War on blatant forms of gender stereotypes far from being won

Date: May 6, 2011
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Newspaper: Sowetan

Date: 11 March 2011

Theme: Sexuality

Skill: Perspective

Genre: Advertisement

GEM classification: Blatant stereotype

While women are more likely to feature in advertising than in news content, they are also more likely to be seen than heard. They are often portrayed in ways that perpetuate blatant and more subtle forms of gender stereotypes. The advert in question is a car advert published in the Sowetan (South Africa) newspaper of 11 March 2011. It perpetuates blatant stereotypes as it portrays women as sex objects. A woman in the form of a mermaid is used to sell a car. Although the advertisement is about a car, a woman is the main focus of the advert. The woman is shown as a mermaid, a mythological aquatic creature with a female human head and torso and the tail of a fish.

Visual image
This is advertisement is insensitive to women. The image of the woman used to advertise this car perpetuates the stereotype of women being used as sex objects. Jetta uses this woman’s body to sell its car as a way to draw men’s attention to it.

The woman’s body is given more prominence in the advert – her picture takes more than half of the advert. The advertisement is about a car but the image of the car is small and placed at the corner of the advertisement. One struggles to see the car that is being advertised. The speed of the car, model and price are written in very small letters and placed at the corner. This information should in fact be prominent in the advertisement.

At the same time, a description of the car is not given and the main image used gives the perspective that the woman is the one who is being advertised. This image portrays the stereotype that sex sells and women are mainly used for their sexuality. A woman is used to advertise a car in a way that perpetuates stereotypes. The advertisement associates her sexuality with a car.  

This image degrades the dignity of women. It portrays them as objects used to attract buyers to the car. This woman’s image has got nothing to do with the advertisement. It is totally irrelevant to the object advertised. The woman’s body trapped in a fish tail and posing for the photo, without any action, is irrelevant to a car. This picture does not describe the essence of the advert fairly. The woman is shown as a hopeless being in the middle of the sea, admiring the car but without power to drive it.

A different portrayal of women would have been more suitable for the advert. For example, showing the woman as a professional using a car to do more productive things, such as how the car helps her to manage her business. This alternative would be more relevant and gender sensitive. It would also have been more relevant if the woman was in the driver’s seat, showing that she is in control.

Trainer’s notes

This advert shows that advertisers are still stereotypical, using women’s bodies to sell products that are not related to women. Issues of gender representation were not taken into consideration when creating this advert.

Training exercises

  • Is the women’s body needed in this advert?
  • What impact does the woman’s body make it the advert?
  • How could the advertiser have sold the product in a more gender aware manner?

Other training resources

Gender and Advertising in Southern Africa, research by Gender Links.

Advertising Association takes action against sexist billboards by R. R. Ramnauth (2008).

Download : 12986_believe_it_sowetan_110311.jpg

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