The role of gender takes a prominent place in the modern world. Therefore, it is necessary to find out which commercial and business areas it affects. With the development of gender studies in educational science, the term “femininity” was synthesized by biological, social and personal characteristics.
The main attributes of gender differentiation are related to the phenomena of masculinity and femininity. These images are present in all tissues of the human society. Masculinity and femininity as the main ways of gender mainstreaming have a common generic trait - feature attribution. H. Devor reveals that “gender role characteristics reflect the ideological connections in underlying the dominant gender schema in North America” (1989).
Thus, nowadays there is still obvious masculine domination over the expected gender equality. In the Kimmel's interpretation it “appears in the form of special and peculiar space where realized and reproduced practices and rituals to ensure the transition from boys to adulthood” (46). Masculinity performs as a shield that allows its possessor to feel secure.
A powerful factor in the formation of public consciousness is the means of mass communication. They have fixed certain notions and stereotypes in the public’s minds. The pace of life and the flow of information have increased markedly in the modern world today. As a result, stereotypes are of great importance for the proper functioning of society, because they serve a role of the “economy of thought”, contribute to the well-known reduction process of learning, and assist with understanding of what is happening in the world. Additionally, their role in the communication process is extremely high. They consolidate information about homogeneous phenomena, facts, objects, processes, people, etc. They allow to share information, understand each other, participate in joint events, develop a common vision, or share values.
Gender may be defined as a specific set of cultural characteristics that determine social behavior of women and men and their relationships with each other. Thus, gender does not simply refer to women or men, but to the connections between them and to the process of social construction of these relations.
Especially clearly manifested gender stereotypes may be found in the sphere of advertising. Usually a woman serves either as a part of kitchen or bedroom interior, or as a seductress, courting and tempting, whilst the man is depicted as a sexual hunter. This is most often seen in the commercials on TV. It follows that “in our consumerist culture, objectifying women has been the primary target of countless brands, companies and corporations in order to sell their products much more easily” («Dehumanization and Objectification of Women in Ads»).
Typical female image in advertising includes a number of features that are associated with passivity, excessive emotionality, primitive social and communication skills, and sometimes even a lower cognitive level. Women are believed to have a special attitude to clothing, shoes and accessories. However, the character created by advertising is not fashionable, but rather ridiculous. Women are associated with passivity and aimed at serving the interests of their men and families. An increasing number of promotional products is based on sexuality.
A woman has become the most seductive, desirable, and, therefore, the main character in the mythology of consumption. Her image and body have become tools and means. The lion's share of advertised products is shown on the background of a beautiful woman or the female body parts. A showing shoulder, neck, or upper thigh (obvious elements of eroticism and sexual stimulation) arouses male imagination. It is involving the viewer in a way similar to the game that involves the advertised product. In other words, the female forms, body, figure, etc. are often able to awaken in some way the deeply hidden needs of the buyer. In such a way, women are used in advertising as objects of sexual exploitation that boost customer needs and serve as a catalyst for sales. As a result, men perceive a woman's body as an appeal to purchase and possess.
Another significant and interesting element in advertising is external shape of the character represented by clothes. Apparently, here are unexpected differences between men and women. These differences in clothing perform a dual function. On one hand, they hide the signs of an uncivilized “wild” sexuality. On the other hand, this “second skin” serves as an evaluation of self and others. In this case, women's clothing has a different function than that of men and is evaluated differently. An aesthetic criterion of clothing is closely linked to the physical ideals (growth parameters, shape, weight and masculinity). This outer shell manifests the collective needs and requirements that era, culture and society impose on men and women. In essence, both of them rarely meet the ideal and both sexes differ significantly in the understanding of what it means to look good.
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Women in most promotions are only half-dressed. Even in such cases, as a rule, in the course of advertising they are carefully undressed by removal of any items of clothing. Kilbourne admits that “all women are vulnerable in culture in which there is such widespread objectification of women bodies, such glorification of disconnection…” (281). In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the role of modern women is highly underestimated by commercials and advertising. These stereotypes are deeply rooted in the culture and no anti-sexist propaganda can solve this problem fully.