Posted by: livhaugen | September 15, 2016

Ads, do they add to women?

In one of my classes we have been talking about advertisements and the way they show women. According to Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing us Softly,” a documentary  that focuses on the effects of advertisements on women, women and young girls are being objectified, taught harmful self image, and gender stereotyped in advertisements. People are exposed to over 3,000 advertisements a day and to say that ads don’t have an impact on people, simply wouldn’t be true (Kilbourne). One of Kilbourne’s main claims is how women’s bodies are objectified in order to sell brands, products and lifestyles. This isn’t beauty for beauty’s sake, or art for art’s sake, it turning a person into an object. An object that is then easier to degrade and belittle because it is no longer a human being, but an object.

So as society progresses in trying to empower and give equal opportunities to women, it is also filling the public’s brain with objectifying images of women on a daily basis. Does this not seem to undermine all the hard work people have, and will do, to advance women? What makes it even trickier is that many of these objectifying images are explained as free expression, and sometimes even feminism. However, there is a difference in celebrating beauty, bodies and sexuality, and manipulating it to sell material goods. Additionally there are becoming more men in objectifying ads. So, some have said that is equality, see both men and woman are used to sell. However, I don’t think this is the equality we want. I don’t see how objectifying men, the way we do women is an improvement.

It seems like society is in a tricky spot. On one hand, we are trying to be progressive and active in empowering and encouraging women to be whoever they want to be. On the other hand, we are filling people’s minds with advertisements, like these:

that are objectifying and degrading to women. I think these kind of images have way more impact then we think. I think that it will be important to notice and not tolerate the way women are being portrayed in advertisements today.


  1. Yes, yes yes! This!! The media just gives women a false sense of perspective. The media photoshops women (and sometimes men) into what they want or what they think people want. One thing that always rubs me the wrong way is seeing “plus size models”. Jennifer Lawrence was called plus size before?! Like what??

    The way the media portrays women like the ones in your pictures or the way that the media talks about women puts them behind when they go out for leadership positions. It is degrading. I think it makes women feel like they aren’t any better than those pictures or they don’t deserve to be treated with respect in higher position. The media talks badly about women in higher leadership positions all the time. Why would a women want to run for a higher position of power seeing all of the negative things that are going to be said about them? Or how they will be scrutinized for the way they dress everyday?

  2. There seems to be a basic contradiction between the way we talk about women and how they are portrayed in popular culture. It is almost as if our discourse of how far we as a society have come in advocating for women’s rights allows us to ignore this inconsistency. We see objectifying and degrading portayals of women in the media, but refuse to acknowledge the effect such images have in real life.

    As we saw in the first half of the missrepresentation documentary, the media has a profound effect on how women and girls understand themselves. This is increasingly true as young children spend increasing amounts of their time in front of the TV or on the internet. The messages and advertisements that objectify women are universal and constantly consumed by the general public. This message is everywhere. It is unavoidable. Even the most confident, self-assured child raised in a supprtive environment is susceptible to their influences.

    This message is one lacking respect. And without respect there can be no influence. I firmly believe that until we change this, we will be unable to navigate the labyrinth that blocks women’s path to leadership.

  3. I feel that in the culture we are in today a lot of times the word empowerment manifests itself in physical ways. The idea of “sexual empowerment” based on what our society infuses into us through media is just a lie for what it really is which is objectification. The way the media portray women is ultimately dehumanizing and totally unrealistic. By looking at women as objects the lack of value that comes into play supports nothing to the advancement of women in regards to leadership. True empowerment does not come from the physical but rather must start from the inside and then transforms itself outward. If women are said to be most of the consumers of the economic industry then why are the advertisements the way that they are in the way that they portray women? What does this say about the way we even see ourselves as women and our worth? We are worth and valued so much more than what we can even imagine.

  4. When I see advertisements such as these, it sends up immediate red flags. It shows how comfortable our society is with physical abuse of women. The Dolce & Gabbana ad looks like those men are about to sexually assault the woman. That ad was seen by hundreds of thousands of consumers and they absorbed the message that assault is acceptable. I wish I knew more about the agencies that approve advertisements. If those agencies were more stringent on requirements then abuse-promoting ads would no longer be a problem. Also, if more women were at the executive positions I doubt they would allow for these ads either.

  5. Media is such as issue in today’s society. I feel like a women’s negative portrayal is lessening in the TV aspect but still social media is a problem. The celebrity Instagram post are always perfect and models look drop dead gorgeous. We still talk about those and most women aspire to be like that. Have that perfect “pout” and “messy hair” to get over 100+ likes. The Kardashians do not make anything better by endorsing products on their social media. That is where advertising has turned into. There are now even advertisements in snapchat. I think that advertisements have changed some. Like from print ads of basically naked women, to personal accounts with the Like from print ads of basically naked women, to personal accounts with the perfect women society sees. This is still objectifying women but now in two different ways. One- is to be as skinny, pretty, well-dressed etc as the person endorsing the product. Two – is to be as popular as this person and to be able to get as many likes etc as this person because of the product. Companies will not ask someone who does not post pictures everyday of flawless makeup, hair and outfits to show off their product, they need someone who has the “perfectionism” spotlight. Someone that the public believes has it all.

  6. WOW! I am very disappointed after seeing the Burger King ad. Not only does it degrade women but it takes away from the main focus…THE FOOD! Media definitely influences society whether it is positive or negative, it does exist. Women are seen more as objects than human when it comes to these ads and men into the picture serves no good either. As you stated, this is not the equality that we are looking for because it only adds to the problem that is already put before us. The media often produces false images of women and men as well. It leads you to think that you are not beautiful if you don’t look, dress, walk, or talk a certain way. These false images are only adding to the stereotypes and prejudices. It is very sad!

  7. I like the comment mentioned earlier, that there definitely is a dichotomy between how we talk about women and how they’re shown… Hearing that made me think of the irony of how women are shown in ads but perceived in real life. Like, the majority of advertisements featuring women (including the ones you mentioned) are very sexy. Women in them are sexualized and objectified. And yet, women are often blocked from leadership positions because their role seems to be more domestic–as in, they are blocked because they are supposed to be moms. Women in real life who act sexy are criticized so much for not being that “respectable wife” material–i.e. 1950s housewife. People criticize women who are open about their sexuality when they pursue leadership positions especially–imagine all of the criticism Hillary Clinton would receive if she DIDN’T wear pantsuits, but instead wore a shorter skirt. Women in real life are punished for sexiness (in leadership, in court cases, in a lot of things, really). But women in ads? They are all sexy. They wear skimpy clothes and are put in precarious (and promiscuous) positions. They own their sexiness, they wear it like an accessary. And it is exploited to sell these things, to fuel consumerism. The problem is that so many times young girls look at these ads and think, “I want to be sexy.” So they are sexualized–young girls, ages 12, 13, 14 buying sheer and see-through clothing, daisy dukes and string bikinis. It’s what is sold to them, what people say is effective, and what people apparently want since they buy products marketed like this. But when they become sexy, they are criticized. It’s a vicious cycle that makes non-sexual women feel like crap because it seems like everyone only wants sexy people, and punishes sexy people because they aren’t PG wife material. Why can’t our ads be different so that neither group feels attacked?

  8. This is one thing (out of about a thousand) that really drives me crazy about the media. The way it portrays people in general is always so skewed, but especially when it comes to women, even more so when it is placed in an advertisement. And I totally agree, it makes absolutely NO SENSE to objectify men in an ad and call that equality. (This also goes along with degrading one gender to make the other gender look better and thus gain equality. It just makes no sense.)

    Where these ads are placed has a huge impact too, and its something that is very well thought out by people in advertisement industries. Many of the derogatory ads (the ones that seemingly make women seem “sexy” but are actually objectifying them) are targeted to young men and women who are still in very formative stages of life. This creates a huge impact, not only on the individuals who consume the media (“should I look this way?” “should I be acting that way to seem sexier?”) but to society as a whole (“we should see woman in general this way”).

  9. I completely agree that we, as society, are shaping a world where women have a hard time “winning.” In advertisements, women are often portrayed as sensual beings that are sexualized. In politics, there is a very heavy focus on relationship status, physical appearance, family life, and other less substantial topics concerning women candidates. In the media in general, women are told to do it all: to have the perfect family, the perfect husband, the perfect job, the perfect dog, the perfect life. Women are told that they are empowered and capable to be anything they want, yet when they look at the media, they’re told, or rather shown, exactly what that would look like. From young ages, women’s worlds are flooded with what they should do, should wear, should act, etc. How do you separate the man’s ideal from the woman’s want from the tradition of society?

  10. I was initially intrigued by the photos you had posted to your blog. My attention was caught by the overly sexy and provocative advertisements. It makes me sick to see how the media is portraying women and men in order to sell products. However, I question if our society can ever get away from this idea? We do live in a society where great emphasis is placed on sex and physical attractiveness. Further, we are human beings who need sex as a functional for survival, and we also use it to gain cultural acceptance.

    In terms of women, it is hard to drawl the line between art and pure objectification. I agree with your point that such advertisements of women objectify their bodies for consumer needs. I also agree that such ads are not a form of feminism, women empowerment, or body appreciation. If anything, I believe these ads only serve as a source for furthering hurting the status and power of women.

    Women are faced by yet another double standard. Women want to have equal rights, and to be seen as equals in society; however, women allow their bodies to be objectified and used as sex objects. But as I mentioned in the beginning, I do not know if this trend will ever change. There is a strong biological component in play here that advertising companies use to their advantage.

    The last area where I want to drawl attention to is the last advertisement you posted. In this ad the woman in being overtaken by the man with other men surrounding her. This ad most clearly spoke to the nature of our leadership situation. As leaders, men are expected to be dominant, aggressive, and assertive displaying– agentic behaviors. While women are expected to be nurturing, caring, and collaborative–communal behaviors. Women already face a disadvantage in leadership, “because people ascribe mainly masculine qualities to leaders” (Eagly & Carli, p.84, 2007). If we show men taking advantage of women and abusing their power in such a way we continue to add to the stereotype for agentic, male leaders. It is important to use the media to model appropriate images for viewer’s consumption.

    Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007). Through the labyrinth. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.


  11. Yes, I think ads such as these are complete undermining women. Our media is ridiculous when it comes to the portrayal of women. The other day when I was on snapchat I was blown away by how much the articles on there objectified women. Almost every time I have paid attention to the articles offered on this app there is at least one about Kim Kardashian’s body, how she had a “nip-slip”‘ or something else like that. An article called “the Grammy’s: the Good, the Bad, and the Fugly” is on there right now even. This article either praises or critiques the way the women looked at the Gramy’s and completely ignored how all the men looked. I get that looking glamorous and amazing is a big part of the whole Grammy thing, BUT STILL. There was not even one man whose physical appearance was noted. The objectification of women’s bodies through advertisements IS degrading to women. People may hear how women should be respected and be considered equals, but at the end of the day those people will most likely see ads like he ones you posted or articles like the ones I mentioned. I feel like people are receiving mixed messages. People are being told that women need to be respected in the same time period that our media and ads express that women are merely objects.

  12. This is all so true! One big thing noticed today with the provocative and objectifying advertisements, is that it is leading to negative body images in girls starting in ELEMENTARY school. That is NOT okay, in elementary school, kids should be worried about when recess is and what book to get from the library. According to ETFO, girls aged four want to be thin and by age eight they are struggling with their body image. I strongly believe that advertisements help lead to those thoughts and feeling. Especially looking around, odds are not every elementary schooler’s mom is stick thin and telling them to eat less and be thin so where else would they learn it from?? The whole thing is sickening to me to be honest.

    • Grant, Janet Millar. “Body Image.” ETFO FEEO. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

  13. The media is corrosive & harmful when it continuously objectifies women’s bodies. However, as a sad reminder, this is the society in which we encounter on a daily basis. Upon looking at the ads that were chosen to exemplify these misogynistic and degrading views of women, I also wanted to add the idea of media in terms of movies.

    In fact, this sexist reality is not only seen in advertisements that contain these discriminatory realities. It is also our movie industry that leads us to believe that women can be left out of the picture as well.

    One way to witness this is through the Bechdel Test. This test is essentially asks whether a movie has at least TWO women who talk to each other about SOMETHING OTHER THAN A MAN. Additionally, these women must have names as characters in the movie.

    Surprisingly, or should I say, not surprisingly many movies in popular culture fail this test; including Avatar, The Lord of the Rings, The Social Network, Finding Nemo, 500 Days of Summer, The Little Mermaid, The Blind Side, among many, many, many more FAIL this test.

    So what does this mean for women? What does this mean for leadership? Is it reinforcing the beliefs that women cannot lead in films as prominent characters? Does it show that women have nothing better to do than simply talk about men? I consider the Bechdel Test an eye-opening realization that women in the media are not seen as competent leaders.

  14. I think you’re right, Liv. It’s unsettling to look at the way that our society views women. We see women as objects. This notion perpetuates the idea that women are only worth their sexuality. These ads and the way that the media portrays women lead to incredibly unrealistic expectations for women.

    In addition to these expectations, society neglects to acknowledge the intellectual and personality aspects of women. I think this very much translates into leadership. This idea of women in leadership is foreign to so many because our society does not assume women will be capable leaders. This is because we have the tendency to value women by their physical attributes.

  15. I think the thing that upsets me the most about these type of ads isn’t just the way it continues to give men the impression that objectifying women is normal and okay, its the way that they can affect other girls. Growing up with this as the main image of women presented to you its hard not to start to feel like that’s the reality of life and its better to live life for the pleasure of man than to seek self satisfaction

  16. It is so sad that our society has come to this! Sometimes it seems that we as a society must cover our tracks of negative perceptions of women with campaigns that declare we are promoting girls and women to a high standard of womanhood. It is upsetting that the young generation of girls see this and then have these preconceived notions of what beauty looks like. I have always had body image issues and that was growing up without much influence from tv and social media! I can’t imagine how much harder it is for girls today! Strong women need to have courage and stand up for these young girls, mentor them, and show them what true beauty is!

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