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7 April 2013

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Womens Representation in 1970s Advertisements

Throughout the history of advertising, the main trick used to appeal to customers was associating the product or its possession to women or having power over women. Furthermore, the advertisement is not only formed by the influence of society and current culture, but it also shapes the image of women either making them follow the standards represented or copy the looks of people. Currently, there are a lot of young people suffering from anorexia and bulimia trying to look like models selling the products. Thus, if the advertisement has such a big influence onto women and men worldwide, it is crucial to examine the roots of such advertisements that lie in the 70s, when advertisers first started using womens body like a sexual object that represents the item on sale.

Womans face as an illustration was firstly used in one of the first London local magazines Female Tatler, where the first-time womens face was used to draw attention to media. Furthermore, this was not a portrait of a real woman, it was a product of imagination, an individuality which was depicted in articles. Her face looked young, and in the articles she was presented as an intelligent and experienced woman, making her even more mysterious. Later on womens face and body became an indispensable part of advertising, but the advertisements of 1970 can truly be considered a turning point in the history of advertising. First of all, the advertisement before the 70s represented women in more conservative way and, starting from that time, advertisers began to present women in more sexual and open-minded ways, trying to sexually attract men and thus increase sales of the product. The most critical point of objectifying womens body is observed currently when only a part of the body is used to advertise an item, which means that a woman is not considered as a person or individuality, but merely as an object. Furthermore, there were examples of advertisements in the seventies when a woman was depicted like a piece of fur on the floor, and a slogan claiming It is nice to have a girl around the house was written underneath. Furthermore, a man was shown standing with one foot on womans head. Not only does this advertisement totally depersonalize women, but also it depicts man being totally superior. Nowadays advertisements do not propagate possession of women in such an obvious way; however, women are never depicted as being totally independent. They are usually shown as an accessory for men or as a lady in trouble in need of assistance. This image is popularized because of male stereotypes of perfect women, which do not include intelligence and independence. On the other hand, in the seventies, a series of advertisements was launched by a cigarette maker picturing seemingly successful and intelligent women smoking cigarettes, thus trying to induce the image that smoking makes women look more independent and serious. Furthermore, women were assigned male features such as one of the slogans stating Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch, thus still depersonalizing women and making them similar to men.

Even though such advertisements had an immense influence on women, probably inducing a bigger number of them to smoke, yet the most destructive, psychologically speaking, is advertising of cosmetics and beauty products. First of all, these are the images that create role models for young girls and women to follow. Secondly, these images also influence male stereotype of a perfect beauty. Thirdly, nowadays these pictures have little in common with real life models as far as most of the photos have been touched up and thus show an etalon of beauty that is impossible for anyone to achieve. Cosmetics advertisers tend to create fairy tale-like images to make them more unattainable for women, thus showing them that they are not perfect, and they can improve their looks with the help of suggested product or product line. Therefore, this lowers self-esteem of women, hurting their self-perception and leading to the spread of such diseases as anorexia and bulimia. The biggest drawback of such advertisement is associating of perfect beauty with a young girl, who has no imperfections, thus making older women spend enormous sums of money buying products that should bring back their youth. Even though this problem might be assigned only to women, it still influences men and the whole society. Firstly, it creates a number of generation refusing to get older and accept their biological age. Secondly, trying to keep to their good looks women tend to postpone or completely abandon the idea of child birth, thus influencing the whole society. Not only, the number of children within one family decreases, but also most of them are born when their parents are middle-aged, and thus they are not as healthy. Thirdly, being influenced by age-defying cosmetics women tend to get more self critical and self-demanding, which in turn can lead to depression and other severe mental problems, which in turn reflects on their surrounding, as well.

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The other advertisement area that is oriented specifically at women is the household appliances that are supposed to make womans life better. These types of advertisements can be distinguished into two categories. The first one is oriented at men, encouraging them to buy one of such appliances for their women, portraying perfect housewife that is beautiful and fresh despite all the daily routine, and obediently and patiently waits for her husband to come home. Second is the one that emphasizes how easier life can be for a woman if she obtains one of these appliances, therefore, making the product appeal to women. Thus, in modern word of advertising as well as in advertising of seventies there are two dominant images of a woman. It is an object of sexual attraction or a perfect house wife. Furthermore, these images are rarely combined in one advertisement and have a number of discrepancies between them, causing women to cave achieving both of these ideals and, therefore, creating a double standard of an ideal woman. What is more, if to take a closer look at historical framework, it is quite obvious that 1970 is the high point of the second wave of feminism (1960-1980). Whereas the first and third waves of feminists movement paid particular attention to the role of women in politics and, namely, the equal influence of men and women onto the politics of the country, the second wave feminists paid their particular attention to inequality in roles of men and women laws and culture. Through encouraging women to be equal with men, the third ideal of successful and independent woman was created. This role model included the qualities that were disregarded in previous ones, such as intelligence, cleverness, independence and strength, and, therefore, was more oriented at the individuality of a woman, encouraging her to achieve the same level of success men have already achieved. Furthermore, these three roles still exist in advertising nowadays, depending on what is being advertised. Obviously, household appliances are propagated by an ideal housewife, product for men are presented by sexually attractive women, and products that are bought by women for themselves are usually presented by a woman who looks serious and smart and, therefore, represents the looks of successful business lady. This variety of roles has established higher demands from women, forming stereotypes of a perfect woman who should combine all these features, by being a perfect wife and mother, successful at work at the same time being attractive. It can be claimed to be the modern role model of an ideal woman that combines main features of aforementioned stereotypes formed by advertising.

To sum up it is clear that advertising has had an immense influence on society in general, but also throughout decades, it has shaped the stereotypes of an ideal woman, at the same time influencing their looks and behavior. Moreover, there are three main roles that women play in advertising, which are a housewife, the object of sexual attraction and successful business lady. All these three stereotypes have influenced and shaped the ideal of the perfect woman.

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