<The Gender ADs Project>
▪ Part I
▪ Part II
▪ Tube Ads
Special Feature for the Gender Ads Project: A U.K. Public Gender Tour,
▪ Introduction: 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.
▪ Arrival: When I arrived in London, I had a magazine that I had picked up at the LAX Airport, LA Weekly. These next two ads (#s 1, 2) 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.
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.
▪ US-Style Advertising: 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.
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, the images of gender from London reflect a willingness to objectify women in a public way. These next images were captured in the many tube stations throughout London. They changed frequently and, in fact, I missed the opportunity to record other troubling ads because of their constantly being updated.
▪ Some Analysis: Image #4 is representative of the Captured trope in the Gender Ads Project. A woman bound by rubber bands—a reflection of her boring job. Image #5 is a campaign that is reflected in a future image on this page (XXXX). The title reads, "Makeup for 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. Image #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. Image #7 is a surreal ad that related to the theme of eating and dieting—a common one in the U.K. given their Fat Nation campaign and obsession to avoid the obesity associated with the United States. As one travels thee underground in London, it is impossible to avoid of the myriad 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.
▪ More Tube Ads: Image #8 is an ad for the yellow pages, and is it any surprise that the image and the context was chosen to gain attention? Image #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 flirtatious—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, Image #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." Image #11 uses surreal images from the circus to advertise its product; of course, what is identifiable in the ad is the pose and dress of the woman. It is this part of the image that draws the attention of thee viewer, not the tigers. Image #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.
▪ York: 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 (AImage #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.
The next series of ads promote fashion and beauty products and each identifies common themes of gender in public culture. Image #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? Image #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.
▪ Edinburgh: 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 (#24).
▪ Glasgow: 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. Image #25 continues the theme of sexism found in ads for clubs and musical venues. Image #26 develops the common trope of exoticism as it applies to women of color. #27 is a holiday ad that surprisingly uses the holidays to express sexuality. Image #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.
▪ Blackpool: 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 (#31, 32) are the ads that I previously mentioned, using the heaven and hell them and objectified representations of women.
▪ Paris Sidetrip: 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 beauty, fashion and entertainment industries on our lives. Image #35 was surprising to see in a public shopping area.
▪ Around London: Returning to the U.K. image #37 is my only image from Cambridge. It also advertises a club and uses a provocative image to sell its products. Image #38 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 #39 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 #40 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.
Closing out the London images, I want to highlight both the public nature of gender representations and the serious stakes implied in the reception to such representations. Images #42, 43 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 #41, 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 Russell 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.
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 or click here.
<presented by Scott A. Lukas, Ph.D.>