Advertisments: Behind The Doors
Advertisements are a regular occurrence in our everyday lives. We are affronted with them on our way to work, while leisurely flipping through magazines and when we browse online. While marketing strategies and designs differ for every product and its intended clientele, one vexing trend seems to be the status quo- That women in advertisements and billboards always seem to be sexualized and reduced to nothing but a prop whose enticing looks (often forced into sexually suggestive poses) will eventually captivate men enough to buy a specific product. This essay will explore how this disturbing trend is applied in Lebanon, and is aimed to uncover the discrepancy in how men and women are displayed on advertisement billboards.
Advertisments: Behind The Doors
The very common expression “sex sells” regularly shows its validity around the world, as sexually suggestive themes, whether implicit or explicit, are consistently featured in ads, in television shows and movies, and on the internet. This is particularly true of Lebanon, where we are bombarded daily with messages and images in the media which give each gender its own socially constructed roles and expectations. One such example of this is the billboard ads we see commuting every day to school and to work, which are often exploitative and serve to sell products and services at the expense of gender equality and people’s self image.
It is not uncommon for a billboard ad to depict a scantily clad woman in a provocative pose, especially one that advertises lingerie, yet where others may invoke some subtlety;. Ellina Lingerie shows no restraint, the ad put up by the company shows a pair of female legs with the model’s underwear below her knees and her brassiere beside her, with the caption: “Perfectly wild” with the animal patterns of the lingerie set complimenting that statement. Needless to say, the ad reduces the woman to a sexual object, and prompts people to do the same. Not only does this type of advertisement exploit the models involved and reinforce an outdated and less than respectful view of women, but it also encourages women themselves to aspire to be, and to take pride in being, individuals defined by their sexual appeal and status, or to be ashamed of their lack of sexual appeal as defined by such ads. Indeed, the ad would have you believe that being “wild”, or promiscuous, is perfect, and the woman whose legs are in the ad is merely an extension of those legs, and not the other way around, and needs no face or personality. This form of advertising poses a real threat to the well-being of women in Lebanon, the results of which we can clearly see in our everyday lives and, as Anderson (2013) would argue, has “the potential to affect their physical health”, there being a “correlation between unrealistic beauty and high rates of anorexia and plastic surgery that can be harmful to their health in the long-run”.
On the other hand, the man in the SGBL billboard ad is not expected to satisfy the same criteria. As an older gentleman, and a well-known political presenter, his image has been engineered to be gentlemanly; he is intended to portray a degree of class and success. The elegant suit, the simple black background creates a complete contrast with his facial complexion directly directs our attention towards his face, and the model’s confident appearance are complemented by the inspirational words, “Excellence is an attitude”. This, in contrast to the current generation of young men and boys, shows a maturity and frame of mind that is largely lacking today among young males who are generally confused about how to conduct themselves as men in society and whose potential to succeed is more limited than that of previous generations (Zimbardo & Duncan, 2012). Understandably, many men who have been afflicted by this confusion, which is characteristic of the twenty-first century, share the strive for success and self-actualization that men of previous generations have had, but are less likely to have someone to guide them along (Zimbardo & Duncan, 2012). Thus, this ad may appeal to that unfulfilled and misguided need within young males to become what they might consider men.
As perhaps one of the most representative ads of society’s expectations of men and women in Lebanon today, Fiordelli’s billboard advertisement shamelessly depicts the worst of how we view men, women, and their relationships with each other. The ad, plastered with the phrase “Your way to luxury”, shows what seems to be a successful and well dressed man in a comfortable house, surrounded by valuable objects, including paintings, furniture, and his woman. As she seemingly has no face and is positioned on a lower level than the man, looking pretty and blending in quite well with the furniture, it is safe to presume that she is intended to be an accessory to the man, who is sitting down comfortably with an air of royalty and importance. The message here is clear: A man must aspire to be successful and live a life of luxury, while a woman is a trophy to be attained by said man, provided she belongs to the category of women deemed by society to be attractive. This is most unfortunate, for both men and women, since the attitude spread by ads like this breeds low self-esteem and self-respect in women, the two of which are the “foundation for healthy relationships”, as Chadwick (2011) puts it, and since the resulting mentality reinforced by ads of this nature manifests itself in self-destructive behavior such as drinking, using drugs, smoking, and promiscuity among many women.
In brief, billboard ads in Lebanon prove to be part of both the cause and the consequence of gender disparity. Men and women are held up to separate existing standards with different expectations and are advertised to accordingly, and are simultaneously convinced of the standards that they’re held up to through what is being advertised.
Chadwick, D. (2011, March 18). Why Moms of Boys Need to Care About the Body Image of Girls. Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://www.adiosbarbie.com/2011/03/why-moms-of-boys-need-to-care-about-the-body-image-of-girls/
Zimbardo, P. , Dr, & Duncan, N. (2012, July 25). Why Society is Failing Young Boys. Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-philip-zimbardo/post_3387_b_1543693.html?ref=media&ir=Media/
Anderson, B. (2013, October 09). Shock Value, Sexism, and Superficiality: Lebanon’s Advertising Problem. Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2013/Oct-09/234028-shock-value-sexism-and-superficiality-lebanons-advertising-problem.ashx