A stereotype can be described as the preconceived idea attributing some general characteristics to the entire group class or set. It is used to group people in different categories, in most cases because they have not being understood and so are placed into these categories, with the notion that any person who acts in a certain way or is of a similar origin should be classified with those in that group(Urban Dictionary). It is the exaggerated, oversimplified and demeaning assumption that a specific person has character traits linked to a certain class that she or he is a member of. Stereotypes are employed in the explanation of imaginary or real differences because of gender, race, religion, social/economic class, disability, ethnicity among others (Urban Dictionary). A large part of the population is glued to their televisions, radios, internet, newspapers, journals and other forms of media which carry advertising campaigns to promote goods and services as well as ideas. This essay seeks to show that contemporary advertising campaigns perpetuate stereotypes.
Contemporary Advertising Campaigns That Perpetuate Sex Role
Advertising campaigns have in many instances developed and perpetuated gender role stereotypes. There are several ways that have been shown on how such stereotypes are perpetuated which include; men being ranked highly in different functions. This is done by showing men performing executive roles when they are side by side with women. For example, advertising campaigns have portrayed men playing leadership roles in the society; with women only performing supportive duties or being less active ones (“Gender Strengths”).
Women have also been portrayed as being larger and taller as compared to women. Sometimes women have been portrayed as objects of subordination for example men mocking or assaulting them with some advertising campaigns portraying them as sex objects. Sometimes fathers have also been stereotyped as being always away from their families or relating only to their sons or daughters among others (“Gender Strengths”).
The post war advertising images depicted women as subordinate, submissive, passive and marginal who perform limited number of tasks, which are confined to their emotions, sexuality and “domesticity”. In these campaigns, women considered as ‘good” are portrayed as submissive, domesticated and sensitive with ‘bad’ women presented as selfish, independent and rebellious. Male heroes are presented as strong physically, assertive, independent, ambitious, competitive, aggressive and assertive (Chandler par. 10).
In a research conducted on the United States television commercials, it was revealed that fifty three percent of women appeared in advertising campaigns taking dependent roles as compared to twenty seven percent of men. Also, the study showed that professional roles were taken by men (twenty one percent) with women taking only eleven percent. Another research conducted earlier had shown that many men were likely to be portrayed as professional and celebrities while women portrayed as sex objects or models, spouse/parent or as an interviewer or a demonstrator. The trend is similar in Europe, Australia and Latin America (Furnham 5-6).
Contemporary Advertising Campaigns and Sexual Orientation Stereotypes
Advertising campaigns have also been known to promote sexual orientation stereotypes. It has been stated that media stereotyping is inevitable especially in entertainment, news industry and advertisement. The media has been accused of participating in trying to wipe up homosexuality and lesbianism which is done by stereotyping them negatively (Media Awareness Network). They are often placed in the peripherals of entertainment media, often portrayed as “colorful” characters, as dangerous psychopaths and sometimes as unrealistic. It is argued that commercial structures present in media do not provide a field that represents people with different characters. Many broadcasting networks and film companies do not like featuring lesbians and gays in their advertisements as they fear loosing investors, advertisers and audiences (Media Awareness Network).
Homosexuality has sometimes being portrayed through advertisements campaigns as non manly or less manly. In a commercial for Snickers that was set during the broadcast of Super Bowl, two men are shown fixing the engine of their vehicle and one of them begins eating a candy bar. It is then that the other man starts eating the candy from the other end but in the process, kiss one another accidentally. The men quickly pull away and so as to prove that they are manly, they pull out a number of their chest hair (Breton par. 1). Though not a large part of the audience may be in a position to grasp the stereotype portrayed in such a television commercial, it really portrays homosexuals negatively as they are portrayed as less manly (chest hair is associated with men). Also the speed, at which they pull away from one another, is a general portrayal that gay relationships are not natural and thus should be avoided. This is a representation of homophobia, and also the social and religious issues that are associated with homosexuality. Though the advertisement was later removed after complains from human rights groups, it portrays the issues the public has regarding the homosexuality (Breton par. 4).
In another advertisement for sketchers shoes, Christina Aguilera is shown as a nurse who is scantily dressed and also as a wounded athlete. The eyes of the athlete are firmly fixed on the nurse in a lustful way, an act that is depicting lesbianism. This is stereotypical because lesbians are depicted as being objects of lust, a common belief by many people (Hambright, par. 8).
Contemporary Advertising Campaign and Racial Stereotypes
Differed racial stereotypes have been raised with some characters associated with the blacks, whites, Latinos, or Indians among other races and ethnic groups. Racial stereotypes have also been reported in the advertising campaigns. For example, an advertisement in an American television features a middle class African American couple in the kitchen. The advert ends with a man stating that the Prego Sauce is perfect “"Nah, it don't need nothin'." (Reynolds). This is stereotypical because the advertisement depicts the middle aged man as being uneducated that he can not even speak standard English revealing what many whites believe that African Americans are uneducated.
In another advertisement, there appeared an advertisement in the Newsweek magazine for a computer company. There was an Arab man in his traditional attire and standing near a camel. At the corner of the page, there are boxes of computers parts and then the statement "Some computer companies don't make their own parts. Makes you wonder where they get them”(Sadiq, par. 5). This depicts the notion that because these computer parts are from an Arab countries, they must be fake (a stereo type against the Arabs that they can not produce quality goods).
Advertisement Campaigns Socially Harmful
Shabnam Mogharabi, a journalist, once stated that blacks are less buoyant because of their body mass and higher body density. Though this notion has been disapproved by different studies that were conducted later, many still believe it (especially the black parents who continue encouraging their children to go swimming). This has in fact been attributed to many deaths that occur in the swimming pools (Tennant par. 4). Though stereotypes may be useful in helping us get some information on certain groups, it is harmful if it is used for discrimination or a base for hate crimes (Moore 1).
Breton, Ana. Homosexual Stereotypes May be Helpful. Deseret News 6 Mar. 2007. Accessed 26 March 2009 ;http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,660196702,00.html;.
Chandler, Daniel. Television and Gender Roles. Updated 22 Dec. 2004. Accessed 26 Feb. 2009 ;http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Modules/TF33120/gendertv.html#E;.
Furnham, Adrian. Sex-Role Stereotyping in Television Commercials. Updated Sep. 1999. Accessed 26 Mar. 2009 ;http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2294/is_1999_Sept/ai_58469478;.
“Gender Stereotypes in advertising.” Updated 28 Aug., 2001. Accessed 26 Mar. 2008 ;http://cwx.prenhall.com/bookbind/pubbooks/morris2/chapter15/medialib/demo/4.html;.
Hambright, Kim. Cultural Wars. Updated 31 Oct. 2007. Accessed 26 Mar. 2009 ;http://culturewarshonors.blogspot.com/2007/10/kim-post-9.html;.
Media Awareness Network. Media Portrayals of Gays and Lesbians: Introduction. Updated 2009. Accessed 26 Mar. 2009 ;http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/gays_and_lesbians /index.cfm ;.
Moore, Julie. The Effects of Stereotyping. Associated Content. Updated 2009. Accessed 26 Mar. 2009 ;http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/233134/the_effects_of_stereotyping.html;.
Reynolds, Paula. Advertisement is Good for You. 19 Jan. 2009. Accessed 26 Mar. 2009 ;http://pzrservices.typepad.com/advertisingisgoodforyou/racism_in_advertising/;.
Sadiq, Shafeed. Racism and Sexism in Advertising. Updated 1997. Accessed 26 Mar. 2009 ;http://www.deltacollege.org/org/deltawinds/DWOnline97/racismandsexisminads.html;.
Tennant, Don. Stigma by Stereotype. ComputerWorld Inc. Updated 2009. Accessed 26 Mar. 2009 ;http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic ;articleId=112507;.
Urban Dictionary. Stereotype. Updated 2008. Accessed 26 March 2009, ;http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=stereotype;