Sexism in Advertising
by hellobye on September 26, 2016 - 5:17pm
A heavily made up, half naked, slender, near-perfect woman is sitting seductively showcasing her long, desirable legs in a racy advertisement published in Belgium’s leading male magazine, P-magazine. Beside the woman is the message “Becoming a donor is probably your only chance to get inside her”, just below her rear. There are countless issues to address in this ad; The objectification of women, the normalization of heterosexuality, and the presence and promotion of unattainable beauty standards for women.
Advertisements are widely present in our lives and play a large role in the way we act and think, wether we admit it or not. Many of the advertisements we consume on a daily basis and the message they’re conveying are incredibly sexist and promote the objectification of women, instead of promoting the actual cause of the ad. For instance, in the Reborn to be Alive ad, the objectification of women is prominent as they shaped her to be a sexual object of desire, instead of the sick, frail woman she’s supposed to be representing. The needs of the sick woman are completely erased, and she is replaced by a healthy-looking sexual object. The message beside her body reads that the only reason to get “inside her” is by donating your organs, thus portraying her as a sexual object for male entertainment and pleasure. It is clear from her body language that she’s a passive being and is available to the viewer, which consists in majority of heterosexual men. This objectification promotes rape culture by making a joke out of the nonconsensual situation, as the woman has no say in the matter, and by downplaying the severity of the matter.
The amount of pressure women are subjected to, to conform to the beauty ideals causes serious psychological problems. These standards, exemplified in the ad, promotes the ideals of the perfect woman being slim with impossible proportions, long-legged, and white. These ideals have, in fact, been correlated with eating disorders and depression. Furthermore, this ideal woman in the ad is portrayed as deserving of an organ donation because she serves useful to men, but what about those who don’t necessarily conform to these absurd beauty norms? Moreover, I do acknowledge that men, too, struggle with body image, but these concerns are simply optional. A man who doesn’t conform to beauty ideals can still be respected and have influence with status and money. This doesn’t apply for women in most cases because “there is a double standard in our society. While females are constrained to look a particular way, males do not have that parallel requirement.” (Cortese 70)
This ad, that entails that any man should be willing to donate their organs in order to have sexual intercourse with the woman in question, normalizes heterosexuality, thus erasing the presence of other sexualities. For instance, the heterosexual man donates his organ for a woman, but if the sick patient was a man, would that make him gay? One of the major problems in modern media is that there isn't enough representation of minorities, such as the members of the LGBTQ+ community. However, this ad also affects heterosexual men by enforcing the norm that men have to be hyper sexual and subjective. It entails that the man’s job is to be the subject, whereas the woman plays the role of a sexual object.
A more suitable way to pass the message and to promote organ donations would be to not use a woman’s body to lure heterosexual men to donate their organs. While broadening my audience by not only targeting heterosexual men, I would rely on people’s humanity and altruism to promote organ donations and raise awareness, since one donor can save up to 8 lives and benefit more than 75 people. In fact, there would be no exploitation of any human being to deliver my message.
Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, Third Edition. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. 57-89.