Monday, October 22, 2007

The Good Life: How Advertisement Reinforce Gender Roles and Inform Identities

Today advertising is pervasive in all forms of media. You cannot turn on the TV, log onto the internet, see a movie or open a magazine without being pitched some sort of product. One thing these advertisements do is inform how people view themselves within our society. As Jackson Katz argues, “At any given time, individuals as well as groups of men are engaged in an ongoing process of creating and maintaining their own masculine identities. Advertising, in a commodity-driven consumer culture, is an omnipresent and rich source of gender ideology” (350). Thus the images used by advertisers are often representative of a larger ideological framework. The link in modern advertising between consumption and attractiveness to women forms a part of the ideology of masculinity.

The first of the two collages is supposed to show how advertisers view men. Many people (men and women) become slaves to their spending habits, but the credit card is often viewed as a status . The face of the man is passive and he is looking at the cheerleader. The use of attractive women in advertisements serves a hetero-normative agenda, links the use of a product with “the good life” (part of that life being access to beautiful women), and also separates masculinity from femininity in a way that is described by Naomi Wolf. She argues that the portrayal of women as mere objects of male desire is a result of the fact that after the feminist movement took hold, “An ideology that makes women feel ‘worth less’ was urgently needed to counteract the way feminism had begun to make us feel worth more” (124). But there is another side to the way men and women are portrayed in advertising, illustrated by the second collage, which is supposed to illustrate how I view myself in light of the forces of advertising that are constantly at work. Everyday, men are bombarded with products that are sold with the conscious or unconscious assumption that consumerism is linked with being sexually attractive. These kinds of advertisements reinforce gender roles (women chasing presumably wealthy men) and also portray both sexes as being shallow enough to link sexual desire with consumption. Thus, advertising both constructs and reinforces ideologies that promote social norms and stimulate consumerism by dictating how people are supposed to interact with one another.


Katz, Jackson. “Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 349-357.

TAG Body Spray Ad. 19 October 2007.

Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth. Women: Images and Realities. Ed. Amy Kesselman, Lily D. McNair, Nancy Schniedewind. New York: McGraw Hill, 2003. 120-125.