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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Sexism; some people fail to discuss it due to uncertainties on the topic. Many people trace sexism back to the women's movement that happened in the 19th century in America where women wanted a social reform to occur. From the 19th century to the 21st century, advancements have been made to alter societal beliefs. We as Americans have a long way to go to truly conquer sexism. However what sexism is in today's society? In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary sexism is defined as, “prejudice of discrimination based on sex, esp. against women”. All genders go through a form of sexism, yet consistently women receive more hostile comments that alludes to sexism.  A definition of sexism from experiences is the constant torment of a gender that hinders said gender from its potential based on societal beliefs. Ultimately this belief came from shared interactions of classmates or stories told from relatives. Sexism is a concern for all females because of the unequal platform it creates. Today in America a “full-time working women earn 79% of what their male counterparts earn”, according to the White House data. So is the term sexism just a mere thought or does it have some form of importance in it? And most importantly how does society show their beliefs on how women should be treated? Societal beliefs is generated from modern advertisements. They are shown through different mediums (videos and catalogs) created by advertising agencies. Both male and female workers are present in the advertising agency, therefore this does not mean that sexism is only created by males. It can be made by any gender.  This leads to the question, “How does modern advertisements in society portray sexism in the form of innuendos toward women that reflect degrading beliefs from society?” Many fear that sexism toward woman is caused by the male gender however modern advertisements are the perception of any gender. Male and Female can create advertisements that portray sexist remarks that contribute to the idea of sexism. Sexism is portrayed in the forms of language and visuals referent through body, suggestion, and eco-terrorism innuendos gathered from society beliefs. Through this paper, different forms of sexist language towards women will be shown to give a synopsis of how women is in differed in the media.  The advertising agencies show these ads because, “if a certain image is repeated enough through television, printed ads, movies, commercials, billboards, etc., society will accept this image as the norm and copy it (Lynette)”

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On average how many ads are shown to the households each day to consumers? It is confirmed that, “Digital Marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day” gathered from RedCrowMarketing. Majority of those advertisements show sexism toward women in some form or fashion. A way agencies demonstrate sexism is through body innuendos (visual text and visual language) meaning ads are implying the sexism. Visually, “women are valued for their bodies” (Nilsen). Henceforth why agencies incorporate these factors to state an opinion.  Many of the ads in the media are referent, causing the suggested audience to associate the picture with a meaning. “Anyone living in the United States who listens with a keen ear or reads with a perspective eye can come up with a startling new insights about the way American English reflects our values”, as stated by Sexism and Language  explains how the advertising agencies do not explicitly state their thoughts.They imply or make suggestions to allude towards a belief.

Written Language Innuendos

 “Because of our expectations of passivity, we like to compare females to items that people acquire for their pleasure.” stated by Nilsen gives claim of implications of woman are gathered. But to whom does this pleasure eventually affect? The impact of these ads trickle down to all women in the world. A female in an American Apparel demonstrates this idea. They have a catalogue where a woman is captured with her legs open in a v- shape with the words “Now Open”. {Appendix A}. The image is shown where a woman is wearing a bathing suit with her legs open in a v- shaped angle. The phrase, “Now Open” has a polysemous context. Historically this refers to women before the woman's revolution occurred. Her role in the house was to be sexually active, cook, and clean for her man. This gives the perception that women need to return back to those times. Her position in the ad has significance behind it.  The second example is an American Apparel ad where a man is in between a woman legs with her legs wide open. {Appendix b}.  The literal meaning of these ads was to get people to buy the clothing from the brand. Another example is the Got Milk ads where a women is shown with milk thrown in her face. The woman showed in the advertisement has “milk” squirting in her face with her mouth open. The milk is an allusion to sperm after the male has ejaculated form oral sex. And the words in the phrase, “Get Her Used To It” gives the meaning  that women should be used to males sperm in the face due to women's nature of giving oral sex {Appendix c}. A video to show body innuendos is the Calvin Klein Reveal video. The perfume commercial showed a woman in a hotel who has on the perfume and is slowing opening up the windows and doors of her room in lingerie while a man is watching her. This commercials means to me that female's perfume is a controlling device that seduce males {Appendix d}. This perception is gathered from how she sprays the perfume and automatically he is searching for her. Looking to engage in something physical with her. These advertisements show that the written language included in the ads create referent meanings.

Often women are compared to food something that is controllable. As stated by Nilsen, “Females to food since food is something we enjoy, even though it is extremely passive.”  The second video to suggest body innuendos is the Carl's Jr Big Sausage commercial.  In this video a girl wearing sexual cowboy attire is in the desert alone. She is moving her body in provocative ways to the viewers. Then she gets a sausage in a  sand which that is longer than 6 inches which is the average length of a male genital and licks it while white cheese squirts out of it. This alludes to state woman is supposed to give oral sex to a man. It is her job or duty to perform that role {Appendix e}. The last video to use body innuendos is Carl's Jr All Natural Burger. In this video it presented a girl walking nude down a street and the commercial stating all natural. They used fruits to cover up her up. Her woman parts were covered by fruit to suggest all women should be natural meaning no plastic surgery {Appendix f}. Throughout all these ads the same interpretation of women is shown using their body as representation of what should be doing in American culture today. The ads portray the woman as the ideal woman gathered from previous beliefs of the world. Ultimately these ads are an influence to push women back to these times.

Suggestion Language Innuendos

Sexism was also seen through suggestion innuendos from ads in the forms of videos and catalogs. It is shown through written language in the ads that correlated to sexism. An example where written language is used is in the ring commercial for the Brand Natan. There are woman legs present folded with a man hands with a ring in a box. Then on the next picture her legs are opened once he offers the ring to her for marriage. It signifies that women only care about materialistic things and would sell themselves just to receive it. Also means to me that women truly do not care about marriage. The words, “The first remote control invented” alludes to an offering of a ring gives guys anything their hearts desire.  {Appendix f}. As stated women, “are encouraged to act feminine”, which means sitting with her knees together.” (Nilsen). This is evidence that if a woman is shown with her legs open she is considered in a negative light.   Another example is the Mr. Clean ad where it has a mother in the picture cleaning with her young daughter. The ad states, “Get back to the job that really matters.” This means to me the impression that cleaning in the house is the woman's role in the house and all they can do not get a job in corporate. This shows the gender roles present in the world about women {Appendix g}. “Regardless of how insulting or chauvinistic ads were towards women, people were socialized to tolerate and accept the female house-wife stereotype” and this is what the Mr. Clean commercial generates.

A video that suggestion innuendos is the ExtaMax Male Enhancement Commercial. This commercial utilizes a woman who tell the world about male enhancement pills while wearing sexual clothing. Also in the beginning she gave a statistic on if females like long male body parts and if it mattered. She gave that 88% said it did and the other 12% was lying. This means to me that all women only care about how big her partner is making women judgmental {Appendix h}. Also the company Victoria Secret used this tactic as well.  This was a commercial during the Super bowl. It has a woman named Adriana Lima holding a football wearing a sexual attire. Then the words, “let the games begin” pop on the screen to suggest that her having intercourse is the ultimate objective not football. This means to me that women are looked at as sexual people who only wants intercourse. From looking at these ads, it can be seen that suggestion innuendos are given to hinder society.

Eco-Terrorism Innuendos

Lastly eco-terrorism groups in the United States also provide innuendos that suggest sexism toward women. Most would think that groups that help save animals would not neglect others in the process. “PETA's extremist views are accompanied by extremist associations. PETA activists have a long history of association with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and a related underground organization, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Former FBI Director Louis Freeh called ALF “one of the most active extremist elements in the United States.” The eco- friendly companies in the United States are now considered eco-tourist based on their actions to protect the animals. Stated by Washington post, “categorize three actions as assassinations (0.3%), 44 as armed assaults (4.1%), 55 as bombings/explosions (5.1%), 933 as facility attacks (87.3%), 30 as unarmed assaults (2.8%) and four as unknown (0.4%)” (Hirsh- Hoeflef and Mudde). This shows that these groups often go past a certain extent to get there point across. As stated by Nilsen, “the female both seems to attract and on to longer to animal metaphors with negative connotations”. An ad that shows this can be seen in the Pamela Anderson commercial for PETA. This is where a woman named Pamela Anderson is in a swimsuit with majority of her body showing not leaving much to the eye. Pamela Anderson is a woman whom the world declares as beautiful. She is known to work in gigs where her body is naked. They have captured as an animal to tell viewers to go vegetarian. It suggests that women are an animal to tame and we are property for the male race just like how humans do animals {Appendix I}. Another ad, Peta uses the all-girl group Danity Kane to go bear with a sign in front of their nude bodies. They hold up a sign that reads, ‘we'd rather go naked then wear fur!”. It signifies that it was a good cause but used in a sexual way that suggests that women should be bare before they wear fur which kills animals. This is regarded as sexist because no ad would have a men naked wearing fur. However it is deemed right if a woman does it.


After analyzing all this information, does the advertisements prove that sexism is portrayed in forms of innuendos gathered from societal beliefs? Or are these ads liberating to women to make them defy society standards. “Although women control 80 percent of consumer spending in the United States, they are only 3 percent of creative directors in advertising”. Many people are taking the stereotypes and using them to their advantage. A woman in the media that goes against sexist beliefs is TV personality Amber Rose. Amber Rose is seen in today's society often going naked or wearing outfits that leave much to imagination. However what is Amber's purpose behind doing this? She intends on a daily to empower women and show that they do not have to conform to society beliefs. Amber, when she was younger shaved her head to symbolize a defiant act of courage. Society believes that a woman is beautiful if she has long, thick hair. So she show that she can be beautiful without it, she shaved her head completely. Yet does Amber defiant acts improve the advertisements that girls see? No it only provokes more advertisements to be created that imposes sexist innuendos.

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