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Gender-role in Advertisement Essay

This paper explores gender-role in modern advertisement. Sample modern-day advertisements will be analyzed in relation to gender-roles. Gender-role refers to a person’s way of actions and thinking that is identified as either related to male or female characteristics (Haig, 2004). It is a set of expectations on how females or males should think, behave, and feel.

It is in the adolescence stage that male and females start to define their roles while their gender is intensified by conformity to transitional gender-roles in during puberty (Hill & Lynch, 1983), which indirectly signals that they begin to act in ways that resemble the stereotypic female or male of their culture (Huston & Alvarez, 1990).

In addition to the demands of work and changing trends in the society and the increased number of employed mothers in the mid twentieth century, adolescents exposure to the media is considered to have a possible impact on their attitudes and perceptions about gender relationships, identity formation, and gender-roles (O’Donnell & O’Donnell, 1978; Durkin, 1986; Lovdal, 1989; Richards & Duckett, 1994; Dietz, 1998; Hovland et al. , 2005).

The effects of advertisements to the perpetuation of gender-role stereotypes have received considerable importance in research and it has been debated whether it stereotyped advertisements have long term or short term impact on people’ own gender-role and whether advertisements with stereotypic portrayals gain more profit or does not have significant influence in people’s buying behavior at all. Effects of media in gender-role There are many factors that that affect gender-role development and the media is considered to be one (Golombok & Fivush, 1994; Durkin, 1995).

Dietz (1998) asserted that the media, in addition to environmental or social factors, affects people’s perception of gender-roles. The impact of advertising on audiences is often explained by social learning theory or by theories that are based on it. The argument is that, as people are repeatedly exposed to advertising images, they tend to internalize the advertisers’ views of themselves and others. The more ubiquitous the images are in advertisements, and the more frequently they see the advertisements, the deeper the audience identifies with the images.

In addition to social learning theory (Bandura, 1977), framing research or frame analysis, introduced Goffman (1974), was used to obtain empirical evidence regarding the effects of media portrayals in people’s thoughts and consciousness. Framing assumes that the media frame reality is used to explain how people perceive and think about gender-roles because of the things they see and experience. Framing is used as a remedy sort in selecting a particular aspect of a perceived reality in order to emphasize, convey, or interpret something.

However, framing may directly or indirectly influence people’s judgments on recognizing ideas presented in advertisements (Entman, 1993). Another issue on the effects of media is identified by Mead (1962) in his theory, arguing that individuals’ characterizations in the media affect children’s attitudes, relationships with other people, and behavior expectations. When traditional feminine or masculine roles become distinctive and children starts to identify with a particular gender-role, they are likely to expect specific characteristics and behaviors from females and males.

Gender-role stereotyping negatively affects young individuals’ attitudes towards males and females since traditional portrayals of women are usually portrayed as dependent, obtaining approval from family and males, weak, victims, supportive of men’s roles, sex objects, and adornment rather than individuals (Hall, Iijima & Crum 1994; Artz, Munger, & Purdy, 1999). As a result, these negative or substandard characteristics of women adversely affect children’s perception that women may ever find it difficult to attain gender equality and function as effective as men do in the society.

This female portrayal restricts young females to think of achieving beyond their potential because many attributes, activities and traits are being designated as inappropriate for their gender (Dietz, 1998). Traditional stereotyped gender-role portrayals in advertisements Most advertisements portrayed both males and females stereotypically. Since 1950s, significant changes in gender-roles have occurred as the division of labor has become less distinctive and the entry of increased number of women into the workforce where professional positions, which were used to be exclusively for men, have opened opportunity for them to progress.

Images of men and women in advertising in the early times have been heavily stereotyped. Men were depicted as independent, active, assertive, work-oriented while women were portrayed as dependent, passive, and domestic. Advertisements in the 1970s to 1980s continued to portray gender-stereotyping due to the difficulty of presenting people without specific gender-roles, especially when advertising specific products of particular gender.

The strategies of advertisers in attracting people’s intentions and behaviors were more likely to favor gender-stereotyped representation since the public was more familiar and comfortable with gender-stereotyped advertisements (Morrison & Shaffer, 2003). Gender portrayals in the context of advertisements were found to be predominantly stereotypic with dominant males and nurturing females in the mass media, music, film, as well as the print media. Although changes in the society and culture have been apparent, advertisements still rely upon women’s roles as subordinate.

Women’s subordination was a useful tool in selling a wide variety of products such as alcohol, medicine, cigarettes, perfume, and vehicles. Constant exposure to derogatory portrayals of females in advertisements may result to socially induced depression and lowered levels of aspirations in achieving ones goals. Women portrayal as subordinates has been consistently practiced and presented in advertising until today although some changes and reversions have been observed (Mclaughlin & Goulet, 1999).

Advertisements usually portray men as being strong who are expected to have jobs that require much physical strength. They are portrayed as being the authority, dominant, having higher intelligence, becoming public figures, belonging to upper-middle class, being able to take medicine, law or business courses, aggressive, and sometimes gentlemen or bad guys. At home, men are portrayed to use car wax, auto parts, carpentry tools, motor oil, and lawn mowers. Women are rarely depicted as professionals in advertisements (Dietz, 1998).

When women in advertisements are presented as professionals or experts in the products they advertise, they are often backed up by male figure or an authoritative male voice-over to strengthen the efficiency of convincing the audience since males were viewed as the authority (Lovdal, 1989). In traditional male magazines (e. g. , Esquire and Field & Stream), gender-role stereotyped advertisements that portrayed men with masculine or manly activities have not decreased as much as the traditional female and general interest magazines.

Although there have been some trends toward less stereotypic portrayals of masculine images in some print media advertisements, the traditional stereotype of the male gender still provides cultural representation (Furnham & Thomson, 1999) Women are stereotypicly depicted in relation to beauty, physical attraction, family, domestic responsibilities, parenting, occupations such as teacher, waitress, masseur, bride, actress, secretary, vendor, household cleaners, maid, model, guest relations officer, and the like, as well as negative representation like evil, witch, possessions of men, passive, deferent, object for men’s pleasure.

At home, women are portrayed to take care of every member, do all the chores, and maintaining relationships. They are often portrayed as supportive wives, mothers, sex objects, dependents, lack exploration, skills, knowledge, credibility, self-expression, and sense of mastery. Advertisers market products in magazines, like in television, using young, professional women as a product of beauty techniques and methods in order to attract and keep handsome, lucrative, and sophisticated men.

Comic strips and children’s books also continued to adopt and support traditional portrayals of women in the society. For instance, illustrations show traditional female activities or a situation in which there is a dutiful wife in the bathroom or kitchen wearing an apron to model cleaning products, kitchen wares and appliances or food (Dietz, 1998; Peirce, 2001).


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