This is an exposition I did for my English class, and I thought I would share it with you:
The Portrayal of Women in the Media:
In one of the displays, the left, the shirt is advertised as an accessory to the man, as it is meant to be seen, but in the right advertisement the woman is an accessory to the shirt, she makes the shirt look better, rather than the other way around. This shows the stark difference between the portrayal of men and the portrayal of woman in the media. It happens in all sorts of mediums, movies, tv shows, magazine, but very prominently in advertisements. Women, unknowingly or otherwise are seen as an accessory, or something to be taken or conquered. In men’s magazines it’s telling you how to conquer, in women’s magazine’s it’s telling you how to be conquered.
And this is a fundamental misinterpretation of the way that most people interact with each other.
In the advertisement to the right, the woman is viewed more as a mannequin, a lifeless thing, instead of a person. She’s posing, her shirt is open, and she’s not a human being. In comparison the man is just standing, he’s wearing the shirt the way that it’s meant to be worn, the way a person would wear it, he doesn’t have to pose, he is advertising a shirt, he’s not being advertised.
Both advertisements are being used to show how the shirt looks on a human, how it would look on you. In the right one it uses the woman’s open shirt to capture the attention of a potential buyer, in the left the shirt is used to catch the attention of a buyer. A basic difference. In both cases the shirt is the center of attention, it’s in the center of both photos, it’s the first thing you see, but it’s the first thing you see for very different reasons. In the left photo, you see it because he is so plain, he has no expression, he’s not moving, and the shirt is the only factor in the photo. In the right display, you have to notice the shirt, because it cases the area that would not usually be seen. The advertisers using the social inequalities of the picture to draw the eyes to where the shirt is.
Since women have been girls the media has been constantly pushing the basis for insecurity. ‘I need to be pretty’, ‘I need to have a boyfriend’, ‘I’m not good enough’. And when you see this perfect specimen in the right advertisement, this person who is pretty and probably has a boyfriend and is good enough, you have to think that you would like to be her, and she’s wearing that shirt. And once you start associating a specific thing with beauty then you’re already sold. On the other side the man is just wearing a shirt. And lots of men wear shirts, and generally it’s just something that you do and maybe you’d fancy another.
Both the shirts are advertised by American Apparel, a very popular brand, on their website, and it does work, what they’re doing. It is the basis for thousand of sales, has been for decades, advertising hasn’t become any less fundamentally sexist since the fifties, perhaps more in fact. Because it’s stopped being obvious or big or blaring.
It’s become about manipulation.