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Sex and Gender in Advertising

            "The exemplary female prototype in advertising, regardless of product or service, displays youth (no lines or wrinkles), good looks, sexual seductiveness, and perfection (no scars, blemishes, or even pores (Cortese 2008, 59)." It's a difficult point to argue; in looking around, what's gleaned is how familiar this sounds (or appears) and how it continues to be driven home without obstacle through today's perfunctory media-driven landscape. Little about a woman's (or young girl's) inner beauty or self-worth is ever made apparent in how advertisements elect to depict them; no, what's truly important is how attractive or sexy such a woman comes across, both to the female recipient (for which the ad is targeted) and the male observer (for which the ad will be objectified and scrutinized). Quite simply, a woman's role in advertising isn't to appear educated or successful or independent; her job is to be seductive and sexy and desirable, because accepted attractiveness is her only worthy attribute (Cortese 2008, 59). And if they fail to attain such an expectation, they are taught to feel ashamed and guilt-ridden until they go out to the store and purchase the necessary products capable of altering their misguided self-image. The depiction of men in advertising, according to my observations of several men-targeted magazines, is quite different in almost every regard; where women are seen as sex-objects and/or artificial, men are portrayed as confident, self-reliant, and successful.
             In my assessment of six print ads (three from female-targeted magazines, three from male-targeted magazines) observed from four different magazines (Cosmopolitan, Glamour, GQ, and Men's Health), I attached William Leiss's discussion of semiotics in "The Structure of Advertising" to each ad in hopes of extracting even deeper messages on the subject of gender codes and characteristics.

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