Mens Men and Womens Women - Men's Men and Women's Women How TV Commercials Portray Gender to Different Audiences This article appeared as a chapter in

Mens Men and Womens Women - Men's Men and Women's Women How...

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Men's Men and Women's Women: How TV Commercials Portray Gender to Different Audiences This article appeared as a chapter in Issues and Effects of Mass Communication: Other Voices , ed. by Robert Kemper (San Diego, CA: Capstone Publishers, 1992), pp. 89-100. An earlier version was presented at the Western Social Science Association, Reno NV, April, 1991. Steve Craig Department of Radio, Television and Film P.O. Box 310589 University of North Texas Denton, TX 76203-0589 <[email protected]>
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Men’s Men and Women’s Women, page 1 Television advertisers have long followed the strategy of telecasting commercials at times when the sex of those in the audience most closely matches that of the primary purchaser of the product. Thus, daytime dramas, with a high percentage of women viewers, feature ads for food and cleaning products while weekend sportscasts, with a mostly male audience, have commercials for beer and automobiles. But don't such "gendered" ads encourage conventional, exploitative, gender images? That is, don't advertisers pander to the traditional gender fantasies and stereotypes of the audience in order to sell their products? In answering these questions in the affirmative, this paper examines some contemporary theory on gender fantasies, past research into gender stereotypes in television commercials, and documentation on current advertising industry practices. It then demonstrates, through a close analysis of several commercials, techniques used by advertisers to exploit different gender stereotypes at different times of the broadcast day. ° ° ° ° ° It is hardly news that television advertising portrays traditional gender stereotypes. As long ago as 1963, Betty Friedan attacked American businessmen and their exploitation of women through advertising in her seminal feminist work, The Feminine Mystique : It is their millions which blanket the land with persuasive images, flattering the American housewife, diverting her guilt and disguising her growing emptiness. They have done this so successfully, employing the techniques and concepts of modern social science, and transposing them into those deceptively simple, clever, outrageous ads and commercials, that an observer of the American scene today accepts as fact that the great majority of American women have no ambition other than to be housewives. If they are not responsible for sending women home, they are surely responsible for keeping them there. (pp. 218-219) Business, she argued, has a vested interest in maintaining traditional gender stereotypes, for the production and sales of many American goods and services are dependent on the exploitation of fears and anxieties connected to traditional gender identities. Thus gender stereotyping has an important economic motivation, and this is seen nowhere better than in television commercials. Yet much of the past research into gender stereotyping in advertising has all but ignored the economic aspects of the issue, tending instead to treat gender stereotypes in television advertising as fixed portrayals, constant across the program schedule.
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