Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Her Shoes

Translation: "No woman's body was exploited in this ad."

I spent a good chunk of my week attempting to find non-sexist advertisements that wasn't from Dove or from a not-for-profit that dealt exclusively with women. This is the closest I got.

I am amazed by the ads we see. Their colors, composition, complexity, creativity and reach are astounding. In the thousands of years of human creation I can safely state that we have never experienced a more visual world. A world rich in high contrasting color and clear sounds. Yet for all the technology and creative strides we have taken as a species, the image of a woman is still in the Stone Age.

Advertising sells things. Media creates and grants the space for those things to be sold to us. I have no problem with that. I accept it as a function of capitalist society in which we necessitate profit increases. What I don't accept is this curious phenomenon in that advertising ceases to be that thing that sustains the media, and becomes the subject of the media. Gloria Steinman's essay detailing her troubles as editor of Ms. express the difficult position the magazine, and therefore many forms of media, are placed in.

In order to maintain financial viability magazines and broadcasters must sell advertisements. Yet, due to the incendiary and controversial nature of the content of Ms. Magazine, Steinem found herself compromising with the advertisers and companies reluctant views. The company then pulled the advertisement. Does Ms. magazine forge through with the content, albeit in financial straits or do they modify their article? Thats dilemma one.

So lets say that company does in fact decide to stay with Ms. magazine. The ad agency produces an ad that doesn't sit well with Ms. readers. Steinem struggles with the company and now the ad agency. Does Ms. pull the ad and maintain their dignity or do they publish the ad and remain economically viable? That's dilemma two.

Ms magazine readers have been clamoring for more technology advertisements. The advertising out reach person at Ms. reaches out to companies who decline citing mythological disinterest to technology. Does Ms. magazine not heed the desires of their readers or do they find more conventional advertising to remain economically viable? That's dilemma three.

There are many more dilemmas Steinem faced in her tenure as editor of Ms. I paraphrase these point to outline the carefully engineered woman of the advertising world. The woman that was presented to the editors of Ms was conventional and limited. The woman the editors of Ms. sought (and continue to seek) in their choice of advertising is one who is diverse in her tastes, body and mind.

Notice a word in the above paragraph: choice. The editors of Ms. chose to abstain from advertisements with stereotypical images of women. They understood that theirs is a choice. The choice and content of advertisement in magazine is not only an economic one, but a political woman. The choice to say no to sexist, simplistic images. And if more of us make that choice to choose not engage with these ads and insist (by voice and by consumer choice!) on a more positive portrayal of women then maybe the companies can change.

It gives me a little hope, in my week of fruitless search, that perhaps by properly and constantly arguing the image of woman I am NOT, advertisers can show me a glimmer of the woman I am.

No comments:

Post a Comment