The role of gender in advertising has been an issue in society since the advent of modern media and advertising methods. Over the years media sources have used methods that concentrate on sex and stereotypical images and ideas of the parts men and women play as consumers. Such methods have constructed a paradigm of how we view females and the roles they play in society, the most prominent being the housewife which began in the early 1950s.
Advertisements play upon people’s insecurities, promising the consumer that, with the help of the product in question, the consumer can become a better person. When looking at advertisements we don’t always consider how the woman is represented in the advertisement, the product being sold, which insecurities the ad plays on, and what hidden messages are being subliminally sent to the audience.
I chose to explore the ways in which females are represented in advertisements and how they have continuously transformed to fit the ideals of today’s society. Moreover, one element has remained the same, women are sexualized. Sexual imagery is used to sell everything, from beauty supplies to kitchen appliances, even food. Compared to men, women are overwhelmingly sexualized in media advertising, often being submissive to the male which has created unrealistic images and stereotypes about gender, more specifically females. As historians it is our job to interpret museum collections in interesting and relevant ways. By pairing objects from the Museum’s collection I wanted to shed light on how we have become desensitized to, and advertisements have set the stage for gender-influenced divides in society. I also wanted to display how such simple objects such as a vacuum or dress shirt could be turned into something sexual through a misogynist lens. As patriarchy continues to prevail in Western culture, there is an astounding underrepresentation of women in both past and present media providing an inadequate depiction of the various roles they play.
Although this aMUSE is not meant to depict males as evil dominant humans but provide insight as to how we as individuals and society are effected by gender biases and stereotypes and that such imagery in the media can continue to front the great gender divide by associating objects and roles to specific genders.
This month’s aMUSE will take place on September 29th from 5-9pm at Rodman Hall.
Lauren Curtas is a Public Programmer from the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canal Centre. She thanks Rodman Hall Art Centre for their gracious hospitality in hosting this event.