Advertisers Objectify Women; Is It Ok?

By Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Women’s bodies are used to sell everything from cars to GoDaddy, which features NASCAR driver Danica Patrick in racy ads. GoDaddy announced last month that it hired the ad agency, Deutsch New York. CEO Warren Adelman indicated in a recent interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek that GoDaddy marketing would take a different, less sexy turn.

“We are synonymous with inexpensive domains and sexy girls,” Adelman said. “I think there is a different message we have to expose people to.”

Just what is the message GoDaddy, and other companies, send when they advertise their businesses using scantily clad women? According to a 2008 Ms. Magazine article, every image hits girls and women with a “subliminal message: Girls’ and women’s bodies are objects for others to visually consume.” Internalizing that message leads girls and women to view their body “as a sex object to be consumed by the male gaze.” In other words, they start practicing self-objectification.

 

It’s very hard as a woman to not practice self-objectification given all the advertisements we are subject to on a daily basis. Experts disagree on the average amount of ads people are exposed to everyday, but estimates range as high as 1,300. Many of those ads we see daily, including the GoDaddy ads, objectify women. The international ad agency, Saatchi and Saatchi conducted a poll in 1996 which found that ads make women afraid of being unattractive or old.

 

In college I looked at the ads in a number of different women’s fashion magazines for a research project. What I discovered amazed me: so many of the ads objectified women by depicting them as sex objects. What amazed me is that women’s magazines contained ads with scantily clad women. It seemed to defy logic. However, the point of the ads is not to appeal to a woman’s sexual drive, but to make her feel inadequate. The point of ads in fashion magazines which depict women as sex objects is make women feel inadequate so they will buy the product being hocked.

 

What can we do to protect ourselves from self-objectification, short of never surfing the internet, watching television or thumbing through a magazine? The Ms. Magazine article suggests several things we can do. The first thing the article suggests is to realize that we are not powerless. As the article puts it, “Mass media, the primary peddler of female bodies, can be assailed with millions of little consumer swords.” Two of those ‘little consumer swords’ are boycotting companies who use objectifying ads, and contacting companies directly about our concerns.


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