17 Jul 2008

Advertising sells women short

The British Psychological Society Psychology of Women Annual Conference, heard Rosalind Gill, Professor of Social Psychology and Cultural Theory at The Open University, speak about how the depiction of women in advertising has changed from women as passive objects of male gaze, to active, independent and sexually powerful agents, and asks whether these representations are empowering to women, or sexist.

Professor Gill examined advertisements featuring and advertising to women over a 10 year period, and three recognisable ‘figures’ emerged. The first, a young heterosexually desiring ‘midfriff’, the second, a vengeful woman set on punishing her ex-lover, and finally the ‘hot lesbian’ entwined with another beautiful woman.

Professor Gill said: “These figures are pervasive throughout advertising – on TV, magazines and billboards, so it’s really important that we understand how and why they are being used, and their effect on the public – especially young women.”

In her presentation, Professor Gill discussed how representations of women in advertising have changed over the last 20 years, from presenting women primarily as objects for male consumption and pleasure to empowered active seekers of sex.

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