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Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising Essay


As Kendall (4) identify that, sociology has the central role of helping people better understand not only themselves but also the world in which they live in. According to Kendall (4), sociology is aimed at helping people see how particular behaviors of groups were shaping the behaviors of others to a particular form.

According to Kendall (4), it is generally a mistake for people to think of their actions as only relating to them because such was an individual choice. As the Kendall (4) identify, sociology believes that actions, even when done from the belief on individualism, has a collective aspect.

Common sense is another concern of Kendall. According to Kendall (4), common sense by its larger interpretation means a typology of behaviors which are ‘common’.

According to Kendall (4), sociology understands that to develop a ‘common sense’, the individual is influenced by the daily observations of behaviors not only in real life but also from other Medias of socialization such as television. Thus far, the media is an avenue of influence. In the media world today, advertisements are a commonality.

The general intent of advertisement according to Biermann (188), is to influence behaviors. As sociology takes it, an advertisement is an economic strategy which uses an attitudinal and emotional appeal to influence behaviors of people to those economically desired by the firm.

Basing on this sociological understanding, it is clear that the realm of advertising squarely falls on the scope of sociology. According to Biermann (188), in sociology, this will be under persuasion. By its definition, persuasion in sociology refers to techniques of influencing behaviors.

Feminist issues are also discussed in sociology. The ideas of gender balance, gender bias and gender stereotyping are some of the issues which sociology concerns with. On this ground, one can conclude that the minds of feminists represent that of sociology.

Bearing this in mind, is sociology aware of how, why and when women have been portrayed in advertisements? In finding the answers to this question, two dimensions will be taken. First will be to discuss how the idea of persuasion has moved on to become perception. According to the view of the paper, the advertisements though being used for persuasion have employed techniques which abuse and distort perception of women.

On the second, the paper presents what sociology and sociologists say about women in advertisement and second will be to look at the presentation of this throughout history. All through the paper, various sociological concepts will be discussed to identify the main issues in sociology which relate to the topic.

The thesis of this paper is that through feminism, sociology has always been concisions on advertisements and has identifies such as one avenue which has historically stereotyped women and thus influenced negative perceptions on the status of women.

18th and 19th century

Keskinen (198) identifies that in the 18th and into early19th century, women received abuses and were locked from mainstream society. As Keskinen (198) identifies, it was during this time that the feminism movements, together with many other forces of groups which had been abused for a long time, arose.

These forces were from a group of sociologists who were concerned on how the society had effectively maligned women from active socialization.

As Keskinen (198) identifies, though the war on gender stereotyping was worn on other fronts, the use of women in advertisements became the new fronts which were now used to try and maintain the male dominance. According to sociologists, advertisements at this time depicted women with a sense of innocence, ignorance, beauty and hospitality (Keskinen 198).

As the sociologists identify, on the face, these would have meant good depiction (Keskinen 198). According to Keskinen this was not the case and the overall effect reached was one of the woman gender as the woman as submissive to men (198). As Keskinen (198) concludes, the depiction was that of women as the slaves of the men.

According to Keskinen, this sad depiction of women was greatly seen in posters which had a quality of mostly presenting women with a countenance of facing away from the camera.

As Keskinen, states the idea of having the face away as well as depiction of them as shy and childish as was the commonality in the adverts reached the impact of women as the submissive too because it showed them as not confident enough in their status as women (198). In summary, the belief of Keskinen is that at this time, advertisements were negating the perceptions on women to that of a weak gender.

According to sociologists who have studied this period, such portrayal of women as shy, childish and thus submissive was one important reason why the feminist movement grew as an opponent to the negative representation of the feminist gender.

Analyzed this way, it is clear to note the important point which is that from the negative depiction of the qualities of women, sociologists advancing for women rights emerged in strength. This emergency by itself represents the consciousness of sociology at this time on the stereotypical portrayal of women in the advertisements. By far, feminism was to be the riding force going into the 20th century (Cortese 134).

The 20th century

In 20th century sociology, advertisement using women were of negative impact to the status of women. The idea of status forms a critical focus of sociology. It forms the four important components of the social structure, which is studied in sociology. According to Kendall (139), status means the rank that one holds within the society. It forms one of the important components of identify of people within the society.

This means that status defines how other people behave towards one. As Kendall states, because status defines some level of achievement it can be low or high in its description (139). According to Kendall (139), a high status promotes high and enriching interactions it the society thus is the one desired over the low one. According to Kendall (139) status is individualistic as it is collective.

Individual each one attains a status from what they do as individuals. As Kendall (139) identifies, status, besides being achieved through own work, is also inherited from generalization of the peculiar qualities that one possesses which connect such with a group.

As Kendall (139) identify, in the society for example, when a woman achieves something great, the likelihood is that all women will boost because these particular women will have boosted their collective status as women.

The sociological idea of status observed, the dissatisfaction with the advertisements was clear from sociologists. Those on the school of feminism such as Betty Friedan stand tall here. Living in the 20th century, Friedman identified that the new communication channels were exploiting women through advertisements.

Her work, the Feminist Mystique was indeed a cry on the negative depiction of women in adverts and how such was gravely affecting their status. According to the Feminist Mystique in the advertisement produced at this time, women were depicted in the passive roles of caring for their houses and husbands. They only came out in the advertisements as mothers, caregivers and such (Abbot et al 345).

According to the Feminist Mystique, this kind of depiction of women was achieving an effect of degrading the status of woman in society. They were to be viewed as lesser equals to men because in the advertisements depicted them only taking the less demanding, less intellectually engaging and thus passive roles.

According to the Feminist Mystique, women were not only being degraded on this ground but also from the fact that in the advertisements, they were portrayed as sex objects. As the sociologist Betty Friedman identifies, in this time, the use of woman in the advertisements presented them as sex entices to men.

They came out as possessed of a body for the use of making men fall in love with their bodies and eventually the products they advertised. According to Abbot et al (345), this was a loss on the status of women. It reduced the respect held on them because it presented them as immoral. The Feminist Mystique was published in the year 1963.

The publication of the Feminist Mystique was not the only one on which the sociologists presented their disappointment on how the women were depicted in the 19th century advertisements. In 1990, another work came out from another feminist by the name Naomi Wolf. Her work was titled The Beauty Myth.

In the Beauty Myth focus further put by the sociologists on how the advertisements were presenting women as immoral and sex objects. According to Naomi Wolf, advertisements in this time had gravely moved from the general issues to specific focus on the body parts of women.

As The Beauty Myth identifies, in this time, advertisement involving women could not be seen as presenting the women personality but were excessively concerned on trivial body parts. They focused on highlighting things such as women’s breasts, legs, hair, eyes and such. As Naomi Wolf lamented, this was of grave damage to the status of women.

This is because the view of them in the society was to moving from the whole picture to viewing them as fragments of human who composed only of hair, eyes, legs and such parts and not the body as a whole. As Naomi Wolf believed this view of women as parts and not as human was slowly changing the status of women (Abbot et al 345).

As Abbot et al (345) identifies, it was the sole cause of abuses to women which stemmed from the perception of them as objects. As Stange et al. (106) identifies, it is from this focus that the rape cases on women increased and their mistreatment on many other grounds as well. This is because their status had been reduced by the perceptions developed in the advertisements and copied into the core of the society.

Looking at the two productions, a point is made that in the 20th century, sociologists were already concerned that the advertisements using women were degrading to women’s status in the society. They were convinced that the advertisements using women had become the source of the evils done on women in the society because they had negatively affected a fare view thus perception of women.

They identified that such advertisements bended people’s perception to an unfair view thus negative perception of women. Going into the 20th century, it was sure that feminism was to grow more in opposition of negative depiction of women through the advertisements. This brings into focus the definition of feminism. By its general definition, feminism is a school of sociology which concerns with the rights of women.

It is the civism aimed at helping women reach their rights. This far, it is important to note thus that the above two feminism authors were first sociologists and thus depicted a sociological concern and awareness of sociology on women portrayal in advertisements.

21th century

As Biermann (148) identifies, in 21st century, sociology and more specifically feminism, still identify the use of body parts as the norm in which women are portrayed. As Lind & Stephanie (245) identifies, feminism in this century identifies that women’s depiction n he media still continues to be the ground on which mistreatments and evil treatment of women emanates from because they are portrayed with emphasis on erotic parts.

As Stange et al. (122) identifies, as the only deviation from the last century, women are depicted with focus only on their erotic parts including breasts, hips and lips even in the cases where the adverts do not relate to these. Observing this, it remains true that a negative perception of women is still created through advertisements. What sociologists have done on this will thus be important to note to decode their awareness on the issue.

As Stange et al. (122) identifies, the feminism movement has always come the fore using both legal other channels to discourage such negative depiction of women.

In the recent times, they have instituted court proceeding barring some advertisements, as they believe they degenerates the status of women because they negate perceptions on women. Overall, the success of these avenues by feminism movement shows how much the feminism movement thus sociology remains current and strong on the issue.


As identified in the works of the two feminism activists and authors, feminism expressed consciousness and concern on the advertisements and how they portrayed women and identified that such had stereotyped them. As identified, the feminism forces and others satiated that the advertisements portrayed woman as shy, weak and thus promoted their submission.

According to the paper, such stereotypes were continued into the 21st century, coming out as the critical causes to evils on women. All these sociological bases including those identifying concepts of perceptions developed and status achieved show that sociology is conscious of the portrayal of women in advertisements.

Works Cited

Abbot, Pamela, et al. An introduction to sociology: feminist perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Biermann, Gesa. Stereotypes Galore! Women’s Emancipation as Reflected in Advertising. New York: GRIN Verlag, 2011.

Cortese, Anthony. Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. Print.

Kendall, Diana. Sociology in Our Times. Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.

Keskinen, Suvi. Complying with colonialism: gender, race and ethnicity in the Nordic region. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009.

Lind, Amy, and Stephanie, Brzuzy. Battleground: Women and Gender. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2007. Print.

Stange, Mary., Carol, Oyster, and Jane, Sloan. Encyclopedia of Women in Today’s World. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Reference, 2011. Print

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"Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising." IvyPanda, 23 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/images-of-women-and-minorities-in-advertising-essay/.

1. IvyPanda. "Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising." May 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/images-of-women-and-minorities-in-advertising-essay/.


IvyPanda. "Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising." May 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/images-of-women-and-minorities-in-advertising-essay/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising." May 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/images-of-women-and-minorities-in-advertising-essay/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising'. 23 May.

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