Final Project Proposal. (Kristine Gaddi)

Here is the blog to where I will be presenting my project, as well as uploading the film I’m going to make:

My project will discuss the social construction of body issues in the media: with a specific focus on idealization and glorification of achieving thinness in the advertising campaign of Special K commercials “What will you gain when you lose?”; and the hypocrisy of their “More Than Just A Number” campaign. I will be doing a film that involves me discussing the issue as well as me interviewing several students on their opinions over diet culture in Western society.

I don’t only want to discuss about how the company perpetuates the notion that you aren’t good enough and that you will ultimately find happiness in weight loss if you stick to the diet, but also how they disguise their motives in completely and utterly deceptive advertising techniques. I want to demonstrate the hidden messages these diet companies place in their advertisements, such that happiness is the ultimate goal once you achieve your weight loss efforts. This isn’t the only underlying problem, but is also contained in the methods to achieving that weight loss as well; Special K promotes a strategic 1200 calorie diet, which is certainly not enough to maintain metabolism or nearly enough for a grown woman to survive off from; And from my own personal experience, can lead to disordered eating habits.

On one hand, indeed, Special K promises that you will gain that confidence if you stick to their diet plan but on the other hand they also have run advertising campaigns saying to “stop the fat-talk!” Special K’s main tagline is, “What will you gain when you lose?” This is incredibly contradictory. I’m supposed to realize that I’m worth more than a number and yet you’re still putting emphasis on me losing weight!

I also want to define the meaning of thin privilege and how it contributes to fat phobia. Thin privilege is systematic and reduces each of us to physical aspects, such as waist size, dress size, hip measurement then grants favors, opportunities, or simple lack of punishment when the numbers are low enough. Thin privilege is a social phenomenon that exists as a function of fat stigma, and it exists regardless of someone’s personal experience being thin or fat.

My project will focus on how the diet industry in these commercials and how their advertisements project the ideological framework of thin privilege. Upon dealing with my own struggles with body image, lack of self-love, and equating food with guilt, I believe it is important to address the pervasive message of these advertisements in promoting fat phobia and fat discrimination.



Readings Due for 3/15

Due 3/15
READINGS DUE all online:
The Rise of the Female Anchor
Rachael Papers
Broadcast News: When Women Become Two out of Three
Katie Curic leaves CBS
Women in Media fact sheet
NY Times – the Female Factor
FreePress Media Ownership Policy
Media Ownership Fact Sheet – NOW
Diversity in Media Ownership & Employment
Reel Girls Media Consolidation


Today, as we are bombarded with ads at every turn we take, advertising shapes the way we think and shapes our well-being in ways that were never anticipated. Advertising, Cortes states, “attempts to influence public opinion on important social, political, or environmental issues of concern” (Cortess, 45). In other words, just like all other forms of media, ads reinforce stereotypes, sexism, racism, etc, while introducing us to new societal standards. It is within the medium of advertising that we make decisions about what is acceptable and unacceptable.

As we were looking at the string of ads during our March 1 discussion, I genuinely started feeling bad for women because it seemed as though ads that were tailored for women could only exist if a masculine presence around. I found myself having to keep in mind that, of course these ads were being shown from one person’s perspective. It wasn’t until we stopped at the American Apparel ad that I really actually got the point that was being put across. This ad, much like the Tom Ford ad previously shown, really degraded the female model. The fact that this girl is literally on her knees, at the mercy of whomever that man is, stepping on her ass, just to sell shoes really affected me.

A couple of questions came to my mind. First let’s keep it in the realm of the shoe ad. What is this ad saying about women, when a man literally has the bottom of his shoe—the part that steps in bathrooms, dog poo, mud puddles etc.—being placed above a woman? Is the ad not saying that women belong with the rest of the world’s murk? Or maybe even below it? One might then argue that I may be reading too much into the ad which will then lead me to my second question. Say I am reading too much into this ad, does this model not feel disrespected by having to be on her knees and having someone literally kick her ass?Is she so into fashion that she doesn’t care what message is being sent out? If the answer to either one of these questions is ‘yes’, then she has just delivered the message of the ad without trying to. She is in fact, qualifying the belief that women are so dense; they don’t even know when they are being disrespected; and even when they are conscious of the disrespect, they do nothing about it. She even simulates oral sex in another picture of the same campaign!

american-apparel american-apparel-shoes

In Beauty Beast, a young girl stated, “We don’t expect boys to be that handsome. We take them as they are,” to which her companion added, “but boys expect girls to be perfect and beautiful. And skinny,” (Kilbourne 124). I found this particularly interesting because while the latter is true, I feel as though ads are just as mean and restricting to women as they are to men. In a recent Hefty Bag commercial titled the ‘The Ultimate Garbage Man’ four men are parading around, doing what garbage men do–picking up trash. The interesting thing is that three out of these four men have chiseled arms, and I assume they have washboard arms to match. The third guy on the other hand, is a bit “heftier.” There are no chiseled arms, he definitely has no arms, and he serves as some sort of comic relief in this very serious commercial about garbage bags.

This leaves me to wonder what this commercial is telling young boys, who are not the typical model shape. In the same way that girls are told by ads to be a certain shape, so too are boys. While girls are mainly told to diet, guys are told to be athletic, to have chiseled arms and washboard abs and that anything outside of that realm is laughable. Though boys are not consistently pestered with dieting ads, they are pestered with muscle building ads. In the same way that a girl looks at a Christian Dior ad and then strives to be the same size as that female model, a young man can look at the same add and then consequently strive to look like the male model.

Blog Post 3: Advertising. (Kristine Gaddi)

The functionality of our society, though one could argue not entirely, is based on what influences us. That is the role of the use of media in our culture. Despite it’s ability to inform us and increase our awareness, I tend to find that awareness severely limiting to an extent, so much so that it works in a guise and implants certain ideologies that continue to remain unless we’re able to become active in changing it. The power of advertisements has undoubtedly dictated what the masses accept, often without our questioning. We are barraged with advertisements that aim to sell us a certain product or offer us the opportunity to change something about ourselves. We are certainly affected by it, even if the latter claim that advertisements aren’t necessarily able to convince us so easily. Advertisements are the main player in the marketing game, as its influence in our society is extremely powerful and allows us to become subservient in its deceptions. Advertising relies on existing cultural hegemonies that it creates and sustains, such that it feeds on socially constructed ‘wrongs’ and insecurities that plague individuals in society. We choose to remain stagnant and unaware of these influences because we are led to believe that this is what is deemed to be right and normal, which poses a huge problem that is fluidly generated over and over again by huge corporations that market these advertisements to the public.

I often associate the term ‘profit’ as the end result. In the verse of advertising, all it truly aims to achieve is a profit. Although a profit, especially a successful one, can be garnered with success, scheme, and strategy as its collective components, the means of achieving it are never purely based on truth or for the greater good of all. According to Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising by Anthony J. Cortese, a successful advertisement campaign can achieve two goals that will result in a profit–> “raise the anxiety level” & “persuade the public that they need something.” The mantra of many advertisements, though not as blatantly obvious as some, have an embedded notion that “You will be happier, content, successful, etc. if you use this to change yourself.” Advertisements rely on making the consumer feel inadequate and inferior. Cortese disseminates many of the techniques utilized by mainstream advertising, which is “constantly bombarding consumers, especially women, with the message that they are inherently flawless – that what they are or what they have is not enough, too much, or not good enough” (Kilbourne, 1989). Let’s examine women’s health magazines and weight loss product commercials as contents that can be drawn out from Cortese’s discussion. ‘Health’ is not even the relevant term here, as these forms of media promote 1200 calorie diets to women, intense exercise regimes along with caloric restriction, and (not to mention) heavily photoshopped ‘fit’ women (often celebrities, trainers) giving their two cents on how they dropped they weight in the shortest amount of time. Don’t forget to read about how much ‘happier’ they are now. In the end, it’s not about health or well-being at all. These gimmicks insinuate that weight loss will make you happier and superior and often equate eating with shame, self-worth, and guilt. The abundance of body shaming is so pervasive and poses a dangerous message. This is the essence of such advertising, which promotes weight loss as being the ultimate key to the door of beauty and happiness.

It has been established in media critiquing that advertising preys on the insecurities of women. Nutrition companies like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and Special K are all a part of the diet culture industry that uses a woman’s lack of esteem to their advantage. Insecurities and self-worth are both mutually exclusive terms, and this is part of the given stratagem. When women succumb to these socially constructed ideals of beauty, companies that draw out these advertisements remain in their key power positions. A woman is constructed to be dissatisfied with who she is no matter what she does to become just like the person/people as depicted in those advertisements. Jean Kilbourne discusses this in her study, Beauty and the Beast of Advertising, which concerns women and their representation in advertisements. She says “A woman is conditioned to view her face as a mask and her body as an object, as things separate from and more important than her real self, constantly in need of alteration, improvement and disguise” (122). Essentially, a woman is not supposed to be happy with how she is, and must always change to conform to the idealized version of what a woman SHOULD be.

Becoming active participants in challenging advertising can serve as an alternative way in changing the path of the industry. How about creating ads that appeal to the women in a positive, affirming way that doesn’t shun them from one another? Instead, it could celebrate the diversity of women. I think completely eradicating the pervasiveness of the ‘ideal’ woman (thin, tall, slender, without blemishes, flawless, etc.) is impossible. I’m saying this only because I’m considering how deeply entrenched it is in our current society and how ‘thin’ and ‘fat’ will always remain social constructs. However, in creating advertisements that appeal to woman without separating them from one another and creating dividing lines between what is believed as ‘beautiful,’ and ‘ugly,’ maybe it can certainly diverge the ingrained notion of an idealized beauty. In increasing awareness of this through advertisements that are created in this realm of positivity and acceptance, it could be possible that people in the future will adapt to this. This is why it is crucial to be able to examine media with a critical lens.

What constitutes the effectiveness of ads is how much our culture depends on them to make us ‘acceptable’. The toxicity of these warped messages that draw from our inadequacies precisely explain why it’s critical to disseminate and discuss advertisements in our media landscape. Rather than questioning our self-worth based on what these ads promote, why don’t we question why we’re allowing these messages to dictate who we need to become? We so desperately need to be aware of the manipulative messages these companies send. It is imperative to see the prosaic methods these advertisements use to leech onto our lack of esteem. Realize that it is because of these messages, which enable the pervasiveness of such ideologies in our society. Look at the bigger picture. Be cognizant of them. And most importantly, challenge them.




Cortese, Anthony J. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007. 45-76. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.

Kilbourne, Jean. “Beauty and the Beast of Advertising.” Los Angeles: Center for Media and Values, 1989. 121-125. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.

Interesting article I came across regarding an open apology made by a weight loss consultant to all her clients: (Huffington Post led me to this link).

Readings Due 3/1 Project Topic Due Post 3 announced.

READINGS DUE (on Blackboard):
Advertising, Magazines and Women
4 short essays from Gender Race and Class in Media
Sex Lies and Advertising – Gloria Steinem Ms. Magazine
Beauty and the Beast of Advertising– Jean Kilbourne
Reading Images Critically – Douglas Kellner
Commodity Lesbianism – Danae Clark
-Anthony Cortese, Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads Sexism in Advertising
-Naomi Wolf , Culture from The Beauty Myth
Two tweets this week
Semester project topic due printed and handed-in
2 paragraphs explaining your semester project idea as well as any research and resources you expect you use.
(Full semester project proposal and resources will be due 3/15)
POST 3 DUE 3/22
Using all of your readings, class discussions and additional research develop a short essay addressing advertising images and the sexism, racism and power hierarchies found in so many of these. What is the purpose of these images? What unintended effects might these pervasive images have or reflect? Is popular culture found in these? Learned? Critiqued? In addition to this analysis find or construct an alternative to these mainstream images and explain why it is different. Carefully draw out advertising strategies and goals and provide alternative paths for the industry or alternative anti-advertising messages.
5-6 paragraphs. Include citations of the readings in your post, images and links to relevant resources.