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Of the many influences how we view men and women and the limited perceptions they themselves hold, media, in particular advertisements are the most pervasive and powerful, largely being uncritical and stereotypical in nature which are created by the continued gendered exposure of the consumers to the patterns of imagery. Advertisers use the idea that men and women are different to develop stories, create conflict and provide persuasive imagery resulting into different inferences of the meaning of the advertisements among different sections of the society.
Most of the hero and protagonists are men, and women are mostly shown in traditional homemaker roles. Internationally advertising still confirms to traditional gender portrayals. A meta-analysis of advertising globally found that women are more likely to be pictured as dependent in advertising and in homes as compared to men. One of the advertisements by the Airtel Telecom Services named ‘Boss’ cater to these prevalent notions where even if a woman is in a powerful position she needs to act and is depicted in socially sanctioned ways.
The advertisement which attempts towards portrayal of the economic independence of a woman by showing her to be the CEO of the company, who calls shots at the office, setting a deadline of her employees including her husband . This initial phase of the ad is followed by the depiction of ‘ not a demanding boss but a caring wife’ , where on her way back home she calls up her husband to ask his choice of dinner. Here one would think that the telecom services would use this situation to promote their network by showing her ordering the food ,paying bills or any other alternative but the ad fails to do so rather it successfully stresses on the importance of cooking and caring for your husband taking in account the fact that the women has worked too.
But once she is home, she is a stereotypical ‘house wife’ who doesn’t understand the pressure the of work life and pleads her husband to come home suggesting that being a conventional wife is more important than a good boss for a women indicating that no matter how successful and independent a woman becomes in life, her most primary and important duty which is connoted as ‘ natural’ is her domestic duties restricting and confining her within the boundaries of household : family, husband, children . As Simone De Beauvoir says “one is not born a man but becomes one, and one is not born a woman but becomes one “ it is this process of ‘becoming’ which constantly focuses on the socialization of the genders in this regard especially the women to become an ideal one which is full of care and sympathy putting her husband and children above her without making or even considering any choices for her even if she is financially or economically not dependent on her husband.
This advertisement like many others which tries adopting a progressive approach of showing the women who is apparently also the wife of the employee as the boss but her role as the ‘ wife’ being overemphasized ,promoting regressive values as it is not clear what the ad is trying to promote- telecom service or kitchen equipment, as the lady is shown cooking elaborate meals for the husband/employee, who is overworking in the office to meet the deadline set by his boss/wife. This portrayal further raises questions how differently men and women are depicted in this case a male boss and a female boss. Mostly ad show male bosses commitment to the family by coming home in time for their child’s birthday or remembering their wedding anniversary but a female boss proves her goodness by making dinner for her husband. Therefore analyses of advertisements is crucial to understand how gender roles and continually stereotyped as gendered images repeated in advertising come to reflect the ideologies dominant in patriarchal society.
Sexist images in the media are accepted as ‘normal’ without significance questioning from the viewers. Advertisers use a type of “consumer realism”, as they attempt to portray images in advertisements that are believable or real. For instance absence of men in traditional domestic roles and women in work outside this fold are in consistency with the societal expectation that male member is the ‘breadwinner’. Along with this women are underrepresented implying that men are the ‘culture’ and women are ‘invisible’ or unimportant and depiction of these traditional roles and relationship between men and women, normalize violence against women.
Men are portrayed as active, adventurous, powerful, sexually aggressive and largely involved in human relationship setting the standards of ‘true masculinity’ and reinforcing it by various means and just as consistent with cultural views of gender are depiction of women as sex objects who are passive, dependent often incompetent, who devote their primary energy to improve their appearances or taking care of the home and people. Because media pervade our lives, the way they misrepresent gender my result in how we self-perceive ourselves and what we perceive as normal and desirable for men and women. Prevalence of these stereotypical notions largely impact the formation of attitudes among young boys and girls and ensuring that they succumb to these images of what their future proper role in the society will be as reinforced by normalized stereotypical image. Hence boys and girls experience the same stereotyping and boys suffer just as much from these images the media and commercials.
Another important notion arising from this advertisement is the ‘work life balance’ hinting towards conservatism as the prevalent notion of balance between domestic work and professional life which often results in questioning – how do you manage between the two?, who looks after the children? Did your husband/ in-laws allow you to work? and many more of similar nature directed towards women .Future all the notions makes me want to question the very common term used to denote a women working outside of the domestic fold –‘working woman’, how many of us use the term ‘ working men’ to address to the work of a man . These notions largely comes from the fact that domestic work is not valued or not even considered as work because it is unpaid and taken for granted where those outside the domestic sphere involves production of goods and services and have a monetary value attached to it, thereby associated with the man and this association is also perceived as ‘natural’ as the domestic work is to women.
The agency responsible for the campaign , Taproot says “ that the commercial is true to an independent women’s ‘choice’ and the women in ad depicts true freedom as the women is free to decide exactly what see would like to. But this choice of ‘ forced altruism’ only comes in lack of alternatives or strong embodiment of these gendered notions and confirming to the idea of having it all as this ‘ choice’ they are allowed to have by fulfilling their obligations at home.
Knowing the fact that these advertisements and portrayal of gender roles play a crucial part in our daily lives by formation of attitudes and beliefs i.e. a concrete value based system resulting into gender based division of labor and giving a foreground to the existing parameters designated to being masculine and feminine. Considering such a wider impact media has in the contemporary times it is important for these advertising agencies to be socially sensitive towards these issues and making an attempt towards constructing these ads in a gender neutral manner considering other social conditions around.
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