Gender Advertisments

Woman holding perfume

The late sociologist Erving Goffman argues that the most negative thing that we can say about the gender displays in ads is that they do not look strange to us-that is, depictions of reality, they do not look peculiar or weird. They actually look kind of normal. It is only when we start to look at them carefully that we begin to see how strange and weird they actually are- and begin the process of thinking independently, for ourselves, about what the culture holds up as normal

In advertising, female hands are shown not as assertive or controlling of their environment but as letting the environment control them. For instance, when women are shown holding something, it often looks as though it is just resting there- not being held in a strong manner or they are represented as just using the ends of the fingers to hold objects, delicately and lightly, rather than using the whole hands. Furthermore, women are shown in a kind of breathless posture-though the world around them is too much for them to cope with or holding themselves protectively, as if the body is a delicate thing that needs support. Also women are constantly shown touching themselves and there really is no part of the body that is off-limits. In contrast, Men appear to be active, alert, dominant, strong, and balanced. These characteristics are shown through standing upright, displaying muscles, and having women hang on them. This stark difference between the female and male roles in advertisment shows exactly the patriarchal  roots in our society, women models are seen more as objects for display rather than indivuals.

Furthermore, Goffman says advertising takes something that already exists in the culture and concentrates it even more. It privileges it in the culture, and by giving it that priority and emphasis-while at the same time ignoring other things-it creates new meanings about gender. It often times reinforces the dominant culture of the society. Although much progress has been made throughout the years, the advertisment industry still has much work to do in order to humanize female models in advertisment.


The Codes of Gender. Sut Jhally. Blip,2011. Documnetary.


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