Advertising promotes more than mere products in our popular culture.
Becauseimages used in advertising are often idealized, they eventually set the standardwhich we in turn feel we must live up to. Advertisements serve to show us whatthe ideal image is, and further tell us how to obtain it. Advertisersessentially have the power to promote positive images or negative images.Unfortunately, most of the roles portrayed by women tend to fit the latterdescription. The irony lies therein since it is these negative images which havebeen most successful in selling products. It is easy to understand the appealwhich these ads hold for men, as they place women in an inferior role; onecharacterized by helplessness, fragility and vulnerability.
Certainly one cannot deny that visual images serve to create the ideal female beauty within thematerial realm of consumer culture. The problem is that if one strays from thisideal, there's the risk of not being accepted by men. Advertisers, by settingideals, not only sell their products, but in fact reaffirm traditional genderroles in mainstream America. Women portrayed in sexual ads are depicted asobjects and commodities, to be consumed by men for visual pleasure and by womenfor self-definition.
Any depiction of a woman in scant clothing ultimately makesher look vulnerable and powerless, especially when placed next to a physicallystronger man. Studies show that advertisements will concentrate primarily on awoman's body parts rather than her facial expressions. Also, it was proven thatover 50% of commercials portraying women contained at least one camera shotfocusing on her chest. Men enjoy these images, and sadly, women tend to try toembody them, regardless of the extent to which they degrade themselves. Perhapsone of the most recent, successful, and controversial ad campaigns of thenineties is that of Calvin Klein.
Ironically, in contrast to the normal,objectifying advertisements that deface women altogether, Klein focuses on hismodel's expressions. However, these expressions are similar to those of a scaredchild. The naked female model in turn looks even more vulnerable than when shewas faceless. Here, in this ad Kate Moss is depicted as an innocent scaredchild. Her fingers touch her lips as if she is not permitted to speak, while hereyes look as if they are bruised.
Moss' breast is exposed in this image, butinstead of appearing voluptuous, Moss appears to be almost prepubescent. Shestares vacantly and helplessly into the camera. Again, women see these images asattractive to men and subsequently feel the need to embody them. Unfortunately,the body of Kate Moss is an unrealistic and unattainable ideal for most women.This distorted "ideal body image" is one of the leading causes for therecent rise of anorexia in young girls. The "waif" woman image iscausing extreme low self-esteem for women in the nineties.
The advertisementproves effective because normal women can never, and will never look like KateMoss. All the hollow attempts will only bring more attention to these marketingstrategies, and ultimately more business for Calvin Klein. It is difficult topinpoint the cause for Klein's overwhelming success despite the nature of hisadvertisements. Before Calvin Klein's waif image developed, it was thought thatconcentration on a woman's voluptuous physical features was what intrigued men.But this idea of Moss as a helpless child, with no real feminine curves at all,reiterates the argument that the male attraction to certain ads lies in thesexual power it gives them.
Women please men in their nudity, their purity, andtheir body size. Women can never be happy with themselves until theirrepresentation in advertising become more reflective of reality. But if the adsbecome more realistic, then the advertisements aren't able to sell theirself-help images. Essentially the world of morals and advertising, if the twocan logically coexist, form a constant vicious cycle.