It’s evident that the media constantly feeds people ideas of what we are supposed to look like. Everywhere around us advertisements sell us concepts of the ideal female and male beauty, telling us who we are, what we should be like and how we should look. Women’s bodies are sexualized, objectified and commodified, while images of hyper masculinity reinforce the socially constructed idea that men cannot be sensitive nor weak. Advertising companies are genius because the public — you and me and everyone around us — we eat their $h*t up like candy. If it didn’t work, we wouldn’t see women in sexual positions while wearing a pair of tights or half naked, buff men showering with a certain body wash.
I think by now many of us have seen the viral videos of how some simple Photoshopping can turn almost anyone into the beautiful, yet clearly constructed goddesses we see everywhere in advertisements (Body Evolution, Dove Evolution Commercial). And still, we buy into it despite the evident truths. Advertising dehumanizes and objectifies women, often times hacking the model’s body, showing only “key” areas, indicating to the viewer that that woman’s identity doesn’t matter. She is nothing more than a pair of nice boobs and a crotch… but please buy our perfume, which by the way, is for MEN.
So what are the effects of all this? Why does it really matter that ads sell us false images? Simply put, because the effects are real, they are significant and they are important enough to discuss because only by acknowledging them will these false images lose their power. Undoubtedly, women and girls compare themselves to the images that advertisements show. This can affect their self-esteem, making them self-conscious of how they look, as they indefinitely attempt to reach the “perfect” body or “look,” as seen in the media. For men, they may judge women more harshly, thinking that they should look the way that women in ads do — creating an unattainable goal for the majority of women. For young teenage girls — a key target audience in advertisement — they are sold the idea that they will only be acceptable, desired, worthy and given attention if they look a certain way (usually skinny). As if being a 13-year-old girl weren’t already hard enough, add to that the media not only telling them, “buy this brand of jeans or you will not be cool,” but also “look unhealthily thin in them while you’re at it.”
And talk about the double standards that exist in our society when it comes to women. Women are sexualized in ads, over and over again, while society tells us that we should be ladylike and virginal. Girls from a young age are taught to maintain their innocence, to be proper; yet all they see in ads is to be sexy and experienced, giving them incredibly mixed and confusing signals. Why does our society shrug off men who are “experienced,” yet shuns women when they express their sexuality in one way or another? What kind of twisted world do we live in where it’s okay for women to be sexualized the way they are in ads, TV, movies, and everywhere we look in the media – with incredibly demeaning and inappropriate images for products like burgers, high fashion brands, candy bars, alcohol and even social campaigns (completely unrelated to women’s sexuality); yet in real life women are labeled negatively if they remotely show their sexuality or sensuality in public.
The mere fact that we give no negative term to “experienced” men, yet havecountless derogatory labels for women, tells you everything about how messed up our society is. Calling aman a “player,” a “gigolo,” or someone who has “game,” all have a positive connotation, while “slut,” “skank,” “hoe,” “whore,” “prostitute,” all have a negative connotation and will NEVER be used to positively describe a woman. But this isn’t about anti-slut shaming. I could go on and on about that, so we’ll save that for another time. For that, watch THIS: Walk of No Shame with Amber Rose.
This is about the media and recognizing the role it plays in demeaning women, while getting people to reflect on what the effect of that is. Sex, for example, is
demonstrated in advertisements as something that is only enjoyed by young and beautiful people, while there is a lack of emphasis on intimacy and relationships, contributing to the trivialization of sex in the media. Some would argue it normalizes sexual violence and contributes to victim blaming. Moreover, these images continually cause women to become self-conscious about their sexuality. How can a woman enjoy and love sex if they hate their bodies? How can a woman feel sexy if what society says is sexy is ONE body type that many cannot attain. When society claims that there is only one way to be sexy, then there’s no room for change – it automatically means that anything different from that is not beautiful nor desired.
We cannot keep telling women and in particular young girls that the unattainable beauty seen in ads is the only beauty that there is and that it is the only important thing to aspire to be. Pardon my French, but that is just plain bullshit. I’m not going to write about how we should all love ourselves for who we are and
how we were made because you should already know that. But I do hope that readers criticize more closely ads from now on and understand the negative influence that showing women as objects for male viewing pleasure has on our society as a whole.
Written by Emiliana Lopez