The Sexual Objectification of Women in Advertising

Advertisements are commonly judged by their ability to draw in or retain customers. However, those assessing advertisements often failed to account for the social responsibility of the marketing. Importantly, advertisements are seen each day by millions of people worldwide. Arthur Berger contends in his book, Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture, that advertisements play a significant role in the mass media culture and, as such, claims that they teach consumers the details of society’s culture and socialization (Berger 18). Thus, it is of the utmost importance that advertisers try to not negatively impact society by incorporating negative stereotypes or human objectifications in their promotions. Therefore, through analyzing a real advertisement compared to one created which actively attempts to avoid these detrimental representation, it will become clear that the original advertisement displays women in a negative manner and that it is better for society if advertisements focus on their products and their benefits.

Promotional advertisements prey on a variety of human thoughts to market their products. Within the chocolate industry, some common representations found in advertisements are the over-sexuality of women, the objectification of women, the correlation of class structure and chocolate consumption, and the relationship between race and chocolate consumption. Instead of advertising based on the benefits of the product, promoters try to sell items based on social beliefs and misleading representations. The comic below pokes fun at this behavior by revealing the lack of a desire from bottled water companies to advertise the reality of their product as opposed to a fake and misleading representation of the benefits of bottled water.

choccomic

Despite calls for a reduction of this type of behavior in advertisements in the second half the 20th century, there has been no significant reduction with the portrayal of women as sexual objects in modern advertising (Roberts & Koggan). As such, a renewed effort which actually incorporates new advertisements which do not incorporate this type of representation needs to be pursued.

That being said, arguably the most common ploy seen in today’s marketing campaigns is to sexualize women. Generally, luxury chocolate items are most utilized when trying to convey a message of “courtship, romance, and sex” (Robertson 30). Thus, items such as high-end assortments, premium chocolate bars, and chocolate cosmetic products are most apt to sexualize women in the advertisements.  Robertson describes the representation of women in chocolate advertisements of this type as being “irrationally overwhelmed and rendered slaves to chocolates. By process of association they would be seduced” (Robertson 54). From this it is clear, that women in advertisements of this type are caricatured. More though, women are objectified into being sexual objects and their behaviors due to chocolate become the focus of the advertisement. An advertisement found on http://www.cuttingthechai.com is a perfect example of this played out in real life.chocad1

In this advertisement, it is readily apparent that the main subject is the female covered in chocolate rather than Lux’s chocolate soap. More, the advertisement hires a famous Indian actress partially known for her looks, Kareena, to have the spotlight in this promotion. In itself, it is supposed to be advertising Lux Chocolate Seduction, a chocolate bath soap meant to provide cleaner, healthier, and more nourished skin to the product’s users. Despite supposing to provide these objectively beneficial body cares, the advertisers instead clearly focus on the sexual objectification of a woman to sell their product.

 

Ample evidence reveals that the sexual objectification of Kareena is the main component of this advertisement. Both this promotion’s language and its aesthetic are designed to arouse feelings of sexiness and desirability. Even the name of the product itself, “Chocolate Seduction”, focuses on sexualized behavior rather than the true healthful benefits of the soap. More, the rest of the advertisements shares this same focus. For example, it utilizes phrases such as “skindulgence”, “looking deliciously gorgeous”, and “chocolate seduction”. Beyond that, the promotion uses an image of Kareena wearing nothing but chocolate, while giving a provocative look as the main image within the advertisement. This reveals an even greater emphasis on trying to purely catch people’s attention and desire by using a woman as a sexual object.  From this it is clear, the advertisement is using the aesthetic appeal of sexiness and feminine sexual objectification to make women feel the product is necessary to feel sexy and that they should be striving to be sexy. This, is deleterious to society in how it undermines women and trivializes who they are as people. A more socially beneficial advertisement instead would look something along the lines of the following advertisement.

chocadvert

The above advertisement focuses not on depicting a single gender in a demeaning or harmful way. Instead, it depicts a man and a woman with healthy skin sitting as equals. More, it does not reveal any hint that this soap is leading to sexiness, courtship, or attraction. Thus, it purely emphasizes the soap and its benefits. Furthermore, the new promotion is set at a bar, which is a location often seen as a place for courtship and sexualized behavior. However, by over-emphasizing, through the rigidity of the man and woman, the lack of this happen, this further implies a focus not on the desirability in favor of a focus on the product itself. As such, this advertisement refutes any sexualizing, objectification, or inequality of gender.

Advertisements are seen by millions and millions of people every day. As such, they play a crucial role in developing social and cultural understandings. This reveals a necessity for societal health that advertisements not portray harmful representations in their promotions. However, the opposite is often the case. In the advertisement provided from Lux, the company sexualized and objectified women in order to better sell their product. A counter-movement in advertising to reduce this harmful effect would be to provide promotions such as the second one where the product and its benefits are being showcased rather than outside representations and worries.

Works Cited

Berger, Arthur Asa. Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture: Advertising’s Impact on American Character and Society. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Pub., 2004. Print.

Roberts, Mary L., and Perri B. Koggan. “How Should Women Be Portrayed in Advertisements? A Call For Research.” Association for Consumer Research. N.p., 1979. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.

Robertson, Emma. “Chapter One.” Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. N. pag. Harvard Isites. Harvard University. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.

 

Image Sources:

http://www.cuttingthechai.com/2007/10/221/seduced-by-chocolate

www.mademan.com

http://www.herbalskincareblog.com/wp-content/uploads/full_comic_water_trust.jpg

 

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