Goffman (1976) Gender Advertisements


Though gender is a social – not biological – construct, the depictions in consumer culture serve the ideological function of naturalizing specific qualities of femininity and masculinity. Advertising employs highly selective representations of cultural groups that downplay similarities and highlight differences. In the case of gender, Goffman (1976) studies the gender displays in advertisements and finds they exhibit highly stylized depictions of gender differences that are not based on biological differences. Women are disproportionally depicted as fragile, vulnerable, and childlike in contrast to men whose stances convey confidence and power. There is no biological reason for women to appear more childlike than men so, he concludes, the ads are not reflecting gender differences but producing them.  Even though the representations are stretched beyond reality they do not appear strange to us because the gender codes in advertising have shaped our cultural notions of femininity and masculinity.

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