History of how women are portrayed in advertising


Bethanie Kirts

Images of women have been used to sell products for decades. Beautiful women have appeared on countless products from creams to different food products and several other products. Advertisements of women have gone through several different transformations and imply a variety of different meanings, from Susie homemaker to the half naked women in countless magazines, and everything in between.


In advertising women take on many different roles and are molded into whatever the industry is trying to sell to the customer. They conform and become the tools for selling a variety of products for the company. For example, “wholesome and motherly images of women have been used to sell products like soaps, cleaning products, and housewares, because they evoke feelings of responsibility, the ideal homemaker and mother, and care for the family- all ideals women aspire to”. This type of image was especially predominant in the 1940s and 1950s due to the war and women having a more active say in what goes in the household.


Not only have women been portrayed as a homemaker, they have also been objectified as sex symbols and a symbol to desire. Unlike the different household products you use to find images of women on, now it is more likely to find these half naked extremely skinny women selling products such as clothing for women and products for men. These images would encourage women to buy these products in hopes of looking like the model in the advertisement, even though it was quite unrealistic.


As years pass by women are more and more objectified, especially in men’s magazines. Each company seems to be trying to push the bar just a little further and see how far they can go without going too far. For example, “an advertisement for men’s cologne may include idealized women flocking to a man wearing the product; this method of advertising speaks to the man’s desire to attract the ideal woman. 


While images of women in advertising have changed, many portrayals still center on the idea of women as sex symbols. Several young women suffer from body image issues, because of the constant unrealistic images portrayed in the media. Women feel like there is a constant pressure of having to conform to these unrealistic and unhealthy images that appear in advertisements. The objectification of women may not only distort the image women have of their selves, but can also be linked to violence because women are portrayed as object. Women need to keep in mind that when viewing and advertisement the sole purpose is to sell a product. There are even images of naturally beautiful women that are still retouched and altered.


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