Ad Critique: Modern Muse, old ideas

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Cosmopolitan Magazine (better known as simply Cosmo) reinforces gender in its largely female audience. The magazine is full of ads and content that encourage women to behave in a highly sexualized feminine manner. Most of the magazine does this in a risqué manner, but the sexism in Estee Lauder’s new perfume advertisement is more implicit. While the brand describes the Muse women as “the heroine of her own life” and an “independent spirit,” this directly contradicts to the concept of a muse. A muse is never the central character of any story, but instead someone whose only significance is its service to another, superior being. This construction of a muse starkingly resembles how Simone de Beauvior describes women in The Second Sex: “man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him.” This advertisement presumes this dependence on men, and encourages women to be a muse instead of an independent creator, to “be an inspiration” as if they are incapable of being inspired themselves. Furthermore, with its surreal and almost angelic photograph of the woman, the advertisement continues what de Beauvior calls the “myth” of women. Instead of imbuing women with strong and tangible characteristics that men possess, this advertisement perpetuates that ethereal, “other” perception of women.

1. Beauvoir, Simone De. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Introduction. The Second Sex. New York: Knopf, 1953. 32-40. Print.

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