Gender in Advertising

Since advertising has a great impact on how our society works and manipulates how we as individuals see eachother, I have come across a very interesting article “Twerking men and kick-ass girls: how advertising learned to gender-flip”. The focus of the text is the advertising video of called “Epic Strut” in which a man takes the role of the women wearing heels and shorts, twerking on the street to Pussycat Dolls’ song Don’t cha and the author explains very well how gender in advertising affects our society.

While the advertising is about car insurance, the man’s booty went viral as the “new Kim Kardashian”. His fake posterior is trying to sell the product, but the issue was that ever since sexuality was introduced into the market as strategy, it belonged to women. The author’s first argument is that a study of Rolling Stones magazine in 1960 11% of men and 44% of women were sexualized and in 2000 it reached to 83% of women and 17% of men. Therefore, women were always more likely to be hypersexualised.

The way women are sexually advertised has become so normal to us, that when the businessman’s posterior appeared raised a lot of questions in the gender stereotype. Comments on Mumsnet about this are positive: seeing how “ridiculous” women look in the mass media and having this sexism reversed is it “lovely”. On the other hand, according to the producer of the advert there wasn’t any intention to reverse sexism behind it, but “Beyonce’s butt”, without realizing on a higher cultural level it would create a change in the interpretation of gender.

In the next paragraph Arwa uses beautiful vivid images to describe how this change happened, comparing it to a fairytale. The action happened “once upon a time” in “adland” where women and men had clear roles: females were either mothers or used sexually, while men were “meat-eating lotharios” or “incompetent dads”. Then the bad fairy came in “the 21st century” and the ads didn’t sell so good as before, so this change in stereotypes was necessary. According to a study made by an advertising agency Saatchi&Saatchi, only one woman out of five identified herself in the publicities representing women.

Because of this, advertising campaigns started empowering women. In order to persuade us into considering how important gender is in advertising, the author used two examples that changed the course of publicity. Always’ campaign “Like a Girl” had such a powerful impact over the public, by turning the expression “like a girl” into something strong. No longer an insult or a description of someone weak, this campaign got not only the admiration of people worldwide but also a boost in the selling market of their products. They put together both children and adults and asked them the same questions. The children described the actions of a girl as something equal to men, while the adults were overwhelmed by the stereotypes of today’s society.

While women grew stronger in the advertising industry, something needed to be done about men’s image too. Dove’s campaign “Personal Care” found out that ¾ of dads said they are responsible for their child’s emotional well-being and only 20% believe that is reflected in the mass media. Using the logo “Care makes a man stronger” they sold their deodorants for men better than before and updated the image of the man as a bad father, but now a strong and responsible one. Due to the success of this campaign, Superbowl used it as a theme and brands like Nissan and Toyota added this twist to sell their products too: a man cries in his car after leaving his daughter for military deployment.

The conclusion is a strong one, raising the question if this is really how we felt all along or we do now due to the advertising industry. Considering that this reverse sexism happened by mistake, Arwa appeals to our reason when asking if advertising is actually taking a step further in stereotypes. The roles of women has indeed improved, they are telling us to be whomever we want to be, but do not forget it is still advertising. We are all costumers. This text is a good example of how to understand the stereotypes shown to us.


Arwa Mahdawi. Twerking men and kick-ass girls: how advertising learned to gender-flip. (3rd of April, 2015)


Ioana Faur, Journalism English line, 3rd year


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