Objectification of Women in the Media: A case study of Reebok Easytone's ad campaign (written by a male)
Why am I posting this?
This is an essay I wrote for a Women's Studies course I took in University. When writing an essay or an assignment for school the hardest part for me was figuring out where to start. I believe that getting a few ideas by seeing examples and reading other peoples essay's always helped me figure out how I would write my own essay and how to get started. That is why I decided to share my essay with all of you. The paper also illustrated how ad campaigns such as these can affect women, and how companies attempt to sell their product to women. The advertisement that the paper refers to is the ad displayed below. BTW, a dude wrote this!
“90% of all statistics can be made to say anything…50% of the time”
In today’s consumer culture the media has undoubtedly become one of the most influential parts of our society and its cultural framework. One of strongest influences the media has had is in the area of gender identity. Women's bodies are routinely used as objects to sell various products. The new “Easytone” line of sneakers by Reebok has focused its marketing campaign on selling women’s bodies and desirability. Women in this advertisement are normalized, commoditized, and constructed as agents of patriarchal gratification.
At first glance, it might be confusing as to why Reebok chose to market their shoes to women using sexualized images of other women. What Reebok is in fact doing is attempting to sell their Easytone shoes to women by creating insecurities in women towards their own bodies. The Reebok Easytone advertisement suggests that this product was created to allow women to normalize their bodies into the correct one. A female voice tells the viewer to “discover up to 28% more of a workout for your butt…so 88% of men will be speechless, 76% of women jealous” (Ebanga10, 2009). The connotative meaning of these words imply that women should exercise for the sole reason to be noticed by men and envied by other women who failed to attract the attention of men and who must be a different body type than the normalized body shown in the ad. Therefore, if you do not have the “normal” body of the female in the advertisement, you must be “abnormal”. Perhaps you are one of the 76% of jealous women. The voice in the commercial also tells the viewer that the product will give “better legs and a better butt with every step” (Ebanga10, 2009). This suggests that your current legs and butt are not sufficient, they must be made better. The fitness, fashion and beauty industries often create imagery toward the ideal female body, which is one with no fat at all (Coward, 2006, p.345). The female body displayed in the advertisement illustrates the ideal silhouette which has been left behind after using the Reebok Easytone to correct the “problem areas” of the butt, hamstring and calves. This is illustrated through the fragmentation of the female model’s body into separate parts. As a result female viewers can begin to view their own body in terms of its separate parts (Coward, 2006, p.347). This is echoed in John Berger’s work in which he explains that people do not passively look at any singular object or subject; rather we look at the relationship between things and ourselves (Berger, 2006, p.269). As Rosalind Coward argues the imagery and language pertaining to the female body represented in the media has resulted in women having self-hating and punishing attitudes towards their own bodies (Coward, 2006, p.347). Through both the images and language used in this commercial, social values and ideals about beauty are promoted, and it is one which is unattainable. The ideals promoted by our culture which have been formed by media representations such as this ad are seldom found within women in day to day life (Coward, 2006, p.347).
Through both the language and images illustrated, this Reebok advertisement overtly commodifies women. In the advertisement the viewer does not see the female model’s face, hear her voice or know her story. She demonstrates no other attributes aside from her physical or sexual being and is thus reduced exclusively as an object for the viewer to look at. The commercial makes a claim that “88% of men will be speechless” (Ebanga10, 2009). This problematic way in which women are depicted as existing for the consumption of men illustrates the notion of the heterosexual gaze cast upon women. There is an assumption that all viewers are men, or they view the world through the gaze of a male. It appears as though this was one of the objectives of this advertisement, to force women to view themselves as body parts or something other then a person, and see how they can potentially make 88% of men speechless. John Berger argues that women turn themselves into an object (of vision) as a result of surveying herself as a male would (Berger, 2006, p.272). Women thus become the object of the gaze. If one were to compare the representation of women in this advertisement to the representation of men in Reebok’s other advertisements we would find a very unequal relationship. These relationships are deeply entrenched into our culture, and as a result shape the consciousness of many women (Berger, 2006, p.272). Representations of women as depicted in this Reebok commercial only serve to enforce these relationships.
Agents of Partriarchal Gratification
The role of the male gaze on women which has commoditized women in the Reebok Easytone commercial also plays a dual role of constructing women as sexual beings and agents of patriarchal gratification. Once again if we refer to the imagery of the advertisement we find many connotative meanings of women as hypersexual beings. The black and white cinematography, music, and narration voice all serve to convey sexual imagery identical to a sex scene in a Hollywood film. In combination with the setting of a bedroom, and a topless woman lying in bed running her fingers across her body and silk bed sheets, the commercial constructs a representation of women as highly sexualized beings. This rich imagery creates a landscape for other women to situate themselves in that very position (Berger, 2006, p.271). The language of the commercial overtly states that one of the objectives of women is to have men stare at them and make them “speechless”. The underlying message to women is that they are only of value as objects for men to enjoy, thus all that is important is the way they look. This leads many women to believe that their self-worth is solely dependent upon male attention. Women must then survey everything they do because how they appear to others, in particular how they appear to men defines their self worth and value (Berger, 2006, p.271). Through this representation, women are seen as sexual objects for men’s pleasures.
Women in this advertisement are normalized, commoditized, and constructed as agents of patriarchal gratification through its use of language, cinematography style, details, and imagery. The connotative meanings communicated are that women must correct themselves to meet the ideals of society, women are objects to be looked at, and that women are sexual beings whose objectives are to please men. The identity of women in this advertisement is represented only by their sexuality and gender, and not by any other aspects that may form their identities. The impact of this kind of representation on society is very problematic, as it not only influences how women are thought about, but also how women are treated. While some women may be impartial to this kind of representation of women, all women did not choose to be represented in this manner.