Created by WS-71, 2015

Sexism in Advertising—Essay 2

1. Definition of sexism

At first we start with the description of the term sexism because we thought it would be important and interesting for our critical examination to know the background of this term. In the spelling dictionary, the “duden”, sexism is defined as the imagination that one of both genders has advantage over the other one. From this it follows that discrimination, oppression and replacement appear, especially against women just because of their biological gender. Sexism has its effects in social, juridical and economical spheres. We can find the term in worldviews (e.g. in religion), attitudes (e.g. women have to be in the kitchen) and prejudices (women are the allegedly weak gender). Therefor there is a justification for acts of violence (mostly against women), because of this gender differences.

Furthermore in the USA, more exact in the 1960s, there was a women ́s movement in which sexism was connected with racism for the first time. With this connection of both, sexism gets the critical intention to identify and uncover social injustices and to work towards their improvement and removal.                                

2. Connection to advertising

Advertisements play a big role since mass media have appeared. With the help of them organisations and companies try to merchandise and sale their products before competitors do. When we think about advertisement, we could determine that nearly every advert is based on a form of discrimination or prejudices. This fact can be underlined by nearly all Hipp and Pampers promotions that we could see in television. For us, it shows that only women have the task to bring up and care for their newborn and little children, because no man is shown and takes part in those commercials. The same applies to almost every commercial for baby care articles. We would say that this is discrimination of both sides, men and women, because the men are shown as if they are not responsible for those tasks and women have still the role of being at home and managing the household which includes caring for children and supply the man after a hard day of work. We could imagine that this kind of commercial still exists to support the simplest way of thinking of the old roles of working husbands and caring wives. This are the easiest ways for customers to work with the old prejudices, because if we are serious, those views are still in the minds of the people. Today, even when there are many campaigns and movements for the gender equality, there is still no fully acceptance of new innovative role models.

Another example for stereotype advertisement are those for cars like Nissan, Audi or Mercedes Benz. In all of them we see men in the focus. The clips show men who are successful, rich and desirable. They symbolize an idol for the consumers (mainly men) and in combination with those desirable cars they are standing for power and independence. If at all women appear in such clips, they are young, beautiful and flawless. And mostly they are standing outside of the car or sitting on the passenger seat. Once again the women is in the role of an object and the good looking appendage and once more another typical role model is shown, cause` is a women not the housewife, she plays the role as an accessories beside a men idol.                                

3. Problem of sexism in advertising: impact on women ́s self- image (three examples)

Those strategies of marketing have especially on women wide influence. In the following I will state three examples of what this influence could do with women`s feelings and self- images. At first this discriminating advertisements have impact on how we see us as women. We feel less strong and intelligent, especially in men dominated spheres, be it in jobs or hobbies, when we get remembered through commercials that we are women. This is mostly caused by the stereotypes that they convey (stereotypes in part before). Media and commercials play a very important role in our economic times and it is not avoidable that children are raised by those still in the minds of people existing gender roles, where the women is the passive part of the genders. The second thing is that those commercials are influencing our views of others and how we treat them. Men are portrayed as aggressive, powerful and successful while women are decorations, which always have to be pretty, young and passive. Mostly they have no connection to the product except it has something to do with baby care or household. When I see those commercials I always think “Oh they are all have this pure skin and healthy hair”, that I wonder for myself why is it not my hair or skin or how they get it. And this is totally wrong! But that is what advertisings intend. Whereby I change over to the third point what sexist commercials do to women. With this thoughts of prettiness an how do you get this, you go in a shop and buy exactly those advertised products. It is all about psychology and the picture of women and their roles in our minds. Everyday women see in television that they have to be younger, more beautiful and thinner. The companies trot out lies while they are handling our deepest thoughts about being pretty to get what we want. All is based on beauty and how we get it. In commercials for men you never see young boys with pure skin and flawless bodies. They are at the age of thirty to forty- five with three- day beard and in casual, fancy clothes or in suits. Women are reduced on their bodies. Even the thinnest models are getting arranged, remove here some wrinkle or here some shape. No surprise that illnesses like anorexia or bulimia are on the rise since the 1980s. Certainly I have to say that all those commercials are not inadequate in themselves. It is the society on which the advertisements, television shows and magazines are trying to adjust to. In my opinion commercials are a kind of mirror for the society. They, more specifically the companies, have no other choice when they want to sell products and want to keep up with the times.        

4. Example of sexist advertising

After the examination with stereotype and less serious discriminatory advertisement we have picked out one example for sexist commerce, which we want to describe and analyze in the following.                                        

4.1 Description

The advertisement spot for the men deodorant AXE is an excellent instance for a sexist ad. Especially the clip in which "the AXE effect" is shown we can see that it bases definitely on sexism. At the beginning of the clip the consumer hears the twittering of birds. At the same time we can see the naked feet of a person who runs quickly. In the next moment the viewer gets to know that the naked feet belong to a women who stops for a little moment. She has long brown hair, is very petite and she wears only a small red bikini. The whole scene plays in a forest probably in a tropical region. While she stops it seemed as if she smells something which she not knows what it is. Then she runs again. She has to jump over a lot of branches. All the time she is very fast as if she escapes from someone or something. While she is running she hectically looks around. At the same time the focus changed. The viewers got to see how the breasts of the woman began to wiggle while she runs with big steps. All this happens while an impressive and powerful music is to hear in the background. It seems as if the music gets louder und faster while the woman runs. Suddenly more women appear. They all come out of the forest and all of them wear just a small bikini. They do the same thing like the first woman. They run quickly in the same direction. From some of these the viewer got to see how their breasts wiggle. Now they run through a pathless terrain. The music gets seemingly louder and faster. Directly after that we can see a big ocean in which an uncountable number of woman swims. Now the change between the scenes got faster. The women who run began to shove each other. Here is the quantity of women uncountable, too.


They came running down a mountain. Again the focus goes on the bosom of the faster and faster running women. After that the viewer got to know that the women who swim in the water want to get to the land or to an island where also the running women are. It seems as if every woman wants to be the first at a certain event or place. Abruptly a man appears. At first we see his face for a short moment of time. He looks incredulous and surprised. More and more women run in his direction. Then he begins to make strange moves with his arms. All the women run like a drove of wild animals. It seems as if he tries to dance. Then we see the topless man with the short dark blond hair and a small beard. He has a deodorant in his hand and begins to spray himself with it while he is smiling. The music gets faster again. The woman who appears first peers and is the first who reaches the man. He looks very satisfied in that moment when all women reached him. At the end of that clip a female voice said "Spray more, get more, the AXE effect". The clip lasts 59 seconds.                                

4.2 Analysis

This short clip wants to show that a man who wears this deodorant is covetable and attractive for women. The brand AXE wants to make clear that every single woman who smells the fragrance of this AXE deodorant does what the man who wears it wants her to do. The main idea behind the advertising clip is that women became animals when they smell or see such an attractive man. Here it is ascribed that women just look at externals when they see a male human. The clip bases on the assumption that a man can have all women when he decides to wear AXE. But the fact is that the clip reduces women on their externals. All women are beautiful, skinny, young, in one word they symbolize the current beauty ideal. There is no woman shown who does not correspond with this ideal. Here we can see that in adverts produced for men only allegedly perfect women appear. The women get reduced to their bodies. An extremely obvious example is the way how the bosom of the running women is shown. Several times the viewer sees the wiggling breasts in close-up picture. The aim is to show a potential costumer how he can appeal if he buys and wears this product. Most men react to this kind of pictures. The effect is often that they buy the product and the company has success and earns a lot of money. The whole clip can be seen as a dream of a men. He wants to be wanted. All women just want him and he can choose who he wants to have. To sum up this is a very sexist advertising and it is marketing to the disadvantage of all women.        

5. Counterexample: Dove commercials

Since 2004, Dove advertised with women having no 90- 60- 90 measurements. Plump, but even very beautiful women with humps are hopping through the television screen with bikinis or underwear and use the cream of the company Dove. Another example is the “Dove Patches” commercial where some women (who have some problems with their body) at first have a conversation with a psychologist and get a patch, which allegedly makes them feel more beautiful and comfortable. They have to keep a video diary and after the fourth day all of the participants feel a bit more attractive and people around compliment them. After some days the women met again with the psychologist to find out what is in those beauty patches. For their big surprise, there is nothing in it and the women realize that the feelings came from themselves. When I saw this advertising for the first time, that was before I was looking for some counterexamples, I found it very touching, because mostly women have some problems with their bodies but that is all a question of attitude. In those commercials women are in the focus and they try to help us to see ourselves as attractive and that every women is beautiful in her own way. You do not have to be thin and skinny to be wonderful and attractive, you have to be completely yourself and show it to the outside. That is all very positive but when I think about it twice, it is again a marketing strategy to sell beauty products to women that make them lovelier as they already are. Of course that is the intention of all advertisings but those who have no contorted view of thin and seamless women are still in preference to those in which women are decoration and accessories for successful men.

6. Sources