Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Some Thoughts on Advertising and Women

This refers to the post below linking to a web essay on how women's bodies are portrayed in advertising, which shows images of women as passive (reclining) and infant-like, often taking odd postures which in reality would mean that the next picture would be of the woman falling on her nose.

I dug up an old Elle to do some instant checking on these ideas. Why, by the way, do all women's magazines use numbers on their covers? 489 tricks to please your lover! 17 ways to lose weight in a day! 94.3 ways to make your budget stretch longer! I thought that women fear mathematics.

My instant (and not at all scientific) check of the ads in the magazine had these results: Women hold their mouths open, always. I couldn't find a single ad where the woman had her lips firmly closed. Open mouths must be sexy or inviting.

That was my first reaction. The second one was that the ads are almost all about inviting someone to have sex, and this is interesting as the ads are aimed at women.

Either the readers are assumed to be lesbian or women are invited to be self-sexual (a new word minted right here!) or, indeed, perhaps we are viewing the male glance in action:

And not only are the ads invitations for sex ( open, pouty mouths, lowered eyelids, legs spread wide or breasts stuck out) but many of them show the women recumbent or in attitudes which look clumsy, almost violent, in their contrived passivity. It can be hilarious, too, especially when the expensive handbag is placed right on top of the model's crotch.

My instant check did show some infantilizing ads, combined with the sexual invitation:

But most of the ads don't strike me as trying to make women into little girls. They are more like making women into cyborgs or dolls or something similar. Something where expressions like the ones the model assume would be everyday ways of communicating. I have no idea what the message might be.