<The Gender ADs Project>

 

Roles

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<Background: As we unfortunately see in all forms of media, the roles of women in print advertising are stereotypical and limiting. Studies such as Courtney and Whipple (1983) and Barthel (1987) confirm that the association of women and specific domestic roles has been solidified in popular culture, particularly advertising. Courtney and Lockeretz’s important analysis of magazine advertising (1971) indicated that women have been portrayed as domestic providers who do not make significant decisions, are dependent on men, and are essentially sex objects. A second study found that offensive ads had declined, but that women were still seen as belonging to the private sphere of the home (cf. Venkatesan and Losco 1975; Wagner and Banos 1973). The messages of popular culture also ironically reflect the multiple roles that women have to play in western society. Hochschild’s Second Shift is just but one dimension of the strains felt by women as a result of work and home duties. Wolf also addresses how some ads in women’s magazines reflect “the ambivalence that women feel about their stressful new roles” (1991:116). Role strain is exhibited in many situations in popular culture and advertising. The roles offered to women are very limited. Many involve a woman’s confinement to the domestic sphere—caring for children, cleaning the house, shopping for groceries and making meals for a husband. Nancy Chodorow makes the point that the maintenance of gender subordination in world cultures is very much due to the universal functions and values of the family (1974). Men too are the subjects of confusion and psychological conflict as the construction of the “good-provider” role is maintained in contemporary understandings of masculinity (Bernard 1995).  The Ads: The ads below emphasize the the roles typically assigned to women in popular advertising. I have included a number of older ads to provide an historical context. Note that there are many presented in the ads and, clearly, one can note a historical difference between the roles of the past and the present. Resources: Some of the classic readings related to sex roles is found in the literatures of sociology and women's studies. The Internet also offers excellent readings and research related to sex roles. I recently came across this site. It reflects some of the roles associated with women during World War II. Discussion Questions: (1) What types of roles are suggested in the images below? (2) Produce a list of the roles that are attributed to women in popular advertising. (3) As depicted in the world of advertising, how do male and female roles differ? (4) Are there historical differences present in the ads that reflect changing social attitudes about women's roles? >

 

 

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