INTRODUCTION - ADVERTISING & GENDER REPRESENTATIONS
Over the past forty years the media, increasingly have become powerful image and value shaping forces in our culture (Rak & MacMullen, 1985; Reeves & Miller, 1978; Signorielli, 1989). Among visual media, print advertisements may have a particularly powerful impact on reinforcing our gender-role attitudes, values, perceptions, beliefs and behaviors. Daily, we are exposed to printed advertisements in magazines, in newspapers, on billboards, in bus shelters and so forth. The scope of such advertisements, their nature and their social consequences may make them particularly potent socializing tools in the development or reinforcement of gender roles (Merril, Lee & Freidlander, 1994).
Gender is perhaps the basic category we use for sorting human beings, and it is a key issue when discussing representation. Essential elements of our own identity, and the identities we assume other people to have, come from concepts of gender - what does it mean to be a boy or a girl? Many objects, not just humans, are represented by the media as being particularly masculine or feminine - particularly in advertising - and we grow up with an awareness of what constitutes 'appropriate' characteristics for each gender.
It is undeniable that the media shapes our conceptions of what it means to be male or female.
We encounter many different male and female role models in the course of a day's media consumption. The issue is, that although these different role models may at first glance appear to be very varied, do they actually represent enough of a range of men and women? Are we simply given variations on a stereotype that become sub-stereotypes in themselves? By adopting role models are we stunting individual growth?
Erving Goffman (1979)
Advertisments have often been analyzed in relation to gender stereotypes. One of the most prominent researchers was Erving Goffman (1979).
Goffman believed that...