Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

A Study on Gender Portrayals in Advertising through the Years: A Review Report

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

A Study on Gender Portrayals in Advertising through the Years: A Review Report

Article excerpt


The gender portrayal in advertising has always been much debated and extensively researched topic in many developed and developing nations. This article reviews the academic research conducted on portrayal of female in advertising, research approaches used in the past studies and focus of study. In addition, it is hoped that this review will help the researchers to identify the gaps in the studies and provides them a platform to fill those gaps in the academic research.

Keywords: gender, portrayal, content analysis, advertisement, communication

1. Introduction

Gender has not only been used as one of the basis of market segmentation but also emerged as one of the most preferred advertising strategy to market products. Therefore, the study of gender, gender-related behavior and its role in marketing communication is very important for marketing communicators. A comprehensive literature review of four decades of gender portrayal related research is undertaken wherein most of the research articles are taken from premier research journals from marketing, psychology, sociology, and communications field. Previous studies indicate that both men and been portrayed in stereotypical way in magazine and television advertisements. Most of the research on gender representation had been conducted in the USA, UK and European Union as compared to Asia-Pacific region especially in case of India (See Table 1). The researches which were conducted in India are somewhat limited in scope. In one of the studies, Mathew (1990) focused only on how the Indian male market could be segmented and the kind of male role portrayals preferred by each segment. Munshi (1999) examined the portrayal of Indian housewives in television ads in India whereas Mallika (2000) examined the portrayal of men and women in Indian magazine advertisements. In another study by Das (201 1), representation of female in television advertisements were reviewed and analyzed.

The general consensus of the research on gender role stereotypes in advertising over the past four decades is that: women in ads are portrayed as (1) being dependent on men, (2) needs protection of men, (3) not making important decisions, (4) homemakers, (5) mainly represented in home-settings, and (6) sex objects (Belkaoui & Belkaoui, 1976; Courtney & Lockeretz, 1971; Sullivan & O'Connor, 1988). Similar results found in studies of ads from countries such as Italy (Furnham & Voli, 1989), Australia (Mazella, Durkin, Cerini, & Buralli, 1992), Japan (Ford et al., 1998), Korea (Cutler et al., 1995), Hong Kong, (Sengupta, 1992), and Portugal (Neto & Pinto, 1998). Most of the studies only focused on different aspects of female stereotypes depicted in advertisements; and very few studies have examined male stereotypes (Kolbe and Albanese, 1997).

If we look at decade wise assessment of gender portrayal research, a similar pattern of gender stereotyping is acknowledged and yielded slightly different results. The gender portrayal research started during early 1970s and during this period it was found that men and women are depicted in highly stereotypical roles. "The overall conclusion of the studies of sex role portrayals in advertisements conducted in the 1970s is that women were portrayed differently from men" (Gilly, 1988). It was also forecasted that advertisements of 1980s would depict men and women in more contemporary and non-traditional roles. But the studies conducted during 80s, contradicted the forecast made by researches in the last decade. Both male and female continued to be represented in stereotypical role. In fact findings of researches undertaken during 1990s and 2000 were again consistent with the findings of previous year's researches though few researches observed slight changes (less stereotypical stance) in gender stereotyping particularly in case of women. In one of the studies by Cutler et al. in 1995 revealed that though female stereotyping is prevalent in Korean print advertising but they were less shown as sex objects. …

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