Gender bias in portraying Women in Advertisements : Group Discussion

Gender bias in portraying Women

A majority of people in our country believe that media, or to be specific Movies and television, is the mirror reflection of the society. But where in a civilized society are women depicted as a commodity or a sex object?
Gender bias in portraying Women in Advertisements

When promotional events are held for advertising cars, how many of you have seen an attractive male model standing alongside? Generally, it is curvaceous women of different nationalities who are part of advertising campaigns to sell everything from luxury cars to sports goods. What is worrying is that most advertisers portray women in scant clothing and use this to sell their products. 

Argument in favour:

  • Gender differences and attractions have been a part of the normal lives of humans ever since anyone can remember. Roles and debates on such differences and their portrayal have established their appropriateness.
  • Advertising is replete with instances of women being used in derogatory and subservient ways to promote a variety of products. Some brave advertisers have attempted to give women more respectful roles in commercials and ads. Certain ads even carry powerful social messages and empower women by depicting them with respect and sincerity. 
  • Anthropological evidence has revealed that even the humans and the hominids of ancient times had separate roles for men and women in their societies, and this relates to the concepts of epistemology. There were certain things that women were forbidden to do and similarly men could not partake in some of the activities that were traditionally reserved for women. This has given birth to the gender role stereotypes that we find today. These differences have been passed on to our current times.

  • Advertisers have substantially reduced the stereotyping in ad pictures, and since the voice of female is not so harsh it is used to convey the message although the amount of male speech relative to female speech is gradually being increased.
  • We sometimes assign certain qualities to certain people without thinking. For example, many men are blamed for undermining women and stereotyping them for traditional roles, and this could be said to be the same for men; men are also stereotyped in many of their roles. This leads to social constructionism since the reality is not always depicted by what we see by our eyes. These ideas have also carried on in the world of advertising and the differences shown between the males and the females are apparent in many advertisements we see today.
  • One's normative interpretation of such advertisements depends on one's ideological perspective and tolerance for the pace of change. It is encouraging to find that the advertising indicates the use of gender-neutrality is commonplace. Advertisers prefer to speak to people in their own language and this reflects the popular culture in advertisements
  • The opinion and views are based more on the interpretation people conclude from their understanding of roles in real life that they see than by their observations of the males and females in advertisements.

Argument against the topic:

  • It has been noted by viewing various advertisements that women are shown as being more concerned about their beauty and figure rather than being shown as authority figures in the ads; they are usually shown as the product users. This has led to common belief that most of the advertisements and their contents are more suitable even if they are not good.
  • There is a tendency in many countries, including the United States, to portray women as being subordinate to men, as alluring sex objects, or as decorative objects. This is not right as it portrays women as the weaker sex, being only good as objects

  • Many of the ads do not show gender biases in the pictures or the graphics, but some bias does turn up in the language of the advertisements. Within language, bias is more evident in songs and dialogue than in formal speech or when popular culture is involved. For example, bias sneaks in through the use of idiomatic expressions (man's best friend) and when the language refers to characters that depict traditional sex roles. Advertisements are greatly responsible for eliciting such views for the people of our society.
  • The children also see the advertisements portraying women and they are also the ones who create stereotypes in their minds about the different roles of men and women. All these facts combine to give result to the different public opinion that becomes fact for many of the members of the society.
  • There has been a lot of attention given to the portrayal of gender in advertising by both practitioners as well as academics and much of this has been done regarding the portrayal of women in advertising which shows a gender bias.


What is most disheartening is that women continue to be portrayed in negative terms and outmoded belief systems colour the advertising campaigns and commercials nowadays. Rather than sticking to stereotypes, ads that challenge the mainstream conventions are emerging steadily to bring about a change. 

It is hoped that they will continue to take a more progressive and enlightened course than their colleagues. This will change the face of advertising for the better. People should not base too much importance about how the media is trying to portray the members of the society; rather they should base their opinions on their own observation of how people interact together in the real world. 

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