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Stereotyping In Advertising In Mauritius Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5464 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This study will concentrate on the females’ attitude towards stereotyping associated with women in advertising. The controversy over the portrayal of women in advertising continues today. More and more, women are taking on a broader role and responsibilities in society. However, as we cross the threshold of this new decade, there is a significant question that needs to be answered. While the debate over whether or not advertisers portray women realistically bear on, the fundamental concern is how women feel and respond to the portrayal of females in advertising, despite of the action or inaction of advertisers to effect change. Do females believe that advertisers portray women in realistic ways or do they believe they are shown in stereotypical roles of housewives and/or sex objects? This study examines the attitudes, feeling and perception of female consumers toward the portrayal of women in advertising.

Purpose of research

The purpose of this study is to analyse Mauritian females’ attitude towards the stereotyping of women in advertising. More specifically, the primary goals of this study are:

(1) To investigate about women’s perceptions in relation to the stereotyping of females in advertising.

(2) To examine if women believe that advertisers depict females in stereotypical roles of housewives and/or sex objects.

(3) To explore the veracity of Cultivation Theory on Mauritian females.

(4) To find out whether stereotypes have harmful effects on women themselves.

(5) To investigate if the stereotyping of women in advertising affect the purchasing pattern of females.

Research questions

A vital step toward providing a sound theoretical foundation for the research project is the development of concrete research questions and hypotheses. This process typically begins with a preliminary review of the existing literature for your topic. A research question poses an affiliation between two or more variables but phrases the relationship in terms of some question.

-What group of females considers that women are being stereotype in advertising?

-What type of portrayal of women in advertising is offensive to females?

-What is the miss-representation of women in advertisement?

-Do females consider that advertising suggest that women primary occupation is as homemakers?

-Do female consider that women are portrayed as sex objects?

-Do females feel that advertising does not really show women as they really are?

-Are females persuaded to buy products or services if they are being advertising by women?

-What are the negative effects that females experience when they are stereotyped in advertising?


Once the research questions are firmly established the next step is to develop a set of hypotheses based on the questions posed by the study. A hypothesis is a declarative statement that attempts to predict the relationship between two or more variables based on statistical consideration.

Hypotheses are numeric estimates of population value based on data collected from samples. Testing of hypotheses employs statistical procedures in which the investigator draws inferences about the population from a study sample.

In this study of Understanding females’ attitudes towards women’s stereotyping in advertising in Mauritius, the hypotheses are as follows:

Ho-Women believe that advertisers depict females in stereotypical roles of housewives and/or sex objects.

H1-Women do not believe that advertisers depict females in stereotypical roles of housewives and/or sex objects.

Ho-Stereotypes have harmful effects on women concerning their body image.

H1- Stereotypes do not have harmful effects on women concerning their body image.

Ho- Stereotyping of women in advertising affect the purchasing pattern of females.

H1- Stereotyping of women in advertising does not affect the purchasing pattern of females.

Chapter 2

Overview of Literature Review

This chapter reviews the related literature that will include articles related to stereotyping of women in advertising, factors leading to stereotyping of women, how women are portrayed in advertisement, and how advertising influences females’ perception and behaviors. It will also examine the theoretical framework that will be used for the study presented in this research paper.

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Literature Review


It has been argued that advertising over the yesteryears has not presented a pragmatic illustration of women and their roles in society. It is harmless to state that stereotypes exist and are a part of our lives. The advertisements from the 50′s are not opposed from the advertisements broadcasted today – in the present; reminiscing women where they belong: in the home, cleaning, mopping, baking and cooking, parenting, fostering, and looking sexually attractive.

Stereotyping of Women in Advertising

Stereotyping of women has been a main concern with media researchers. Studies have dealt with the portrayal of women in all forms of media. A close assessment of the literature on stereotyping of women in media revealed that each of these studies had its center of attention on at least one or more of the following categories (Shrikhande; 2003):

1) Women portrayed at domicile and with family

2) Women and occupation

3) Women and their age

4) Women and their physical appearance or attire

5) Women as product representatives or as product users

6) Women and stance

The community acts according to these portrayal because they are considered socially acceptable. For instance, when people think of an advertisement for a household cleaner, what comes to mind, most likely, is a woman. It is also likely that the picture in peoples’ minds corresponds closely to what researchers have called the “happy housewife” stereotype. This is a stereotype that has been associated with the image of women in most print and television advertisements. “Media is very effective at creating stereotypes because they are sometimes the only source of information we have about other groups and they often represent a distorted view of those groups” (Straubhaar 2004).

No matter what type of life a women lives, there will always be a certain stereotype about her within society. Women in commercials are confined into what roles they can play on television commercials. In most advertisements in which women act in, the commercial is set out to capture the interests of stereotypical women’s hobbies and interests. A stereotype would be best described as when one ignores diversity and makes sweeping generalizations about a group’s values, behaviour, and beliefs (Straubhaar 2004). Advertisements remain replicated in obsolete gender stereotypes by portraying women as having an ideal body image, eating disorders and acting as sex symbols. The debate over the portrayal of women in advertising continues today.

One of the harshest criticisms of the way in which women are portrayed in television and print advertisements is that women are shown in an extremely contracted range of roles, with descriptions concentrated on the conventional occupations of housewife, a mother and secretary. Many studies have found support for this criticism (Bardwick et al., 1967; Courtney et al., 1971; Dominick et al., 1972; Ferrante, Haynes, & Kingsley, 1988; Gilly, 1988; and Knill et al., 1981).

Factors leading to stereotyping of women

Early attitudes towards women

Women have always been regarded as a creative source of human life. However, history reveals that they have been considered not only intellectually inferior to men but also a main cause of temptation and evil. For instance, in the Greek mythology, it was a woman, Pandora, who opened the forbidden box and brought plagues and misery to mankind. Early Roman law described women as children, forever inferior to men (Women’s International Center, 1995).

Ancient Christian theology conserved these conceptions. St. Jerome, a 4th-century Latin father of the Christian church, said: “Woman is the gate of the devil, the path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent, in a word a perilous object.” Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century Christian theologian, stated that woman was “created to be man’s helpmeet, but her unique role is in conception . . . since for other purposes men would be better assisted by other men” (Women’s International Center, 1995).

In the East, the approach toward women was at first more favorable. In early India, for instance, women were not deprived of possessions rights or human freedoms by marriage. But after the evolution of Hinduism in India about the 500 BC, obedience of women toward men was compulsory Women had to walk in the rear of their husbands. Women could not have possession of property, and widows were not allowed to remarry (Women’s International Center, 1995).

In the fourteenth centuries women acquired more status when they were allowed to educate themselves and earn mastership in a variety of trades. Unfortunately women’s status suffered a blow during the Renaissance as there were more restrictions on women’s sexuality and political rights. Although women were learned and able to act as rulers, the dropping position of working women amplified the significance of women’s contribution to the family. During the reformation women’s status as wives and mothers was increased and they were controlled by their husbands (Women’s International Center, 1995).

Cultural images of women

Merriam Webster defines culture as the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group. Culture ideas, symbols, norms and values occupy a major role in the conception of women images and the demarcation of gender roles. To understand the images of femininity the Indian society can be taken as an example.

India, a heterogeneous society, demonstrates incompatible women images. The standardize model image of Indian womanhood has disclosed significant consistency. Images of women have not remained stagnant and have been subject to various metaphors. Nevertheless, some basic models have prevalent approval. Diverse cultural images of women: – Pativrata- absolute devotion to husband, glorified motherhood, “Bharat Mata” Image. The insight of diverse categories of women is specifically formed by the commonly accepted female images and stereotypes in the society (Bhargava 2009).

Moreover, at the interpersonal stage within the family situation, these images are often imposing in a variety of ways. Indian girls grow up with deep rooted sense of apprehension and anxiety which not only confines their social mobility in the everyday life but also often psychologically cripples them to confront the afflictions of life in general and oppose gender based discrimination in particular. These gender divisions, flowing nearly straight from the popular imagery fostered these images in most Indian families. It can be stated that possibly most significantly; these images leave a profound imprint upon women’s self-perception (Bhargava 2009).

Women in advertisement

Advertising has been a major goal of attack and investigation. The fundamental enlightenment for the significant focus on sex role portrayal in advertising lies in the close relationship, which prevails among advertising, the consumer goods industry and the vital economic role of women as consumers. Usually it is exhibit in advertisement a woman’s ambition in life is to magnetise and achieve a man:-women are publicised in advertising as forever young and attractive. They are repeatedly depicted as sexual objects. Women in advertisements are constrained to the home and isolated from other women outside home, man is her preferred partner. Domesticity is the next role of two dimensional image of femininity in advertising (Bhargava 2009).

Moreover, there are open obscene advertisements relating to sexual stereotypes that are established in different media. The Indian description of sex stereotyping would have all women carrying themselves like legendary sita and savitri- docile, submissive, sacrificing, emotional, fearful, and incompetent of coherent action, their most important duty being wives, partners and mothers. What is being canvas here is gross counterfeit modern lifestyle which is detached from the common Indian woman’s struggle to survive completely negating and never inquiring her reality (Bhargava 2009).

Stereotyping of women in Television Commercials

One of the earliest studies that discussed about the image of women in television commercials was by Bardwick and Schumann (1967). Bardwick and Schumann (1967) examined male and female role portrayals in television commercials and settled on the fact that women are portrayed first and foremost as homebound or as housewives. Courtney and Whipple (1974) analysed the stereotyping of women in television commercials and identify major distinctness between men and women. Women were over-symbolised in advertisements for cosmetics and were less likely to appear in advertisements for cars, trucks and related products. 75 percent of all advertisements using women were for products found in the kitchen or bathroom, strengthening the stereotype that a woman’s place is at home.

Women were typically portrayed in house settings rather than business settings in contrast to men. Women were represented as reliant on men and were looked at above all as sexual objects. Courtney and Whipple (1974) described sexual objects as, where women had no role in the commercial, but emerged as a piece of decoration. Researchers found that 87% of voiceovers were male and only 6% of voiceovers were done using females (Courtney & Whipple, 1974). Later studies confirmed this (Culley & Bennett, 1976; Dominick & Rauch, 1972; Lundstorm & Sciglimpaglia, 1977; McArthur & Resko, 1975; O.Donnell & O.Donnell, 1978; Schneider & Schneider, 1979).

Women were most prone to be characterised not by job-related or other types of roles, but in roles that defined them in terms of their relationships with others, i.e. as spouse, girlfriend, parent or friend (McArthur and Resko, 1975). Moreover, it was discovered that women were portrayed as product users in 86% of advertisements and as product authorities in only 14% of the commercials, compared to men who were depicted overwhelmingly as authorities (McArthur and Resko, 1975).

Browne (1998) analysed sex role stereotyping in television commercials aimed at children in the United States and Australia. Her results are in general parallel to those of earlier studies and point out significant gender stereotyping (Macklin & Kolbe, 1984; McArthur & Eisen, 1976; Sternglanz & Serbin, 1974). Her outcome specify that boys appeared in greater numbers in the television commercials, were assign more dominant, dynamic and aggressive roles compared to girls. Gender role reinforcement was detected at the level of body language and facial expressions; girls were portrayed as reserved, giggly, improbable to assert control, less active and helpful.

Stereotyping of women in Print Advertisements

Chafetz, Lorence and Larosa (1993) analysed six trade publications to evaluate if there had been an impact in female participation in professional vocations and whether an editorial personnel with more women has helped reduce gender stereotyping of professional women. Chafetz, Lorence and Larosa (1993) found that greater relative numbers of women in the occupation over time and an increased share of women in the editorial staff have resulted in portraying women as professionals, confident, independent and attractive. Gender composition of editorial staff had a consistent and a positive effect on how women are portrayed in advertising. However, women are still portrayed less favorably in male-oriented professional publications. Chafetz, Lorence and Larosa.s (1993) findings also suggest that the non-advertisement visuals appear to be conveying a decreasing level of gender stereotyping, because such visuals often appear with stories about work being done by those who practice the targeted occupation or are closely related to it, hence encouraging gender equitable treatment.

Perception about women’s stereotyping in advertising

The Women’s Liberation Movement put pressure on marketers to cautiously study how women were portrayed in advertisements. Many studies (Courtney & Lockeretz, 1971,

Wagner & Banos, 1973) analysed women’s role in advertising, but they are mainly content analyses. Wortzel and Frisbie found that there was no consistent preference for a specific role for all product categories. Women tended to choose their preferred role based on the class of the product being advertised. In addition, it was found that women with positive attitudes toward the movement, considered modern or progressive, did not reject traditional female role portrayals. Women were satisfied and accepting of traditional role portrayals in advertisements, regardless of their thoughts on Women’s Liberation. Studies indicated that for both traditional and modern women, more favorable attitudes resulted from consistency between the ad role portrayal and their role orientation. The most favorable attitudes were from traditional women exposed to the traditional role portrayal. The least favorable attitudes were found by modern women who viewed the traditional role portrayal (Leigh, 1987). Modern woman is supposedly more free with ‘choices’ to exercise and this is apparent in the slick advertisements where women have free body language and seem more open, articulate and more sexual (Aruna, Nidhi Kotwal & Shradha Sahni, 2008)

Female’s perception about stereotyping of women in advertising

A Canadian research carried out by Susan DeYoung and F.G. Crane shows that that a more realistic portrayal of women in advertising is not only desirable but fundamental in a modern marketplace. Women do not only want a more realistic portrayal but believe that they deserve it (Susan DeYoung and F.G. Crane, 1992).

A predominantly imperative finding in this study is the fact that the attitudes held by women cut across age, income, education and marital status categories. Therefore, advertisers cannot simply overlook complaints about the portrayal of women in advertising to a small group of liberal feminists. The concern seems to be widespread.

This study is a replication of an American study which was conduct 10 years ago prior to the Canadian study. The following table shows the attitudes and perception of women towards stereotyping of women in advertising.




Percentage agreeing with statement



Canada 1990

US 1979



Advertising suggests a woman’s place is in the home




Advertising I see does not show women as they really are




Advertising suggests that women are dependent on men




Advertising shows women mainly as sex objects




Advertising suggests women do not make important decisions




Advertising suggests women do not do important things




I am more sensitive than I used to be to the portrayal of women in advertising




I find the portrayal of women in advertising to be offensive




If a product I buy is advertised in a way that I find offensive to women, I would stop buying it




If a new product uses advertising that I find offensive to women, I would not buy it, even if it was a good product



Source: Females’ attitudes toward the portrayal of women in advertising: a Canadian study 1992

Theoretical Framework

Cultivation Theory

Cultivation theory also referred to as the cultivation hypothesis or cultivation analysis was an approach developed by Professor George Gerbner, dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania (Chandler, 1995). The purpose of the Cultural Indicators project was to identify and track the ‘cultivated’ effects of television on viewers (Buchanan et al, 2010). A research by Buchanan (2010 cited by Miller 2005) showed that they were “concerned with the effects of television programming on the attitudes and behaviours of the American public”‘ (Buchanan et al, 2010).

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There are various communication theories, but Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory is above all pertinent to numerous situations. It focuses on the suggestion that television plays a fundamental role in viewers’ perceptions of the humanity by touching attitudes, beliefs, and ways of thinking (Lindquist, 2006). Thus it is harmless to state that through television, people are exposed to various advertising that are typically stereotyping women in a negative manner. The severity of these effects depends on the amount of television an individual watches each day (Lindquist, 2006). Gerbner’s Cultivation theory suggests that television can alter or ‘cultivate’ a viewers’ perception of social reality (Buchanan et al, 2010). It is harmless to state that according to Gerbner, a viewers’ belief of reality is shaped by the amount of continual exposure to television combined with media messages over a long period of time.

Application of the Theory to the Study

An extremely widespread problem in our society today is the misconstrued perception many women and adolescent girls have about their bodies. The media portrays thin bodies as being beautiful and desirable, yet most of the women on television and in advertisements can be considered to be dangerously underweight when looking at them from a medical perspective (Lindquist, 2006).

Consumer culture and media imagery have a pervasive and powerful influence on girls at a critical developmental stage; American girls are socialized to cement and signal identity through visual symbols that include visible consumption of prestige goods or a particular body presentation that conforms to cultural aesthetic ideals (Becker, 2004).

A research by Becker (2004 cited by Gordon 2000 and Pipher 1994) suggest that there are several reasons to believe that adolescence places girls at particular risk as participants in consumer culture. For instance, many have suggested that adolescence is a time when American girls are challenged by simultaneous conflicting cultural demands to maintain both a trajectory of achievement and the requirements of female roles; such conflict, if severe and unresolved, may manifest in a variety of difficulties, including an eating disorder (Becker. 2004).

The concept of mainstreaming that Gerbner discusses can be linked to this problem regarding females and poor body image. According to the Cultivation Theory, heavy viewers of television will experience the effects of mainstreaming, where their attitudes and opinions are essentially created by information and portrayals they receive from the television. In the media where women’s beauty and body perfection are defined by emaciated figures, it is only natural that heavy-viewing females begin to have their attitudes shaped by this ideal. They begin to be affected by the reality constructed on the television more than the reality of the world around them. It has been discovered that heavy-viewing young women glamorize weight loss and dieting due to what they see on the television (Harrison & Hefner, 2006). In fact, the study found that “television viewing [is] linked to subsequent increases in eating pathology” (Harrison & Hefner, 2006). Another example of this idea is a study that was conducted in which the impact of television being introduced to young women in a rural community in Fiji was investigated. The young women’s opinions about their bodies in terms of weight had been drastically influenced by the television and had urges to reshape their bodies in order to fit in with the ideals that were presented to them through the television (Lindquist, 2006).

Limitation of The Cultivation Theory to the study

Even though this theory provides us with a unique way of looking at television as a highly influential part to stereotyping of women in advertising, it omitted some aspects that also seem to have an impact on the perception of people. The Cultivation Theory ignores the influence of other forms of media, such as commercials, magazines, newspapers, music, advertisements, and many others (Lindquist, 2006). Relating back to the issue of women’s obsession with thinness, it has been discovered that “both print and electronic media exposure are associated with an increased drive for thinness” (Harrison & Hefner, 2006). Commercials, magazines, and printed advertisements are heavily lined with figures that maintain the negative body image that many women have. While these aspects of the media are most likely cultivating similar attitudes that are produced by the television, it is possible that they have some sort of other effect on women’s perceptions of themselves. The attitudes that have been constructed for people by the media cannot be based solely on television.

Female Body Image and the Mass Media

Perspectives on How Women Internalise the Ideal Beauty Standard

Mass media’s use of unrealistic models sends an implicit message that distorts the healthy body image and it makes it thorny for females to attain any stage of satisfaction with their physical appearance. There has been a plethora of study to show that women are negatively affected by regular exposure to models that execute the unrealistic media ideal of beauty; nevertheless, it is not clear how these images in fact come to affect women’s satisfaction with their physical appearance (Serdar [no date]).

Female Body Image

Body image is a complicated aspect of the self-concept that concerns an individual’s perceptions and feelings about their body and physical appearance (Cash & Pruzinsky, 2002). Females of all ages seem to be particularly vulnerable to disturbance in this area; body dissatisfaction in women is a well-documented phenomenon in mental health literature. Researchers have called female’s concerns with their physical appearance “normative discontent;” implying that body dissatisfaction affects almost all women at some level (Striegel-Moore & Franko, 2002, p. 183; Tiggemann & Slater, 2004). Females have been found to experience dissatisfaction with physical appearance at a much higher rate than males (Striegel-Moore & Franko, 2002), and women of all ages and sizes display body image disturbance. It appears that body dissatisfaction is more closely linked to appearance-related cognitions than physical reality. People are at higher risk to display disturbed body image if they hold dysfunctional beliefs and cognitions about their physical appearance, regardless of body mass (Butters & Cash, 1987).

Concerns with the development of disordered eating are an especially vital issue because such patterns have been found to be a major predictor of clinical eating disorders. Body dissatisfaction and preoccupation with food, shape, and weight are some of the core features in the diagnostic criteria of both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Estimates of the prevalence of such disorders vary, but most state that 3% to 10% of females ages 15 to 29 could be considered anorexic or bulimic. Most individuals who develop an eating disorder start with what is considered “typical” dieting behavior. With increasing numbers of females reporting disturbed body image and engaging in dieting behavior, there has been a significant level of concern about the increasing incidence of eating disorders. This is especially true of individuals who display early signs of body image disturbance and disordered eating (Polivy & Herman, 2002).

Images of Women in the Media

Images in the media today project an unrealistic and even dangerous standard of feminine beauty that can have a powerful influence on the way women view themselves. From the perspective of the mass media, thinness is idealized and expected for women to be considered “attractive.” Images in advertisements, television, and music usually portray the “ideal woman” as tall, white, and thin, with a “tubular” body, and blonde hair (Dittmar & Howard, 2004; Lin & Kulik, 2002; Polivy & Herman, 2004; Sands & Wardle, 2003; Schooler, Ward, Merriwether, & Caruthers, 2004; Tiggemann & Slater, 2003). The media is littered with images of females who fulfill these unrealistic standards, making it seem as if it is normal for women to live up to this ideal. Dittmar and Howard (2004) made this statement regarding the prevalence of unrealistic media images:

Ultra-thin models are so prominent that exposure to them becomes unavoidable and ‘chronic’, constantly reinforcing a discrepancy for most women and girls between their actual size and the ideal body (p. 478).

Only a very small percentage of women in Western countries meet the criteria the media uses to define “beautiful” (Dittmar & Howard, 2004; Thompson & Stice, 2001); yet so many women are repeatedly exposed to media images that send the message that a woman is not acceptable and attractive if she do not match society’s “ultra-thin” standard of beauty (Dittmar & Howard, 2004, p. 478).

In recent years, women’s body sizes have grown larger (Spitzer, Henderson, & Zivian, 1999), while societal standards of body shape have become much thinner. This discrepancy has made it increasingly difficult for most women to achieve the current sociocultural “ideal.” Such a standard of perfection is unrealistic and even dangerous. Many of the models shown on television, advertisements, and in other forms of popular media are approximately 20% below ideal body weight, thus meeting the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa (Dittmar & Howard, 2004).

Research has repeatedly shown that constant exposure to thin models fosters body image concerns and disordered eating in many females. Almost all forms of the media contain unrealistic images, and the negative effects of such idealistic portrayals have been demonstrated in numerous studies. Schooler et al. (2004) found that women who reported greater exposure to television programming during adolescence were more likely to experience high levels of body image disturbance than females that did not report such levels of exposure. In addition, certain types of programming seem to elicit higher levels of body dissatisfaction in females. A study done by Tiggemann and Slater (2003) found that women who viewed music videos that contained thin models experienced increased levels of negative mood and body image disturbance. Music videos seem to send a particularly direct message that woman should live up to the sociocultural ideal; women portrayed are almost always direct representations of what our culture considers beautiful. In addition, music television is an increasingly influential form of media, especially for adolescent and college females.

Mainstream magazines and advertisements are another potent source of idealized images of women. This is disturbing because many women, especially adolescents, have been found to read such material on a regular basis. Findings of one study indicate that 83% of teenage girls reported reading fashion magazines for about 4.3 hours


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