airport, LA Weekly. These next two ads are from the magazine, and I include them here as they reminded me of the contexts of gender in U.S. popular culture that is familiar to the Gender Ads Project and my analyses.

LG #1 LG #2

The first ad is a type found in many of the major city-focused magazines. In L.A. one is not surprised to see ads of these sorts; in fact, pages of LA Weekly are filled with examples of body altering products and services. The trope of Normalization is referenced in this ad. The second ad is interesting for its context of the camera. More and more companies and public places are initiating bans against camera phones, both for security and privacy reasons. Many women have reported being surveilled by men in public places like gyms and exercise facilities.

As I arrive in the outskirts of London, I am immediately impacted by the presence of U.S.-style advertising and popular culture. Some of the first images that I notice are those in train stations and in the underground. This next image was one that adorned one of the train stations near my hostel in Harlow, just outside of London.

LG #3

This image, like many others that I noted in the U.K., fulfills two common requirements for gender images in popular culture. First, the image objectifies a woman; second, it is displayed in a public place. Like the images from my study of gender in Las Vegas (XXXX Link), the images of gender from London reflect a willingness to objectify women in a public way. These next images were captured in the many tibe stations throughout London. They changed frequently and, in fact, I missed the opportunity to record other troubling ads because of their constantly being updated.

LG #4 LG #5 LG #6 LG #7

LG #4 is representative of the Captured trope XXXX in the Gender Ads Project. A woman bound by rubber bands--a reflection of her boring job. LG #5 is a campaign that is reflected in a future image on this page (XXXX). The title reads, "Makeup fro Your Kitchen," and the campaign makes two associations related to gender--one that women are products of beauty (being made-up) and two that women are connected to the domestic sphere and the specific space of the kitchen. LG #6 is a representation of the over-used magic trick of the woman being sawed in half and it was an ad that I noted in many of the tube stations. LG #7 is a surreal ad (XXXX) that related to the theme of eating and dieting--a common one in the U.K. given their Fat Nation campaign and obsesssion to avoid the obesity associated with the United States. As one travels thee undergroudn in London, it is impossible to avoid of the myraid of gender images that promote particular products and lifestyles. Of course, not all of the ads in the underground focus on gender, but the ones that do are particularly noticeable.

LG #8 LG #9 LG #10 LG #11 LG #12

LG #8 is an ad for the yellow pages, and is it any surprise that the image and the context was chosen to gain attention? LG #9 reflects on the idea that women are often associated with mystery and the danger of raw nature, as well as further develop the idea that women are naturally flirtatous--a very dangerous idea in a world in which women are the continued victims of violence and sexual assault. Like some of the images I will feature from Blackpool later on this page, LG #10 uses the imagery of angels (goodness) to contrast with the forms of desire (evil) suggested by the pose. The title of the ad reads, "And there she was. An urban Angel. Made not born." LG #11 uses surreal images from the circus to advertise its product; of course, what is identifiable in the ad is th pose and dress of the woman. It is this part of the image that draws the attention of thee viewer, not the tigers. LG #12 is one of many ads for movies that use the bodies of women to sell movie tickets. This next image, the last of my tube photos, is quite interesting. In it we find three ads for various products--two video games and beer. In this very public reflection of gender one can see multiple contexts of gender and race stereotyping as well as associations between the sexes and their roles.

LG #13

As I move from the tube stations of London I found myself in York, England, a town near the border of Scotland. As the next image shows (LG #14), any visitor to the U.K. will be greeted by the strange familiarity of popular culture. And image #15, from the National Railway Museum in York, reminds the public of the history of sexism in the U.K.

LG #14 LG #15

The next series of ads promote fashion and beauty products and each identifies common themes of gender in public culture. LG #16 is an ad for a tie chain known as Tie Rack, and you might want to ask why the ad features a naked woman? LG #17 is for the Body Shop, a corporation that claims to be progressive. It uses the virgin-whore complex and nudity to sell a new olive beauty product.

LG #16 LG #17

As I leave York I travel to Edinburgh while I also note a pronounced presence of gender representations in public life. Now that I have left the U.K. I wish that I had taken more pictures, because the representations here are limited in number. Nevertheless I hope that the reader will gain some understanding of the nature of public gender in the U.K. The first three images from Edinburgh are from the Museum of Scotland, a seven-floor museum that includes prehistory and popular culture. The image of Laura Croft (#18) was chosen by the museum for its ubiquity, and the Wonder Bra campaign (#s 19, 20) likely have a similar origin. The next set of images use sexuality to advertise concerts and musical events (#s 21, 22, 23) and to sell t-shirts and Japanese popular culture products (LG #24).

LG #18 LG #19 LG #20 LG #21 LG #22 LG #23 LG #24

Moving a few hours to the west of Scotland, I arrive in Glasgow. Glasgow has a less consumer feel to me than Edinburgh, and the presence of many artistic communities is also evident. LG #25 continues the theme of sexism found in ads for clubs and musical venues. LG #26 develops the common trope of exoticism as it applies to women of color (XXXX). #27 is a holiday ad that surprisingly uses the holidays to express sexuality. LG #28 is another of the ubiquitous beauty product ads, while #29 illustrates the movement of ads to mobile spaces such as taxis and busses. I did notice more of these mobile forms of ads in the U.K. than in the U.S.

LG #25 LG #26 LG #27 LG #28 LG #29

This next image from Blackpool (#30), my next destination, shows this use of the mobile ad. Interestingly, the progressive cause of the public service ad is not reflected in the all-too-familiar image of the woman in the ad. The final Blackpool images (LG #31, 32) are the ads that I previously mentioned, using the heaven and hell them and objectified representations of women.

LG #30 LG #31 LG #32

Though I took less photos than I had planned during a class trip to Paris, I have also included them on this page. Image #33 is common to many European tourist shops. The poster is intended as a joke, but we should remember that even when popular culture seems funny, it is inherently serious. The typology of breasts seen in the image says a lot about the normalizing effects of the beuaty, fashion and entertainment industries on our lives. Image #35 was surprising to see in a public shopping area.

LG #33 LG #34 LG #35 LG #35

Returning to the U.K. image #36 is my only image from Cambridge. It also advertises a club and uses a provocative image to sell its products. Image #37 was taken outside a shop near the Portebello Street market, a very crowded weekend venue. It uses the heads of two reviled leaders--Blair and Bush--on the bodies of headless women. Image #38 shares much in common with image #33 from Paris. The "mind the gap" phrase, intended to warn passengers on the London underground of some stations that have noticeable gaps between the trains and the platforms, is here co-opted to make associations between women and their bodily parts. Image #39 is thrown in here, though it is an historic one. It is taken from one of the advertising displays at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

LG #36 LG #37 LG #38 LG #39

Closing out the London images, I want to highlight both the public nature of gender representations andthe serious stakes implied in the reception to such representations. LG #41, 42 are pictures from the Yorkie candy bar, made by Nestle. A number of my students bought the bars because they found them to be offensive. I have previously featured images from the candy bar on this site, but I was shocked to the candy in person. Image #40, a mock ad from Amnesty drawing awareness to the problems of domestic violence, fooled me and a number of my students. When we saw the ads appear one day in the Russle Square station, we assumed they were advertising a real cream that covered up the signs of domestic violence. One of my students researched the campaign at the Amnesty website and gained an appreciation of the campaign. She did say that the ad was still shocking, and perhaps this is what Amnesty intends in this graphic representation of a major global problem.

LG #40 LG #41 LG #42

As the analysis moves from the public spaces of U.K. life, and enters the intimate sphere of print entertainment and advertising, I believe that you will note a continuation of the themes identified in the initial analysis. Please scroll to the top of the page for the next segment.

Public Gender in London and U.K. Magazines

One night one of the five channels on my television featured a show on shocking ads from around the world. Not surprisingly,

M #1 M #2

many ofthe ads were like these last two with an emphasis on sexuality and the objectification of women. In general, I noticed less sexist representations of women on British television than counterparts in the United States. Interestingly, some channels featured uncut movies, such as Eyes Wide Shut, and this was one noticeable difference. Within the world of print advertising, magazines and newspapers, I would suggest that the sexism is more pronounced than in the U.S. The first few images (M #s 3-7) are taken from the popular British daily papers, tabloids if you will. Rags like the Daily Sport use promises of scantily-clad women on their covers to lure their consumers to purchase their newspapers. Images like M #6, from the Daily Star, are found on a daily basis in the paper. Many of students commented on how they were surprised to see these images and to see early-morning commuters reading papers like the Star.

M #3 M #4 M #5 M #6 M #7

Some additional initial images are presented here. The first, M #8, is a feature from the free newspaper, The Metro, that is given out each morning on the underground. What, exactly, is the journalistic value of this story? That's something to think about. The next, M #9, is a cartoon that a student presented. She thought it was interesting given the numerous telephone booths wallpapered with ads for call girls and exotic dancers. The next, M #10, is a common image. Throughout the underground and in many popular print sources there are many images of scantily-clad and objectified women selling cds for artists representative of many genres of music. Image #11 is from a popular men's magazine that advertises the slogan, "For Men Who Should Know Better." I believe that the "Reef Girls," pictured on this page from the magazine, were part of a controversy that finds objectified women in sporting events like the Olympics, beach volleyball and tennis. The concern that has been raised relates to using sexualized women to act as ball girls and in other roles at sporting events.

M #8 M #9 M #10 M #11 M #12

In many ways, image M #12 reflects the level of objectification that is present in U.K. popular culture. If "Anglomania" is to mean that people appreciate the U.K. as an objectified woman, then clearly such adoration for the British is misplaced! The next set of ads (M #s 13-21) would be placed in the Males XXXX category on the main page of the Gender Ads Project. A number of them objectify males and stereotype them. I have noted more objectified images of males in U.K. print ads than in U.S. ads.

M #13 M #14 M #15 M #16 M #17
M #18 M #19 M #20 M #21  

Male Sex XXXX is also found in ads like the following, one the focus on a new James Bond video game (M #23). Bond remains, perhaps anachronistically, the image of the sopisticated and virile British male. The Phallic signifier XXXX also seems to be implied in images #24 and 25.

M #22 M #23 M #24 M #25

Further ads from a number of U.K. publications show similiarity with the tropes common to U.S. advertising. Sex is everywhere, ads #26 - 30, and clearly the reliance on sexuality to sell products and services is not limited to the U.S. market. "Instant Attraction," as M #28 emphasizes, is pictured not as a union of man and woman, but as a man and woman through a product. M #30 uses the suggestive phrase "get off" to sell its products and to appeal to a male audience. M #29, an ad for a new Sims game, takes an interesting, rationalistic approach to look at infedielty. Anyone who has had to deal with a cheating partner would certainly not look at the "choices" in the way presented in the gaame ad.

M #26 M #27 M #28 M #29 M #30

The next set of ads are reminiscient of the Nature XXXX and Women as Consumer XXXX tropes from the main page. M #31 reads, "I've carried a ruck sack...I've carried our children...I've carried you piggy back...I always carry a torch," and this ad, in my view, uses the ideology of woman as nature--her being connected to child-birthing--to make a lasting connection between diamonds and relationships. The second trope, Women as Consumer, is summarized in a silly article from The Metro (M #36), suggesting that the female desire to shop is rooted in our evolutionary lineage. The remaining ads further cement the cultural construction of women as consumers and the value of materialism in everyday life (see ad #32).

M #31 M #32 M #33 M #34 M #35 M #36

As we continue the journey through the print ads of British popular culture, we continue to find parallels between the types of ads found in this country's print media and those of the U.S. The next set of seven ads (M #s 37-43), portray Women as Sex Objects XXXX. M #41 is shown in two versions, one with a bare-chested women, the other not.

M #37 M #38 M #39 M #40 M #41 M #42 M #43

A number of the ways in which women are objectified to sell products reminds us of the No Product Connection trope XXXX from the main page. These ads are seen in the following (M #44 - 47).

M #44 M #45 M #46 M #47

Unfortunately, just as we see with examples of Death XXXXX and Violence Against Women XXXX in U.S. ads, the same representations are found in U.K. print ads. Here are some samples. If you compare M #48, 49 to some of the ads from these sections on the Gender Ads Project you will note similar layouts, composition of ads and approaches. In fact, some of the same companies are represented in these ads from different countries. M #50 is another of the magic series identified on the left column of this page. #51 would fit into the Fear XXXX section of the Gender Ads Project. #52, somewhat hard to see due to the image quality, depicts a woman on the floor seen through a door. Such an image may evoke a smut film. #53 is a disturbing image of a woman being eaten by an alligator. It was a winning image sent in to the magazine Loaded. Truly sick stuff here! M #s 54, 55 both portray woman who desire or allow men, presumably, to touch their bodies. The images of death are connected to the images of sexual violence and unwelcomed advances by men--this is seen not only in the world of advertising but in various genres of pornography.

M #48 M #49 M #50 M #51
M #52 M #53 M #54 M #55

Normalization XXXX is another trope identified in U.K. print ads (#56). One also notes a prevelance of Surreal XXXX depictions of women (#s 57-61) as can be viewed in the U.S. advertising context.

M #56 M #57 M #58 M #59 M #60 M #61

In the U.K. women's bodies are also written upon XXXX (#s 62, 63) and are gazed at XXXX (#s 64-67). #66 is a very obvious depiction of the male gaze--all in good fun, as we are led to believe. #67 is an interesting ad in its reversal of the gaze onto the male in the ad.

M #62 M #63 M #64 M #65 M #66 M #67

The last set of ads includes objectification of women through their body parts (#s 68, 69), the association of sexuality with automobiles (#s 70, 71), and an ad that would fit in the Nagging XXXX category (M #72).

M #68 M #69 M #70 M #71 M #72

As I close this particular page, think for a moment about the similiarities and differences between the U.K. and U.S. images. I would not say that there is more optimism in U.K. gender relations as compared to the U.S. Of course, some of my critics will still doubt the basis of this if this last ad (# 73) were intended for all audiences! Look at the ad and, simply, THINK ABOUT IT!

M #73