Putting on Appearances: Gender and Advertising

Putting on Appearances: Gender and Advertising

Putting on Appearances: Gender and Advertising

Putting on Appearances: Gender and Advertising


In this lively critical analysis, Diane Barthel reveals the previously overlooked and underestimated depth of cultural meaning behind contemporary American advertising. Focusing mainly on ads for beauty products directed at women, she demonstrates how stereotypical gender identities are emphasized and how advertising itself creates a gendered relationship with the consumer. She explores psychological, sociological, and cultural messages in advertising to show how "Putting on Appearances" is anything but a purely personal matter, and how the social realities in which we are forced to live are conditioned by the personal appearances we choose to create.

Most advertisements are not sexually obvious, but rely instead on sexual story-telling in which seduction, deception, and passion are portrayed as acceptable means for achieving selfhood. Advertisements that proclaim, Now is the time to paint your knees speak with one form of authority: those that present the voice of the all-knowing scientist or the nurturing mother rely on others. Celebrities figure as professional beauties and wise older sisters, sharing their secrets with the consumer. The Gentle Treatment Great Model Search Made Me a Star. Now it's your turn.

Inseparable from the clothes we wear and the products we use are our ideas and fantasies about our bodies. Beauty products present beauty rituals as transcendent occasions, and diet products call up religious imagery of guilt and salvation. The body itself is to be anxiously manipulated and systematically worked over until the consumer turns her body into...an advertisement for herself, a complicated sign to be read and admired.

In the series "Women in the Political Economy," edited by Ronnie J. Steinberg."


Be the first to wear Poison The Fragrance Sensation from Europe

KL Homme "For the man who lives on the edge"

New Wide Solid Secret-- Strong enough for a man, but with curved comfort for a woman.

Advertising is about appearances. It is also about information, but what interests us, what excites us in and about advertising is how objects, or products, become ideas, how they become gifted with appearances: how they make appearances and help us make appearances. This does not happen through magic. It happens through the advertiser's skill at positioning the product, creating an image, "finding a place for it to live in our minds." Information becomes part of appearance. When Joy perfume advertised that it was the costliest perfume in the world, that was information of a sort. But it also created an appearance.

The object gains an appearance whose own magic and content it promises to pour onto its consumers. Advertising is not just about the object's appearance but about personal appearances: how we look to others, how we think of ourselves. Advertisers know that the critical issue is "what will it do for me?" We seldom tire of ourselves, not when we can find constant renewal through the purchase of new products. Advertising, then, is about creating a relationship between subjects . . .

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