After reviewing the task I used a website called 'Gender Ad's Project' to select the media image I will analyse.
Gender stereotyping, specifically relating to women, has been an aspect commonly featured in the advertising industry for well over half a century. In capitalist society, gender based adverts are created with the specific intent to sell commodities that appeal directly to the man or woman buying the product. Advertisements from around the 1950’s focus their message at a predominantly male audience, as at the time males were seen as the ones with the power who undoubtedly will be buying the advertised product. However, in later years, as the stereotypical image of the housewife begins to become less prolific, adverts focus on playing to gender concepts that were designed to specifically appeal to a woman based audience. It should also be noted that the advertising industry consisted almost completely of men, and so the gender based advertisements created were often sexist and stereotypical.
“The film and television industries are dominated by men, as is the advertising industry” (R. Coward, p33)
The advertisement displayed above was created for ‘Hoover’ in 1953 and is a fine example of the sexist, gender stereotypical marketing that was abundant in the 1950’s. The illustration used to promote the product displays a beautiful woman absolutely content with a dull commodity that is used for uninteresting house tasks. The ridiculous concept reflects the stereotypical image of a young housewife, whose only roll in life was to serve her husbands every need. The housewife concept is further supported with the additional type that reads; ‘Christmas morning (and forever after) She’ll be happier with a hoover’. The statement implies that not only is the woman featured on the advert content with a hoover as a Christmas present, but also that it will affect her emotional state in a positive way, effectively making her a happier person. The combination of the illustration and supporting type create an outcome that clearly evidences the stereotypical view of women commonly held by males at the time.
“Advertising in society builds precisely on the creation of an anxiety to the effect that, unless we measure up, we will not be loved” (R. Coward, p38)
Another message that becomes clear as the advert is analysed is the promotion of male empowerment. An elitist male ideology is simultaneously promoted alongside the stereotypical housewife image. The advert achieves this feat by focusing directly at a male target audience. By outlining males as the only audience of a commodity marketed towards women, the advert is stereotypically proclaiming that males are the ones with the money, an idea that goes hand in hand with the housewife image originally communicated by the advert. The male power concept is further evidenced through the woman’s body language. The advert creates an image that portrays almost child-like mannerisms, as the woman is lead down on the floor looking at the hoover the same way a child would look at a new toy. The viewer then subconsciously creates a social perception that the woman portrayed is socially equal to a child, a notion that further supports the elitist male ideology communicated by the advertisement.
“The saturation of society with images of women has nothing to do with men’s natural appreciation of objective beauty…and everything to do with an obsessive recording and use of women’s images in ways which make me comfortable. Clearly this comfort is connected with feeling secure or powerful” (R. Coward, p34)
Additionally, another gender stereotype that is communicated by the hoover advert is the woman as a consumer. As mentioned in first paragraph, the illustration featured on the advertisement shows the woman absolutely content with her cleaning based commodity. The happy facial expression she exhibits helps communicate a message that through the attainment of commodities happiness can be achieved, a message that is crucial to the success of consumerist ideology. The concept is further supported through the placement of her hand, which is positioned on the hoover to almost show her gratification and ownership of the product. By portraying women as a consumer to the male audience the advert is essentially creating a stereotype that through the consumption of commodities happiness can be achieved. Communicating ideals like this are an important tool utilised by advertisers that allows them to create product based desire amongst unaware recipients.
“Where women’s behaviour was previously controlled by state, family or church, control of women is now also effected through the scrutiny of women by visual ideals” (R. Coward, p39).
Coward, R., 'The look', in Thomas, J. (ed.) (2000), Reading images, Basingstoke: Palgrave.