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The Problem of Women Sexism in Advertising

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For this essay, I have been asked to find an image from the university database. I plan to discuss my chosen image and how it relates to one of the key readings from the Introduction to Visual Culture handbook. The image I have chosen to write about for this essay has been taken from the magazine (Williamson, Judith. Eye: the International Review of Graphic Design (Archive : 1990-2005, 44 – 53 )  The image that I have chosen to use from the extract are “ detail from ad for Conqueror paper, 2002, image no 14. YSL Opium, 2000, from Vogue. Photograph: Nick Knight. The extract that I believe my chosen images link to is The Politics of Visual Culture: Constructing Gender. Gender and Gaze, Extract from Cartright, L., & Sturken, M. (2009). Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter 3: Modernity: Spectatorship, Power, and Knowledge -pp.123-129. This piece of advertisement links to this particular extract because of the pure and obvious fact this image was quite clearly made for the attention of men. Let’s start with the quote in the corner of the image. “ Of course you do “, the connotative meaning behind the quote is that women in the photograph are telling the audience ( most likely to be male) that she knows that they want to have sex with her. This simple yet powerful quote portrays the women to be something that she isn’t and making her look like a sex symbol. there has been a lot of talk on “ironic” or “knowing” sexism ( often as if the irony or knowingness canceled it out) but what has not been analyzed is the formal method of placing the ironic quote marks around the sexism.

However, there has been a little investigation that sexism and sexual power relations are portrayed without quote marks in ads today. Because as one would expect the idea of sexism is no longer being used without quote marks either. Secondly, the way that the photographer has gotten the woman to essentially pose like an “object”, has made her mostly look seductive and inviting. Also, the way the model has her shoulder slightly showing. Shoulders throughout history and been sexualized and have been seen to be a “distraction” for men. Which reiterates my point that this advertisement is clearly aimed at men. “ In a groundbreaking essay about images of women in classical Hollywood cinema, published in 1975 by filmmaker and writer Laura Mulvey.

This essay, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” used psychoanalysis to propose that the conventions of popular narrative cinema are structured by a patriarchal unconscious, positioning women represented in films as objects of a “male gaze”. As humans, we subconsciously react in different ways to different colors. And you can use this to your advantage. By choosing to shoot subjects of a certain color or in certain types of light, or by adjusting the color temperature in post-processing, you can convey dramatically different moods in your photos. The photographer has chosen warmer lighting, which gives off a more sexual vibe, the aim is to make the audience want to be in the same room. The second image I will be talking about is YSL Opium, 2000, from Vogue.

Photograph: Nick Knight. Let’s start with how the model is posted.. By being completely naked apart from the stilettos, legs spread and hips slightly raised; a position that is deemed to be sexual. You could argue that straight away the model is being used as a sex symbol. The issue with the photo is not what it means, but the sheer fact that it simultaneously offers the view of a female as a sex object. Questions about why the need for women to pose naked for perfume and comes to mind. TV commercials and product placement on large boards (for posting advertising) and posters, thousands of advertisements bombard the average American every day. To be effective, an ad must attract the consumer’s attention, maintain the public’s interest, create or stimulate desire, and create a call for action. In conclusion, women will always for all intents and purposes be sexualized in the media for as long as people will allow it to happen.

By changing the narrative, the images we use, the stories we, for the most part, tell about women, we can dramatically change the way the world values women and how women and girls specifically see themselves. Men don’t generally have it as hard women as it’s been proven in an experiment undertaken by nonprofit research organizations, “When the researchers examined the setting of an ad, women were 48 percent more likely to be placed in the kitchen (men, however, were 50 percent more likely to be at a sporting event). Worse, roughly 33 percent of men were shown to have a job, while just 25 percent of women were”.

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The Problem of Women Sexism in Advertising. (2018, September 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from
“The Problem of Women Sexism in Advertising.” GradesFixer, 04 Sept. 2018,
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