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Advertising and Gender Roles

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The paper examines the way, in which advertisements portray women. The Times Magazine and the Vogue Magazine have been using the photos of women on their forefront covers over 50 years, to portray a certain image. This study focuses more on how sexualized portrayal of women in the fashion sector is seen in the metro-sexual men’s magazines, as the visual rhetoric. According to numerous studies, done on the sexual images of women in these magazines, this kind of advertisement has significant effects on women. The study also focuses on how sexual images, demonstrated by women in these magazines, are designed to brand the article for the purpose of achieving outstanding sales rates. There is an argument that the male images could also help. However, the real fact is that it is a woman who still buys these magazines, regardless of which gender is branding the cover page. A lot of people have been criticizing that the stereotypical portrayal of female images, especially the sex-based ones, reinforces the gender biases.

In media, fashion plays the role of advertising, especially concerning what women should behave, how they should look like, and also what they are expected to be as parts of their society. The fashion, dressing, and the clothing signify certain practices, and these practices generate the meanings, which in the end produce or reproduce the cultural groups with their relative power positions. The image that people receive from the commercial pictures is for the purpose of marketing their products; thus, selling the way, in which people understand the world. Most people argue that the visual communication and advertising industry portray the cultural language, which may shape the society.

It is obvious that the society views fashion and dressing as the contributing factor to the social norms, which include the views on class, gender, sex, and sexuality. In the current society, fashion and dressing is the main portrayal factor of a person's character, and his or her desires. Dressing helps in defining social roles, especially the gender role. In Japan, a research done on the women’s magazines clarifies the responsibility of gender-role ideologies, especially in emphasizing femininity and also stereotypical depictions of men and women. The research found out that, in these magazines, external qualities, such as the youth and the thinness, are emphasized. Majority of women, who feature in these magazines, is at their 20’s, a period when women are at the peak of their beautiful looks. Among some other topics, these magazines discuss themes that relate to household chores that women should perform, such as cooking for their husbands and family. These female magazines, according to this research, focus on the styles and housework, while the men’s magazines, on the other hand, talks about leisure and hobbies. As a result, such publications depict gender-based division of labor activities in the family.

Feminism, on the other hand, has criticized the media, particularly the women’s magazines portrayal of the gender aspect in the society. This is because; the readers are urged to behave in accordance with that gender-role ideology. This is being termed as the feminist transition model of communication. People always ask themselves questions on whether it is acceptable to assume that media, especially those dealing with the women’s magazines, to depict or impose the required gender norms. Another concern comes to what the readers of the magazines get from the media texts. These two issues relate in essence that if the readers are taking meanings from these texts that are quite different from the required gender norms, then there might be a conclusion that the women’s magazines contain greater ambiguities of meanings.

On the high end, the gender norms indicate social norms, based on sex and sexuality. The majority of the discussions are based on the sex-based division of labor activities. Men, for example, are supposed to perform the wage earning activities, while women are expected to carry on with the household duties. Many magazines also discuss the gender differences, such as femininity and masculinity. The research, conducted on these magazines, indicates that there are always four perspectives that the magazines have in common; namely, the perspective on marriage, the perspective on education, the perspective on the profession, and, finally, the consciousness of equality or independence (Hermes, 1995).

Taking a look at the Times Magazine of 1981, one can notice that the magazine contained conscious question on gender roles, such as “Do you agree that men should work, and women should stay at home?”, “If you were to be born again, would you rather be born male or female?” The research findings have defined the gender norms as the gender role awareness. It is centered on the sex-based division of roles, which traditionally have been the main focus in the industry. It also goes forward to explore the relationship that the women’s publications have in common with the fashion magazines. The awareness on gender norms that have been focusing on the sex-based division of labor refers to this as the normative consciousness on the gender roles.

The research was also conducted on the fashion consciousness. According to the Vogue Magazine, various questions were created to give the estimate of interest and awareness of people when it comes to matters of fashion. The interests of many respondents were based on the following ideologies.

The respondent adopts latest fashions ahead of other people.When people choose clothes, they consider if their boyfriends or girlfriends will like them.When people choose clothes, they consider how friends will evaluate them.People sometimes judge others basing on their clothing and what a person wears.People think that clothing and what the person wears reflects the person’s personality.The results, obtained from such ideologies, were utilized, as the scale measuring normative evaluation on arriving at the average understanding of the gender roles.

Looking at the frequency, in which people read these magazines, and the normative consciousness of the gender roles and the fashion reveal that men demonstrate a correlation between fashion consciousnesses and the reading frequency rate. On the other hand, there was no correlation between the frequency of reading and the consciousness of the gender roles. The same results appeared in the female population. From this, one may conclude that people do not buy and read magazines with the purpose of improving their gender roles, but instead for the purposes to be well-informed on the fashion trends. It is only because of these intentions of people going for magazines that authors use these opportunities to pass the information on gender roles to the people indirectly (Barnard, 2002).

The idea of combining sex and advertising really works magic. The past studies have figured out that magazine advertising, especially with pictures of women featuring in them, signifies the objects of heterosexual, masculine desires. The studies on the men’s and women’s magazines also indicate that these publications contain more sexual content than the general public magazines do. Most advertisers have used sex to sell various products, especially perfumes and cars. This depicts the real picture of which one might think the magazines are meant for the purposes of educating people on the gender roles. The same sex is not only used for selling the products, but also foists off the opinions, the trends, and also the stereotypes. Theoretically, sex attracts the attention and also gives sexual meanings to the nonsexual products, thus leading to the conventional understanding that sex sells; however, it seems to sell more than the products themselves do. (Stratford, 1987)

Gender stereotyping in the advertising industry refers to the social roles that women play. For example, women are usually portrayed as the homemakers, sex objects, and the dependent, insignificant adornments of men. Women are seen to be unable to make some decisions, and because of this, they are insignificant for the world of men. The recent research done on the advertisement has indicated that women have started playing more positive roles; however, these figures are quite insignificant. Nevertheless, additional research, done prior to the latest three decades, indicates that the stereotypes, concerning women’s social roles, are still on hold; hence, they are diminishing their self concepts, as well as the achievement aspirations.

In general, it appears that the traditional research done on the mass communication has had inaccurate and unfair portrayal of women in advertising and also the assumptions that images posed by the women have effects on the audiences. The thesis focuses on how sexuality and such images of men and women are constructed visually. These visual constructions possess rhetorical functions in both men’s and women’s magazines. The visual rhetoric, thus, is well suited for the purpose of evaluating sexual imagery that the advertising industries portray in order to bring the understanding on how these images are created originally for the purposes of persuading people towards certain activities and products (Courtney, 1971).

In conclusion, the research has found out that there are numerous women’s fashion magazines that feature the fashion related articles, and that, in the recent years, the number of men’s magazines have grown tremendously. This result is backed by the discoveries of correlation analysis between men and women, concerning the frequencies of which the magazines are read and also the fashion consciousness. In addition, correlation was seen in the fashion consciousness and also the normative consciousness on gender roles. No correlation was determined between the frequency, in which people were reading the magazines and the normative consciousness to gender. With this, it is, therefore, difficult to come into real conclusion on whether reading the magazine reinforces the gender norms that focus on the sex-based labor division.

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