Baby Blues

Read Advertising With a Critical Eye


The article, “You’re soaking In It,” provides the reader with a better understanding about the ways in which females are portrayed in advertising in detrimental methods for the sake of selling a product. In the article, Jean Kilbourne, a noted expert in the field of advertising, discusses the harmful ways in which females are depicted in advertisements. Kilbourne elaborates on her beliefs as to the motives and intended audience for advertisers: “More recently advertisers have discovered what they call ‘relationship marketing’ creating ads that exploit a human need for connection and relationships, which in our culture is often seen as a woman’s need” (p. 104-05). This focus unfairly puts pressure on women and girls to live up to unrealistic expectations, and fosters unhealthy behavior and mindsets towards females. The article elaborates on the violent and inappropriate ways woman and girls are being used in advertisements to make a profit. A reality that is truly disturbing for any person that takes the time to analyze and view the ads with a critical eye.  Anya Mkrtchyan brings up a valid counter argument when she writes; “I think this is very common for our day and age, especially with our ever-changing technology and society. I think advertisers are always looking for new ways to penetrate our minds to pull us in. With the speed we’re moving everything becomes outdated quickly, and with technology at our fingertips humans have become impatient and in need of instant gratification. By learning new ways to advertise, and to intrigue the women’s brain, they find success by playing into emotions and ads that mirror human connections.”

The problem persists because our society is bombarded by mixed messages on what is normal and acceptable behavior for women and girls. Kilbourne says, “Girls get terrible messages about sex from advertising and popular culture” (p.106). According to Kilbourne “relationship marketing” has resulted in what she perceives to be a “toxic cultural environment,” in which advertisers invade and control too many public spaces. Kilbourne acknowledges that despite her knowledge and expertise, the ability to raise her children is affected by the messages her daughter receives from advertising: “I feel I have to fight the culture every step of the way in terms of the messages she gets” (p. 109). It is a constant battle for a parent to shield their children from harmful messages being portrayed in the media. Everywhere we turn we see an ad promoting sex and half naked women. Kilbourne says, “It’s also difficult or even impossible to raise children in a culturally toxic environment, where they’re surrounded by unhealthy images about sex and relationships, and where their health is constantly scarified for the sake of profit” (p. 109).  I agree with Katherine Vallejo when she writes, “Its disturbing to see advertisers play with the youth in a way that can endanger their well being because they think they should look and act a certain way just because they see it on television depicted in such a glorified way. Its sick that wives have to worry about husband leaving them for younger women because the ads show young women as the wanted by men. It is emotional violence that could breakdown a person who does not know how to read the advertisements.” All too often we see that sex and beauty are of the utmost importance in our society and we are judged by unattainable standards perpetuated by the media.

Advertisers often use disgusting and harmful images of females in order to sell their products. Two companies who have been vilified for their harmful and inappropriate use of females to sell their products are Dolce and Gabbana and Burger King. Each has chosen to run ads in which females are portrayed in a sexual ways that are both repulsive and demoralizing.

The Dolce and Gabbana ad depicts a woman being pinned down by a man, while two men look on. The men appear to be acting as bodyguards to ensure she does not fight back. Kilbourne says, “But ads often feature images of woman being threatened, attacked, or killed. Sexual assault and battery are normalized, even eroticized” (p.107). In this particular ad the woman looks defeated: “In other words, he’ll understand that you don’t really mean it when you say no, and he can respond like any other animal” (p. 107). Whatever the initial intent of the ad, it clearly is disturbing because it almost encourages gang rape. It is likely that most readers will not understand the ramifications of this advertisement, but the company has a duty to promote their product in a way that does not prey on the women of the world.

Advertisers send confusing, inappropriate and harmful messages in an attempt to create a connection between the consumer and product. A great example of this can be found in an ad for Burger King.   At first glance it appears to be an innocent way to sell what the company is marketing as an amazing eating experience. In reality the ad is fraught with terrible and inappropriate images. First is the shocked and petrified look the attractive female model is displaying with her mouth wide open waiting for the “BK Super Seven Incher”. Next is the caption, which is problematic without explanation: “It’ll Blow Your Mind Away.” This ad is troubling and inappropriate on many levels because of the message it sends. Kilbourne says, “Girls are told that boys are out for sex at all times, and girls should always look as if they are ready to give it. (But God help them if they do.)The emphasis for girls and woman is always on being desirable, not being agents of their own desire. Girls are supposed to somehow be innocent and seductive, virginal and experienced, and at the same time” (p.106). This ad is a perfect example of Kilbourne’s theories and beliefs about the negative and harmful effects on the female population. Surely there was another and more appropriate way to sell this sandwich.

The above two examples are perfect examples of the ways in which advertisers continue to foster negative and harmful stereotypes for females. Some may argue that they are innocuous images that not meant to be taken so seriously. It is exactly that attitude that puts undue pressure on certain groups and can lead to harmful behavior.


Pozner, Jennifer L. “You’re Soaking In it.” Common Culture: Reading and Writing     About American Popular Culture. Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. University of California at Santa Barbara: Prentice Hall, 2009. 102-111. Print.