The objectification of women has disturbing history; from how past generations were shown “Even a woman can manage it” ads, how lots of ads with women in them will expose significant parts of their bodies, and how pretty much all of these ads are Photoshopped to create nonexistent photos of women cast under a nonexistent spell by the product.
Have the industry standards changed, however? Is contemporary advertising better now? Or is it same-old same-old?
This question is tough for me to informedly answer, because a majority of the contemporary ads displayed in Jean Kilbourne’s documentary, Killing Us Softly 4, had to do with products I was never interested in, growing up. Most of the ads involved alcohol, and/or sex, because apparently sex sells. As a teen, I never had a desire to have an intimate relationship because friendship felt easier, and at 20 years old I have remained sober. After thinking about it, I think that a sexism does still loom and gives people the old stereotypes of women and girls.
Sex, as in showing sexual content, really sells, according to social scientists, because even if only 8 percent of an ad’s message is received by the conscious mind (Kilbourne, 2011), people like to notice sexually relevant information, so ads with sexual content get noticed (Mulvey, 2012). A biological trait like that is unlikely to change, so the general market goal probably won’t either.
The world in general has stood up to this industry, yet I have noticed some ever-present female objectifying. At the Shoppers Drug Mart by my university, I always have to walk past the women’s beauty section, as it’s by the entrance. The women displayed always seemed too pretentiously perfect. I also sometimes noticed the prices for their products. Take this ad Shoppers Drug Mart showed in 2017, for example.
Not only is it a picture perfect image of a woman, but the price is significant; $115 for 50 millilitres, $148 for 80. While there is expensive men’s cologne in the world, this GoodGirl fragrance also pressures women while also sexualizing them.
Most of the time, a product both genders need, like deodorant, will cost more for the girl, indirectly taking advantage of girls who may feel pressured by advertising. Deodorant for men generally costs $1.15 per ounce and $1.44 for women, despite having generally the same ingredients (Vanderberg, 2018).
It’s still a tough, sexualized world.
Killing Us Softly 4. (2011). Retrieved from https://studylib.net/doc/8016768/kiling-us-softly-4-transcript
Mulvey, J. (2012). Why Sex Sells…More Than Ever. Business News Daily. Retrieved from https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2649-sex-sells-more.html
Vanderberg, M. (2018). Many people swear by deodorant marketed to men regardless of their gender – here’s why. Insider. Retrieved from https://www.insider.com/is-mens-deodorant-better-2018-9
Williamson, H. (2018). Pink Tax: Women are still paying up to 34% more for toiletries because of their gender. Metro. Retrieved from https://metro.co.uk/2018/07/28/pink-tax-women-are-still-paying-up-to-34-more-for-toiletries-because-of-their-gender-7770225/