Women have been fighting for their rights for a long time. They have faced various challenges in their struggles, which include sexual abuse, negative labels, and prejudice, leading to the development of the concept of sexism. Despite the fact that gender equality is yet to be fully attained across the globe, many organizations supporting equal rights are still working around the clock to ensure that women and men are equal in the society. The media, through advertisement, has continued to propagate sexism, which has had a negative implication on women and men. The current paper provides an analysis of sexism and how it is portrayed in the American media mainly through advertisements and its role in enhancing sexism as well as its impact on women. The paper also assesses the impacts of sexism and what needs to be done in countering the effects.
The Role of the Media in Enhancing Sexism in the United States Media through Advertising its Effects on Women
Throughout history, women have continued to fight for their rightful position in the society. They have done this with an intention of earning liberation and equal ordinaryprivileges as men in the society. Currently, women have attained some of the privileges that they did not enjoy in the past, for instance, the right to vote, the opportunity to be employed in same profession as men, and even contesting and clinching political seats in the congress. Such achievement shows that the world has experienced a drastic change with regard to championing the rights of women. Nonetheless, much are yet to be attained. Because of the fact that women are yet to be considered as equals to men, there have been several consequences. Such a perception leads to actions like stereotypes, sexual harassment, discrimination, and even rape. Historically, such forms of injustices have been happening to women and they should be put to an end as soon as possible. One of the major concerns that women still face and encounter in society is the issue of sexism. Sexism refers to discriminating or devaluing an individual or group of people based sex or gender. In most cases, such form of discrimination is directed against women. Sexism is grounded on elements of insolences, stereotypes, as well as cultural features. As a result of the historical and unrelenting disparity of power where men are considered as a dominant class advantaged over women, a significant, but often unnoticed, part of the definition is that sexism involves prejudice in addition to power. Therefore, feminists discard the idea that women can be sexist towards men since they do not have the influential power that men have.Sexism has been in existence since ancient times. Generally, sexism is represented in very many forms, for example, through picture, movies, and written post among other forms. Sexism is found everywhere, thus having a negative implication to womenbecause of its social, cognitive, and physical outcomes.The main form of sexism that is apparent today is propagated through the media, where it is being appliedin advertisements in the United States.
Review of Literature
It is apparent that sexism towards women in the United States is still widespread. Nonetheless, the main question is about ways through which chauvinistinsolencesare articulated towards women.The main mode through which sexism has been propagated is the media. Several images of women on products across the nation have proven the existence of sexism, particularly on advertising. According to Plakoyiannaki et al. (2008), through images, the media has portrayed the female bodies as objects, hence contributing to the notion of gender inequality and encouraging sexism. Thisissue has brought about several arguments because women have been convinced andswayed by such media representations, which is unhealthy with regard to theircontinual struggle for gender equality. The demeaning forms of advertisements have also been propellingelusive messages to women by explaining to them how they look and their rightful position in the society. Currently in the United States, women are subjected to several stereotypes, such as being air-heads. Furthermore, magazines and other forms of print advertisement depictwomen’s images that implant the notion of sexism among the minds of many people.The portrayal of women as weaker beings through television programs has resulted in women labelling themselves in a similar way.
According toStermer & Burkley (2015), it is apparent that advertising has been intensely applied in the United States media to influence and misrepresent images of women, which forms the basis for the stereotype of women as sex objects. In most cases, men who appear in media adverts are represented in decent full clothes while women are continuouslyrepresented putting on short and sexy clothing. This clearly indicates that women are portrayed as merely lesser and sexobjects as compared to men. The portrayal of women as lesser beings than men as seen in the media has been the trend for the past couple of years,increasingsexism themes and behaviors. Traditionally, such forms of sexual adverts started in the 1850’s. At that time, publicityorganizations used sexual descriptions of women in their ads to sell products. A case in hand is the tobacco production entities, which promoted their products using images of exposed women. In the preceding years, more models in advertising continued to usewomen sexually in sales promotion of products.
Figure 1: Representation of in sexual attire and a man well dressed
Furthermore, the interaction between males and females in advertising has also enhanced the sexual feeling between men and women portraying females as objects. In most cases, these ads are seen in several women and men’s magazines in the nation as opposed to newspapers.Generally, the media is certain that since women and men have differentunlikelyassessments of women in dreamy shows andmarriage, they will definitely begin to imagine that women are supposed to be treated as sexual objects the same way they are portrayed in ads. When the target audience continues to regularlysee the images of women depicted in the media as sex objects, it implies that this perception of women will remain in the back of their minds. In the opinion of Levy & Jane (2006), women have majorly been the target of consumers for the last century.Since women are the ones who spend money buying most of the commodities in the home, mainly consumer products, advertiserstarget them in different ways but habitually through magazine and other forms of ads. Despite the fact that women are the main targets and consumers of products, advertising organizations do not portray them in a significant and powerful way but asdependent on their male counterparts. Often, the ads portray women as consumers of low cost products, for instance, laundry detergent, and cosmetics. Theseads also signify the position of women in society, which is in the household. However, men’s ads depict them as strong and masculine in society innon-domestic products, for instance, cars or cameras as seen in the image below.
Figure 2: Male depiction on a car ad
Moreover, women advertising in magazine also enhance the notion of sexism by depicting them as instruments of fashion and trend. The images of women inmagazines are presented mostly dressed in skimpily outfits and,in most cases,either embracing a male counterpart for support or sometimes in a posture that portrays sexual acts (Levy and Jane 2006). Moreover, most of the ads in the United States media portray women as consumers of minor products like beauty and clothes different from other strong ads, such as technological or innovational that are exemplified by men.Such male inclined ads that promote their power are also found in male magazines. The women magazines also portray women as objects of manipulation in the society where products, such as diet tablets and pills are expected to give an impractical image of what the society wants them to look like. The main intention of the advertisers in coming up with the products for women in the female magazine is to encourage women to read for advice. Later on, the women are carried away by the information, which encouragesthem to buy these products. It makes them feel better about themselves as the society wants them to be. For example, if a woman notices a certain dress in amagazine, which she feels it can make her look sexy and better, she definitely goes for it. Furthermore, most girls also try to match the images of women in the magazines, emulating thehairstyles, face paint, clothes, and even weight. However, one thing that many women do not look at is the photo shopping involved in the magazines. In reality, many real models do not resemble the images portrayed in themagazines. The images presented are constantly twisted, hence giving women and girlsimpracticableinterpretations of beauty in the Americansociety. According to Nigham & Jha, such female representations reduce women to lesser beings by having a feeling ofcontinuous low self – esteem, eating disorders, and psychological debt, mainly to impress the society or men
According to Plakoyiannaki (2008),most of the media representations of women in the United States enhance the notion of sexism by killing the female values through advertisements. Most of the ads presented on the media, for instance, sell to audiencevalues and images. The forms of adverts represent to the populations feelings and other components that impact their mood, for example, making one to feel sad, happy, and fearful. Generally, women have established a certain general notion of “how we look” in the society, which is represented by the ideal female beauty. Since many media depictions of women, for instance, in magazines are photo shopped and represent women in another class, natural women are distressed to look like such unrealistic images. Therefore, many women and girlsprefer the look in the models presented, that is,tall and slender among other characteristics. This also affects women from other races who are forced to fit into the category, some going to an extent of performing plastic surgeries. All such inclinations only serve to enhance the idea of sexism since women refute their ideal looks and want to be like someone else.
Myers (2013)believes that the media also encourages men to play a significant role in the ads that enhance the concept of sexism through the establishment of a code of conduct. Most women end up making discriminatory conclusions about women because of how they are depicted in media commercials. In this regard, the media depiction of women influences men to perceive women as objects, a substitute for people. Consequently, when men start seeing women as objects other than fellow human beings, the concept of sexism is enlarged, which most often leads to violence since the human feeling is lost. Because of the increased photo shopping image portrayal of women in the United States ads, many women have resolved to plastic surgery. The rates of plastic surgery among women have risen over the last quarter of the century.The most prevalent forms of plastic surgery include breast expansions, liposuctions, and eyelifts among others. When young girls see these images as depicted in themedia, they are influenced to look the same way. Therefore, plastic surgery is as a result of women refuting their natural looks and wanting to look different, mainly sexy. This promotes the idea of sexism since men’s perception of women remains to be sex objects.
Berberick, (2010) maintains that the problem of media depiction of women in ads has also led to the fascinationwith looking good among females, hence leading toaprevalence of eating disorders in the United States, an issue that is prevalent to both older women and young girls. Since women fear appearing unattractive to men or other people in the society, they look down upon themselves, paving a way for men to discriminate them. For example, aging women develop the perception that if they do not look young, then they are no moreneeded and not sexy anymore. Currently, the American society is also witnessing an influx in the use of diet pills among the female population that has reacted over proportionally to many women through more weight gain and sometimes even leading to death. Moreover, recent commercials on food and women depiction have also sexualized the products, hence encouraging sexism. Women have been exploited in the ads often depicted as submissive and in acts of sex, including juveniles. This negatively portrays women as porn stars hence enhancing their perception as sexual objects and lesser than men.
Figure 3: Media depiction of women as sexual porn stars
In most cases, men have never been affected or influenced by commercials. Despite the fact that some ads also portray men as sexual objects, they do some with decorum of strength and power, mostly with a seemingly weak woman alongside.Generally, most of the men’s advertisements, despite the sexual representation, have a core message that depict them as strong, masculine, and not feminine in the least. The ads’ depiction of women will enhance sexism and will not change soon since their intention is to make women to hate their bodies since that is how they sell their products and make profits.
According to Lujan, the concept of sexism is also portrayed in the media through the settings in which women are depicted. Looking at the media representation of women in the United States, the common setting for women in television and other forms of ads is in the domestic habitation(Lujan, n.d). This representation of women is also prevalent in children’s advertisements where many girls are depicted in home settings as compared to boys. Furthermore, men are also depicted in serious places, for instance, offices, factories, or airports, which are outside residential homes. In most instances, women are depicted as represented as busy personalities in the homes. Therefore, when the consumers see these representations of the females, they assume that women are constrictedto household chores and the home is the ideal place for them.Other explicit products for women and men in ads also play as significant role in enhancing sexism.Whereas women are more linked with products such as anesthetics, body products, feminine goodsand clothing, men areoften depicted withstronger products, such as cold medicine, computers, and electronics. From a common perspective, these ads and products may seem trivial but they play a significant role subtly by impacting the consumers’ approacheson the common stereotypes for women and men, thus mainly approving women to matters surrounding the home.
Figure 4: Media Depiction of a woman as a household champion.
Media representation has also endorsed the element of sexism through unfair representation of celebrities. The main aim of most commercials run in the media is to impact the target consumers at a personal level. At times, it involves using celebrities or actors that may attract the audiences. This association of celebrities in several way also influences the consumersto buying theproduct. Among the most influentialof these endorser commercialsinvolve the athletessince many people would want to relate with them. Furthermore, most of the celebrity sportsmen and women are also renowned and many people would want to be linked with them. Most organizations have employed the endorsement of celebrity in their ads because of the positive expected impact created on the audience, hence resulting in huge profits.The organizations pay specific celebrities, mainly in sports and other fields millions of dollars to connect the celebrity and organizations.Regrettably,most of these endorsements are awarded to male celebrities or fitting males. Generally, a small fraction of female sports endorsers is depicted in the organizations’ ads. Despite the fact that this small fraction of female sports endorsers is drastically increasing, the organizations also look out for more attractive and positivesports role models. According to Ross (2009), marketing, sales promotion forms an important link between the influence of a message and the personality involved or the spokesman. Therefore, the advertisers apply the 15-item ruleincorporating three discretescopes, that is, proficiency, reliability, and attractiveness. Proficiency entails familiarity, acquaintance, and skills among other factors. On the other hand, reliability involvesconstancy, authentic, unfailing, and sincerity among others. The last dimension has to do more with the female endorser, which is the attractiveness aspect. Attractiveness mainly has to do with stylish, elegance, and sexy among others. The three scopes involved in commercials are significant in impacting the audiences on the message that the organization is trying to sell. According Ross (2009), it is proven that attractive and femalesportspersonsare the ones that get more endorsement as compared to female athletes who are not attractiveand less feminine. For example, celebrities like Maria Sharapova and Danica Patrick are depicted as more attractive. Apart from their sports accomplishment, these personalities are best bets for organizations’ ad endorsement as compared to other outstanding sports women who are considered less attractive hence enhancing the concept of sexism among women.
Whether the concept of sexism is expressed in the form of media, school, workplace,or setting, it is disparagingly detrimental to women both physically and mentally. According to Nauert (2010), it is apparent that women go through several painfulfeelingswhen they experience negative sexism occurrences. The media depiction of women through photo shop images affect the way they feelby making them believe that they are less valuable, which affects them mentally. Moreover, such feelings can also impact the way they think, feel, or behave towards men and other members of the society. The images that depict women’s position in the household also affect them in one way or another by constricting them to feel that they have a limited chance of succeeding professionally as compared to men in the sexiest society.The women who also experience sexy depiction or representation of the media go through physical stress. Firstly, since women are depicted as lesser beings as compared to men, they are likely to face physical abuse from men because of their lower position in the society. Moreover, the media depiction of women also causes other women to undergo some processes like plastic surgery and bodily transformation to create a feeling of significance, which can be physically harmful to their bodies.
Female, particularly the adolescent girls, are highly affected by the sexism depictions of the media. The modelsof a woman represented in the media makes the common women to disown their own characteristics and bodies. In fact, as a result of the sexism concepts, which are both negative and positive, many women have been noted going through psychological conditions, for instance, despair, concern, and anorexia. Several womendevelop fear when they look at photos of their bodiesand compare them to the ones depicted in the media. According to Berberick (2010), depiction of women in the media has a negative implication to women physically, cognitively and mentally.It is vivid that sexism is a concern that has negatively impacted the lives of several women as compared to men. It is a subtlematterbut has resulted inupheavals and clashes among the two main sexes, male and female. It is widely accepted that sexism is real and despite several efforts to tryingto end it,it is still a major problem in the American society. Despite the fact that women still have more to do in order to beperceived as equals to men, there needs to be a formidable solution in addressing the concept of sexism in the media. One of the ways that can be applied in trying to eradicate sexism in the American society is introducing a new level of all deliberationsinvolving sexism where both sexes can collaborate instead of formingbarricades in between, Moreover, the society also needs to forget certain traditions about women that have persisted all through generations, hence impacting the media representations.
Furthermore, from thestatus of the current society, Lujan maintains that it seems like the concept of media representationin the history of women among other factors has shown change and something critical has to be done.Many women need to be educated about their history, that is, where they are coming from and where they are headed so that they can understand what the society expects of them. In as much as many women and other organizations have tried championing for an end to the discrimination between men and women, much has to be done, particularly on women who have decided to be eroded by the society. Education also needs to play a significant role on the concept of sexism so that the society can be enlightened. For example, if the society is serious about ending sexism, then one of the weapons to be applied in dealing with the situation is educating the society to know and understand the topic. Afterwards, the negative effects of sexism can be explainedto peoplefor them to understand how bad it is.
The understanding of the feminism concept seems to havebeen misunderstood. Feminism turned out to be what it was not intended through creating some form of clash between feminists and men when in real it should be uniting factor. Despite the fact that women are mostly affected by sexism, men have beenvictims of sexism in some instances. This implies that sexism can be detrimental to both men and women. Even though men have started going through sexism actions, it is significant that both sexes collaborate in dealing with the problem of sexism completely. Therefore, eliminating sexism is not a small task due to the many dynamics and prevalence of the menace. Essentially, one way of ending gender disparity is stopping all kinds of sex related biases. Several questions have been raised concerning ways through which women can be liberated from restraints of sexual bias, which is possible.
It is definite that sexism is real in the American society and the media plays a significant role in perpetrating it, mainly through advertisements. Generally, commercials are aimed at selling products, though women are frequentlyrepresented as objects that promote them. This is attained through deliberaterepresentation of women mainly by focusing on their body partsinstead of theintellectual capacity and ability. Women portrayal in the media follows gender stereotypes, which have been in existence for several years and depict females as dumb, feeble, and incompetentin undertaking males’ roles.Thus, they need to be contained at home to take care of the household. These perceptions influence the minds of people to think that females are lesser beings compared to males. The media depiction of women does not only portray women as lesser than men but also sexualize their bodies, henceimplying that women are only significant in terms of their bodies.Such representationsdistress women both physically and psychologically. Depicting women as sex objects can trigger different forms of sexual harassment, such as rape, which expose women todetrimental situationswhere they become victims of physical violence. Besides, such media representation of women also affects them mentally because the bodies ofmodels presented in the media ads impact their minds, which makes them hate their natural looks and think that they can only be accepted in the society if they look like the media images. Through such feelings, many young and old women live with depression. As a way of dealing with the distress, they resort to undergo some processes that harm their bodies, for instance, plastic surgery, and diet pills among other actions in the name of wanting to become the model type. Generally, sexism in the media is real andfeasiblythe challenging concept to deal with. Nonetheless, there are several procedures through which the society can be enlightened in reducing casesof sexism as propagated by the organization capitalistic minds that are aimed at generating profits. The media can also be used a means to ending sexism. This can be done by depicting women in a positive way and demonstrating that they are equal to men and able to take up respectful positions in the society just as men.
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