The Exploitation of Women

The exploitation of women in the media has been a huge part of the advertising industry since it evolved. But, the level to which women being exploited in advertisements and the media in general has reached a never before seen turning point, drastically portraying women as objects. Women’s body images are exposed, exploited and used as commodities to enrich a society built on advertisements and entertainment. Social issues as the misuse of women’s bodies are delivered to us through media sources. The media manipulates the images of women; women are portrayed in misleading images and as a result, lead us to make uniformed decisions. Looking through a magazine directed strictly towards women advertisements crowd the articles. As you turn the pages you can find a pattern of hidden influences in those printed advertisements. The distinct gender biased advertisements keep gender roles present in society. I will take three different advertisements that exploit women and analyze each individual and then come to a conclusion of what these ads are screaming out to us.

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The first advertisement I will analyze is a Dolce & Gabbana ad. This is an example of women being underrepresented. In the advertisement the ratio of men to women is four to one that are staring intensely down at her as if she was a piece of meat. As the woman is dressed seductively her pelvis is up in the air seeming as though she is probably fighting to get off the ground. A man who is muscular is restraining her arms and his skin is oiled up. With the man restraining the woman it shows her in a submissive position as he is ‘dominating’ her. The other three men in the advertisement are all displayed to be masculine and their line of vision is directly upon the woman. Her expression is very cumbersome, frozen, and stoic, as she is looking away to the side trying to avoid eye contact with these men. There is a sense of determination in the men’s eyes as though they are depicting the woman as an object rather than a person. The observing men’s stance is also dominant and though the ad is supposed to be selling the brand, it gives a vibe that the men get to have their way with her.

This portrayal of men and women gives light to basic gender stereotypes. Through the manner in which Dolce and Gabbana advertise their company, to me, hegemony is highly apparent in various aspects. For instance, as a result of hegemony and the popular ideology of men being more dominant than women, gender biases arise. This ad is targeted equally to men as to women, but reflects two different messages. Men would be drawn to the idea of having an attractive physical appearance that would interest the female population. This is supported by the attractive, well bodied, and greasy looking male models standing around the woman lying down. Here the belief arises that through physical attractiveness women would be fawn to them and their dominating masculine character. Whereas although women are also drawn to the aspect of physical attractiveness, the idea of being desired by men is also evident. This ad reinforces the idea of inequality between men and women due to the differentiation between them in the ad.

Furthermore, due to the lack of clothing worn, consumers are left to wonder what the company is actually selling. The only clear understanding that can be attained from the ad is the definition of what a man and woman are supposed to be. The next advertisement I will be analyzing is a Calvin Klein Jeans ad featuring the famous Lara Stone. This is yet another example of exploiting women as objects. This overtly sexual image depicts model Lara Stone as she is fooling around with a group of three half naked guys in what looks like a public basketball court. Curiously, she doesn’t seem to be wearing any jeans, or underwear, but also doesn’t seem to mind so much. It’s likely the aggressive facial expression of the ‘look-out-guy,’ chewing on a matchstick has given rise to feelings that there is an air of intimidation about the whole scene.

It seems as though one man is the dominant one of the three as the third one has a tight grip of on her hair as if he is holding her down so that she cannot break free of the man on top of her. She has a sort of lifeless look on her face, and as mentioned before in the last ad she has no eye contact with any of the men in the picture. She also has her left fist pressed against the man’s shoulder who is on top of her as if she is beginning to push him off of her. The third advertisement I chose to analyze is another Calvin Klein Collection ad. This one is a subtler ad from Calvin Klein. In the image, the woman seems to be lying down on her back on some sort of tile. Her legs are in the air with her right leg angled over on top of her left but her legs are somewhat spread open. There appears to be what looks like a man’s shadow looking down at the woman.

Her hands are grasped on her blazer as if she is going to take it off. Her facial expression looks oblivious to a man standing over her as she has a slight grin on her face. We can assume from this image that the man looks as though he is going to perhaps rape or assault the woman. In an article written by Julia T. Wood, it is discussed how a major problem in the media is how women are underrepresented. As women are underrepresented it creates assumptions that men are more prominent than women making men the “cultural standard” as Wood put it (Wood 1994). Male gender stereotypes subject men to be the dominant one of the two sexes (Wood 1994). Wood stated “Men are presented as hard, tough, independent, sexually aggressive, unafraid, violent, totally in control of all emotions, and-above all-in no way feminine (Wood 1994).

Those characteristics are demonstrated through the lack of expression on the men’s faces and their emphasis on oiled up muscles. We can clearly see the aspect of control and sexually aggressive through the woman’s arm being pinned down in the first ad. Female gender stereotypes include being thin, obedient and emotional. The women in the pictures are expressing the female’s obedience by complying with the men restraining them. The women’s attire reveals the lack of body fat the females have and shows the womanly curves of their backsides in the first two images. The facial expressions given off are emotional and what appears to be painful and vulnerable. Both women in the first two advertisements want to fight back but cannot because she is too weak. All physical attributes the models have fall in line with gendered stereotypes.

The implications of the ads are parallel to the gendered stereotypes that are discussed previously. The role of dominance and submission are the apparent implications of how a man and woman should act and carry themselves. For men the implication of being a dominant figure in society is empowering and enables the rift between gender roles. In a study performed at the University of California participants were tested to see if the media’s coverage would manipulate their decision. The experiment found that anti-feminist frame impacted the participants’ choice negatively towards women’s rights and gender equality (Schnell 1997). The Implications experienced by the participants created a biased opinion towards women rights (Schnell 1997).

Thus the media has the ability to continue gender discrimination (Schnell 1997). The editor in chief of Advertising Age stated, “Only 8% of an ad’s message is received by the conscious mind. The rest is worked and reworked deep within the recesses of the brain (Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women 2010).” This is an important point to make if there wants to be a decline in gender stereotypes. In the film Killing Us Softly IV, Jean Kilbourne discusses the remarkable impact advertisements have on each gender (Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women 2010).

Throughout the video she gives visual examples and reads slogans aloud to express the danger to the advertisements that surround us. Kilbourne claims that the way women are portrayed in the media and advertisements have diced women in to objects (Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women 2010). Being objectified can be seen in the video as African American women placed in a jungle environment and dressed in garments suggesting they are exotic animals (Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women 2010). Objectification desensitizes respect for women, as expressed in the ads I have provided. As stated by the editor in chief of Advertising Age the message that is taken in subliminally is being manipulated (Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women 2010). Therefore the intended message by the manufacturers of the ad most likely will not be retained (Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women 2010).

This action of subliminal messages will enable gender stereotypes to prevail and never cease (Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women 2010). In conclusion, despite the physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual obstacles in the quest to achieve idealized beauty, women will always continue to chase it, no matter how degrading and exploiting advertisements make it seem. Men are shown to be dominant and thus, very masculine individuals; while women are illustrated as objects of sexual desire and I believe that they always will be. These ads reinforce norms in society with respect to the differences existent between men and women and therefore, illustrate the lack of equality between these genders. Through Marxist perspective it can be determined that because of this sense of inequality, the hegemony of men being more empowered than women is clearly illustrated. However, from simply looking at these ads one may not realize that. The only way one can truly understand this ideology being expressed
is through questioning the behavior of the men compared to the man that could be understood in the ads.


Media Education Foundation (Producer). (2010). Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women. [Motion Picture]. United States Wood, J. T. (1994). Gendered Media: The Influence of Media on Views of Gender. Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender and Culture, 1, 231-244. Retrieved from Terkildsen, N., & Schnell, F. (1997). How Media Frames Move Public Opinion: An Analysis of the Women’s Movement. Research Quatrerly. Retrieved from Picture references

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