When you think of the image of women in advertising pictures you probably think of the ideal woman with her unreal body figure and her perfect skin. It is rather sad that this is what comes to mind, but it’s just the truth. With the pass of years, women have been shown in advertisements as subordinates to men, extremely sexualized and just as inferiors to the opposite sex. But as we are constantly exposed to advertising campaigns that show us this unreal representation of women, we should be conscious of what they are telling us to be able to escape their image of what reality should look like.
It’s no secret that advertising companies have used Photoshop many times to manipulate the images that are going to be used later on to show the public. The video below was created in 2011 by GlobalDemocracy.com in order to make people aware of how this industry works and demanded disclaimers on all photos with manipulated models’ bodies. Of course, this video may look surreal and it doesn’t mean all the advertising campaigns use such amounts of Photoshop to make the images perfect, but it does really get to its point. On the other hand, it’s not as if models themselves haven’t complained about this practice. For example, Erin Heatherton, one of Victoria’s Secret’s Angels, once said: “I feel like it looks like someone else. I guess it’s not fair. It’s a bittersweet story. You look better, but it’s a lie” when she was asked about the retouching the pictures.
However, the problem is not only the unrealistic body images that advertising pictures show. One of the biggest issues related to images when it comes to advertising campaigns is sexism. It has been a problem for many decades now and it still hasn’t ceased to exist completely. Women have been shown as objects to fulfill men’s desires, as the one who cooks or does all the cleaning, but who is useless for anything other than house related tasks and taking care of the children.
As much as there’s still some sexism in advertisements, seen in the form of women half naked repeatedly while men are fully dressed most of the time, society has surely improved. We don’t take in this images as people did in the 50’s. Back then, both women and men were expecting to see sexism in the advertisements because that was how society worked. Women were expected to tolerate and act up to fulfill the house-wife stereotype.
But that role of women in advertisements slowly changed into a more and more sexualized one. Nowadays, the constant images we have of women in magazines or billboards are ones of perfect body females wearing few clothes and standing there looking fiercely into the camera.
Let’s take a look at different examples of sexist advertisements through history and how they represent women:
1950‘s advertisements, as we said earlier, took the woman as inferior to men, always depending on them. The most common role portrayed in them was the house-wife, meant to be taking care of the children when she wasn’t in the kitchen.
Even when the advertisement wasn’t directed to women especifically, they managed to include them in background. While the men of the house were playing, the women were in the kitchen cleaning.
In these advertisements from the 60‘s we still see the woman portrayed as the responsible for cooking and taking care of everything while the man sits and relaxes. However, we start to see the role of a more sexualized woman, seen as the object of desire.
As we see above, the image of women in the 70‘s had already changed into the more sexualized one. We see women as the image of products that were meant, in that time, for men, such as alcohol, cigarrettes or cars, making them more desireable, as women are shown in few clothes.
Similarly to the previous decade, the 80‘s were still filled with women in few clothes advertising products meant for men, in this case beer. However, we start to see more advertisements directed to women that are not about cleaning or cooking, but about beauty and make up.
We could say that the protagonist of 90‘s advertisements, when it comes to women, is not only the few clothes but the topless models. They are still portrayed in advertisements for men, since two of the images above were advertisements of perfumes for men, showing women as fierce animals that will fall into the opposite gender’s arms if they use that specific product.
This are some of the sexist advertisements found in the 2000’s. We see that women are still used as a way for people to buy products such as alcohol. The common features are women wearing few clothes holding the bottles, which is supposed to make you buy the product. The most shocking, though, may be the Burger King advertisement. It was very controversial and even the model complained about it, saying that was not what she was posing for, but manipulation of images just happened.
Although these are pictures taking to exemplificate the sexism in advertisements, not everything we see nowadays has this connotations. Still, even these are pictures from the 2010 decade, some of them seem taken out of decades ago. The woman is still shown as inferior to men, in need of them to protect her and willing to provide them with pleasure. On the other hand, we have some advertisements, such as the PETA one, where the woman is compared to an animal, but not only that, she also has to do it in a bikini.