Rhetorical Analysis on Towards a New Paradigm in the Ehtics of Advertising by John Alan Cohen

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“Towards a New Paradigm in the Ethics of Advertising” is a scholarly essay written by John Alan Cohan. Cohan aims to identify the unethical ways women are portrayed in advertising today. This essay explains common ways that women are exploited in advertising and why is each is hurtful and wrong. Then after outlining the unjust practices in women’s advertising, Cohan call for a “paradigm shift” in advertising, where he claims that ads can still be profitable, without harming women in the process (323). Cohan in writing this essay recognizes that women are being misrepresented and harmed by ads. He feels that this issue needs to be brought to advertisers attention, his main audience, and hopes for women’s representation in ads will be healed.
To start off Cohan’s essay, he opens up on a positive note, as to ease the reader into the rather immoral issue of exploiting women in advertising. He firsts notes that there is “a good deal of good advertising” out there (Cohan 323). He provides the example of Lancome cosmetics, which unlike many other companies, is making a conscious effort to not heavily touch up their models. Cohan goes onto connect this seemingly encouraging example of advertising, to his main claim that advertisers need to “establish images that encourage you to ‘find your own beauty’, rather than images of unattainable, idealized, perfection” (323). He provides this example, opposite to what his paper will actually be about for two reasons. First off, he wants to establish what needs to be done in women’s advertising is much like what is already being done by Lancome, but one a larger scale. Then at the same time, he has already acknowledged the counter argument that he foresaw may be used against his argument, even ma...

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...“screen advertising and refuse material they deem unethical” (Cohan 331)
Cohan overall leaves a strong impression on the reader that change in women’s advertising is very important and necessary. He effectively shows that women’s advertising is often unethical and ultimately needs to stop degrading women and move to more positive ways of advertising. Although, upon digging deeper in to Cohan’s specific claims on idealized imagery advertising, a gap emerges. Cohan calls the women in the ads who have been idealized “perfect” “ideal”, women that the “average women” will never be able to look like/be (327), but in all actuality, how can advertisements, or anyone for that matter, define what is “perfect”, “average”, “pretty”, “ugly”? Cohan overlooks this phenomenon, of the ever evolving, never definable term: beauty, therefore creating a need for deeper analysis.

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