Gender Stereotypes in Advertising

You might also explore with your students the role advertisements play in the development and perpetuation of gender-role stereotypes. Jones (1991) noted that an analysis of advertisements by Goffman (1976) found numerous instances of subtle stereotyping including:

1. functional ranking — the tendency to depict men in executive roles and as more functional when collaborating with women,

2. relative size — the tendency to depict men as taller and larger than women, except when women are clearly superior in social status,

3. ritualization of subordination — an overabundance of images of women lying on floors and beds or as objects of men's mock assaults,

4. the feminine touch — the tendency to show women cradling and caressing the surface of objects with their fingers, and

5. family — fathers depicted as physically distant from their families or as relating primarily to sons, and mothers depicted as relating primarily to daughters.

Using the types of stereotyping listed above, you need to find a set of advertisements that illustrate one or more of the types and preferably have them made into slides (or, if your class is relatively small, you can make photocopied packets of the ads and use them in future classes). Jones indicated that she found it relatively easy to find examples in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Newsweek, and Vogue. She also recommended combining advertisements from the 1950s with more current advertisements to allow the comparisons of different trends in gender stereotyping over time. You can also include advertisements that illustrate nontraditional or innovative gender-role portrayals as well as ads that do not incorporate gender stereotypes at all. After reviewing Goffman's types of gender stereotyping (it is best to write them on the board) and providing several sample advertisements, ask students to take out a blank sheet of paper and number it from 1 to 20. Tell students that you are going to show them a series of 20 advertisements, and they are to indicate which types of gender stereotyping, if any, are depicted in each ad. After showing the advertisements, go over them and discuss students' responses to each. Jones suggested that class discussion can focus on how advertisements influence gender stereotypes as well as changes in stereotypes over time (if you included advertisements from the 1950s), and how other sources (such as television or the workplace) contribute to gender stereotyping.

Basow, S. A. (1986). Gender stereotypes: Traditions and alternatives. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Jones, M. (1991). Gender stereotyping in advertisements. Teaching of Psychology, 18, 231-233.

Adapted from Hill, W. G. (1995). Instructor's resource manual for Psychology by S. F. Davis and J. J. Palladino. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.