<The Gender ADs Project>

 

Woman as Nature

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<Background: Sherry Ortner’s significant article “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” sets the stage for a critical understanding of the division of the cultural world into gendered dichotomies—male (culture), female (nature); male (public), female (private/domestic); male (creativity), female (procreativity). A quote from Ortner’s article offers an explanation of these divisions: “woman’s body seems to doom her to mere reproduction of life; the male, in contrast, lacking natural creative functions, must (or has the opportunity to) assert his creativity externally, ‘artificially,’ through the medium of technology and symbols. In so doing, he creates relatively lasting, eternal, transcendental objects, while the woman creates only perishables—human beings” (1974:75). Though Ortner’s work is not focused on popular culture and the media, it is clear that the suggested universality of male to culture/female to nature is prominent in many of the print ads. In many of the ads women are pictured in reference to nature in such a way that they are seen as closer to nature than men. This trope focuses on the ways in which women have been represented as an extension of nature. The Ads: As you review the following ads, note that nature is constructed in varied ways. Discussion Questions: (1) Can you find similar advertising images of men being connected to nature, or are they typically connected to culture? (2) Why have women been typically associated with nature in popular culture? (3) In recent years, more men have taken on what has been wrongly assumed to be "women's work," that is work in the home. If this is the case, has this social change had an impact on images of women, particularly those that depict women as "naturally" connected to childrearing? >

 

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<presented by Scott A. Lukas, Ph.D.>