Advertisements and propaganda campaigns which first grew popular in the mid 19th century, were established as a way to reassure white female consumers back into the economy during and after war time. Advertisements were not just created to entice these particular customers into purchasing goods, but told stories and played on a individual feelings, desires and even racial stereotypes. Ads during this time usually portrayed a white female as the head of her household consulting a black female worker or an idealistic mammy caricature. Using these stereotypes which categorized all women of color, not only underscored class divisions, but established racial and ethical hierarchies amongst women. Stuart Hall in The Spectacle of the Other speaks on the term anthropological in which he examines the differences between two participants in a media form. “The argument here is that culture depends on giving things meaning by assigning them to different positions within a classificatory system. The marking of difference is thus the basis of that symbolic order which we call culture.”(1)
What we see now is advertisers conveying a message that products can provide a better well being with a purchase of the product. Advertisement companies use images of sex, race, and class not only to manipulate human emotion, but the psyche in order for the message to be more effective. Modern depictions of women in ads have been particularly prevalent where female emphasis is on genitalia, refinement through physiology, proper hair styles, and fashionable clothing. As a result the female mind takes effect that this is what the idealistic women should look and act like within everyday interactions. Advertising corporations target women not because they are easily to persuaded, but are considered and perceived as the chief purchasing agent of the households. Bell Hooks writes in Feminist Manhood that he believes in order to change the way woman are portrayed there must be an escape for women out of the patriarchal societal norms.”Feminism as a movement to end sexist domination and oppression offers us all the way out of patriarchal culture.”(2)
The idea of a feminists or femininity as a genre received a negative connotation until the feminists movement of the 1960’s and 70’s, where the objectification of women was criticized in advertising. It can be argued that living in a patriarchal society it is demanded that women be well kept, submissive, and maintain the understanding she is a second class individual to a man. In most ads that are shown, women are in a homemaker position as opposed to a business caricature like that of a man. In Bell Hooks Understanding Patriarchy he better explains the notion of patriarchy and how it was created and currently sustained. “Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.”(3)
We live in a time period where the sole purpose is to objectify any race, class, or gender in order to sell products. Women and men are subject to criticisms when placed in certain limelight’s in ads, whether it be sexual preference, orientation, etc. In everyday society we are bombarded with images and publicity on billboards, sidewalks, and vehicles that all vie for our attention and complete compliance. In John Berger’s Ways of Seeing Chapter 7 he says we as a people are accustomed to being addressed by these images that we scarcely notice their total impact. “A person may notice a particular image or piece of information because it corresponds to some particular interest he has. But we accept the total system of publicity images as we accept an element of climate.”(4) In Melissa-Harris Perry’s Crooked Room she proposes that in order to make a change in today’s societal norms we must first look at each individual as equal despite the differences. “To be deemed fair, a system must offer its citizens equal opportunities for public recognition, and groups cannot systematically suffer from misrecognition in the form of stereotype or stigma.”(5)
1) Hall, Stuart. Chapter 4 The Spectacle of the Other pg. 236. Print.
2) Hooks, Bell. Feminist Manhood pg. 122. Print.
AD 2) Nikebetterworld.com
3) Hooks, Bell. Understanding Patriarchy pg. 18. Print.
4) Berger, John. Chapter 7 Ways of Seeing pg. 130. Print.
5) Perry, Melissa-Harris. Crooked Room pg. 37. Print.