Advertising is a method used by applying preconceived ideas in society to sell a product. Men and women are separated in the social sphere while African Americans and other ethnicities are shown unequally in the media world. “The media claim that they provide the best possible explanation of issues that occur in society. In that light, they draw from society and return to society, interpretations of events and issues that make “sense” – that fit the prevailing definitions of these issues.” However, not all of these issues existed prior to the use of advertisements and if they did, now they are being enhanced and encouraged through media.
Sexism is a major concern of consumers regarding the inequality of a man and a woman. Women are seen are caretakers and sex symbols. In order to be a “real” woman, you must be sexy, skinny, well dressed, perfect hair, taking care of the home, and the list can go on! These advertisements tend to misframe men and put them into a higher position over the woman, almost dominating them in all senses. “The consequences of this misframing are especially important for young men, searching for ways to be men…part of the reason the young men i interviewed seemed so clueless is precisely because of the increasing power of media images in constructing their ideas of what it means to be a man” (Kimmel, Misframing Men p. 2) These young men are growing up believing that in order to be a man, they need to belittle women and place themselves in the forefront.
Here is a commerical for True Car. The woman in the commercial can finally buy a car without the help of a man.(Thank god, I thought you needed a man to help you find a car you like.)
Although women have proven they have skills beyond household care and beauty, they are still depicted as sex symbols and incapable of every day life situations. The ad below screams this notion that women are only good when they are thin and fit, that they shouldn’t eat candy bars because they would look like the girl on the left and somehow in society, that isn’t okay. Being full figured is frowned upon in this ad, implying that in society, you will only be happy if you can be half-naked and have abs of steel-which in reality only a small percentage of women look like the one on the right.
Alongside sexism, racism is perpetuated in many big scale companies in order to promote products. For decades, African Americans have fought for an identity, one opposite from the one created by white Americans. They have suffered for equality and the rights the white Americans have and although they have come a long way, media still portrays African Americans as incompetent and their culture as disgraceful. African Americans are not the only ones portrayed racially in media, however. “Even though legal racial apartheid no longer is a norm in the United States, the habits that uphold and maintain institutionalized white supremacy linger.” (Hooks, Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination p. 169)
The ad below is a promotion for Pop Chips. The ad reads “these are the bombay” playing off of the phrase “these chips are the bomb”. The man in the ad looks as though he is an ethnic man, automatically placing this ad in a racist light. If you look closely though, the man actually isn’t Indian and instead is the actor Ashton Kutcher in brown face. If it isn’t racist enough, I don’t know what is.
Look closely, the flavor of the chips is chili lime- a spicy taste- which in Indian food, spice is a “virtue”.
This ad by Nivea, disrespectfully implies that African American roots are unacceptable and not civil. Good going Nivea, you should be proud. Our President is half black!(and even that is no excuse)
Pop culture has a major influence on what these ads depict or how people perceive certain societal issues. Let’s take the very popular Kim Kardashian for example. She has been the buzz for years now in the pop culture world and somehow she influences women all around the world. But, let’s go back to how she first started. There was a leak of a sex tape she made with the singer Ray J and it quickly went viral. The tape was of Ray J performing all types of sexual activities with this woman Kim K. Through that video, Kim became a celebrity, praised for what she did in the video. This only objectifies women and degrades them again, for being only essential for performing sexual favors. She now has her own t.v show on E! and is making more than Ray J off of a sex tape! This is a woman who young girls look up to and admire and the reasons why she is admired is the exact reason which fuel adverts to use women as sex puppets in their ads.
This “It Girl” needs to sit, girl.
With society facing major concerns regarding power, sex and race, we as the consumer of these products need to step back and understand what keeps these adverts going. We are the growing influence on the ideas portrayed in advertising as long as we continue to accept these “norms” the media believe they are producing.
If we can all just step back and remember that love, life and happiness are the essentials of life, we can motivate media to be influential and educational rather than degrading and tasteless. Family, friends and togetherness should be portrayed in media over the negative insights media shares. Not only can we change society for today but we could change society for years to come.
Hooks, Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination p. 169
Kimmel, Misframing Men p. 2