Advertisements Are Still Sexist, But Consumers Are Getting Smarter


In delving into the politics of women's representation in advertisements, it is hard to conjure up new arguments to spark up original conversations. Many individuals are already aware of the issues inherent in advertising. As I sat down to write something about advertising, it was not until I glanced over to the side bar of my screen that I realized what the true problem was and still continues to be how bodies are used as commodities in order to sell stuff.

The picture that caught my attention was of Kate Upton, the woman who graced the covers of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition in two back-to-back years, with the declaration that she had been voted “Best Internet Cleavage.

Before my feminist engine had even started, I was annoyed. I was annoyed because all that we have come to know about Kate Upton is centered on her cleavage, and this holds true to countless other models whose entire career hinges on their sexuality and the marketability of it. What advertisers continue to do is use a series of gendered, racialized scripts to sell products in hopes that the consumer will accept this as a norm for their life.

Currently, the most prevalent theme that appears for women in marketing trends is their hyper-sexuality. While advertisements of the '50s and '60s did not feature nearly as much sexuality, it is not to say that these depictions were any less harmful for women. History has a way of continually reinventing itself. If we look at the retro ads of yesteryear, gender roles, class and race all played very important roles when trying to appeal to certain markets. The problem with these stereotypical images, especially when looking at marginalized communities, is how these advertisements get taken as truth.

But as one critically analyzes these advertisements, and even looking back at the ones that were so prevalent, one has to wonder if the advertisements shape society or if society shapes the advertisements?

As a consumer who does not want to battle increasing blood pressure every time I look to a billboard, commercial or magazine to find out about a new product, I have learned to cope with the unhealthy messages that are constantly being spewed at me by advertisers. What I have come to realize is that while this is not the way things should be, many consumers are constantly arming themselves with information that allows them to find the stupidity in a lot of the stereotypical advertising that we have.

This increase in knowledge and the demand for more realistic incorporation has lead many companies to rethink the demeaning means of advertising to change with an ever-evolving American landscape. In many ways the core issue with mainstream advertising, leeching off of ingrained stereotypes, has caused a backfire of sorts. Now more than ever, advertisers are forced to change the way they promote messages or be faced with losing support.