Feminine Advertising

In my Intro to Drama course, we were discussing the play A Doll’s House. The play centers around a woman who is living in her husband’s home. She has no real purpose in her life, other than to fulfill the duties as a woman of the Victorian era. The duties include keeping your mouth shut and doing anything you are told. When she shames herself by committing forgery, her husband is the one humiliated, with no regard for her well-being.

Our professor even gave us a handout which had an excerpt from a women’s manual entitle, Eve’s Glossary. One of the things it says all women must possess is delicacy, above all else, otherwise “her moral conduct is unpleasant.” In addition many of the excerpts from other Victorian readings had information on how to be a “good wife” by obeying your husband at any cost. I took the liberty of looking up a few of the rules for a Victorian woman.

When reading this I thought to myself, what a degrading and oppressive time for women. And then my teacher brought up Cosmo. One of the most widely read magazines in the country made “exclusively” for women.

This magazine that is designed for women seems to read like a modern-day women’s manual on how to continually please their man-only this time it’s sexually pleasing your man. This magazine is telling women that for you to be happy, you must buy trendy clothes, work-out, eat healthy, and have a great sex life. does this really sound that different from what they were forcing women to act like in the 1800s?

I always think it’s funny how everything seems to connect within my education. Last year in Advertising Principles, my teacher talked about how advertising in the 1950s played on the idea of social anxieties with both women and men. These ads constantly played on the ideals of their society and how important it was to keep up appearances.

This girdle ad is doing just that. This girdle is said to be necessary for “The pretty American figure”. And you might argue that we are far from that today. But think about a lot of the women’s ads today.

This Venus ad is playing on the social anxiety that a woman can’t have a any hair on her legs for a first date, or anytime she is with a man, because she won’t be sexy enough to kiss/embrace him.

And just last night, I watched a documentary on Coolhunting which had a segment on “The Midriff” and how women in today’s society are trying to embody the unrealistic women they see in advertising today.

I don’t know about you but I don’t know if a lot of my friends run around drenched in water looking like that. If you have 5 minutes, check out the video because it really is an interesting look at how advertising is affecting girls, especially the young ones.

Midriff clip


The reason I’m writing this is because one day I’m going to be the person coming up with advertisements. Am I going to one day be responsible for girls running around half-naked and acting like sluts because that’s how ads are encouraging them to act? The documentary explores the idea that ad men research teens, and then display them on TV as an amped up version-sexier, sluttier, dumber-and then the kids start to mirror their television counterparts and then it’s a cycle. I worry that one day I’m going to become so wrapped up in that cycle that my own kids could be trapped in that same circle.

How do we avoid harming our society with advertising? Is it by making it dull and non-related to pop culture references? Or is there a way to incorporate new image of females into advertising?

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