[Sorry! Had some trouble posting, but finally got it to work]
The images depicted by advertisements create an artificial image of beauty for consumers. They represent a universe where mostly everyone’s happiness revolves around a certain brand or product. These images tend to portray men and women who are seemingly happy, beautiful and well off. In other words, they are perfect. These people are everything that we as “ordinary” people are not. However, if we purchase these products that are advertised, we are one step closer to becoming perfect. Advertising images not only harm our self-esteem by making us feel inadequate without these products, but they also promote ideas of sexism, racism and power hierarchies as well as reinforcing stereotypes.
Women in ads are either objectified, sexualized, or they are boxed into a “gender display” (Cortese 52). In Beauty and the Beast of Advertising, Kilbourne argues that women are either shown as housewives or sex objects. The housewife’s only concern is her home and her husband, while the sex object is dehumanized and merely treated as a “mannequin”. Her only concern is being beautiful and desirable. “Women are constantly exhorted to emulate this ideal, to feel ashamed and guilty if they fail, and to feel that their desirability and livability are contingent upon physical perfection” (Kilbourne 122). Both type of women must meet these beauty standards of the advertising world. They must remain young and beautiful forever, and the moment they are no longer able to adhere to these standards they are deemed unworthy. These ads allow for women to go to great lengths to emulate what they see. It results in women not caring who they are and only caring about what they see. They are swept away in this world where not even the “natural look” is natural. These ads not only allow for others to objectify them, but also teach women to objectify themselves. In the end, they are left full of self-loathing, shame and dissatisfaction.
Being bombarded with these kind of images on a daily basis can be very harmful to women and they’re self-esteem. In Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising, Cortese explains how “the oppressive and draconian images of the ideal or perfect woman is hammered nearly continuously into countless little girls, adolescents, and women by the unrealistic representations in advertising. Advertising encourages not only fat-free diets but liposuction, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and cosmetic surgery and dentistry” (pg. 56). The effects from these images might be unintended, but they are still pervasive in our society. They create imperfections that women, young girls in particular, might not have known were there before these ads. Now we have generations of girls growing up with complexes that might not have plagued them otherwise. There are more young girls on diets or suffering from an eating disorder these days. The cosmetics, cosmetic surgery and diet industries bring in billions of dollars each year thanks to these girls and women’s’ insecurities and feelings of inadequacy.
These images not only promote impossible standards of beauty, but they also promote ideas of aggression and violence against women. Aggression is a learned behavior, so the influx of violent media images has a profound effect on audiences, in particular children. Cortese argues, “This pattern of media violence, continuously repeated and often extreme, creates a cumulative effect that often numbs us to human suffering and brutality” (pg. 67). This kind of media glamorizes violence. These advertisements hold power over us because gender roles are inculcated into our minds the minute we’re born. Advertisements are part of our cultural transmission, and it determines, in our minds, who should be the one unleashing the violence and who should be on the receiving end. The images portrayed make it acceptable for men to beat or rape women, and tell women that it is ok for them to take this kind of abuse.
Popular culture can be seen throughout all the advertisements we look at on a daily basis. They portray the main stream ideal of beauty. These ideals are unrealistic for most women, and attempting to measure up to these standards can have deadly consequences. We can see the violence against women displayed in ads for Dolce & Gabbana and BeBe, where they unleash cruel punishments (such as BeBe’s ad where they feature a woman in what looks to be a bird cage) on women for the sake of fashion. We can see it daily in ads for movies, tv shows and products. It’s everywhere we turn. I believe that for this reason it is important children to grow up learning how to analyze and criticize the images that they see. We need to be taught from a young age, so that once we’re older we don’t think that the images we see need to translate into reality. It is also important for people to express their opinions on images that are advertised, and to post those opinions to the public. People need to create their own healthy images to counteract the ones that are already public.
Fox News Clip: