June 7th : President
There exists an idea that men and women come from different worlds. The common adage “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” within American culture speaks directly to this notion. Among academic circles, this idea is known as the separate sphere ideology. The separate sphere ideology describes the notion that men belong on the public domain- working, engaging in politics and education, while women belong to a domestic domain- housekeeping and childcare. These ideas were prevalent for hundreds, if not thousands, of years in human history, but in the 21st century there has been a shift of the separate spheres into a Venn diagram.
While these ideas and old adages begin to fade, they still remain as shadows in the way society views gender roles. These shadows become apparent in the world of advertising. For this research paper, I have analyzed the advertising content of magazines with primarily female and male audiences. Women’s Health is a magazine that focuses on healthy practices and fitness for women. Men’s Health is a magazine that has the same objective for men. Women’s Day is another female oriented magazine whose subject is the everyday aspects of feminine lifestyle.
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Sports Illustrated is a men’s magazine, the articles contain updates on major sports events and includes fitness/sports advice for men. In my examination of the magazines I evaluated the subject of the ads, the person(s) featured in the ads, and the slogans and phrasing of the words in the advertisements. Through the analysis process, I observed that much of the print advertisements in the female-oriented magazines portrayed one woman as a subject, while male-oriented magazines often featured men in groups. The findings illustrate the echo that remains of the Separate Sphere Ideology and how those ideas are used in printed ads to propagate the messages of this ideology in order to sell a product.
In Men’s Health and Sports Illustrated, excluding ads that featured only the product, over 60% of the advertising directed to their audiences included men with other people. Among those advertisements, 25% featured men socializing with other men, 12% featured men with an opposite sex significant other, and 23% featured men in a blended group. INCLUDE DIVERSITY ANALYSIS HERE. Advertisers chose to feature relationships that were more “commercial friendly” namely, fatherhood and family, sports/team relationships, and dating/married relationships.
It appears, based on these advertisements, that in order to effectively advertise to men the advertised product must be vital not just to men but their relationships with others. In a Gillette advertisement for deodorant, men couldn’t even be alone with their sweaty armpits. The ad featured a soldier laying down with his daughter nestled under his arm. The message from this advertisement, “Every hero sweats”, also speaks to the relational aspect of the advertising.
The notional hero needs a person to save, someone to observe their great deeds, and they best not forget to cover their hero sweat with Gillette deodorant. In the sponsored content article following the ad, the article denotes masculine tropes such as “rising to challenges” and “hard work and sweat equity”. The images in the article feature images of a black man putting on the deodorant and his son on his shoulders. This ad is one example of many showing how advertising using images of men in direct contact with others to showcase a product.
In a Jim Beam advertisement for their Black Extra-Aged Bourbon featured on the back of Sports Illustrated, men sit around a candle lit table talking and laughing with their glasses of whiskey. The slogan of the advertisement states, “Raise one to those who never let you down.” The separate sphere ideology places men in the public domain. This ideology was probably largely formed by men through their relationships with each other. Throughout history, men left their homes to go to work together, make laws together, and go to war together largely excluding women from their world view.
This tradition has shaped the way men and society see their relationships with others. In society these ideas bear fruit in the many privileges men are granted. The fatherhood bonus is an example of such a privilege. While women across America face a pay gap of 70 cents to a man’s dollar, much of this attributed to their role as mothers and home makers, men are rewarded with a fatherhood bonus “because they are perceived as needing to provide for people and fulfilling their responsibilities as citizens within patriarchy and capitalism.” (Saraswati et. al, 211) In advertising these relationships remain important to convey the necessity and urgency of products to male consumers.
In Women’s Health and Woman’s Day, by contrast, only 16% of the advertisements showed women with other people, while nearly 50% of ads, excluding those that featured only the product, featured one woman. This shows that, to advertisers, it is less important to show women’s relationships than it is for women to see themselves in the products they advertised. It is interesting to note that diversity was more prevalent in the magazines with a female audience. While all of the advertisements neglected to show diversity in sexuality, racial and age diversity was far more prevalent. ADD EXTRA STATS HERE
In print advertising, it seemed a priority to depict women alone rather than with other people. Surely, women have relationships. They are mothers, colleagues, wives, girlfriends, and friends, but in print advertising it seems less important to illustrate these relationships to sell a product. In the feature article of Women’s Health magazine, Issa Rae, author and tv writer and producer for HBO, is portrayed in a series of photos wearing sponsored clothing, accessories, and makeup. In comparison, the Men’s Health magazine’s main article featured Terry Crews also wearing sponsored clothing and accessories, but his collection of photos showcased him with his wife and family as well as solo pictures.
The ads featuring solo women more often used the women as decorative pieces rather than active users of the product. In an ad for Tiger Balm featured in Woman’s Day, a woman in active wear is show in a flying dance pose over the words “Roar Back” and the Tiger Balm product. In a Women’s Health advertisement for Tampax pads and tampons, a woman in a red body suit with a short plastic wrap skirt, a flapper-inspired jacket and calf-length white boots at least 6 inches tall. The top of her head is cropped out of the frame and we can only see her lips and jaw line. This is also consistent with findings found in BLAH BLAH JOURNAL.
The Separate Sphere Ideology confines the woman’s sphere to primarily her work in the home. In similar fashion ads directed towards female audiences also focus on women’s roles as mothers and wives. In the article Contradiction Sells: Feminine Complexity and Gender Identity Dissonance in Magazine Advertising, Sarah B. Crymble writes, “Married mothers are constructed, for example, as romantic not passionate figures, and are very clearly relegated to the domestic rather than the public sphere.” This follows with my findings in the ads I analyzed in Women’s Health and Woman’s Day magazines. The role of women portrayed in the ads were assumed to be mothers nearly 40% of the time. While some ads in the men’s magazines also focused on fatherhood, men’s roles in ads were more diverse. These ads exhibit what is probably the general view of men and women in society even though the realities of gender roles in the public sphere are quite different. The ads also illuminate the ways in which our limited view of women’s roles can subconsciously restrict our view into the Separate Sphere Ideology we’d like to reject.
An important aspect of the Separate Sphere Ideology is that women are expected to dwell in this sphere by themselves. Each woman exists in their own sphere within the “women’s sphere”. Betty Friedman’s The Feminine Mystique illustrated this in her writings about the lonely struggle of white middle-class women in the 1960s. QUOTE HERE. While men were off going to work and going to war, women were left with the not-so small task of taking care of the house and family in ways that were (and still are) supremely under-valued.
This isolation and devaluation eventually led to the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960s-1980s which has brought along with it many of the cultural and structural changes we enjoy in 2019. Print advertising, conversely, prefers to harken back to ideas of isolation and devaluation when showcasing a product for women’s use and consumption.
One thing that I have so far excluded from my analysis was print ads that featured no people and just the products being sold. Over the course of my analysis and while drawing overarching themes, I expected to find that product advertising would be found primarily in magazines with female audiences, because I wanted to draw a further conclusion toward depersonalization of women in advertising. However, what I actually found when calculating the total amount of ads in the magazines was that product advertising accounted for 41% of both types of magazines. This conclusion clarified the idea that the advertising industry seeks to promote their products not only against the interests of women but of everyone, through the use of gender scripted caricatures and product placement.
In closer examination, while 60% of these ads were gender-agnostic, many of these advertisements tended to be just as stereotypical of the gender roles for each of the magazines’ audiences. For example, in Men’s Health an advertisement for Tide laundry detergent features the product next to a tool box and power drill. In Woman’s Day, a bottle of Jergens moisturizer is advertised with a background consisting of woman’s sunhat, sunglasses, a summer outfit, and bracelets. The removal of male and female bodies from the advertisement doesn’t hinder advertisers’ ability to effectively communicate to their audiences. They remain able to do this because the idea of gender roles remains firmly rooted in the psyche of American culture.
The methods advertisers use to promote their products are a representation of the basic ideals that are still held in society for better or worse. They can embody the ways in which society is progressing. Overt sexualization of both women and men only occurred in 4% of the ads in the magazines I analyzed. About 11% of the advertisements featured people of color, which is a slight increase from the findings in the 1997 study “Racial and Gender Biases in Magazine Advertising” which found African Americans appeared in 10.1% of advertisements carried by magazines with a predominantly White readership (INSERT CITATION HERE).
On the other hand, these advertisements can also perpetuate the worst parts of our culture. In particular, I chose to analyze the ways in which advertisements propagate the Separate Sphere Ideology. This message is translated in the ways in which men and women are portrayed. Of the most concern is the ways that women are portrayed in isolation. In Contradiction Sells, Sarah Crymble describes how “industry has capitalized on the anxiety women experience when attempting to fulfill societal roles and express identity in a socially acceptable manner” (INSERT CITATION HERE) but women are apparently unfit to be portrayed in the social domain in the same ways as men.
The danger of this becomes apparent in the rates of low self-esteem of women in American society. To make an even graver comparison, the ways in which advertising separates men and women into their prescribed gender roles and then further separates women into their own individual spaces, is reminiscent of the ways in which abusers isolate their partners to facilitate power and control over their victims. If in fact advertisers can also find value in the banding together of women