Portrayal of Women in Ads

Posted on 24 June 2012 by Sharal Barboza

Of all the ads that you are exposed to daily, majority of them showcase women. The products (be it a deodorant for men, an apartment, a car or a home loan) in these ads do not necessarily cater to women, but then a woman is used to sell them. These ads create a specific image of women in order to market their product. However, the audience fails to understand that such ads try to manipulate the masses.  Usually, a mediocre company tries to sell its mediocre products by using a female model with a slim and sexy body, whose purpose is to attract attention. This way people remember the girl in the ad, the product she is endorsing and will purchase that product keeping the girl in mind, not the use and features of the product. In the case of products targeted at men, the use of females as sex objects is all the more because the presence of a woman is more than enough to catch the attention of men.  For example, all the axe body spray ads feature a string of good looking female models that pout and drool over the man using that particular deodorant. From a women’s perspective, this ad may not make sense but from a man’s point of view, the ad is simply awesome because it makes him believe that using this product will make him desirable to the ladies.

Consumer advertising projects an unrealistic image of women whose main features/qualities are being thin, having a fair unblemished complexion, and looking good. This significantly affects the way women think about themselves. Such ads suggest to women and girls that the only important thing about them is the way they look, causing many women to believe that their self-worth is dependent on the attention they receive from men which in turn depends on their looks. Like, the woman in the fairness cream ad who cannot get a job because she is dark skinned. Or the woman in the Clean and Dry Intimate Wash ad who feels her husband is not attracted to her because she isn’t fair ‘down under’. We know this to be highly exaggerated and downright false. But then these ads talk the language of the society and hence they work. This reinforcements of stereotypes works against the breaking of specific moulds in which women are carved.

A lot of ads portray women as sex objects. This is highly demeaning and degrading. An example of this is the GoDaddy.com ads. In most cases, the product has got nothing to do with sex or women, but still the tone of the ads is such so as to attract maximum attention.

Commoditisation of women as sex objects has a very detrimental effect on girls and women. The constant abuse of women’s sexuality to sell products in the beer, sports, film and music industries, for example, has completely distorted our understanding of sexuality and gender roles. “Sex sells” is one of the mantras of advertising.  Whether you want it or not, women are a huge part of today’s advertising business and the masses are totally besotted with ads that do have a female model in it.

As you see, a certain style of portrayal is what shapes perceptions of the society and the women who live in this society. One begets the other, and thus a vicious circle is set into motion. If we want to stop projecting women as sexual objects and commodities then we need to ensure they are not portrayed as such in advertisements. It follows, that ads which show women in a bad light must be banned so that society is not influenced by them.

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