Women in Advertising

Section I: Introduction

In 1968, when Virginia Slims cigarettes first hit the marketplace, women everywhere began hearing and seeing the phrase, “You've come a long way, baby,” in its advertisements.   Playing off of the recent feminist movement, these advertisements conveyed the impression that women had finally achieved complete independence and were equal to men.   Yet this campaign subtly offered a two-fold message.   While women were portrayed as more independent,   advancing far beyond their historical position, the ad insinuated that to maintain this new-found autonomy, they must pick up the deadly and addicting habit of cigarette smoking.   The use of the word “baby” within the well-known slogan also patronizingly compared women to a young child.   Finally, many of the poses in the ads showed the models in cutesy or seductive ways.   After noting the many contradictions in this ad campaign, one might begin to ask, “How far have we really come?”
Images of women in advertising have been the focus of countless studies in the past few decades.   This study takes a pre-existing analysis and updates it for modern times.   A study done in the 1970s, using what is termed the “Sexism Scale of Consciousness,” placed advertising's portrayals of women into five different categories: put her in her place; keep her in her place; give her two places; acknowledge that she's fully equal; and refuse to gender stereotype.   Although the original study was applied to magazine advertisements in the 1970s, all five of these categories still pertain to advertising today.   This particular study will take the consciousness level analysis and apply it to three popular contemporary magazines: Cosmopolitan, a women's general fashion magazine; Essence, a magazine geared toward women of color; and Playboy, a men's magazine.   The analysis will cover not only recent issues (from 2007), but will examine issues from 20 years ago (1987) to measure where we were in our
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portrayals and...