Stereotyping In Advertising Essay Thesis

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The depiction of females in advertising has received considerable academic attention, fuelled by the feminist movement and the evolution of women's roles in the society. Early studies revealed the prevalence of traditional portrayals such as housewives, women dependent on a man's protection and depictions of sexual objectification. Even though a decrease in female stereotyping would be reasonable considering the contemporary structure of society that prescribes multiple gender roles, this does not seem to be the case: The literature is replete with studies documenting that female stereotyping is alive and well, even if it manifests itself with different types and patterns than it did some decades ago. This study strives to adopt a holistic outlook to the phenomenon of female stereotypes in print advertisements, tracing its origins, analyzing the interplay of stereotypes and advertising, undertaking an exhaustive perusal of the particular stream of literature, addressing methodological issues and proposing directions for further research.

Alice E. Courtney and Thomas W. Whipple, 1980, 80-100

The issue of sex-role portrayal/stereotyping in advertising is one that has received increasing attention in recent years by both advertisers and those who observe the advertising and societal scenes.

One of the first empirical examinations of this field was published in a Marketing Science Institute Special Report ten years ago—"A Woman's Place: An Analysis of the Roles Portrayed by Women in Magazine Advertisements" by Alice E. Courtney and Sarah Lockeretz. Professor Courtney, then a Harvard Business School doctoral candidate, now on the faculty of York University, Toronto, has maintained an interest and involvement in this field during the past decade. Now she, and her colleague Professor Thomas Whipple (Cleveland State University), have prepared a comprehensive annotated bibliography on the subject.

Drawing on over 250 published sources in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain-many of them in fields such as psychiatry, law, and other areas outside of marketing—Courtney and Whipple describe, analyze, and comment on evidence and attitudes regarding sex-role portrayal in advertising. The papers examined deal with the documentation of changes in sex roles as they relate to demographics, attitudes, and buyer behavior relevant for advertising decision-making. As the authors note in their introductory essay, "criticism of advertising is not included unless it is backed by significant empirical work." Also, the bibliography focuses on advertising rather than on the mass media in general.

The bibliography treats eight major areas (as does the introductory essay) into which the material has been classified. These are:

  • Existence of Sex Stereotyping
  • Effects of Sex Stereotyping
  • Attitudes Toward Sex Stereotyping
  • Effectiveness of Sexual Stimuli
  • Preferences for Sex Role Portrayals
  • Changes in Sex Roles
  • Improving the Portrayal of the Sexes
  • Future Sex Stereotyping Research

To facilitate the use of the bibliography, the authors have grouped the references into 21 specific areas within the eight major headings. They have also cross-referenced citations relevant to more than one area. Each citation is also referenced by the methodology employed. This bibliography is intended to be of interest principally to business and academic researchers working in the fields of advertising, consumer behavior, and consumer socialization. In addition, the material-particularly the introductory essay-should be pertinent to marketing/advertising managers interested in gaining more perspective on an issue that affects marketing to women (and men) at a time of considerable social change.

(Professor) Stephen A. Greyser Executive Director

About the Authors
Alice E. Courtney is Associate Professor of Marketing, Faculty of Administrative Studies, York University. Thomas W. Whipple is Professor of Marketing, College of Business Administration, Cleveland State University

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