It has been evident for the past decades that advertisers still use stereotyped images of men and women in their advertisements. This can say that the pursuit for equality is still not grasped by the society. The images we see in magazines, in televisions, in billboards portray a very old perception of gender, especially the inferiority and submissive nature of women, with their bodies used as mere sexual objects, if not, still used as household caretakers. Women are also deemed to be beautiful if they have slim bodies, fair complexion and long shiny hair.
Men, on the other hand, are portrayed to be strong, dominant and successful in their careers. For this essay, I will be showing two examples of images, which reveals the still existing gender inequality. I will be referring to some themes and issues to support my arguments. Also, for my basic analysis of advertisements, I will be using Katherine Frith’s  approach in “Undressing the Ad: Reading Culture in Advertising” [Lukas, 2002].
It includes a surface meaning, the advertiser’s intended meaning, and the cultural or ideological meaning.
For the semiotic level, which connotes the social themes in advertisements, I will be applying Erving Goffman’s  approach in “Gender Advertisements. ” For the first example, I will use the Gucci Magazine advertisement as shown in Figure 1 in the appendix. Just by looking at the picture, you can already see that there is gender inequality. Before dwelling into that, I will first apply a basic analysis of the ad. 1. The Surface Meaning It can be seen that there are two subjects in the picture. It is very evident that one is female, while the other one can be assumed to be male.
It is because of its masculine features, as seen in the upper body though the face was not explicitly shown. The female is down on the floor, touching the shoes of the male. She is wearing a sexy gold dress. The male is standing, wearing only khaki pants. Both clothing are assumed to be under the brand, Gucci. The setting is in the desert and the overall appeal of the image is very earthy. There are no words or taglines in the ad, just “Gucci”. 2. Advertiser’s Intended Meaning The advertiser might be showcasing the earthy tones and summer styles of Gucci, as seen in the very comfortable and breezy clothes the subjects are wearing.
There is still a certain class in the style, whether you put them in the dessert or just wherever. 3. Cultural or Ideological Meaning The picture obviously depicts the dominance of males over females. To be more detailed, we use Goffman’s approach by taking into consideration the social themes being depicted here. The positioning of the subject explicitly exposes gender bias. The man is standing while woman is down on floor. It just shows that men are in control and have power over women. The woman is way below under his legs, at his feet to be exact. She is even touching his shoes.
It reminds me of a servant, wiping the dirt of his master in the desert. The woman here really looked inferior and if we extend the picture upward, exposing the face of the man, it can be that he is looking down on her, seeing the contraction of his abdomen in the picture. Moreover, such display of abs connotes a very masculine and strong appeal. We know that men who have well developed abs are the ones who are the most physically fit. The woman on one hand is thin and sexy, with her body parts, especially the legs and the cleavage, generally exposed.
Reexamining the “Nature/Culture” Paradigm, we are reminded of the “vertical” perspective, which organizes the relationships of male and female [Tilleuil, 2002]. The woman is labeled as the dominated and the man is labeled as the dominant. According to the sociologist, Claude Herne, “”In the advertising image, in order to make the woman feel inferior, signs multiply and underline the weakness, the lack of self-confidence, fragility, hesitation, dissimulation, submission, childishness and infantilization, too. ” [Tilleuil, 2002]. This signs are very well depicted in this ad.
The woman looks fragile, and she displays a look of submission in her eyes, like a slave. This leads us to another example of an advertisement, which now depicts heavy violence to women. The ad to be examined here is figure 2 of the appendix. It is an ad from Dolce and Gabbana. 1. The Surface Meaning In the ad, there are six subjects. There are five males and one female. It looks like they are in a rooftop of some resort/hotel. Some men are wearing fitted Polos, while others are half naked. Their skins are very shiny. It looks like there’s oil or sweat in them.
One man is on top of the woman, while others are watching intently to the scene in the middle. The woman is lying down on the floor, wearing a sexy black dress and high heels. 2. Advertiser’s Intended Meaning The advertiser here is showcasing the sexy formal styles of Dolce and Gabbana, with their breezy polos, classy dresses. It looks like the clothing is part of their summer collection. 3. Cultural or Ideological Meaning/Goffman’s approach It is very evident in the picture that the scene is depicting a “gang rape”. This is extreme sexual violence right at your eyes.
Such violence is even portrayed in classy way, with the clothing of Dolce and Gabbana at display. We look back to the inferiority and submissiveness of the woman here. The woman is again down on the floor, but this time, she is lying down, about to be raped by the first guy on top of her. But we also see here that they are being watched by other men. One of them is already topless, while, one is semi-buttoned, with his chest exposed. There is also one who is only wearing a sleeveless undershirt, while the last guy is still fully dressed up. They all have this sultry look to the woman.
The woman here is about to give herself to the man, with her hips going upward. Yet, you can see that the man is locking her arms in the floor, and it looks like she cannot get away with his grasp. The woman has been the subject of sexual pleasure. Violence here is part of the pleasure package. As we have been exposed in the media, we can recall about the whipping, the slapping of women, their being tied up to different places, exposing a lot of skin, with their bodies being molded to different erotic positions. In most cases women are victims of such violence, since men being tied up would not be a delightful sight for them.
Overall, as seen in most advertisements, women are always the weaker player, being taken advantaged of men, who are more superior. Women are still being depicted as mere objects of sexual desire [Sharabi, n. d. ]. Women are seen only as domestic providers, who do not have their own decision making powers. According to the blog of “Daughter of Liberty” , she said that the following are some important points to take note in advertisements: 1. Canting It can be seen through the body language that women are submissive and they have low self-confidence. For our examples, it is explicitly shown with the woman on the floor, with no control. 2.
Clowning It can be seen that women are usually posed like an innocent child in the ads, which connotes ignorance (stupidity perhaps) and practically it tells us that women are easily dominated. 3. Dependence Women are seen to be very dependent to men, which can be particularly found in the first advertisement, where the woman is touching the shoes of the man. 4. Dismemberment Dismemberment is described as focusing on a particular body part. However, for our first example, it was the man who was dismembered. 5. Dominance/violence This is evidently seen in both of our examples, especially in the Dolce and Gabbana ad, which depicts a gang rape.
I think ads these days have become more violent and more associated to sex than ever before, due to change of perception of our society. Sex and violence is not a taboo anymore, and we can just openly discuss those issues in a coffee table. However, being a more open society must teach us to be less discriminating and degrading. Women and men were created equally. More ads should focus on empowering women, like what is happening in Dove. We must not let ourselves, especially our children to be exposed to such violence because images convey very powerful images and it can impact one’s behavior.