Gender Stereotyping in U.S. Print Advertisements

An Analysis of the Development of Beauty Product Advertisements in "Cosmopolitan" and "Esquire"

Master's Thesis, 2017

105 Pages, Grade: 1,8




1 Introduction

2 Definitions of Sex, Gender and Stereotypes
2.1 Sex
2.2 Gender
2.3 Stereotypes

3 General Information on Advertisement
3.1 A Brief History of Advertisements
3.2 Print Advertisements

4 An Analysis of Print Advertisements
4.1 The Magazines Cosmopolitan and Esquire
4.2 Gender Constructions in Cosmopolitan Advertisements
4.3 Gender Constructions in Esquire Advertisements
4.4 The Development of the Portrayal of Women
4.5 The Development of the Portrayal of Men
4.6 The Depiction of Women in Comparison with the Depiction of Men

5 Conclusion and Outlook

6 Works Cited


Illustration 1: Media/Society Continuum: Media and Society Are Interdependent.

Illustration 2: Cover of the May 1896 Issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Illustration 3: Cover of the Autumn 1933 Issue of Esquire Magazine.

Illustration 4: Flame Glo Hours-Longer Lipstick Advertisement.

Illustration 5: L'Oréal Le Pout Advertisement.

Illustration 6: Secret Solid Advertisement.

Illustration 7: Jōvan Musk Advertisement.

Illustration 8: Lady Stetson Advertisement.

Illustration 9: Dep Advertisement.

Illustration 10: Candie's Advertisement.

Illustration 11: Clairol Only Ultress Hair Colour Maximizer Advertisement.

Illustration 12: L’Oréal Studio Line FX Melting Gel Advertisement.

Illustration 13: Revlon Colorstay Collection Advertisement.

Illustration 14: Garnier Fructis Advertisement.

Illustration 15: Michael Kors Wonderlust Advertisement.

Illustration 16: Roffler Advertisement.

Illustration 17: Head & Shoulders Advertisement.

Illustration 18: Aramis Advertisement.

Illustration 19: Pierre Cardin Advertisement.

Illustration 20: Calvin Klein Obsession Advertisement.

Illustration 21: Canoe Advertisement.

Illustration 22: Calvin Klein Eternity Advertisement.

Illustration 23: Givenchy Pour Homme Advertisement.

Illustration 24: Edge ActiveCare Advertisement.

Illustration 25: Marc Jacobs Bang.

Illustration 26: Dolce & Gabbana The One.

Illustration 27: Givenchy Gentlemen Only Advertisement.

1 Introduction


Advertising is everywhere in our contemporary society. We find it in our home, when we walk down the street or when we are at the bus station. Advertising is always with us, no matter where we are or who is with us (cf. Cook 1). Although we are aware of the constant bombarding by advertisers everywhere we go, we hardly recognize the influence that advertising has on us (cf. Mayne 56). Thereby, advertising has a great influence on us as individuals and on the society as a whole (cf. Cramer 1). With help of the media, we make sense of our cultural identities (cf. Cramer 221; Hodkinson 1) and “gender and sexuality remain at the core of how we think about our identities” (Gauntlett 1). This is why I am going to study on the topic of gender stereotyping in U.S. American print advertisements in my master thesis.

Since the 1950s, there has been an increased focus on gender stereotypes in advertisements and on its social consequences (cf. Alpert 73; Cohen 24-25). By the 1960s and 1970s, many activist groups already began protesting against these stereotypes (cf. Courtney & Whipple 162). Today, many books and dissertations have been written about the portrayal of gender in advertising and on the influence it has on society (cf. Courtney & Whipple 31; Eisend & Plagemann & Sollwedel 256; Hepp 58). However, most studies of gender portrayal in the media focus on the construction of femininity (cf. Kervin 51), whereas I will to pay attention to both, masculinity and femininity.

The central goal of this master thesis is to examine the development of presentations of gender stereotypes in print advertisements over a time period of 40 years via content analysis of a sample of magazine advertisements. In other words, the key questions are: How do U.S. print advertisements construct gender stereotypes, how did these stereotypes develop and do they have an influence on the consumer and the U.S. culture? Because content analyses have been proven in decades of research on gender stereotyping as it relates to the mass media (cf. Busby 127; Lin & Yeh 61) and because this is an appropriate method to not only focus on images, but also on verbal messages, I have chosen this kind of method for my study.[1] Because magazines present an especially enduring, popular medium (cf. Gill 180), I am going to focus on gender stereotypes in print advertisements of magazines. Furthermore, I chose the magazines Cosmopolitan and Esquire due to the varying target audiences, meaning females and males respectively, and because they might be a potential indicator of U.S. magazine advertising in general (cf. Helgeson & Mager 239). To further limit the object of investigation and because these advertisements are useful for my research purposes, I decided to concentrate on beauty product advertisements.

To answer the key questions of this paper, I will first explain the phenomenon of sex, gender and stereotyping. Because I do not only want to have a theoretical background of these aspects, but also of advertising itself, I will further outline general information on advertisement, with focus on the history of advertisements and the characteristics of print advertisements. Then I will go on analyzing gender constructions in print advertisements of Cosmopolitan and Esquire magazines in a time period from the 1980s until the 2010s. For the analysis part of this thesis, I am going to use the major work Gender Advertisements by the “widely quoted authority on the subject of women and advertising” (cf. Tjernlund & Wiles & Wiles 38) Erving Goffman. In a last step, I will look at the development of the portrayal of each gender and then compare them with each other. Finally, I am going to give a conclusion of this master thesis with reference to the depicted key questions.

2 Definitions of Sex, Gender and Stereotypes

In the Stone Age, the distribution of roles between males and females was clear: It was the job of men to hunt and provide the family with meat and the job of women to bear and raise the children (cf. Jaffé 108). This distribution of roles stayed nearly the same for a very long time up until the beginning of the 19th century (cf. Jaffé 109). But it was not until the early years of second-wave feminism that many feminist scholars and gender researchers made a distinction between the “notion of sex, defined as biological differences between male and female” (Carter 365), and the notion of gender, referring to social characteristics and behaviors attributed to each sex (cf. Goddard & Patterson 1; Zurstiege 38).[2] Nevertheless, the terms sex and gender “are [still] used interchangeably, [even though] they mean quite different things” (Jule 4). To make the complex ideas of sex and gender more clear and illustrate their interaction with the idea of stereotypes, I will clarify these terms in the chapters that follow. Because the notion of sex is a less complex concept, I will first explain this term. Next, I will discuss the idea of gender. Finally, I will explain these terms in combination with stereotyping to illustrate the relationship amongst them. The creation of such a theoretical basis is necessary to pursue the key questions of this paper.

2.1 Sex

Sex, in contrast to gender, is assumed to be a “biological fact” (Mayne 57; Stern 3) and “a matter of bodily attributes” (Talbot 7). In our society, people use genetic and biological qualities to characterize whether a human being is male or female. This classification is usually based on internal sex organs (prostate in males, ovaries and uterus in females) and external genitalia (penis and testes in males, clitoris and vagina in females) (cf. Ayaß 11; Wood 19).

Furthermore, it depends on the chromosomes whether you become male or female. Of the 23 chromosomes that a human being has, there is only one pair that determines his sex. The chromosome pair that influences sex usually has two chromosomes and one of them is always an X (cf. Wood 19). “The presence or absence of a Y chromosome determines whether a fetus will develop into what we recognize as male or female. Thus, an XX creates female sex, whereas an XY creates male sex.” (Wood 19) In conclusion, sex is usually binary (cf. Archer & Lloyd 17). That means males and females are two types of human beings who are characterized within one species, “they can be defined only correlatively” (De Beauvoir 21). Certainly, there might be departures from the standard XX or XY structure, but as long as there is a single Y chromosome, a fetus will grow into what we call male (cf. Wood 19).

Another biological factor by which sex is determined is by the hormones. They already affect the human being before birth (cf. Wood 19). “In most cases, biology works smoothly so that the hormones direct development of female or male reproductive organs that are in line with external genitalia.” (Wood 19) In consequence, the gonads of a fetus with an XY chromosome structure would create the male hormone testosterone, with which the fetus develops male genitalia. “Without the production of this hormone, the foetus [sic] continues as normal; that is, it carries on developing as female.” (Talbot 7)[3] Still, it might happen that a fetal development does not proceed typically, so that a child is born with ambiguous sex, which means that it has some biological features of each sex. Those people are called hermaphrodites (cf. Wood 20). As we grow up, the influence of hormones goes on. “They continue to affect our development by determining whether we will menstruate, how much body hair we will have and where it will grow, how muscular we will be . . . and so forth.” (Wood 20) And even though there has been much research on biological sexuality in the past, there are still divided opinions about aspects like whether high levels of testosterone lead to aggression and violence of men or whether biology has been the cause of hysterical behavior of women or if these processes are preferably tied to the environment (cf. Goddard & Patterson 1; Kendrick 26).

Nevertheless, the latest research has shown that “however strong the influence of biology may be, it seldom, if ever, determines behaviors” (Wood 21). Even though it might somehow influence how we act in the world, like Judith Butler already mentioned in Bodies That Matter (cf. 2; qtd. in Bleicher & Kannengießer & Loist 7),[4] it does not determine the personality of a human being (cf. Jule 4-5).[5] Most researchers think that the environment has a stronger influence on the human development than biological qualities (cf. Wood 21). This differentiation between sex as something rather biological, determined physiologically by sex organs, chromosomes and hormones, and sex as something more environmental (cf. Boden & Fuller & Hartnett 12), leads us to a second concept called gender.

2.2 Gender

Because the concept of gender is an important part of the analysis of this paper and because everyone of us is a gendered being, it is necessary to know what this term means (cf. Wood 35). Gender, in contrast to sex, is socially constructed (cf. Cramer 219; Goddard & Patterson 1).[6] It is something that we do rather than something that we are (cf. Hodkinson 220). The notion of gender refers to how an individual acts in terms of feminine or masculine tendencies (cf. Wood 19). “In many respects, your gender represents an area of potential choice for you, because you can change it more easily than your sex.” (Wood 19) This is why gender is more complex than sex. While everyone’s sex is based on enduring physical factors, gender is neither stable nor universal. The human being acquires his or her gender through interaction in the social world, which is why it is variable (cf. Gardiner 35). Some researchers often refer to the concept of gender as something we can learn, for example, in our families or in various institutions like in school or in church (cf. Jaffé & Riedel 59). Simone de Beauvoir also claimed that we increasingly become feminine or masculine, so one is not born, but rather becomes a woman or a man (21). In addition, the mass media, like advertising, presents ideas on how to be properly masculine or feminine (cf. Kervin 51). We learn from these images because the mass media is part of our socialization processes (cf. Mayne 57). It tells us for example how to dress and how to express emotion and sexual desire (cf. Berkowitz & Duffy & Lafky & Steinmaus 379-380). “From infancy on we are encouraged to conform to the gender that society prescribes for us.” (Wood 22) Even before birth, many new parents buy blue clothes for a baby boy and pink clothes for a baby girl (cf. Jule 6). At a very early age, young girls are told not to hurt themselves and not to get messy, while young boys are told not to cry and to go after what they want (cf. Wood 22). That is why, by an age of three, children are already able to apply gender labels and can perfectly associate sex-typed objects like articles of clothing with the applicable sex (cf. Fidler, Flerx & Rogers 998). “When socialization is effective in teaching us to adopt the gender society prescribes for our sex, biological males learn to be masculine and biological females become feminine.” (Wood 22)

But the fact that gender is taught to us does not mean that we are inactive. During our lives, we are continuously implicated in the routine of the gendering of ourselves and the gendering of others (cf. Jule 6; Kervin 52-53; West & Zimmermann 13). We do gender, and “[d]oing gender is unavoidable” (West & Zimmermann 32). It is a performative act that achieves its effects through its naturalization (cf. Butler, “Gender Trouble” xv; Salih 1). However, by accepting or rejecting these social meanings of gender, we can maintain or change them:

Those individuals who internalize cultural prescriptions for gender reinforce traditional views by behaving in ways that support prevailing ideas about masculinity and femininity. Other people, who reject conventional prescriptions and step outside of social meanings for gender, often provoke changes in cultural expectations. (Wood 23)

This is also why gender is a social construction that varies in relation to the other gender, over time within a given culture and across cultures (cf. Cramer 245). If we look at the current definitions of masculinity and femininity in a given culture like America, to be masculine does not only mean to be sober and robust, but also to learn skills in homemaking and child care. And to be feminine does not only mean to be emotional and sensitive, but also to be active in public and professional life (cf. Ayaß 12). But the views of gender in the United States have not always been as diverse as they are now. Before the Industrial Revolution, men as well as women participated in labor as well as homemaking (cf. Wood 26). But because the Industrial Revolution created many factories, life was divided into two isolated domains, that of work and that of home. While men took jobs away from home, women got responsibility for the family life. As a consequence, femininity was defined as being nurturing, as being able to make a home look good and as being dependent on men for income (cf. Busby 117), while masculinity was defined as having a profit at work and as having the qualification to produce income (cf. Wood 27). But some marches and political actions by feminists as well as movements by men “question[ed] accepted conceptualizations about the sexes” (Boden & Fuller & Hartnett 7).[7] A good example for this progress is the in the 1970s invented word androgyny which combines the Greek word aner or andros (which means man) and the Greek word gyne (which means woman). Androgynous people are individuals who deny strict sex roles, so that they combine masculine as well as feminine qualities in themselves for not being restricted to a single gender (cf. Wood 24-25). Another example of how our views of femininity and masculinity continuously change over time is the beauty ideal of women in the United States. “In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe was widely considered the most beautiful, sexiest woman alive. Yet by today’s standards of excessive slimness in women, Marilyn Monroe would be considered fat” (Wood 27). All these developments express that what we take for assumed masculinity and femininity is in fact, quite arbitrary (cf. Ayaß 13).

This is also proven by the fact that one gender does not only differ in relation to the other and over time within a given culture, but that gender differs amongst cultures themselves (cf. Ayaß 12). Even within the United States, gender varies across racial-ethnic groups (cf. Wood 25). Julia Wood does for example claim that “African American women are more assertive than European American women . . . and [that] African American men tend to be more communal than White men[.]” (25)

In summation, it can be said that gender is a social category that changes in relation to the other gender, over time and across cultures, whereas biological sex is rather stable (cf. Wood 28). “If gender was exclusively a matter of one’s biological sex, we would always see the same displays of gender roles and behaviors across all cultures, across all time periods and across all age groups, but we do not.” (Jule 6) However, that does not mean that gender can be totally separated from sex (cf. Butler, “Bodies That Matter” 15; Jaffé 112; Talbot 8-9), “gender is the meaning that a culture – including individuals who belong to it – attaches to sex” (Wood 28). So even though we might take masculinity and femininity for natural and real, we in fact have the choice in how we define ourselves and each other as men and women (cf. Hepp 58). This is why we call certain qualities masculine and others feminine (cf. Archer & Lloyd 17). “[F]or example, we can say someone is ‘very manly’ or ‘such a girl’” (cf. Jule 5). In most cases, the ascribed sex aligns with our gender, so that men primarily appear masculine while women appear primarily feminine, but in other cases, a certain man is more feminine and a specific woman is more masculine. For transsexuals for example, sex and gender are contradictory, which means that they are born a certain sex, but do rather identify with the other sex (cf. Wood 19).[8] In consequence, gender, unlike sex, is not binary (cf. Jule 5-6). In the following chapters, I will use both terms of sex and gender, holding the distinction of sex as a biological property and gender as a cultural construct for the sake of clarity. But especially the term gender is very useful to “define, describe . . . and categorize” (Rakow 22). In order to provide an even better foundation for the analysis at the end, I will not only define sex and gender, but also the idea of stereotypes.

2.3 Stereotypes

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a stereotype as a “widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing: ‘the stereotype of the woman as the carer’” (“The Oxford English Dictionary’s” emphasis) and the stereotype of the man as the athlete.[9] Stereotypes are generalized and established beliefs about the attributes of the people of another group, such as an ethnic group or people in a particular occupation (cf. Archer & Lloyd 19), that are often represented as fixed by nature (cf. Banaji & Greenwald 4; Hall 257). Even though, the idea of stereotypes often has negative connotation, these social categories have a necessary function: They are filters that human beings use to arrange the huge amount of social groups they encounter every day (cf. Holtz-Bacha 10). In that respect, “stereotypes are an attempt to understand differences among social groups” (Hardin 131). Marie Hardin even claims that they enrich our view of the world because they show us how different we are from one another. In a complex culture like the United States for example, stereotypes allow you to gather a picture of another individual or group before you are communicating with them. This is how stereotypes might act as navigators through situations (cf. Hardin 131). “[S]tereotypes would probably not continue to exist if they were completely inaccurate.” (Stangor 7) But even if they are partially correct, they are commonly overstated and predominantly negative (cf. Stangor 7; Zurstiege 33):

Although they are very different from each other, stereotypes about African Americans, people with disabilities, Latinos, women, Native Americans, older people, gay men, lesbians, and those low in social economic status are similar in that they are primarily negative. (Fein & Spencer 188)

This illustrates that the motivation for stereotypes does not only lie in the idea of simplifying an image or idea, for some people it also serves to improve their self-images (cf. Fein & Spencer 188). Stereotyping most often takes place, when one group is more powerful than another (cf. Hall 258). “Difference is emphasized as the less powerful group becomes ‘the Other’ … and the social power of the dominant group is maintained.” (Marcellus 137) With reference to gender, the stereotype of the Other is the woman and as a consequence, the social power of men is preserved.

Furthermore, stereotypes are cognitive representations (cf. Dovidio & Esses & Glick & Hewstone 6) that can be divided into individual and cultural stereotypes. Individual stereotypes are only believed by one or person or a few people, whereas cultural stereotypes are held by a whole culture, so that they have a broader impact (cf. Jones 231). “Agreement about stereotypes of groups comes in part from the fact that the people who live in the same culture have similar contacts with members of other social groups” (Stangor 7). However, no stereotype is grasped by 100 percent of the people in a culture. There are still differences between the stereotypes individuals hold within a culture and the intensity with which they hold them (cf. Stangor 7). But every time we ascribe stereotypes to a group as a whole, “we use beliefs about a group to judge an individual group member” (Stangor 7), which can generate expectations and influence emotional reactions (cf. Hyers & Swim 411; Luhmann 436).

This is why stereotypes and discrimination do very often go hand in hand (cf. Holtz-Bacha 10). When stereotypes generate negative behaviors towards others, it is called discrimination. “Discrimination comes about only when we deny to individuals or groups of people equality of treatment why they may wish” (“The Main Types and Causes of Discrimination” 2). Another typical feature of stereotypes is that they often maintain themselves (cf. Stangor 13). “[O]nce stereotypes are activated, they tend to be self-maintaining” (Stangor 13). Through new information, existing stereotypes can change, but they do not change as fast as they should (cf. Luhmann 436). Very often, there is a resistance to change.

In our modern society, stereotypes are mostly formed by the mass media. They appear in literature, television, magazines and especially in advertisements that utilize the concept of stereotypes to more easily portray meaning (cf. Hardin 130-132). The mass media is an “important collective repository for group stereotypes” (Schaller & Stangor 69). This is why many stereotype researchers focus on the mass media and examine its representations of certain stereotypes.

One specific stereotype that is often discussed and often used in the mass media is the gender stereotype (cf. Derra & Jäckel 188; Kolman & Verčič 117). “Like other stereotypical beliefs, gender stereotypes are consensual and exist as ideology that is socially built and shared” (Rollero & Tartaglia 1103). Nowadays, most spectators still expect men to be oriented toward agentic goals and women to be oriented toward communal goals (cf. Eagly & Steffen 142-143). “[A]gentic qualities are manifested by self-assertion, self-expansion, and the urge to master, whereas communal qualities are manifested by selflessness, concern with others, and a desire to be at one with others” (Eagly & Steffen 143). These stereotypes or beliefs about gender are to some extent cross-culturally general.[10]

The result of this chapter is that stereotypes are both useful yet restrictive. They can be helpful in allowing us to orient ourselves in the complex world around us, but can also force us to make misleading evaluations (cf. Eisend & Plagemann & Sollwedel 257). Additionally, stereotypes are mostly formed by the mass media, like advertisements, because they are shortcuts of meaning. For looking at gender stereotypes in advertisements in my analysis, such a definition is essential (cf. Courtney & Whipple 5). The same applies to the prior definitions of sex and gender.

3 General Information on Advertisement

After having looked at the theoretical background of sex, gender and stereotypes, I will outline general information on advertisement because it is essential for the analytical part of this paper. With reference to economy, advertising is a part of marketing communication and can be described as a “paid-for communication intended to inform and/or persuade one or more people” (Fletcher 1-2). But marketing implies more than only distributing products from the manufacturer to the final buyer. It involves many steps between the creation of goods and their sale, advertising is only one of these stages. Nevertheless, advertising is as important as the other steps because they all depend on each other for success. Advertising itself includes the product or service, its naming, its packaging, its pricing and its distribution (cf. Jefkins 1). Moreover, many people regard advertising as the “lifeblood of an organisation [sic]” (Jefkins 1). Without advertising, many goods would not be able to reach the sellers and then go on to reach the users because of the sheer amount of products to be sold that exist in capitalist society (cf. Cunningham & Heighton 119). For this reason, the high cost of advertising can be justified, the cost is rather effective and economical (cf. Jefkins 4-5).

But not every advertisement is the same. Quite the contrary, advertisements are hard to define because of their versatility. Of course, most advertisements try to sell goods and services, but there are other reasons for launching an advertising campaign. For example, advertisements can be used for announcing the launch of a completely new product, for persuading current or loyal consumers to continue using a product or to continue trusting a brand, or for ex-users to considering the product or brand again (cf. Fletcher 5). These are only a few examples of a variety of advertising approaches. In practice, the chosen advertising approach has to be defined exactly in the advertising strategy (cf. Fletcher 6). The advertising strategy has to make sure that everyone who is involved in the advertising campaign knows what the objectives of the campaign are. Furthermore, the advertising strategy has to contain information about the brand’s competitors, a summary of any relevant marketing research, information about which media should be used for the campaign, information about the budget available for the campaign, the identified and understood target market, and other information that might be important for the advertisers (cf. Fletcher 7; Lünenborg & Maier 38). Because the target market is very substantial for the advertising campaign, the emotive requirement[11], or point in which the target audience can respond with intense emotion, of the target market should also be mentioned in the advertising strategy (cf. Ambler & Tellis 4). If all these elements, mentioned in the advertising strategy, work smoothly together and the advertising campaign is planned and conducted well, it will achieve the desired results within an agreeable budget (cf. Jefkins 4-5). Additionally, a successful advertising campaign involves four different groups: the advertisers, who spend their money, the advertising agencies, who create the campaign, the media owners, who publish the campaign, and of course the consumers, who should be influenced by the advertisements (cf. Jefkins 305).[12]

The last group is the group researchers are most often concerned about (cf. Bardwick & Schumann 18; Fletcher 123-124), which leads us to the consequences of advertising. Many critics think that advertising urges “people to consume more by making them feel dissatisfied or inadequate, by appealing to greed, worry and ambition” (Cook 2). Consequently, advertising can be very powerful because it can create personal needs, change attitudes, and alter self-image (cf. Lin & Yeh 61; Zurstiege 143). This is also the reason why advertising is one of the most controversial genres and art forms (cf. Curry & Vigorito 136; Mayne 60). On the other hand, some scientists claim that advertisements are simply skillful and amusing and that it is not fair to place responsibility on advertisements for the problems of the modern world (cf. Cook 2). In fact, many people connect and relate to some humorous advertisements better than they do with novels, poems, or plays. “Yet it is often a love-hate relationship: one which frequently causes unease, and in which the love is often denied. It seems that with many ads, we suffer a split, contradictory reaction: involuntary spontaneous enjoyment, conscious reflective rejection.” (Cook 3) Still, in many parts of the world like in Western Europe and North America, there is more tolerance towards advertising than in countries, where advertising is comparably new (cf. Cook 3).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Illustration 1: Media/Society Continuum: Media and Society Are Interdependent.

In those countries, where advertising is relatively present, it even represents and affects the society and it’s values (cf. Kolman & Verčič 118). The media/society continuum reflects this idea because it indicates that media and society are interdependent (cf. Illustration 1). This implies that advertising is an indicator as well a factor of cultural changes (cf. Cramer 5).[13] Consequently, advertisements in magazines, for example, do not only serve as reflectors, but also as shapers of social relations (cf. Hutchins & McKay & Mikosza 280). They influence society and give an insight into it’s norms and it’s rules of behavior (cf. Kolman & Verčič 125). The same is true of course for the society’s ideals of gender. Like “films, television, magazines … and other forms of media, advertisements are constructions [that mirror and] chang[e] ideas and values within society, including definitions of gender” (Kervin 51). This way, advertising contributes to the gender role socialization in American culture. That is why there is a lot of concern about the stereotypical gender images in American advertising (cf. Tjernlund & Wiles & Wiles 36). But before I will go into the analysis of gender stereotyping in American print advertisements, I am going to have a brief look at the history of advertisements and at print advertisements in particular.

3.1 A Brief History of Advertisements

Advertising began at the earliest forms of humanity and commerce (cf. McDonald & Scott 17; Zurstiege 78). Scientists found evidence of outdoor advertising of the early civilization in Egypt, Greece and Rome (cf. Fletcher 17). Tradesmen’s signs as well as tavern signs advertised services varying from booksellers to brothels, prostitute’s advertisements can still be seen in the stonework today (cf. Cohen 47; Fletcher 18; Jefkins 1). In addition, there were also primitive stages of advertising, such as the mere display of goods or commodities or where a goat was a sign for dairy (cf. Cohen 48). But merchants also employed town-criers[14] who read public notices and praises of their goods and services aloud (cf. McDonald & Scott 18). These town-criers were selected for their clear elocutions and pleasing voices and were sometimes even accompanied by a musician (cf. Cohen 47; Fletcher 17). In Athens for example, Aesclyptoe, an early cosmetician, used town-criers to advertise his lotions:

For eyes that are shining, for cheeks like the dawn

For beauty that lasts after girlhood is gone

For prices in reason, the woman who knows

Will buy her cosmetics of Aesclyptoe. (qtd. in Presbrey 7)

Hence, the earliest forms of advertising, as well as advertising today, served to inform and to persuade consumers. But back then, advertising was less omnipresent and extravagant than it is today because of the limited number of goods. When there were advertisements, they were essentially local and simple (cf. Cohen 48; Mayne 56; McDonald & Scott 18).

Right after the Industrial Revolution began, there were huge economic changes. Mass production and mass transportation started[15] and created a need for non-local mass marketing (cf. Jefkins 1; McDonald & Scott 17-18). People left the countryside and the farming behind and moved to the cities and factories. A greater population of the towns created a middle class which provided government and business services in the fresh, more complex surroundings. Because of the increasing urbanization, it was possible for a producer to create a mass market all over the country by having only one factory with mass production (cf. McDonald & Scott 18). Advancement in mass printing enabled producers to spread the advertising message more broadly with posters, handbills and later on newspapers and magazines (cf. Cohen 66). A few well-known magazines had launched by the mid-19th century. But the magazines of that time did not contain advertisements yet (cf. McDonald & Scott 22). “Soon however, this untapped revenue opportunity was recognized, and by the end of the 19th century, magazine advertising accounted for two thirds of publisher revenues.” (McDonald & Scott 22) This was also the time, when magazines were not only for the well-educated and wealthy anymore (cf. Mayne 56). By 1900, 3500 magazines were in circulation in the United States, reaching 65 million readers (cf. McDonald & Scott 22). So with markets shifting from local to national and consumers being able to have much more choice, mass media and mass marketing[16] grew (cf. Jefkins 2; McDonald & Scott 18).

After the American Civil War in the 1860s and the World Wars, which followed in the first half of the 20th century, the economic boom made businesses see marketing as a “company function[,] separate from the sales department” (McDonald & Scott 19). In addition, there was a huge technological development which created new kinds of marketing media like the internet (cf. McDonald & Scott 19). Nowadays, even magazine publishers do embrace the web to guarantee continued growth (cf. McDonald & Scott 22). These findings show that already many years before Christ, people found out that advertising is effective. Today, the modern, industrial world would collapse without advertisements (cf. Jefkins 2). Because advertising has high social value in our material culture of capitalism, it should therefore not only be simply accepted, but also analyzed and reflected (cf. Curry & Vigorito 136). Before I will examine print advertisements in the next part of my work, I am going to look at print advertisements exclusively.

3.2 Print Advertisements

Print advertising, as one type of advertising medium, has certain advantages in comparison with other forms of advertisements (cf. Talbot 514). Magazines and newspapers are able to give the reader detailed information which can be read, re-read and kept (cf. Jefkins 66). “This is true even though the life of a city newspaper may be only a few hours, but many publications survive for some time, and items can be cut out and kept.” (Jefkins 66) Furthermore, newspapers and particularly magazines represent special interest groups with reference to their class, politics, religion, ethnicity and language. This might be the greatest strength of print advertisements. By selecting the right magazines or newspapers, advertisers can reach a specific and well-defined part of the reading public or a certain target group (cf. Talbot 529-530). “This cannot be done with mass media like radio, TV and posters.” (Jefkins 66). But not only that, print advertisements also convince with regard to their mobility. In contrast to other media, newspapers and magazines can be taken everywhere, from the house, to the place of work or to a waiting room or library (cf. Jefkins 66). Moreover, advertisers can insert coupons into their print advertisements, so that they are able to measure the power and cost-effectiveness by identifying “from which publication the coupon was clipped” (Jefkins 66). In addition, the press is one of the cheapest means[17] and advertisements can be inserted relatively fast, compared with the time it takes to produce commercials for television (cf. Jefkins 74).

Indeed, radio and television advertisements might have a greater effect and the biggest spenders on advertising pay most of their money for those types of advertising. But still, the amount of time available for radio and TV advertisements is limited. This is why print advertisements are the most popular advertisements in literate, industrial countries (cf. Jefkins 64-65). “The number of advertisers in the press runs into millions” (Jefkins 65).

Still, print advertisements also have some disadvantages. One weakness of them is that the recipient has to be made to read print advertisements, while the audiences of radio and television are captive (cf. Jefkins 75). Moreover, “advertisements in the press have to compete with the editorial for attention and interest, whereas cinema and broadcast advertising does not occur at the same time as the programme [sic]” (Jefkins 75).[18] Another demerit of print advertising is that it is a static medium. The movement, the color and the sound of TV commercials provide a greater realism. Even the sound of the radio, lacking the images, offers better authenticity (cf. Jefkins 75). It is also important to mention that press advertisements may be “massed together so that they may be overlooked, unless an effort is made to find them, whereas with most other media each advertisement is presented individually and can be absorbed one at a time” (Jefkins 75). After having built a theoretical fundament, I will go on with the practical part of this master thesis.

4 An Analysis of Print Advertisements

Now that I have built a theoretical foundation about the ideas of sex, gender and stereotypes as well as of advertisements and their history in the first part of this paper, I am able to apply these terms to the examination of gender stereotypes in print advertisements. For observing the changes of gender stereotyping in U.S. American print advertisements, I have chosen a time period from the 1980s up to the 2010s. In order to not exceed the framework of this study and because a way of categorizing advertisements is by a product or a service (cf. Cook 14), I selected print advertisements which advertise beauty products.

Of course, when analyzing the development of gender stereotypes in beauty product advertisements, numerous problems can arise. Because there is such a huge amount of data available, it is not only necessary to limit oneself to a certain type and time period of advertising, but also to a certain medium and vehicle. “A medium should refer to a ‘class’ of carriers such as television, newspapers, magazines, etc. In other words, it should refer to a group of carriers that have similar characteristics. A vehicle is an individual carrier within a medium.” (2; Bumba’s & Sissors’ emphasis) In consequence, the focus of this paper will lie on the medium magazine and on the vehicles Cosmopolitan and Esquire. The reason why I have chosen these two popular magazines is that Cosmopolitan is geared towards women and Esquire is geared towards men and the “[e]xamination of men’s and women’s magazines may show better how the sexes are presented to themselves” (Courtney & Whipple 5).

For analyzing gender stereotypes in print advertising in the following examples, I will not only use the previous definitions, but also a framework by the anthropologist Erving Goffman. In his pioneering study, Gender Stereotyping, about gender depictions in magazine advertisements, he focused on the visual content of print advertisements and found many examples of subtle stereotyping in the roles of men and women. The social scientist suggested that magazine advertisements transport messages about cultural values and norms of gender relation (qtd. in Curry & Vigorito 135-136). Erving Goffman looked especially on the following aspects, on which I will also concentrate on in my analysis:

a) [F]unction ranking (the tendency to depict men in executive roles and as more functional when collaborating with women),
b) relative size (the tendency to depict men taller and larger than women, except when women are clearly superior in social status),
c) ritualization of subordination (an overabundance of images of women lying on floors and beds or as objects of men’s mock assaults),
d) the feminine touch (the tendency to show women cradling and caressing the surface of objects with their fingers), and
e) family (fathers depicted as physically distant from their families or as relating primarily to sons, and mothers depicted as relating primarily to daughters). (qtd. in Jones 232)

In my content analysis[19], I will not only look at the implicit visual content of print advertisements, but also at their explicit verbal content. Here, I might even find contradictory depictions of men or women (cf. Zurstiege 125). However, before I will go into detail with my analysis of the development of gender stereotypes in U.S. American print advertisements, I will briefly look at the medium and the two vehicles which I have chosen as my research subjects.

4.1 The Magazines Cosmopolitan and Esquire

Because I will focus on magazines in my examination, I will have a more detailed look at them. “Before the word magazine took on its predominant modern meaning – as a particular kind of publication containing diverse elements – it used to refer to a place where miscellaneous things are kept, a storehouse” (Talbot 143). In the United States, the first magazines appeared in the middle of the 18th century. But the early magazines were not around for a long time and mostly consisted of literary and news items (cf. Cramer 225). It took another century before magazines became successful. “[B]y 1850, 600 magazines were published, reaching national audiences and catering to specialized [sic!] audiences” (Cramer 225). From 1885 to 1905, the number of magazines doubled again to 6000 (cf. Tebbel & Zuckerman 57). This growth persisted up to the 21st century (cf. Cramer 225).

Still today, a typical feature of magazines is the diversity of genres. There are many different magazines addressing many different readers (cf. Talbot 140). Particularly consumer magazines are important for print advertisements. Among those popular magazines are numerous news magazines, photo magazines, cultural magazines and women’s magazines, many of them with multi-million circulations, and also men’s magazines become more and more prominent (cf. Cramer 225; Jefkins 70). All these magazines contain several genres, ranging from advertisements to letters, fictional narratives and true stories. Furthermore, magazines often include many different discourses like economics, the family, fashion or science (cf. Talbot 141).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Illustration 2: Cover of the May 1896 Issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine.

First, I will focus attention to the women’s magazine Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitan was already published for the first time at the end of the 19th century (cf. Illustration 2), but at that time it “was billed as a woman’s fashion magazine that included articles on the home, family … and cooking” (McGuire). Later it even became focused on new fiction and published works by authors like Upton Sinclair and Kurt Vonnegut (cf. McGuire). But it was not until 1965 until Helen Gurley Brown edited her first issue with the Hearst company and the women’s magazine, which we know today as Cosmopolitan, was born in an increase in sales. This happened during a time, where women began to explore male-dominated fields and started enjoying themselves (cf. Benjamin).[20] Today, it is one of the best-selling young women’s magazines in the U.S. and reaches more than 17 million readers a month. The core target group of Cosmopolitan magazine are single, white, upper middle class women aged 18 to 34, who they call, Fun, Fearles, Females (cf. “Cosmopolitan Overview”; Cozens).[21] The typical topics of Cosmopolitan magazine include beauty and fashion, love and men, work and money, health, self-improvement and entertainment (cf. “Cosmopolitan”).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Illustration 3: Cover of the Autumn 1933 Issue of Esquire Magazine.

The second magazine is one of America’s top men’s magazines called Esquire and is published by the Hearst company as well . It is a magazine constructed and published to appeal to sophisticated males as part of the contemporary American culture (cf. “Esquire”). “In the first issue [from Autumn 1933], editor Arnold Gingrich declared Esquire ‘A Magazine for Men Only’” (56; Kervin’s emphasis; cf. Illustration 3). The editor wanted the magazine to take on an easy, natural, masculine character. In its whole history, Esquire magazine managed to establish trends of masculinity with reference to historical and social change, from the Depression, the World War II and Vietnam up to the women’s movement (cf. Kervin 56). Furthermore, the magazine has always been a publisher of famous writers like with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Earnest Hemingway in the 1930s and with the pioneers of the so-called New Journalism Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese in the 1960s (cf. “Esquire”). Today, the motto of the magazine is called, Man at His Best. Esquire is made for men who are ambitious in their lives and who are determined to shape the world (cf. “About Esquire”). Furthermore, Esquire reaches more than seven million readers a month (cf. “Number of Esquire Readers in March 2015”). The target audience of Esquire are middle to upper middle class males in their late 20s to 40s, “educated beyond high school … and holding a white-collar job” (Kervin 56).[22] Esquire offers topics from health and politics to fashion and the arts.

But not only the publishers of the magazines, but also the advertisers are well aware of who reads Cosmopolitan and Esquire. In consequence, it can be assumed that the advertisements that appear in those magazines have been created with the above mentioned readerships in mind (cf. Kervin 56). Therefore, these important findings have to be considered while doing the analysis of gender stereotypes in print advertisements of Cosmopolitan and Esquire in the next step .

4.2 Gender Constructions in Cosmopolitan Advertisements

In the following, I will at first look at the advertisements of each magazine in the chosen time period and not of each gender because depictions of one gender do automatically make statements about the other gender (cf. Zurstiege 53). Therefore, I will start with analyzing gender constructions in Cosmopolitan advertisements from the 1980s until the 2010s and then go on with examining gender constructions in Esquire advertisements from the 1980s until the 2010s. After I have looked at both genders in each magazine, I will outline each gender alone and then summarize the depiction of women in comparison to the depiction of men.

4.2.1 Advertisements from the 1980s

In this chapter, like in the following chapters, I am going to analyze three print advertisements of the given time period. I will first concentrate on how the page division of image and text looks like and then I will go into detail about text and image. Furthermore, I will take all the print advertisements from the 1980s from the April 1981 issue of Cosmopolitan only.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Illustration 4: Flame Glo Hours-Longer Lipstick Advertisement.


[1] However, even though this kind of method is a good tool for investigating on this topic, I have to keep in mind that a content analysis is also restrictive because it is mainly descriptive (cf. Cartwright & Srisupandit & Zhang 686).

[2] This differentiation was a theoretical breakthrough, “first articulated in detail by a British feminist in the early seventies” (Talbot 7). It is very important for feminists to dissolve “the power-based relationships attached to gender so that both women and men might live more freely.” (Jule 9)

[3] “This assumption of a biological female-as-norm was an appealing idea for many feminists in the seventies and eighties, since it was a refreshing contrast to androcentric assumptions about the male-as-norm that permeated much scholarship” (Talbot 7).

[4] Judith Butler has a critical attitude towards the distinction between sex and gender. According to Judith Butler, the biological sex is, like gender, a sociocultural construction (cf. “Das Unbehagen der Geschlechter” 23-24; “Hass spricht” 22).

[5] This idea of the biological influence on almost all aspects of a male or female person like behavior and temperament is called biological determinism. See Del I. Hawkins and Kenneth A. Coney, especially 424, for further description of biological determinism and its opposite, cultural determinism.

[6] Mary Wollstonecraft might have been the first to realize the idea of gender because she claimed 1792 that most of the dissimilarities between the sexes are not natural, but socially constructed (qtd. in Wood 21).

[7] Women, for example, were finally able to vote and to pursue higher education, due to the three waves of feminism (cf. Wood 23). For insightful information on waves of feminism, see Allyson Jule, especially chapter 1, and for insightful information on men’s movements, see Julia T. Wood, especially chapter 3.

[8] In this boarder area, some researchers like Jean Baudrillard talk about the so-called “gender-bender” (28).

[9] The term stereotype was invented by the American journalist Walter Lippmann. He was interested in how individuals responded to people from different countries (cf. Stangor 6). In his classic work, Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann described stereotypes as “the pictures in our heads” (81) of the world around us.

[10] Still, there are some exceptions of course because gender stereotypes can change over time and are not the same everywhere. In some cultures, gender stereotypes are quite different because of their different social organizations (cf. Tjernlund & Wiles & Wiles 36).

[11] Advertisers talk about emotive requirements because “[t]here is clear research evidence that ‘emotional’ advertisements are, on average, more effective than unembellished factual advertisements” (Fletcher 12).

[12] To the media owners, advertising is especially important because it is one of the main sources of financial support for them (cf. Kervin 54). “Companies choose to advertise in a certain magazine or on a certain television program based on the readership or audience the medium can provide. Advertising and the media are thus mutually dependent in their economic aims.” (Kervin 54)

[13] Nevertheless, there are also researchers who do not think about the relationship between media and society like this (cf. Luttrell). The two opposite positions that are present in this case are the following: “The ‘mirror’ perspective assumes that advertising reflects values that already exist …, whereas the ‘mold’ argument states that advertising can shape the target’s values” (Rollero & Tartaglia 1104; cf. Schmidt & Zurstiege 174; Tjernlund & Wiles & Wiles 37).

[14] Some researchers “consider these people as forerunners to voice-overs in radio or television commercials” (McDonald & Scott 18).

[15] Through “[n]ew transport methods, canals and railroads, [producers] could carry th[e] produce to the distributors (directly or through wholesalers) in every town” (McDonald & Scott 18) of the country.

[16] Also “ [b]randing became increasingly important at this time, due to the range of products now competing for consumers” (McDonald & Scott 19).

[17] Nevertheless, advertising has been the central economic support of the magazine industry since the end of the nineteenth century (cf. Talbot 140). This is also the reason why “it has become increasingly difficult for magazine editors to include anything that is not directly related to promoting products” (Talbot 140). Therefore, the line between editorial material and advertisements has become blurred. Magazines have started to publish advertorials (cf. Talbot 145) which are advertisements “passed off as editorial content” (Talbot 145). Nowadays, they make up a large part of any magazine (cf. Talbot 145).

[18] “Radio and television advertising are denoted as broadcast media, while newspaper [and] magazine … are considered print media.” (Cohen 42)

[19] I will use the approach of a content analysis because „[c]ontent analyses has been used to examine portrayals across a range of media and genres including adverts, pop videos, news, drama, computer games, etc.” (Gill 43)

[20] Helen Gurley Brown also wrote a fictional book called Sex and the Single Girl in 1962, which did not only tell women that they did not “need a man to be happy, but … also encouraged them to enjoy sex with whomever they damn well pleased – without guilt” (Benjamin). Those two messages became very important at that time because many women responded to that, but many people also found it threatening (cf. Benjamin).

[21] For future reference, when referring to the target audience of Cosmopolitan magazine, I mean these individuals to be white, upper middle class, heterosexual females between the ages 18 to 34.

[22] For future reference, when referring to the target audience of Esquire magazine, I mean these individuals to be white, middle to upper middle class, heterosexual males between the ages 20 to 50.

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Gender Stereotyping in U.S. Print Advertisements
An Analysis of the Development of Beauty Product Advertisements in "Cosmopolitan" and "Esquire"
University of Duisburg-Essen
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Gender, Gender Stereotyping, U.S.A., United States, America, U.S. American Print Advertisements, Advertisement, Print Advertisement, Stereotype, Analysis, Beauty Product, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Advertisements, Print Advertisements, Stereotypes, Magazine, Magazines, Sex, Gender Construction, Gender Constructions, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, Magazine Advertisement, Magazine Advertisements, Cosmopolitan Advertisement, Cosmopolitan Advertisements, Esquire Advertisement, Esquire Advertisements, Woman, Women, Portrayal of Women, Development of the Portrayal of Women, Portrayal of Men, Development of the Portrayal of Men, Depiction of Women, Depiction of Men, Development of the Depiction of Women, Development of the Depiction of Men, Women in Comparison with Men, Content Analysis, U.S. Consumer, U.S. Culture
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Sarah Höchst (Author), 2017, Gender Stereotyping in U.S. Print Advertisements, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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