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Everyday, we face advertisements that use the sexuality of individuals to sell products. Advertising degrades a woman’s worth in society and uses her body to sell items such as cars, jewelry, and beverages. Those most often exploited are our mothers, daughters, and sisters. Beautiful women, scantily dressed give us incentive to buy products, whenever the incentive is to be with these females, or as in most cases, to be like them.
Because of this is exploitation, women believe they have to live up to an unachievable standard of beauty. If they fail to reach these ideas, they are made to feel worthless.The ideal woman is based on flawlessness: no lines, wrinkles, blemishes, and scars-no pores. She is human. This look can only be achieved cosmetically, and is the only standard of beauty in our culture (Kilbourne).
“Deep in many girls hearts lies an impossible standard-long blonde hair, long, long legs, a slim, tall body, and perpetual youth. Call it Barbie” (Winegar 1 E). Dr. Lesley J. Dlugokinski, a clinical psychologist from Oklahoma City, suggests that many of the messages linking a woman’s value to her beauty are deeply rooted in Western Culture, beginning with ancient myths and fairtales like “Sleeping Beauty” (qtd. in Kinka).So much emphasis placed on appearance that a woman’s lovability and desirability rely on it.
An advertisement for a weight loss clinic reads: “ I’d probably never be married now if I hadn’t lost forty-nine pounds’-which one woman said was the best advertisement for fat she’d ever seen”. Such advertisements only reaffirm that being beautiful is a result of the products we buy, not who we are inside. Physical appearance seems to define a woman’s worth.In most advertisements, the woman’s body is used as an object, and whatever her body is like, it will not do; it must change. Every part of the body must be altered. For many women in America, how they look often determines how they feel about themselves, impacting their self-esteem. “The message regarding…physical beauty is so pervasive that even women with wonderful talents, attributes, skills and intellect don’t feel those are enough” (Winegar 1-E). Women are judged solely on appearance and are put into competition with each other’s looks; if a woman does achieve the desire look, she loses love of other women.“The essential selling traits used in the portrayal of women are alluring, decorative, and traditional” (Courtney 9). The trend of using women for allurement or decoration is found mostly in advertisements for beverages and automobiles. The sexual implications are more than obvious in selling a product that has nothing to do with sex. These types of advertisements are found throughout mainly men’s magazines, selling “manly” products.Advertisers subliminally integrate sexual ideas into the selling of products. They realize that many times that people do not read the copy, so they use photographs to exploit sexuality in males and females in the shape of the products or the way the models are positioned. An advertisement for Love’s Baby Soft perfume reads: “Because innocence is sexier than you think”. In the advertisement, an adult woman is presented as a child. She is dressed as a little girl, but she is sitting with her legs apart, skirt slightly raised. She has a visible cleavage and is sucking in a lollipop. The shape of the perfume bottle is clearly phallic, and the implicit meanings in the advertisement tell women not to be mature or grown up and to stay passive, powerless, and dependent (Kilnourne).On the other hand, some advertisements, even try to cover the fact that they are bluntly using sexuality to sell their products. In some advertisements, women are naked, wearing only the product for sale. The use of their bodies to sell these products, which have nothing to do with being naked, is disgusting. Their sexuality is only being used to catch the eye of the consumer.Feminine things are constantly devalued, which causes women to devalue themselves and men to devalue women. Women are being devalued each time an advertisement depicts a woman as an object. “Turning a human being into an object is the first step in justifying violence toward that person” (Kilbourne). Men are portrayed as violent and brutal in advertisements, and their body language sends a message to tell all men to be in control, and always uses power, threat, and intimidation. A billboard for a Rolling Stones album cover reads, “I’m black and blue from the Rolling Stones, and I Love It” (Kilbourne). Such advertisements give the implication that women love and deserve to be beaten. An even more appalling advertisement for men’s boots headlines, “Treat’em good and they’ll treat you good” (Kilbourne). It shows a woman straddling a man’s leg, pulling his boot off. The copy read, “Some men treat their boots better than their women; not all together admirable, but certainly understandable” (Kilbourne). Battery of women is presented as a joke. People who are opposed to violent and sexist advertisement must organize to remove them, and the products they sell from our lives.Four general stereotypes of women are; “a woman’s place is in the home; women do not make important decisions or do important things; women are dependent and need a man’s protection; and men regard women primarily as sex objects” (Courtney 7). Even though in 1987, one third of all women in the labour force were the sole supporter of their families, advertisements like the following for Braemar sweaters made a joke of a woman in the work place. The advertisement shows a woman in a skirt, blouse and a Braemar sweater. The copy reads, “Phoebe chose to work, not because she had to, but because it gave her a place to wear her Braemar sweaters” (Kilbourne). Such sacrum of women in the work place only destroys what has taken so long to get even to this level. The women’s movement is constantly being mocked and patronized in advertisements.The most prevalent problem in advertising’s ideal of women is weight. After seeing hundreds of advertisements featuring ultra-thin, waif-like models each day, women feel contempt, loathing, and disgust for their bodies. Joan Dickerson, author of Some Thoughts on Fat, claims that “we’re all supposed to strive for a long and thin ideal, but who exemplifies this ideal? A man, of course; specifically a young man” (Winegar 1-E). Young women especially, are judging themselves based on what they see in the mirror. One in five college-age women have eating disorders, and eighty to eighty-five percent of the consumers of diet programs are women. The idea for women as displayed in advertisements weights twenty-five percent less than average woman (Winegar 1-E ).Since more and more women’s groups protest their exploitation in advertising, a small trend toward lessening these advertisements is coming about. However, because of this, men are being exploited instead. An example is a television commercial for Diet Coke in which female office workers “gawk” out the window at a shirtless male construction worker. Because it is not politically correct to use women as object’s now, “men are the babies…it’s pleasing to the eye to show men’s pecs, since you can’t show women’s breast” (Dunn B-6). Although this does seem to be a trend, it will take time before men reach the level of exploitation that women have faced for decades.After seeing thousands of exploitive advertisements every year, we become callus to the psychological effects they have on us as consumers. No one’s body, male or female, deserves to be treated as an object, but should be held in high esteem and respect. This respect should not be limited to those who are thin or beautiful or white or heterosexual. Advertising that depicts this standard pollutes our minds and only we as consumers, by standing up against such unrealistic ideals, can stop the pollution.