Gender representation in advertising

Media representations are the way the media re-construct the world; it is not actually mirroring how the world is. The media does however have a big influence on the world, and by representing certain aspects, like gender and its roles, of life it can contribute to our understanding of our place in society.

Gender representation in the media is no new thing, but why is it a topic that keeps coming up? I’d like to think that stereotypical roles of gender such as the woman confined to domestic roles are gone, but by taking one look at how the media represents women in advertising you can tell this is not the case.

Almost every advertisement that is trying to sell cooking, cleaning or products to do with homemaking is targeted towards women reinforcing that this is still the role a woman should take on. The difference between advertisements from the 1950’s and today in a ‘homemaking’ regard is not much.

In advertising women are shown as something of beauty, submissiveness, support and nurture, whereas a men depict power, strength and competitiveness. Interestingly when looking at the role of masculinity in advertising it is portrayed as the males being alert, controlled and serious, whereas femineity in advertising is playful, seductive and vulnerable. Advertising reinforces the idea of a social norm when it comes to gender.

Even when the roles are reversed in advertising and a man is depicted as doing something that is meant to be a ‘woman’s’ job, it is supposed to have a comedic value because it is abnormal and ‘silly’ for a man to be doing these things. It makes fun of males showing them as completely clueless and stupid when it comes to domestic duties, reiterating that this is not their place. 

Advertising needs to decrease its use of stereotypes when it comes to gender roles. It’s 2014, men and women are in the both in the workforce and it is not up to only one gender to do certain tasks. 


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