The use of advertising to sell products has evolved throughout the twentieth century. Advertising agencies will try whatever tactic that works in order to sell their product. A long time ago, product utility was a focus of advertisements, a practice that is exponentially diminishing in today’s world. Many efforts of advertising include the use of the female body; whether it be showing half-naked women holding their product or women completely naked, promoting a brand image. In either situation, women are used as tools, easily disposable when their usefulness has reached its end. The use of the female body as a tool for profit is morally unjust because it negatively affects women by lowering their self esteem, making them body obsessive and perpetrating false ideals and attitudes.
Our consumer culture has allowed advertisements to sneak into as many outlets as it can. We usually accept them without question because most are aesthetically pleasing; either portraying an “attractive” person or a comical scenario. “As we head toward the twenty-first century, advertising is ubiquitous-it is the air that we breathe as we live our daily lives.” (Jhally 250-251) It would be fair to say that advertising has a great deal of power over the general public. This power allows the media to promote ideals and needs that may undermine the truth. “Fundamentally, advertising talks to us as individuals and addresses us about how we can become happy.” (Jhally 251) The answer provided in advertisements is “buy our shit.” They do this by showing people that are having the most fun in the world with a particular product or by using a woman’s body as a tool to promote their product. “Sexuality provides a resource that can be used to get attention and communicate instantly.” (Jhally 253) This massive portrayal of women used as sex tools for selling products has desensitized us into accepting the image of women as vulnerable sexual items. This desensitization is perpetuating our society’s long held idea that men are greater than women; a flawed perspective that we have been making progress to erase.
Mass media has accumulated a vast power, and it has a responsibility that it is not living up to. Allowing advertisements to set the bar for acceptable norms in our society is like giving a five-year old a bee-bee gun; people are going to get hurt. Our perceptions of beauty are skewed by what advertisements say is beautiful even when their image contradicts what the overall belief really is. The problem is that advertisements have the means to get their opinions out there and everyone buys into it, thinking “that’s what I need to look like to be attractive,” when in reality it’s not. In order to get this message out, they use the female body. To go beyond that, there is something flawed at the ground level which has been accepted for years; that you need to look a certain way to be happy. “Girls are extremely desirable to advertisers because they are new consumers, are beginning to have significant disposable income, and are developing brand loyalty that might last a lifetime.” (Kilbourne 259) So advertisements use this accepted and perpetrated image of “beauty as the key to happiness and you won’t be happy without our product,” to prey on confused adolescent girls. These girls are very insecure about themselves, especially during adolescence when their bodies and minds are going through rapid changes, because they get all these images of the skinny pretty girl having all the fun. “Primarily girls are told by advertisers that what is most important about them is their perfume, their clothing, their bodies, and their beauty.” (Kilbourne 260) Advertisements create this false chain of being skinny and prematurely sexually active leads to being sexy and being sexy leads to happiness and social acceptance.
Jhally, Sut. "Image-Based Culture." Gender, Race, and Class in the Media.
Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, the More You Add." Gender, Race, and Class in the Media.