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Sexism in product advertising

Updated on May 5, 2015

We've come a long way in the struggle for equal rights and treatment for men and women. However, the media and advertisements reveal that there is still headway to be made. See the ads below for examples of how common gender roles and stereotypes are reinforced.

Fit Light Yogurt

The text at the bottom of this ad says, "Forget about it. Men's preference will never change. Fit Light Yogurt." Basically, this ad is saying that if you want to be with a man and/or have a relationship, women need to look good and be thin. Even though the woman in this ad looks happy and even fun-loving, the ad is saying that that's not good enough. This is clearly referring to the famous image of the thinner Marilyn Monroe. Can you imagine how it must feel if you are a fuller woman and you see this ad? How demeaning and superficial.

St. Pauli Girl Beer

This ad to me has some very strong ideas of what the role a woman should play in a family. The woman here is shown in physical contact with the children, displaying a more nurturing side to her while the male is in the back. Her white dress represents to me her innocence and femininity; of course the little girl is in a dress as well. American Living is a pretty expensive brand, so it's basically saying that the American family is white, well-to-do, and has two kids, a dog, and an American flag in the back of the truck.

"You never forget your first girl."

That's what the text at the bottom of this beer ad says. The ad directly compares women to an alcoholic beverage... and it refers to sexual conquest as well. It's not like it's talking about a man being with one girl, but it says "first girl," meaning that there likely have been others since. The woman is faceless in this ad, probably because the face doesn't really matter; however, the ad is sure to include the low cut of her short dress.

Virginia Slims

The text here says, "What you call gossip we call fact-finding." The creators of this ad believe that women don't talking about important things when they are together; while men might "fact-find" as scientists or other such workers, women smoke and chat about other people. This trivializes the woman's brain and accomplishments, making them seem inferior to men.

This ad above is one of the most disturbing... it looks like a gang rape! The attractive woman is pinned down in a suggestive pose while three other men look on. The woman is in a very vulnerable and powerless position compared to the men, but all that the company seems to care about is that everyone supposedly looks good. Men apparently like their women docile, and women should like it too.

Carl's Jr. Ad

Whether it's Paris Hilton trying to look sexy with a burger, women dressing up for a date because they're supposedly always more romantic than their boyfriends, or some guy who can't cook, Carl's Junior definitely advertises social norms. After all, with them, some guys would starve.


How many commercials have you seen for household products in which men were using them? I always see women scrubbing the windows and bathrooms, cleaning the kitchen floors, or using detergent and bleach. Men usually don't know anything about cleaning or chores around the house. What does this say about men's responsibilities at home?


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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      The greatest sensation in endorsing beauty products is a young lady who can advertise without the suggestion of selling sex. Zoella (real name Sue Sugg) is a west country girl with elfin qualities. Initially quite shy Zoella now has the confidence to promote lotions, potions, ungeants, accessories, you name it! I believe Zoella now has a cult following.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 3 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your comments!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      I recall an advertisement for hairspray where a young couple leaving a nightclub were attacked on the way to their car. The lady a ravishing blonde wearing a shimmering dress took immediate retaliation using her judo skills to despatch them all single handed while her beau looked on helpless. They waltzed away hand in hand leaving all the would be attackers sprawling on the roadway. Her platinum blonde hair still in place, not a thread of her dress torn and still balanced in her high heeled shoes.

    • rohanfelix profile image

      Rohan Rinaldo Felix 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      There definitely is a lot of sexism in advertising. It's a problem that agencies must consciously address. I work in advertising myself.

    • hubber088 profile image

      hubber088 6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      The Dolce and Gabbana ad is especially disturbing. It definitely looks like a gang rape but with all parties having a good time. I can't even believe they are advertising their clothes through that message! It seems alright as long as everyone involved is good looking.

    • profile image

      LoganMarin 7 years ago

      WHat are you women doing on your husbands computers?! GET BACK IN THAT KITCHEN

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 8 years ago from Northern California

      It's true! I almost think it used to be worse in the past!

    • electricsky profile image

      electricsky 8 years ago from North Georgia

      I have always heard there is no other way to sell a product but to get their attention with sex. People's attention pops up and they like to think they will also be sexy if they use the product.

      It has been that way forever.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 8 years ago from Northern California

      Fair enough. I can agree that these are all interpretations... But I feel very strongly about them and that's why I made this Hub.

    • Dangazzm profile image

      Dangazzm 8 years ago

      I don't want to portray the wrong point by using the word "fault" I apologize its just my vocabulary that cause that misinterpretation. What I meant was it being your interpretation and well lets face it.

      We can all read a book and all get a different interpretation from it.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 8 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks everyone!

      I disagree, Dang... For the yogurt ad, I don't think that it's implying that women should be skinnier for health reasons. I don't think it's someone's "fault" for being offended by their interpretation.

    • Dangazzm profile image

      Dangazzm 8 years ago

      I personally do not see anything wrong with any of these,sure the dolce and Gabonna is a little disturbing. In an awkward kind of way, though all forms of fashion be a runway or modeling magazines which is the case I am assuming it is here has always never quite been understood by me.

      Get fit and stay light, it's sure it's a health thing trying to get more Americans to be as healthy as possible. If you take it as sexism that's your fault.

      I'm not even ago on any of the other ones because there was no valid point on any of them either. I apologize for coming down cut of harsh but it's the way I feel false alarm for no reason.

      And in reply to the women in the advertisements that supposedly don't realize how much it affects others, some of the offers you 7 to 8 figures to do a quick post would you turn down. I don't think so I don't care for what it stands for abortion or anything, what would you do? Times are hard and anybody would do it.

    • Mina131 profile image

      Mina131 8 years ago from United States

      Great hub...I just wish the women in these advertisements would realize how much it affects others. Disturbing.

    • profile image

      Zach Thompson 8 years ago

      I see you have some high ranking hubs, can you teach me how to promote and develop hubs? Thanks! Please email me if you are interested.

    • dipless profile image

      dipless 8 years ago from Manchester

      A great hub, just proves sex sells, The advert really hits home about the fact the sexism and stereotyping are rife in adverts, however it works and even though it is wrong and should be discouraged, the practices will never stop until it stops working, and knowing human nature...especially male nature this won't happen any time soon.

      A nice hub thanks for this :)

    • Guardian1 profile image

      Guardian1 8 years ago

      You have a great way of expressing yourself. I also really like the variety of ads you showed to get your point across. Very nice and very perceptive.

    • Barbara Yurkoski profile image

      Barbara Yurkoski 8 years ago

      Excellent analysis of both outright and more subtle stereotyping and sexism.

    • Mary T. profile image

      Mary T. 8 years ago from Greater Cleveland

      These are great ads to illustrate sexism! Subliminal messaging in ads is very scary to think what marketers are puttung in our heads on a daily basis that we aren't even aware of. I've studied mass media and learned how images of death and sex are the two most common hidden images in ads. Check out the ice on the side of a Coke machine next time you're near one! You'll be shocked. Great hub!

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 8 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks everyone! I'm impressed by the things the response that this Hub generated! James, I'm not sure how sarcastic you are, but just because something is a little true doesn't mean that it's not also a little true for the other gender, and thus should only be attributed to the one

    • Eaglekiwi profile image

      Eaglekiwi 8 years ago from -Oceania

      And then they put bikini girl on the finale of American Idol , ahhhh

      what the hells has new boobs or fake tan got to do with a singing talent show? keeps them in their seats I guess...

      An otherwise brilliant nights entertainment!

    • profile image

      ahoward0909 8 years ago

      Very good article!

    • profile image

      vijayrana 8 years ago

      hello dear how are youy

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      That Dolce ad is sickening. But I like the American Living ad. Of course women are more nurturing. You didn't know that? I mean they birth babies, suckle babies—it's your Momma who nurtures you and loves you no matter what you do.

      The fat girl needs to lose some weight—not for men—for her own health. You don't see old fat people.

      And who doesn't know that women gossip? I have five sisters and they love the latest scuttlebutt. So what?

      I know you are addressing stereotypes. Stereotypes have their origin in the truth. That is where they come from. They are exaggerated, simplified, over generalized truths.

    • Eaglekiwi profile image

      Eaglekiwi 8 years ago from -Oceania

      Also since when was drinking beer ever sexy to woman?? someone with bigger and honest money needs adverts to conteract these glamourised alcohol adverts.

    • Nolimits Nana profile image

      Nicolette Goff 8 years ago from British Columbia

      Wow - great hub. You've really hit the nail on the head. Sex sells? those ads weren't sexy, they were demeaning and reveal a certain contempt for women. Not to mention how men are depicted - sex crazed, dumb, and unfeeling.

    • profile image

      e Liquid 8 years ago

      I'm so offended by the Fit Light Yogurt ad, I'll never be a customer. Do they have any clue who they're marketing to? Women are the primary consumers in households and yet men are the primary ad writers. Great Hub.

    • diamondrose1 profile image

      diamondrose1 8 years ago from Australia

      I don't think they'll ever stop.

    • Eaglekiwi profile image

      Eaglekiwi 8 years ago from -Oceania

      Wisdom in one so young is very refreshing ,keep it up !!! I actually quit buying a certain hamburger because of their sexual adverts ,obviously they were targeting young males hard sell and it disgusted me. I wonder if those marketing gurus relise mothers still hold the purse strings and if they dont work we have our ways lol<&l... not like a chain letter lol

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Glassvisage, this is a great and disturbing hub. We just get used to looking at ads and you've pointed out things that should seem obvious. The other thing I hate in ads, movies, and TV shows is how fabulously beautiful everyone looks. Back in the 1950's, the shows may have been sexist, but some of the acotrs weren't so great looking, they resembled actual people.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      nice picture and article

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 8 years ago from NW Indiana

      THANK YOU!

    • Montana Farm Girl profile image

      Montana Farm Girl 8 years ago from Northwestern Montana

      Wow, that Dolce ad, very distrubing indeed!!!! Thanks for the wake up call!!! I will keep my eyes open during the commercials tonight as I watch American Idol and see if there are any subtle sexist undertones! EXCELLENT hub!! I hope EVERYONE reads it, as you have given us much to think about!!!!

    • profile image

      ralph deeds 8 years ago

      Nice job, as usual, glassvisage!