Advertising is a powerful and effective source of information in our everyday life just like TV or internet. Advertisers use ads to encourage people to get products and make products more applicable to them. Respectively, advertisers should allow the freedom of the press. Freedom of the press is freedom of communication and the right to publish newspapers, magazines, and other printed matter without governmental restriction or any restrictions. Gloria Steinem argues effectively that advertisers are controlling the freedom of the press, since they are determining what women should receive or should not. To support her argument she mentions compromises she encountered when she made rules accepting ads in Ms. Magazine.
One of Gloria Steinem goals in Ms. Magazine was to add gender neutral ads in her magazine, She wanted to introduce stuff like cars and electronics, such ads were not common in regular women’s magazine. Nevertheless, she encountered negative attitudes by many companies. She mentions, “U.S carmakers firmly believe that women choose the upholstery color, not the car, but we are armed with statistics and reader mail to prove the contrary. A car is an important purchase for women, one that is such a symbol for mobility and freedom that many women will spend a greater percentage of income for a car than will counterpart men. (Steinem 233)” Using this example Gloria Steinem shows that some companies have the idea that women are shallow and they only care about the outer look not about the over all the performance. Because of their outrageous mentality they are refusing to put ads of their products in women magazines. Nevertheless, Steinem by convincing foreign car makers to advertise in her magazine. She proved that women are equally important customers as men and women’s market should be taken seriously.
Thus according to advertisers women do not understand technology, and such ads are not made for them. Ads advertisers are placing in women magazines are different from the ads that are placed in other magazines. It was clearly stated when U.S car companies refused to put ads of their products in Ms. magazine while they usually do it in other ones. Refusing to introduce certain ads in women’s magazine for unconvincing reasons and the examples Gloria Steinem introduced strengthen her argument that advertisers are choosing their audience and determining the what each group of people should get. She provided another example to further support her argument,: Steinem points out to cigarettes. She mentions Essence, a magazine that was the only national magazine for African American women.
This magazine had praised cigarettes and posted ads of models smoking, encouraging black women to smoke. And then Gloria Steinem states “According to California statistics, African American women are more addicted to smoking than the female population at large, with all the attendant health problems. (Steinem 243).” Therefore, Advertisers that represented cigarettes ads in this women magazine are the reason that black women are more addicted to smoking than other female population. Ads promoted smoking regardless of its unhealthy dreadful effects and that fact that it causes deaths. By pointing out such example, Steinem further supports the idea advertisers choose what they want to introduce to their audience. Steinem also shows that ads promote products regardless if they are good or not.
Gloria Steinem mentions that ads in women magazines are different from those in neutral gender magazines. She states “The same companies that insist on recipes in women’s magazines place ad in people where there are no recipes. Cosmetic companies support the New Yorker, which has no regular beauty columns, and newspaper pages that has no “beauty atmosphere (Steinem 239) “. She includes another prove, “We also explain that placing food ads only next to recipes and how-to entertain articles is actually a negative for many women. It associates food with work- in a way that says only women have to cook- or with guilt over not cooking and entertaining. Why not advertise food in diverse media that don’t always include recipes (thus reaching more men, who have become a third of all supermarket shoppers anyway and add the recipe interest with specialty magazines like Gourmet (a third of whose readers are men)? (Steinem 238).”
Gloria Steinem explains that advertisers have double standard. They introduce different ads to different group of people that affects them in certain ways (introducing recipes in women’s add made them feel obligated to cook.). The ads that are in women’s magazines are different form those that are in other magazines. Hence, advertisers don not have a specific criteria in making their ads.They just provide what they think a certain group of people should receive. On the other hand, advertisers should not determine what women should receive. Advertisers should have one criteria introducing their ads to all audience, not different ads for different audience. Steinem states this idea to open the eyes of her readers that advertisers by doing this are actually limiting the freedom of advertising.
Not that having advertisers choose the audience that receive certain ads was not bad enough. Advertisers now have their own rules and orders that should be applied before placing their ads in a certain magazine. Gloria Steinem states “Meanwhile, advertisers’ control over the editorial content of women’s magazines has become so institutionalized that it is sometimes written into “insertion orders” or dedicated to ad salespeople as official policy- whether by the agency, the client, or both.” And then she mentions some of the orders that were given to women’s magazine effective in 1990. “An American Tobacco company order for a Misty Slims ad noted that the U.S government warning must be included, but also that there must be: “no adjacency to editorial relating to health, medicine, religion, or dead (Steinem 241).”
Besides the fact that advertisers are using different ads for different group of people, advertisers have their own rules and orders for their ads. They are requiring praise for their products. And this made new fields like “beauty writing” to be invented. This kind of writing praise products to oppress and push women to buy certain products. By mentioning some of the rules advertisers ask for, Steinem shows that instead of giving the freedom to include whatever editorial texts to be included, advertisers are choosing what to and not to be included in a certain ad or around a certain ad. Steinem relates this to her argument, because by choosing what editorials text should be included and by having specific demands and orders advertisers are clearly limiting the freedom of the press.
Gloria Steinem shows how women’s magazines are filled with ads rather than content . She mentions how ads makes the greater part of women’s magazines. “I picked up a variety of women’s magazines for February 1994, and counted the pages in each one (even including the table of contents, letters to editors, horoscopes, and the like) that were not ads and/or copy complementary to ads. Then I compared that number to the total pages. Out of 184 pages, McCall’s had 49 that were nonad or ad-related (Steinem 241).” She mentions more magazines and all of them had small portion that was nonad or ad-related. What Steinem is trying to show, is that women’s magazines are out of content. They are mostly ads. Whereas, looking back, women’s magazines had more meaningful content.
“As older readers will remember, women’s magazines used to be a place where new young poets and short story writers could be published. Now, that’s very rare (Steinem 243).” Steinem uses comparison to show how women magazines have changed as time passed. It’s clearly that they worsened. They became meaningless and they lacked real and interesting information. This lack of reality and creativity in women’s magazines caused them to be repetitive; all going over the same products but in different editorial styles. This takes us back to Steinem main argument that advertisers are limiting the freedom of the press since they are the ones who control what a magazine would and wouldn’t have; and that is because they are they are paying to the articles that looks more applicable to the products they are advertising.
Gloria Steinem was sufficient supporting her main argument, she stated clearly how advertisers choose their audience and determine what they should receive, how ads in women’s magazine differ from other ones, how advertisers are making their own rules and orders ,and finally how women’s magazine changed negativity during time. For all these reasons she mentioned, she proved that advertisers are not allowing the freedom of the press, they are actually limiting it and taking control over it.
Steinem,Gloria. “Sex lies and Advertising.” Signs of Life in the USA:Readings on Popular Culture for Writers, Sixth Edition. Ed.Sonia Massik, Jack Solomon. Boston, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s,2009. 227-247. Print.
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