Women and Advertisements

by Lindsey Malko

Media can be a very influential thing for those who see it, especially women. But the ads in general are targeted toward certain audiences, whether male or female. Lots of advertisements are geared towards women and reinforce a certain gender role that society views them to have. But not only are these forms of media ways to enforce domestic roles that they believe women should have, they can also show the ways women should act towards men.

Advertisements that are the public eye, especially today, have hidden meanings. They not only advertise a product or a television show, but have a certain motive that expresses an underlying message about home life. Based off conclusions from our readings in class, statements published in magazines influence how Americans view and want to be viewed. More commonly, advertisements are directed towards women because the women are the ones who are the ones dealing with the products and cleaning. As May wrote, “After all, American women were housewives; their lives were functional, not merely ornamental. In general, male breadwinners provided the income for household goods, and their wives purchased them” (May, 158). These forms of persuasion were geared towards women because they were the ones that were doing all of the buying of products for their home and taking care of their families, according to the gender roles that society created. Even the creator of the Lawn Doctor contributed to this saying, “a lawn to a homeowner is like lipstick to a woman” (Steinberg, 75). They are directly pointing out and associating the lipstick with the woman. If they want something to get noticed, such as a product, they will make it look more feminine or include pictures of women in the actual advertisements to catch their attention. It really is all about perspective, but by including feminine objects/actual pictures of women, they are triggering the attention of women and therefore recreating the idea of gender roles by gearing these advertisements to the women who they want to purchase their products. Even if an advertisement depicted a woman with a washing machine and was trying to promote them buying, the fact was “that laundry work was the most arduous, uncreative, and yet necessary part of women’s work, and that, hence, [a washing machine] would simplify the burdens of the American housekeeper to have washing and ironing day expunged from her calendar” (Cowan, 106). Advertisements will always be biased towards the audience they want to target, and it is impossible to try and change it within a short time period. It will take a while.


Holidays are Kodak Days


“Holidays are Kodak Day,” April 18, 2014. Courtesy of Duke University Libraries.

This picture is yet another one geared towards women. In the ad, the woman is holding the camera being advertised. This infers that the woman is the one who is taking pictures in this time period, which happens to be from 1898 and in the Prudential Magazine. Any type of advertisement meant for any specific purchasing intent was geared towards women. Also, women were the ones who were working around the house, and during their free time, they would be flipping through magazines and could view photos like this.

Listerine ad from the 1950’s.

“Listerine, April 15 2014. Courtesy of adflip.com.

As shown above, this picture which came from adflip.com was featured in a 1950s magazine called Photoplay. Although it maybe he hard to read, it is obvious that a woman is the one being targeted for the product. Although this time around, it is not an advertisement for a household object or portraying that the woman is the one meant to be working around the house. This article is for how a woman can keep her man interested. This ad shows that it is the woman’s job to keep the man interested. It is always the woman’s job to essentially “do the work,” whether it be cleaning the house, tending to the children, or making the man happy. The fact that a Listerine ad would include an aspect of a woman losing her man with because of bad breath is a bit ludicrous. It could also show that men were also more shallow in the 1950s. Whatever the reason, some ads were negatively geared towards women, so that they would look and act a certain way.


“Gucci,” April 18, 2014. Courtesy of Vanity Fair.

This picture from a 2001 edition of Vanity Fair, gives off a similar yet different feeling of how a woman is supposed to act and portray herself. An advertisement like this is one of the more common forms of “peer pressure” in a sense: that a woman must look a certain way to be accepted in society. Being scantily clad and standing in a fancy pose is part of what influences women of 2001 and today. These publications have moved past ads that only gear their advertisements towards women about cleaning products, but now it has become about clothing and perfume, and a sexy look as well. No matter what, advertisements and the media will always be influential for women and beyond.


This post was completed as part of assignment on how the idea of home and the concept of domesticity has been used in marketing during different historical moments and in the present. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-selling-home/.

One thought on “Women and Advertisements

  1. The points here are very good, but I think the same could be said about ads targeting male goods such as tools, cars, etc. I think an ad doesn’t mean to specifically be sexist or gender biased, they are just targeting the people where they know most of the profit is. I think advertisements have a much more capitalist agenda then a gender role agenda.

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