In the contemporary realm of advertising, there is an ongoing trend where sex and gender become the foundations of products promotion. Female bodies have come to represent the quality of ‘desire’ per se, as opposed to the product being advertised. Similarly, women have gone to an extent of symbolizing desire in the process of selling commodities. The objectification of women implies that they have been presented as objects to be looked at and desired as opposed to personalities with thoughts and feelings. However, the proponents of advertising and marketing communications dictate that advertising should not embrace sexual appeal in mannerisms that exploit or degrade a certain gender or group. The objectification portrays women as mere visual consumer landscapes.
An Ideal that is Not Real
Sexism has been an integral component that empowers women’s identities. Schneider makes it clear that the whole feminism ideology has been confined in socio-political manifestation, which requires women to be at the forefront of modernity. In this respect, the female bodies become the emblem of desire and, thus portray the objects being commoditized as mere fetishes. Therefore, women have been reduced to nothing other than objects that can be won or prizes that can be shown off. As a result, women tend to compare themselves with what they see on the screen, whereas men compare the women in their lives with the objectified women.
In fact, in popular magazines, there have been a high percentage of women portrayed in manners that are harmful to their body image because of the perceptions expressed by the images. The media also plays an integral part in advocating for women commoditization because photographers are rewarded heavily whenever they come up with photos of naked women who are weak-looking and frail. Subsequently, more women are becoming part of the practice because the pay is above average and photographers alike become part of the equation as well. An apt example is the Estee Lauder advertisement that allegedly defines beauty by featuring three half-naked models. One of the models has been identified as Elizabeth Hurley.
The impact of the advertisement lies in the fact that this advertisement insinuates that the models are the epitome of beauty and anybody, who does not look like such models, is not beautiful. It, therefore, inculcates a mentality that being half-naked is appropriate and indirectly advocates for the ideology that women’s bodies are used in visual consumer landscapes. In essence, advertisements that exhume female objectification fail to offer a realistic depiction of females. Their poses are alluring and women are portrayed with especial focus on their lips, breasts, or the lower body. In this respect, a woman might lay in suggestive position on the floor or piece of furniture and her lips are usually parted suggestively.
Some of the most successful companies in the advertising industry have been in the forefront of promoting women visualization because of the marketing strategies they adopt. Examples of such companies include Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, La Perla, and Gucci just to mention a few. The women depicted in most advertisements run by these companies appear to be skinny with empty gazes. In addition, the body type observed in the so-called models give an impression that the apparel being advertised will suit the elite few whose body types fit the description of the women shown.
Those who will be compelled to purchase the merchandise will do so thinking that they will end up looking like the models shown on screen. It, therefore, becomes a recurring trend where companies advertise products using naked women and viewers look for the sex appeal. Similarly, companies end up embracing the mentality that the more scantily dressed the models are, the more appealing and competitive the advert is, thus connoting the quality of desire. Therefore, all companies fall into a similar path eventually because they are in the quest of attaining a competitive edge over their competitors.
The mystery of sex advertising exhumes where it becomes apparent that advertisers use sex to sell their products. Even though such a marketing strategy is catchy, it does not show any signs of slowing down even in the near future. More companies embrace this strategy for advertising their products, and it extends even to the fast food industry whereby every product being advertised seems to portray some sexual connotation. Even though the adverts do not categorically use sex to sell some products, they tend to objectify women where they are used as a ‘fantasy element’. It brings forth the acknowledgement of the fact that it is not only the sex that is being sold. If that were the case, both men and women would be objectified equally, which is not the case. An analysis of this ideology gives an implication that only the men’s desires are being taken into account while women objectification seeks to fulfil the subjectivity of the male gender. The numbers of adverts that contain women posing with a sexual appeal are more than the adverts containing men portrayed in the sexually appealing poses. Therefore, the sex appeal has been strategically adhered to lure men who are attracted to adverts models as well as females who are inspired to be like them.
The bottom line is that sex will always sell, and the disagreement is about the issue of why sex will always sell since the audience sits well with the sex appeal put forth in most adverts. In fact, it levels down to the nature of the audience and to what the audience wants to see, hear, or experience. Even though sexual objectification is prevalent among both the male and female gender, it becomes worse for the female counterparts. An apt illustration is a 2005 advertisement that featured Paris Hilton. The superstar was advertising a burger made by Carl’s Jr. and was holding it with her left hand while her locks were being blown by the wind. A closer analysis of the advertisement gives an implication Paris Hilton is the epitome of beauty and sex appeal that many people look up to, which will thus increase the sales of the burger. Similarly, featuring the female superstar in the advert has an ulterior objective of creating a special appeal more so to the male audience by bring forth a ‘fantasy element’ that they can worship.
The Use of Female Bodies as Female Visual Consumer Landscapes and Role-Product Congruity
Role product congruity is a paradigm whose proponents dictate that only the appropriate models can be used for beauty-oriented products as well as services. Therefore, beautiful women become effective when objectified to make other women buy products that will make them feel beautiful. Thus, role-product congruity has been a contributing factor that advocates for women objectification because the beautiful women will attract other women while their sexual appeal will be attractive to men. It also borrows from the cognitive aspect of human beings as they associate a certain image with a specific advert. For instance, a stay at home mum will be effective in advertising a product used in the home or a commodity that will facilitate the well-being of an infant.
Similarly, product congruity theory also implies that the objectification of physically attractive models will influence the attitudes of consumers and this explains why female bodies will continue to be used for visual consuming. As long as there is an ideal image of a woman who will be used in advertising a particular product, women objectification might not come to a halt in the near future. Moreover, there is always a company that is willing and able to utilize the services of such women while the woman is also willing to be objectified for the money and fame.
How Objectification of Women Bodies in Advertising Impacts the Western Media
In typical patriarchal societies, the roles and privileges that have been granted to women are inferior as compared to those that have been accorded to men. The ideal objectification of women as put forth by the media has contributed to an increase in cases of sexual assault while more women resort to plastic surgeries to look appealing. What individuals do not acknowledge is that the images observed are not real and are a design of graphic artists who have been commissioned to change appearances in the quest of stimulating desire. The ongoing deception goes unrecognized and induces women to undertake cosmetic surgical procedures that will add attraction points to their bodies. The impact of women objectification has also brought about a state of shame where women have been portrayed as inhuman playthings.
Thus, the rules of society have been changed and have subsequently affected the attitudes of both men and women. Even though the objectification might not have a direct impact on the cultural environment, it will definitely change it. In fact, looking at the whole scenario from a social cognitive theory perspective brings forth some sensible information relevant to the subject in question. For instance, the proponents of social cognitive theory dictates that human behaviour can be well illustrated using indirect causation. In this respect, the individual behaviours will be shaped by the environment while the environmental influences will undermine the internal dispositions. Thus, individuals will develop a certain perception based on what they observe within the environment and as a result act in a manner that depicts the observations.
A deeper analysis of this ideology implies that if women continue to be objectified as portrayed in the media, men will view women as mere objects that ought to be possessed and they will treat them like those objects. Therefore, the portrayal mirrors the environment. The paradigm can be referred to as modelling where the observer learns something from the environment and acts in a manner that depicts the objectification environment. The objectification of women will connote the quality of sexual desire per se.
What Female Objectification Conceals about an Era
The portrayal of women objectification and contemporary advertising in general, tends to have a skewed portrayal of gender. In the pre-colonial era, for instance, the hen adverts used people of colour to express servitude in one degree or the other. The use of women as sexual objects in the name of advertising is a reflection of how the world has been reconfigured to conform to the marketing needs of a business system. The reflection connotes capitalist realism that ensures the advertisements become an integral aspect of the media context. When Schneider suggests that viewed objects must not engage with the viewers in the theatre of commodities, she implies that only the target audience has the prerogative of determining the extent to which women visualization takes place. After all, every advertisement has its target audience. Subsequently, the era that is being portrayed in the advert will be an amalgam of the target audience and the nature of the environment within which the advert is cultured.
The Future of Using Women’s Bodies as Visual Consumer Landscapes
One thing that individuals ought to put into consideration is that some of the advertisements objectify women and end up degrading them as a result. Having a closer look at where gender theories and stereotypes stem from will shed insights on why such a marketing strategy has brought forth reliable efficacy. Similarly, corporations that rely on women’s objectification as a means of making sales give an impression that the company lacks originality. From a psychological stand point, woken can only maintain their dignity if companies respect women and refrain from using the sexual connotations that degrade women.
The consumers and target market alike should also take the initiative of boycotting products that use women to insinuate sexual innuendos as a means of discrediting the advertising strategies that companies embrace. It is up to society to take the initiative of combating sexism and objectification by changing the patriarchal framework and embracing egalitarian standards. Modern society should strive to become such a society where women walk along the streets without invoking any sexual appeal, which might likely bring about the fear of assault.
Advertisers have embraced the paradigm that women can be used differently in creating conflict and granting persuasive imagery that companies take advantage of. Whenever some personalities are portrayed in an advert, they are actively involved with the product or service being advertised or decorate what is contained in the advert. However, the fact that more women are portrayed in decorative roles gives an impression that a vast majority of adverts do not offer a realistic perception of the gender roles that women represent. Whenever a woman is used as a sign of sexual imagery, it sends a message that women possess less power than men because they lack authority. Female bodies in advertising denote sexual innuendos that are a depiction of removal from social situations. The extent at which female bodies are used in visual consumer landscapes raises questions on how men treat women, thus putting women in vicious cycles of low self-esteem and depression.