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Sexually Driven Media Advertisements Objectify And Stereotype Women Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2914 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Women learn from a very early age that we must spend enormous amounts of time, energy and above all money, striving to achieve this look and feeling ashamed and guilty when we fail. And failure is inevitable because the ideal is based on absolute flawlessness (insert youtube chick)

Media advertisements strip women of autonomy and encourage vulnerability through promoting the image of an ideal body image. In today's society women are constantly judged and that their value is based upon their sexuality and physical appearance. With respect to the objectification of women, there are arguments which focus on the media's promotion of misogyny as women are depicted in conventional, gender stereotypical roles. As well as arguments which centre around the notion that sexually charged media images prpmote widespread violence against women. However, I am choosing to focus upon the aspect of body image, particularly how the objectification and instrumental use of women's bodies in media images should be classified as sexual harassment, as these images lead to denials of a woman's autonomy. I begin this essay by exploring the nature of media advertisements to date, their focus on depicting the ideal body image and further the increase in eating disorders. I then move on to discuss how sexually explicit outdoor media advertisements should be deemed as sexual harassment as they unavoidable and promote an environment of male dominance. Essentially thus, I concur that sexually explicit media images promote a woman's vulnerability as feminity has become based around pressures to follow the patriarchal expectations set by society that is based upon conventional beauty.

"The media sell values, they sell images, they sell concepts of love and sexuality, of success and perhaps most important - normalcy. To a great extent they tell us who we are and who we should be"

Issues identified in relation to the portrayal of women in advertising in general included: a lack of images featuring a diverse range of women (not only in appearance, but in experience); the use of women's bodies and body parts in certain ways; and the particular association of women with sex, as sexual objects and/or as sexually available. "Women are consistently represented by a stereotype which ignores the fact that we are not all white, able-bodied, heterosexual, thin, affluent and under thirty-five."S. Rogers. I am going to address foremost how sexually based the media has become and how women are becoming moreso sexually objectified in such a way so as to cater to the consumption of gendered audiences. Lindner (2004) defined objectification as being "portrayed in a way to suggest that being looked at is [a woman's] major purpose or function in the advertisement" Sex Roles (2008) 58:579-589 583 (p. 414). In the Dolce and Gabbana advertisement (see appendix) the lady is pinned to the ground and surrounded by 5 men who are all admiring her body. She is a sex object, who is completely powerless and out of control. This image reflects a recent trend in advertising which emphasizes appearance and meritoriously conveys the message that it is acceptable for women to be admired and manipulated by men. For example in advertisements which target males, women are more often portrayed as sex objects rather than in female targeted advertisements. Indicative of this idea is the 2008 Guinness Beer Commercial in which a bottle of beer was seen to be enjoyed by numerous men, off of the bare naked back of a woman. Her head and legs are cut off, and she appears to be engaging in sexual activity (appendix).

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The objectification of women in advertising campaigns has significant psychological ramifications. It socializes women to think of themselves in the manner in which they are depicted, and causes them to engage in vulnerable self-objectification. Hall and Crum for example, argue that a consequence of focusing on bodies rather than faces is that the inferred message is that " women are ' bodies' rather than ' somebodies'" (Hall & Crum, 1994 , p. 335).

The kinds of objectification that I argue are morally problematic lead to, or create, or reflect various kinds of inequality, where the instrumental of a woman's body leads to denials of autonomy and essentially. Through the different levels of importance placed on the body, as opposed to the face, a subtle message is sent: i.e., that while intelligence and personality are communicated through faces, only attractiveness is communicated through the body (Dodd, Harcar, Foerch, & Anderson, 1989 ).

As (text 2) explored, "Our current system has been built upon myths of autonomy and independence and thus fails to reflect the vulnerable as well as dependent nature of the human condition". Advertising images in this sense actively shape attitudes and thereby create gendered expectations and misogynistic outlooks. ). Moreover, the focus on female sexual attractiveness in advertisements aims to imply that women's primary reason for being is to be 'admired, manipulated and used by men'.Therefore the kinds of objectification that I argue are morally problematic lead to, or create, or reflect various kinds of inequality, as they enhance women's vulnerability through instrumentally exploiting the female body and essentially denying women their autonomy.

"What does advertising tell us about women? It tells us, as it always has, that's what's most important is how we look. So the first thing the advertisers do is surround us with images of ideal female beauty."

A woman's perception of her body is part of a woman's self-schema, a psychological construct and a mental construction of her self (markus & sent is, Hamill, 1987). ( see appendix) figure 1 presents a model of what we hypothesise to be reference points in a young woman's body image. In the construction of her present body image, the young woman will draw upon the following reference models (a) socially represented ideal body (b) her internalized ideal body © her present body image and (d) her objective body shape. The present body image is elastic because its reference points frequently change. The individual constructs an internalized ideal body image that represents a compromise between her objective body shape and the socially represented ideal body. I argue essentially that the mass media, specifically through 'ideal body' advertising and programming play an indirect role n the promotion of body image distortions. This role starts with the mass media's influence on young women's development of the internalized ideal body. "I believe that it is a very common perception, especially among younger women and girls, but also within older circles that the 'super model' image is the only acceptable look. If you are not slim, beautiful, sexy and wearing tight-fitting clothes, you are not conforming to the image of the 'perfect' woman and therefore are no good. This appears to be a very narrow minded attitude towards a woman's image." P McGlade

"Girls tend to feel fine about themselves when they're 8, 9, 10 years old but they hit adolescence and they hit the wall and certainly a part of this wall is this terrible emphasis on physical perfection. So no wonder we have an epidemic of eating disorders in our country and increasingly throughout the world."

For years it has been argued that the idealized body image shown in advertisements causes negative effects on a woman's self concept and perception of body image. Researchers have argued that idealized female body images in advertising have a direct or/and indirect negative impact on women's body image satisfaction; self concept; and, in extreme cases, eating behavior. According to Lucas, Crowson,

OaposFallon, and Melton (1999), the thin, idealized female body portrayed in media has coincided with an increase in eating disorders. "I think it puts unnecessary pressure on women and young girls to fit into a particular body image that advertises and portrays as the most successful image. Young women in particular start to put too much importance on attempting to achieve a "perfect" body and physical image rather than their studies and achieving financial independence."

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Objectification of women in advertisements and emphasis on the size of their breasts has created a society of cosmetically enhanced, large-breasted women. Their self-image is predicated on the media's portrayal of a desirable woman. In order to have high self-esteem, and see themselves as attractive, autonomous and valued women, many females feel this enhancement is necessary. The media therefore forms a system that plays an important role in lessening, ameliorating, and compensating for vulnerability (see appendix for the media advertisement of a body lotion which is symptomatic of the appearance of a woman's breasts). 33 Together and independently they provide us with what Peadar Kirby refers to as "assets"- advantages, coping mechanisms, or resources that cushion us when we are facing misfortune, disaster, and violence. Cumulatively these assets provide individuals with "resilience" in the face of vulnerability. 34 In a society where the ideal body is becoming thinner, women in general have been found to overestimate the size of their bodies (bitchnell, dolan & lacey 1987). From the media messages emerge positive stereotypes of beauty, success and health (Downs & Harrison 1985) and an image of being in control (Joseph, 1982). These have become synonymous with the socially idea body. Demarest and Allen (2000) also reported that women believed that men preferred shapes thinner than those that men actually reported, According to Leary and Baumeister (2000), when possible damage to self-esteem is experienced, people are motivated to gain, maintain, and restore self-esteem.

"Women's bodies are dismembered in ads, hacked apart - just one part of the body is focused upon, which of course is the most dehumanising thing you could do to someone. Everywhere we look, women's bodies have been turned into things and often just parts of things. And girls are getting the message these days just so young, that they need to be impossibly beautiful" insert youtube chick

The crux of the matter with respect to the ethics of objectification, I claim, has to do with respect for a person's autonomy. Therefore, proper context is indeed crucial, but it is the background social and political context that matters most, because background equality is necessary for genuine consent. Though some may argue using women as sex objects is acceptable there is a fine line between women as sex objects and women as victims. It is when objectification involves instrumental use and the denial of the autonomy of the other that it involves a moral wrong. Therefore because of sexist cultural conditions, women's choices to be used or objectified in sexualized advertisements can never be genuine choices; they are always adaptive preferences reflecting deformed desires-choices made in response to the pressures of non-ideal surroundings, rather thanchoices that express one's own self. An example of this notion can be seen in the backlash that occurred regarding the Elle Mcpherson billboard on the corner of Swanston and Bourke streets, in which she has been cut off at the neck and knees, leaving just a torso, albeit a perfect one, to advertise sexy lingerie. Australia's most senior Muslim cleric, Taj al-Din al-Hilali, sparked outrage when he said 'women who dress immodestly are akin to meat'. Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a specialist in outdoor advertising and sexual harassment from the University of Melbourne's Centre of Public Policy responded to this by saying that like pin-up girls in a workplace, these types of images in public places amount to sexual harassment and acceptance of them contradicts the community's rejection of Sheikh Hilali's comments. "How do people complain about comments like the sheikh has made in a culture that's saturated with sexuality?". She further noted that images such as this reduce women to mere sexual objects. "By cutting out the head you are immediately saying her personality and brains aren't important in the slightest. We are just interested in her body. It doesn't even matter who she is," she says.

With respect to the body image issues which increase a woman's vulnerability and therefore essentially deny her as autonomous, I agree with Dr Lauren Rosewarne argue that overly objectified media images should be understood as forms of harassment. Specifically outdoor billboards, and print advertisements; sexualised outdoor advertising give legitimacy to concerns and, ideally, attach stigma to the kinds of socially exclusionary activities constituting harassment occurring in public space. Sexualised outdoor advertisements are symptomatic of male control of public space, which is thus exclusionary for womem that 'place tends to be organized in ways that privilege men at the expense of women' (Longhurst 1999, 154). When the display of women is done in a way that uses women's bodies and sexuality as the primary attention getter, this is evidence of the importance of the visual to masculine culture. An example of this can be seen in the Burger King advertisement in which a woman has been completely sexualized and demeaned, and placed behind the pun 'it'll blow your mind away'. Of course, it is a certain kind of sexuality depicted in outdoor advertising - i.e, women's sexuality - and thus sexualised outdoor advertising can be seen to illustrate a heterosexual male sexuality. Another example of this can be seen in the 2010 Lee billboard which depicts an overly sexualized woman, posing as a very productive sex symbol in an effort to endorse the brand. The prevalence of such examples of masculine culture therefore indicate the dominance and sovereignty of masculinity in public space and therefore in hindsight the susceptibility of women.

Just as the working environment is deemed sexually harassing, when similarly explicit material is being displayed publicly on billboards and in bus shelters - then public space should be able to be defined as 'hostile' towards women and such activities dubbed street harassment. In 2000, shoe-manufacturer Windsor Smith ran an outdoor advertising campaign which depicted a woman kneeling in front of a man, the man's hand drawing her head towards his crotch (see appendix). Australia's advertising self-regulator, the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) upheld public complaints about this billboard, thus illustrating the mainstream condemnation of this advertisement. In Australia in 1993, a case against four women accused of vandalising a billboard depicting a woman being sawn in half was dismissed, the magistrate noting that " [t]he real crime in this matter was the erection of these extremely offensive advertisements… (Sweet Justice, 1993 , p.39). Perhaps it was, therefore, only a matter of time before sexual harassment became not only a consequence of, but actual inclusion in outdoor advertisements. sexualized advertisement restricts a woman's autonomy and worth to their sexuality. When pornographic references are entering mainstream products including outdoor advertising (Sørensen 2003; Dilevko & Gottlieb 2002; Well Davis 2002; Nordlinger 2001; Satzman 2000; Stewart 2000; Gardetta 1998) there is no reason why such outdoor advertisements shouldn't be deemed sexually harassing in the exact same manner.

"These are public health problems that I'm talking about. The obsession with thinness is a public health problem, the tyranny of the ideal image of beauty, violence against women. These are all public health problems that affect us all and public health problems can only be solved by changing the environment."

The major concern regarding outdoor advertising is the lack of choice to view and the unavoidable nature of outdoor advertising. Unlike television or magazines,

most human consumption is a result of a drive to satisfy sensuous desires. Advertising uses sexual images to encourage this consumption. People become dissatisfied with their imperfect selves, and seek to become perfect by buying the sexually charged products. An important manner in which sexist outdoor advertisements can be likened to pin-ups in the workplace because viewers of outdoor advertisements come to constitute a captive audience because they are unable to avoid the imagery displayed.

If I am right about consent and objectification, respect for autonomy and consent are what matter, and in this case, it is the background context that is most important, since it is crucial to ensuring that consent is possible and genuine. Insofar as society is so organized that some persons must allow themselves to be used or otherwise objectified-because they are poor, because they are regarded as non-autonomous, because they are simply regarded as sexual objects and therefore always used-there isn't morally acceptable sexual use. Thus sexism and inequality of various kinds can make sexual use morally problematic because they make consent impossible. One possibility along these lines might be that because of sexist cultural pressures, our desires or choices to be used in these ways can never really be autonomous ones-they are always ''adaptive preferences''.21


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