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Not An Object: The Subjectification of Women In Mass Media 

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    “Two Ways a Woman can Get Hurt: Advertising and Violence” by Jean Kilbourne, paints a picture of abuse, objectification, and oppression of women. Similarly, Elline Lipkin’s essay, “Girls’ Bodies, Girls’ Selves: Body Image, Identity and Sexuality” talks about how much the media, along with, societal pressure has really affected women in their day to day life. By adopting Lipkin’s explanations along with Kilbourne’s graphic examples, advertisements aimed towards women, indirectly convey, the idea that women are expected to abide to these unrealistic ideals to be perfect, to pleasure men, and to accept violence without defiance. Kilbourne and Lipkin both successfully attempt to explain how the media is an enormous influence on how men perceive women and on how women perceive themselves. Mass media has slowly convinced women that there is only one true ideology of beauty. Women have always felt pressured to look a certain way due to the fact that we are constantly shown these unrealistic depictions of women who are shown in in ads, tv, and all over social media.

    Unfortunately, these distorted depictions have greatly affected our society in how we view women. Due to so many illusory pressures, women are now being taught that if they do not fit the idealized American beauty standard(s), then they are less valued then these photoshopped models on the front pages of Vogue Magazine. Women are always being compared to other women when it comes down to looks. We start to compare ourselves to the women we see in ads or on television which slowly diminishes our confidence and unknowingly changes our perception of beauty. Lipkin further adds to this topic by stating, “The claim that parents, advertisers, and culture make on a girls’ bodies are dizzying- body odor must be banned, underarm hair removed, breasts lifted to a certain perk, clear skin, hair made glossy and enticing.” (Lipkin 599). Women are constantly under fire about what they should, and should not be doing with their bodies.

    Living in America’s media obsessed society also means living up to a beauty standard that is truly unattainable. From the time we are born, women are taught to view themselves as objects. Women are taught to satisfy men by being pressured, at a young age, to shave, wax our eyebrows, maintain a slim but curvy figure, and that we must enhance certain parts of our body to be considered sexy. Another early influencer in a young girl’s life is mass media, more specifically, ads. We see ads on the sides of buses, billboards, television, newspapers, and magazines. When a young girl sees these explicit images of these beautiful women who are depicted in many suggestive poses, they become the target of these ads who are subliminally trying to get these young women to buy the products being promoted.

    These women end up buying the promoted material, in hopes of resembling the women that are being portrayed in the ads themselves.. It is majority women who are affected by these harmful messages illustrated in media, for example, women are made to be seen as the more submissive and frail gender, while men are characterized to be aggressive, dominate and authoritative. Jean Kilbourne states that “the body language of girls is usually passive, vulnerable, and very different from the body languages of boys and men.” This depicts the idea of fragility in women, in other words, stating that women are more emotional and “weak” compared to men, who are made to be strong and robust. We are constantly surrounded with hypersexulized images of females, and we, as a society, have become so desensitized to these distraught images, that we do not even notice them in our day to day life. “Wash me” says an ad for a shower gel that is intended for men, but depicts a dirty female that is covered in mud, with only her body on display, but her face cut out.

    This is just one example of an ad that represents the seemingly normal objectification of women. Another, equally alarming, advertisement is one meant to promote Guest jeans, even though, there are no jeans in sight. In fact, this advertisement is cut from the waist up, only depicting an image of a women and a man, his arms are wrapped around her waist, and her blouse is undone very low, it seems like they are selling the sex, not the actual jeans themselves. Women are just displayed and used as sexual objects to promote brands and products in hopes to sell. Sadly, this wide spread sexualzation of women in mass media is very detrimental, not only to women, but to the rest of society as well. The women on screen are arranged to have perfect skin, shapely curves, long shiny hair, and lips that are plumped to perfection, to society, this is the ideal women.

    Not only is society degrading women, but women are beginning to degrade themselves, which in turn, corrupts the dignity of the women around us. When women are constantly being surrounded by criticism, whether its from men, the media, or other women themselves, we begin to slowly obsess over our appearance while being taught that our looks should to be tied to our worth. We start to think that we’re too fat to go to the beach and too ugly to be on tv, this insecurity becomes worse when we start to compare ourselves with the women we see on television, this causes us to have: lower self-esteem, anxiety about their appearance, depression, eating disorders, and discontentment with their own lives. Advertisements can set the barometer for what a culture considers normal. When ads are pushing these images of women who are being objectified or being put in harm’s way, violence seems to become very trivial, it unknowingly reduces the probability that acts of violence, towards women, will even be reported. As we all know, advertising is one of the most popular ways to sell or promote a product.

    Some of these advertisements show women being sexually violated and abused. Even though, these ads are not definitively promoting violence, they are using violence to help promote their product. Advertisers often do not take the issue of sexual violence towards women seriously. In fact, they disguise these gruesome advertisements, as art, innuendo, or just plain humor, in hopes of their product gaining recognition based on it’s shock value. Scroll through any high fashion magazine and you will likely come across an image of a women, who is being abused, battered or assaulted, which is causing severe corruption by essentially normalizing violence against women. Defining women as sexualized, enslaved beings unintentionally creates a rape culture in which treating women like objects through the established use of violence is considered acceptable.

    These appalling advertisements are communicating that it is okay to touch women without consent and that women desire a man that is dangerous. An Egyptian PSA text reads, “ You can’t stop them, but you can protect yourself.’ This ad shows a picture of two lollipops, one is covered with plastic (representing a covered female), with no flies around it. The other lollipop is uncovered, with flies swarming all around it. This mortifying advertisement is flat out blaming the victim. This idea that masculinity equals violence, is damaging to the male youth. Advertisements that feed men with the idea that they need to be sinister, violent and demeaning are everywhere. One Dolce and Gabbana ad seems to be glorifying gang rape.

    A swimwear model seems to be restrained on the ground by a shirtless man, surrounding them is a group of half dressed men, sinisterly watching. It is ads like this that force women to be submissive and encourage men to think that to be sexy, is to be violent. Women have been the glorified object in ads since the introduction of advertising, many centuries ago. Although advertising has made huge improvement since the ‘50s, or what i’d like to call, the “Mad-Men” era, men- and the companies that are targeting the male demographic, continue to illustrate women as sexualized objects, which is implying that male dominance is powerful advertising tool, and also, a great way for their promoted material to grab the attention of consumers. Whether advertisements are trying to promote a body wash for men, jeans, cologne, a shoe company, or even food, the advertisers are anticipating her. 

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