Gender Stereotypes in Advertising

The Super Bowl sometimes is more famous for the commercials that air than the actual game. This year was no different with the Go Daddy Ad.

The spring semester I teach a media literacy class to middle school students. I always begin the semester examining persuasive techniques in advertising. I have my students participate in a number of advertising scavenger hunts looking through magazines and finding advertisements expressing various situations: beautiful people, star power, heartstrings, bribery, putdowns. My Media Savvy Wikispaces has a list of all the persuasive techniques discussed in class.

We eventually address the gendered stereotypes advertising and I ask my students do another advertising scavenger hunt specifically focusing on gender representations in media. Students are asked to find the following:
1. A person’s body is used to sell a product.
2. A person’s body is “dismembered” in the ad (one part of their body is shown, not the entire person).
3. The person presented in the ad is grossly thin.
4. A woman’s mouth is covered (as if to silence her).
5. Woman against woman – women fighting with each other.

Even in the current day and age, women are presented in advertising as dependent, dismembered, submissive, clowning, and subjected to violence. This Snickers ad from Malaysia from last year is a great example that gendered stereotypes still exist today in advertising.

For more, Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4 documentary and Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s Miss Representation address gender in advertising.

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