Women and Advertising

Powerful Essays
In the year 1999, $120 billion was spent on marketing products to consumers (Killing Us Softly 3). Along with products, the advertising industry sells the intangible: “Ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success of worth, love and sexuality, popularity, and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be. Sometimes they sell addictions” (Kilbourne, Beauty and the Beast). When the average person is bombarded by 2,000-3,000 ads a day (Kilbourne, address), it is impossible to remain unaffected by the aforementioned concepts and stereotypes (Still Killing Us Softly, video). Ads use insecurities to promise betterment with the purchase of a certain product. They are breeding grounds for stereotypes; most, if not all, are negative. They provide impossible body images for women to strive towards, and sadly, many women do. The repercussions of these images and stereotypes are quite serious. The female body image is distorted, and many women and girls, in effort to reach the distorted image, develop serious eating disorders. The perpetuation of sex in ads creates a casual attitude towards sex. Sex is used to sell almost anything: from lingerie to makeup, perfume to food and household items. Advertising tells viewers that if they aren’t sexy, they are not acceptable. The female body is repeatedly objectified in advertising, and whenever a human is turned into a thing, violence is going to follow. Rapes and beatings often result from the dehumanization of women (Still Killing Us Softly, video). Advertising creates unhealthy and even dangerous stereotypes and mindsets in the people of today’s society.

Advertisements play upon people’s insecurities, promising the viewer that, with the help of the product in question, the viewer can become a better person. There are many insecurities taken advantage of, but the most obvious and frequent is beauty. Women are strongly affected by this. After all, how could they not be when media is promoting a body type thinner, taller, and sexier than their own? Less than 10% of the female population is genetically able to be as thin and tall as the women used in the ads ( Advertising sells an impossible image for most women. Many times there is an indirect message such as a beautiful woman wearing the makeup the ad is selling, but sometimes it’s more blatan...

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...ols to combat media’s flippant use of sex in ads, and media literacy classes to teach young people, girls especially, how to see through the techniques of the advertising industry.

Friedrich, Abby. “All of Your Insecurities Wrapped Up In a Thirty Second Spot.”

Giedrys, Sally Anne. “Creating a Curriculum To Help Girls Battle Eating Disorders.” The Harvard University Gazette. Harvard University. 11 February 1999.

Kilbourne, Jean. Address. Viterbo Presentation. April 22, 1996.

Kilbourne, Jean. “Beauty…and the Beast of Advertising.” Media & Values Winter 1990. Center for Media Literacy. Issue 49. 3 March 2004. .

“Killing Us Softly 3”. Video. Cambridge Documentary Films. 2000.

“Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women.” Video. Cambridge Documentary Films. 2000.

Thomas, Jennifer. “Websites Promote Anorexia and Bulimia as a ‘Lifestyle’.”


Udovitch, Mim. “A Secret Society of the Starving.” New York Times Magazine. 8

September 2002.

Zarchikoff, Rebecca. “Sexual Images of Women to Sell Products- ‘Fascism’ and ‘Bodyism’”. University of Victoria.
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