Gender, power, and work in TV-advertisements

University essay from Lunds universitet/Sociologi

Author: Johanna Illergård; [2004]

Keywords: Sociology; Sociologi; Social Sciences;

Abstract: Advertisements use cultural symbols and myths that exist in society. When women are represented at work in advertisements it often illustrates their subordinate position to men. This illustrates the gender system: how men as a group have more power than women as a group. The concentration here is on TV-advertisement's representation of women in connection to work, power, and objectification. Men's representations are only used here compared to women. Some central theories are Yvonne Hirdman's system of gender which explains how men have higher rank than women and that femininity and masculinity are kept apart, Laura Mulvey's male gaze theory highlights an active male and passive female dimension in camera work and narration in film, Sandra Lee Bartky's points out how psychological oppression of the subordinated operates, and Erving Goffman's phenomena that he found in his study Gender Advertisements (1979) are put in the context of advertisements today. The previous mentioned theories are combined with the qualitative method of semiotics and applied on six selected TV-advertisements. Some helpful tools are, e.g. Stuart Hall's encoding/decoding theory of reading texts and Roland Barthes' concept of myth. The analysis is presented in themes - gender, power, and work - in order to facilitate the reading. The study illustrates how powerful and infiltrated the gender system is in following the male norm, e.g. the analysis of the advertisements indicate that still today women have to improve their looks, show their bodies, listen, and receive instructions, while men solve problems and give instructions. The "superwoman", who manages to do all the work at home and on the job in addition to this she also fits into the narrow beauty ideal, is not as independent as she might appear at first in advertisements. This myth does not favour women, instead it puts more demand on real women. Keywords: gender, power, work, advertisements, semiotics, objectification, women, men, genus

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