Even as the world is changing, stereotyping of gender in media, especially advertisements, does not seem to have changed that much. It is true that advertisements have adapted themselves to portraying the changing social reality like depicting women in different roles. This change has become subtler, even as such advertisements harp on complex issues such as women’s empowerment and gender equality. The present study did a content analysis of current television advertisements to determine the trends in gender role stereotyping. The study concludes that gender stereotypes persist in the Indian television commercial scenario to a large extent. However, a shift was observed towards portraying women in a positive role.
Portrayal of woman in advertising has been an area of interest for both academicians and practitioners. There has been a socio-cultural change in society over the decades which are evident from the increasing number of women pursuing careers, changing family role structure, and unfavorable female attitudes toward traditional sex-role stereotypes.
Many other studies still believe that sex-role stereotyping occurs in television commercials and the same is been a trend for years. There is a strong similarity in sex role advertising around the world but there have been a few studies which have focused on the effect of culture on advertising.
There are a variety of roles men and women play in today’s world. They are partners, business associates, parents, earners etc. Through all this, advertisers now have a varied way of showcasing these roles. Let us see a few of these media stereotypes.
These come out in ads of clothing, fragrances, make-up and even unconventional products like furniture, wherein the lead male or female character is a perfectly dressed, perfectly made-up and has a very confident, go-getter kind of personality. It almost seems surreal that everyone in this reel world is so free from any human physical flaws. And while we know that this is not reality, and that magnificent advances in computer technology have made sure that whatever remaining tiny flaws may be present can be easily removed on screen, viewers purchase those products or services in a strong attempt to attain just that perfection. A perfect example of this would be the Fair & Lovely ads that show women transforming into beauties with light and fair skin, which in turn helps them to get ahead in their careers. The actual message given out here is that only fair-skinned women can succeed, but its users perceive it as a way of increasing the self-confidence by feeling and becoming beautiful.
This simply means that men and women featured in certain ads are used as something of a decorative asset, rather than to actually convey a message. They may or may not even interact with the actual product in the communication. They are used to make the communication look pretty and nothing more. Here, one will find a world where less than gorgeous people do not exist at all, but is populated with men with 8-pack abs and women who have a figure that most designers would kill to work with. The models in these ads are objects of desire and
their main objective is to entice consumers to buy into their commercial. A classic example of this would be ads like Axe deodorants, Jealous 21 posters that say “Not for the masses” etc. Another example of decorative stereotypes is property ads, where a beautiful woman is sitting overlooking a pretty scenery outside, where she doesn’t interact with the actual product, but manages to convey the fact that a home purchased here would give you views like this from your home every day. A fact to be noted here, is that women are a lot more likely to be stereotyped here than men.
The Indian ad scenario typically witnesses a lot of family-based commercials, wherein the woman is mostly a mother and housewife and the male lead is seen going off to work and/or coming home tired in the evening. Another category is mother-and-child ads, which portray a stereo-typical bonding. Products like spices, food products etc. are a perfect setting to use such a family-oriented ad, since it is believed that Indian consumers tend to respond strongly and positively to this traditional family spending time together. Mothers being cautious of their kids’ health and being choosy of purchases for their family’s sake are targeted at women, as they are the primary shoppers of the household.
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