Exposed: Women in Advertising

History of  Women In Advertising

    The negative portrayal of women in advertising can be seen as far back as the 1850’s. Women have always been seen as subordinate to men, powerless, sex objects, and “happy homemakers”. In commercials, women were typically portrayed as being at home, while the men were shown being outdoors or in a business setting. The advertising industry has played a huge role in the exploitation and stereotyping of women. “Stereotypes provide a limited "vocabulary of interaction," encouraging people to think and speak of women primarily in terms of their relationship to men, family, or their sexuality” (Ferguson). Women have always been seen as being motherly, domestic, dependent, sexual, and submissive. Since the 1850’s women have been exploited by advertisers.

                During the late 1850’s, only women’s faces appeared on pinups; consumers purchased them so that they could have a picture of these beautiful women (Reichert). As time progressed, pinups went from only capturing women’s heads to capturing their whole bodies. Before WWI, women were used in advertising and they wore clothes that covered their whole bodies. Even though, these women were fully dressed, advertisers would cause something to happen that would entice the consumers (such as the wind would blow and the woman’s long shirt would lift to her ankle).Once advertisers realized that attaching pretty women to a product would increase their profit, that’s when advertisers started using women’s beauty and sex appeal to market products. Sex in Advertising stated that one of the factors that contributed to women in advertising was their desire for liberation and freedom. During mid-late 1930’s, not only were advertisers benefiting from the exploitation of women, so were some women who wanted to utilize advertisers to rebel against the stereotypes that women were submissive and domestic.  

    The book Sex in Advertising stated that “it’s not that women are exploited in advertising more now than in the past, it’s that women are more explicitly exploited now.”  In the past, women could wear a skirt up to her knees and that was considered too much. Now days, women can be completely naked in advertisements while only covering their nipples and vaginas with their hands.  Erotic modern advertising is not a new thing. “Rather, it slowly evolved from a subtle approach to a more explicit presentation as psychological theorist began to develop new perspectives on the underlying drives that established emotional ties with consumers and contributed to buying actions” (Reichert). Advertisers typically direct their advertisements towards women, because women do 80%-85% of the household shopping, which is why advertisers have always tried to make emotional connections with women (Ganahl). Has there been a significant change in the representation of the women in our society today, or are they still seen as weak sexual-beings?