Advertisements: What’s The Real Message?!

When thinking of the word advertisement images of different types of products and sell pitches comes to mind; however after the discussions and readings that we have had in class I have noticed there is more to these images that meets thee eye.  Many of these advertisements have deep rooted messages that are not always positive; in fact some of these messages are sexist and racist.  Sexism in advertisement occurs more so for women than it does for men.  Men are seen in history as more “serious, lasting, and authentic (Where are the girls, Susan Douglas p. 5)”; whereas women were and still are viewed today as less than a fraction of a man.  Advertisement promotes this message by degrading and “primarily depicting women as sexual objects or sexual agents (Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads Sexism in Advertising, Anthony Cortese, p. 52).”  Women are viewed as passive, subordinate, mindless domesticated housewives who are obsessed with cleanliness.

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Pop culture is found in these sexist advertisements towards women because in the media women are expected to be flawless, young, thin, beautiful, and seductive at all times.  And if by any chance women cannot meet these requirements they are seen as not doing their job as a woman.  Pop culture and media are so obsessed with the idea of what women can do, should do, and what their appearances should look like that they are creating an unrealistic standard of beauty that no woman could possibly live up too.  This fake representation of how women should look such as the slender models in magazines cause women who do not look like that to become victimized increasing their anxiety and insecurities with their bodies.  Some women starve themselves and become sick leading them to eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.  The irony is that these models that women try to emulate as Anthony Cortese states “do not look in the flesh as impeccable as they are depicted in ads (Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads Sexism in Advertising, Anthony Cortese p. 54).”  The images on ads of women are fake and are only attainable through cosmetics and photography that includes air-brushing techniques.

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Racism also occurs in advertisement industry as well.  The racism is usually targeted towards those of African American descent.  It seems as though in some advertisements no matter how great an achievement African Americans are reduced to failure.

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For an example, in Stuart Hall’s reading (Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices), he talks about the athlete Ben Johnson (who is African American)  that won the gold medal for the Olympics but was later disqualified and banned from competing in world athletics when found taken steroids to enhance his athletic abilities.  In the image above it is an advertisement about Ben Johnson referring to him being a hero but also a villain at the same time.  Racism comes into play because the photo’s messages whether intended or not can be viewed as “black people shown as being good at something winning at last! and even though they submit their achievement they often fail to carry it off (Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, Stuart Hill p. 131).”  Basically the advertisement is saying that even though African American people do attempt to achieve it is expected that they will fail to do so.  Another form of racism in advertisement is the stereotypical images of African Americans.  They are often discriminated on their physical attributes such as  thick lips, broadness of the face and nose, thickness of their hair, and the color of their skin.  Often African American women were advertised as black mammies or Aunt Jemimas.   These negative connotations in ads is probably the reason why some African American women are in constant struggle with accepting the color of their skin.  Bleaching cream advertisements sends the message of ignorance that lighter skin is better or  that the lighter you are the more attractive you will be.  This type of advertisement creates self hate rather than self acceptance.

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Power hierarchies found in advertisements when it comes to sexism would be that the male species are ranked at the highest whereas women are ranked at the lowest.  Men are seen as the denominators who exude patriarchal masculinity that insists that males are suppose to be in control over their women along with everything else.  It also “insists that real men must prove their manhood by idealizing aloneness and disconnection (Feminist Manhood, Bell Hooks p. 121).”  The power hierarchies found in racism would be the African Americans ranked at the bottom while whites are at the top of the rank.  Blacks were made to feel inferior to whites back in slavery times for the way they looked, and spoke.  They were not only taken as a joke they were the joke on many advertisements and treated with a great deal of disrespect.

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The purposes of these images in advertising are mostly to sale and profit off the expense of other people’s insecurities.  Insecurities equate with emotions.  When someone is emotionally invested in something and excessively insecure they will do anything to correct what they find to be their imperfections.  As a result these advertisements whether it be intentional or not causes psychological damage to its buyers.

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An alternative to sexist and racist advertisements would be to start encouraging people to love themselves for who they are.  Instead of giving women a standard of what they should look like or making someone feel inferior because of their skin color empower them to see the beauty that is within them.  More advertisements when it comes to body types should be more realistic; meaning instead of making all models look like a size zero have models who are all different shapes and sizes; beauty comes in many different forms.   More classier ads of women is also another alternative to advertisements.  In popular media sex does sell however a woman’s beauty should not only be noticed when she is naked or has very little clothing on. When it comes to skin complexion more women should be encouraged to love the skin they are in; skin bleaching is not necessary.  I feel there would be less stress, insecurities, and self hate if the advertisement industry would become more authentic and empowering oppose to the usual sexualized discriminatory nature it has.

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