A New Study Reveals That A Woman’s Place Is In The Kitchen — At Least In Advertising

"It’s not enough to portray more women. We need a more progressive and inclusive representation of women."

A recent study says women are marginalized in advertising, and while said marginalization might not come as a surprise to anyone who has seen a commercial for detergent and a commercial for a car, the impact is far greater and more damaging than ever anticipated.

The study, which was conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in conjunction with marketing firm J. Walter Thompson, examined more than 2,000 ads created during a 10-year period. Per Glamour, the findings were presented on June 21 at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, not to be confused with the Cannes International Film Festival.

So what has the study taught us? For starters, when it comes to advertising, women are grossly underrepresented. Researchers found advertisements featured twice as many male characters as female characters. What's more? Twenty-five percent of the ads studied featured just men, compared to 5 percent that were women-only. 


A 2017 Chevrolet ad shows a working man and no women.

A similar pattern emerged when examining speaking roles for men versus women. Eighteen percent of ads complete with speaking parts incorporated solely men, while only 3 percent were entirely female-driven.

Still, even 20-year-old women fared better than their 40-year-old counterparts. As additional research showed, while men in ads typically range from 20-40 years old, women are almost exclusively in their 20s. That's likely because women are frequently sexualized in their ads, and made to wear "sexually-revealing" clothing at a rate six times greater than men, according to the article.

A 2016 Carl's Jr. commercial.

To add insult to injury, in the more than 2,000 ads studied, women were 48 percent more likely to be placed in the kitchen.

And last but certainly not least, while women are shown doing and saying as little as possible in as little clothing as possible, men were 62 percent more likely to be portrayed as "smart" figures such as doctors or scientists

A similar pattern can be made found in how merchandise is placed in stores. Earlier this month, for example, a female scientist went viral after she tweeted about moving NASA shirts from the boy's section of a big box store to the girl's section.

The problem in advertising seems to be twofold: not only are women massively underrepresented in ads, but even when they are represented, they're shown in a sexist and degrading manner.

According to a 2006 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, advertising is a pervasive influence on children and adolescents, and can contribute significantly to childhood and adolescent obesity, poor nutrition, and cigarette and alcohol use. The study also notes children under 8 are cognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising. In other words, the study says, "they don't understand the notion of intent to sell and frequently accept advertising claims at face value."

As the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health points out, young girls are particularly susceptible to developing body image issues because of the tall, slim, and light-skinned figures they're bombarded with on a daily basis. Similarly, a 2007 report from the American Psychological Association found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls' self-image and healthy development.

Thankfully, companies like Google, Facebook, and Johnson & Johnson have started to take note of these irksome patterns and pledged to change them during a separate event held as part of the Cannes conference just one day after the results of the study were revealed.

"By changing the narrative, the images we use, the stories we tell about women, we can dramatically change the way the world values women and how women and girls see themselves," explains Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute. "It's not enough to portray more women. We need a more progressive and inclusive representation of women."

Amen to that!

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