Gender stereotyping in advertising is going strong this Christmas. And it’s not just women being short-changed – widespread sexism targets both sexes and is being perpetrated by some of the biggest retailers.
The Advertising Standards Authority is currently investigating Ryanair’s ‘glamour model’ newspaper advert that, it is claimed, objectifies women by showing a scantily-dressed woman under the caption ‘Red Hot Fares & Crew’.
A flight attendant called Ghada is the leader of the change.org campaign against the ad, which has already gathered over 5,000 supporters.
Sexism is rife in ads
But it’s not just Ryanair that’s at it. Gamestation came in for some stick earlier this year when it claimed that its prices are ‘Cheaper than your girlfriend’.
I’ve also just seen the new Boots Christmas advert. ‘Christmas, brought to you by the girls’ depicts a small Charlie’s Angels-style army of women getting everything ready for Christmas. Not only does the advert reinforce the impression of work-shy menfolk staying in bed, but far from celebrating equality, the women are shown doing all the work.
The recent Littlewoods’ Christmas ad was no better – it not only showcased a consumerist generation of unpleasantly grasping children, but laid it all at the door of ‘my lovely, lovely mother’. She presumably did all of that after she’d been to Iceland to buy the Bisto gravy that will somehow keep her family together, but only so long as she stays in the kitchen. I suppose her husband was at home nursing a bad case of man flu while she soldiered on thanks to a certain brand of cold remedy.
She’d just better watch out that she doesn’t pass any men wearing Lynx deodorant while she’s out doing all the chores. Apparently, even angels can’t resist, with women becoming mindless slaves to an otherwise largely undesirable man.
Should it be taken tongue-in-cheek?
Virgin’s knowing TV ad parodying 80s gender stereotypes seems to get away with it, but the ads by Ryanair, Boots, Lynx, Littlewoods et al really grate with me.
You might tell me to get a sense of humour – it’s only an advert after all. However, the pernicious message that these ads send out reinforces unhelpful stereotypes – men are useless, women are there to be objectified and do the household chores.
So do these adverts just reflect daily reality, or is this dog-whistle advertising that knows its core demographic and thinks it can earn more money by appealing to a particular group? And which adverts really wind you up?