How Much Has Advertising Evolved? When It Comes to Sexism, Not Very Much.

“Yes, there is the rapey talk and the grabby hands, but it’s that subtle stuff that’s chronic and can be more damaging,” Jean Batthany, the executive creative director at DDB Chicago, told the New York Times.

In a recently published article, the Times compared the modern advertising industry to that of the 1960s – think the office environment in the television show “Mad Men” — and said what many women unfortunately already know: advertising is still extremely sexist.

Despite women making up about 50 percent of the careers in advertising, the industry is still male dominated in terms of executive positions, office culture and representation of women in advertisements. How many ad campaigns have been released where women have thought to themselves, “How did this get through?”

Women in ads are often limited to roles of a mother, wife or sex object. One problem that helps explain this is that only 11 percent of creative directors are women, according to a statistic from the 3% Conference, which supports female creative leadership at agencies.

Stereotypical gender roles in advertising is on the tame side compared to some campaigns that are released. Think of how many women are used as props in order to sell a product.

Does Carl’s Jr. really need a big-breasted woman seductively eating a burger in order to sell more fast food?

Subway, another fast-food giant, chose to market its healthier-than-burger food options to women not because healthier choices result in feeling better and living longer, but because women need to stay skinny to fit into “sexy” Halloween costumes. The ad, which has been pulled, encouraged women specifically to fit cultural expectations when it came to picking out a Halloween costume.

Even when companies switch gears, it’s not always in the best interests of women. After years of advertising rooted in sexism, Go Daddy’s chief executive Blake Irving decided to change the company’s ad direction – after years of complaints, of course. Female business owners started pressuring eBay to stop doing business with Go Daddy and Irving took notice. Not because using women’s bodies to sell website domains was tacky and out of touch, but because his company could have potentially lost a giant client.

Again and again, giant brands create sexist, objectifying content that should never have gotten past the brainstorming meeting. It makes you wonder how advertising heads thought this was OK. But when women make up a small fraction of leadership positions in the industry, it’s easier to understand why.

Photo Credit: BillieGraceWard

127 comments

Elisa F
Elisa F11 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Susan T.
Susan T1 years ago

Seriously? Are you kidding me! I think trans men have made it worse, because somehow they want to be made up, wear stillettos and think it is so cool to dress up like a girl. They and the media are to cause of sexism. Grow up

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Iona Kentwell
Iona Kentwell1 years ago

Money talks. Make it clear to companies that you are not purchasing from them because of their advertising/ affiliations/ ethics, tell others to do the same, start a petition! They will change their ways eventually, even if it isn't for the right reasons, and the crap will eventually stop.

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LF F
LF F1 years ago

Ladies, we promote those companies when we buy from them. Stop purchasing from them and send them a message with 'why' you stopped.

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Janet B.
Janet B1 years ago

Thanks

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Karen H.
Karen H2 years ago

No wonder young women are confused. The mixed messages are astonishing. Advertisements tell them, "Be skinny, with big boobs, and men will love you", yet school officials stop prom-goers at the door and tell them, "No showing off your…um…upper assets because it will inflame the male students." They can't even say the word "breasts". Ads like the Subway one in the article show a skinny female in scanty costumes as a good thing, yet when an actress or singer shows up at a concert in an outfit like that, she’s called a "slut". Breasts, breasts, breasts--they're flaunted in ads to sell products, but a woman using her breasts to feed her baby is criticized. Are they only for men’s benefits? I don't buy products based on the body or sexual attributes of the people in the ad; I buy products based on the product merits. And after seeing an ad like Subway's, I'm likely to avoid the products being advertised.

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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