Tag Archives: Over-sexualized women

What is Fair?

When studying the sexualized and desired bodies of both men and women, it’s important to look at what constitutes as fairness. The oversexualization of women is something that has become prevalent in our society. Through advertisements and commercials, femininity is constructed as a series of norms and ideas in which women are portrayed as the inferior gender. For example, in music videos, women are constructed as the object of men’s desire in a setting where they have little or no control over themselves or their surroundings. Women are seen acting uncontrollably when a man is in front of them and often times, the hyper masculinity and violence of men is often ignored in return for sexual gratification. While these images are obviously problematic because women are placed on the losing end of a scale measured by objectification, I found myself wondering what exactly would I consider to be a fair representations of genders in these music videos?

In some ways, men are now being objectified through the media in ways similar to women; their overly sexualized depictions are in some ways comparable to women. While the ubiquity of sexualization of men is yet to be seen in the same way women are, is this what we would consider to be fairness? I have a hard time believing that the marginalization of any sex or gender can ever be considered fair even if they are being held to the same standards. I propose fairness to be an ideology under which men and women can be positively represented and thus the relationship between men and women can depend less on a hierarchy of genders and more on a respectful portrayal.


Tom Ford.

tom ford

This is a very risqué ad for Tom Ford’s men’s fragrance. As stated in Killing Us Softly 4, the objectification of women in advertisements is a way attracting attention to the product and instilling cultural ideals of masculinity and femininity in society. Tom Ford’s ad is sexualizing this woman’s body and using it to sell a men’s product, in addition to showing an unrealistic image of beauty. Her skin is youthful, glowing, and is hairless. She is “slender” with a toned body, a cultural female ideal. The fragrance bottle appears phallic, which is emphasized by the bottle’s convenient placement on the female body and helps to establish a masculine presence.

Who is the intended audience of this ad campaign? Tom Ford is featured in high fashion magazines such as Vogue, read by mostly upper class women. Despite the message that it gives to women, the ad’s content and sexual subtext make clear that this ad is for men; it is a fragrance which could help obtain female companionship and admiration. Men see the woman’s nudity and think desire and dominance. This advertisement has implicit sexual politics — against the submissive female nakedness, the bottle’s edges are pressing suggestively into her thighs, in addition to the phallic protrusion at the top of the bottle — all announcing a clear masculine presence.

The body fragmentation in this ad shows that women are nothing but sexualized bodies, inviting men to look at them (in addition to being used to sell the fragrance); by looking at someone solely as an object, you reduce their subjectivity. Overall, Tom Ford’s ad reinforces the general message about masculine dominance and assumed feminine submission.

Ad Critique: Lindt Lindor Truffle Commercial

This is one of the more popular commercials for Lindt Lindor Chocolate Truffles.  In the commercial, one can see the person making the chocolate, a fully clothed male chef, and the person eating it, an over-sexualized woman.  The chocolate is being compared to something very sensual and passionate, which is what the woman is being reduced to.  The narrator is also a woman’s voice, which implies that this ad is directly targeting women.  Personally, I see nothing particularly gendered about chocolate, but many chocolate ads, such as this one, specifically exploit the implied sensualness of chocolate (due to it being a common aphrodisiac) in order to market it towards women.

Orgasm at 18,000 Feet Anyone?

Herbal Essences most recent commercial features former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger as a pony tail wearing woman who goes into the bathroom on an airplane, whips out her shampoo, and proceeds to wash her hair and orgasm? A shampoo that can make a woman orgasm? That sounds like every woman’s dream (and every man’s as well).

Women over the years have been the targets of this campaign, as seen in their advertisement from the mid-90s (video here). This commercial appeared at least 3 times during the one-hour season finale of Dance Moms, a show that I’m sure many mothers are forced to watch by their teenage daughters.

In this ad, Herbal Essences is using a woman simply for her sexuality in order to sell their product, which doesn’t really even relate to anything of a sexual nature. Judith Lorber states, “the devaluation of ‘women’ and the social domination of ‘men’ has social functions and social history” (Lorber 118). She argues that the “continuing purpose of gender as a modern social institution is to construct women as a group to be subordinates of the men” (Lorber 118). The majority of the other people in the video are men (in fact there is only one other woman shown). These men seem to immediately objectify the main woman and connect her with sex, as is a little apparent by the looks on their faces.

Does Herbal Essences really believe that a shampoo has the power to turn you into a sex goddess? No. But it can make you think that it makes you more desirable, because society wants us to please the more dominant gender: men.

In my case however, I think my shampoo works well enough, even if it doesn’t make me orgasm in an airplane.

Lorber, Judith. “The Social Construction of Gender.” Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Comp. Estelle Disch. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006. N. pag. Print.

An Objection to Objectification

Advertisements that sexualize and objectify women are common due to the sexist idea that women must please men. Simone de Beauvoir said, “She appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex.” (pg 33) This advertisement plays into that readily.

It begins with a man admiring a woman wearing a cleavage-revealing dress. The woman shouts at and slaps him, but then suddenly starts caressing him seductively. This reinforces the stereotype that women are emotional creatures with constant mood swings. She starts murmuring sexual lines to him: “Are you going to look at me all day? Or maybe… you want to go for a ride?” She dips a finger into the cream of his coffee. Some drips down her front, and the camera zooms in to frame her breasts. The man leans forward, only to find he has been touching a car. The woman had been treated as an object by the advertisement, but now, she is literally objectified into the product being marketed.

Commoditization of women and sex is problematic. An objectified woman becomes dehumanized and viewed as a sex object that pleases men. She is not human; rather, she is something appealing that can be used to sell things to heterosexual males, who will enjoy the commercial most.

de Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003. 32-40. Print.

Ad Critique: “The Best Part of the Day is the Night,” by Bebe

I found this advertisement for the retail company Bebe in Glamour magazine recently. In it, a woman is leaning against a man, with the caption “9pm to 5am: the best part of the day is the night,” splashed across the page. Both the image and its accompanying caption belittle the idea of an independent woman and instead promote her reliance on man. In “The Second Sex: Introduction,” de Beauvoir argues that woman is “defined and differentiated with reference to man…she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other…” (33). That is, woman cannot exist without man, for she can only be defined in relation to him. Bebe’s advertisement reinforces this denigrating concept. Firstly, the caption inverts the typical workday hours (9am – 5pm), effectively undermining the positive contributions women make at their workplaces. From Bebe’s perspective, only the nighttime is worth looking forward to because it is spent with a man. Moreover, the female character in this advertisement is over-sexualized, though her sexiness is supposed to appear glamorous. She is not making eye contact with her male companion, suggesting that he is not interested in her personality and depth, but rather in her physical appearance. Thus, just as de Beauvoir fears, the woman exists solely for the man’s pleasure, and as Bebe emphasizes, she is his object.  

de Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003. 32-40. Print.