English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: international

Gender Stereotypes in International Advertising

Through our research regarding gender representation in advertisements of different countries, we decided to continue along the same lines by examining gender representation in the Cannes Lions Grand Prix winners for the retail sector during a ten-year span from 2008 to 2018.  The data and conclusions from the research cited in our annotated bibliographies had many similarities across countries regarding the lack of gender representation in advertising, with women being less likely to be the primary character or do voice-overs in advertisements. In addition, there were continued stereotypes in the advertisements that confined women to the domestic sphere, such as with household goods and submissive roles. As a result of our findings, we wanted to take a closer look at the trends in advertising regarding gender representation while also examining the influence of country identity and culture in gender representation of these advertisements, so we decided on examining the winners of an annual international advertising competition, the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity, which would satisfy both aspects.

Our formal research question is: Are women fairly represented and not stereotyped in the Cannes Lions Grand Prix winning advertisements for the retail sector from 2008 to 2018?

Performing an in-depth analysis of the winners of an international advertising competition, with a focus on the last five years, allows us to determine if gender stereotyping is as common in the most popular contemporary ads as it has been in older television. We plan to use methods of analysis developed in our sources. These methods include examining the gender of the product user and voiceover, which allows us to determine if one gender is portrayed as more knowledgeable or trustworthy. Additionally, we will attempt to determine the age, marital status, employment, and the role in the advertisement for each character that appears for at least a predetermined amount of the time in an ad. Focusing on the retail sector is helpful because it allows us to have a smaller sample size (currently 18 advertisements) that is easier to analyze and has a wide variety of products, so the topics and settings of the ads should be fairly diverse.

Our research question is substantial for a variety of reasons. First, it allows us to explore various aspects of gender stereotyping, learning its different forms, and comparing international television to what we see daily in American advertisements. It also allows us and our audience to gain a greater understanding of an issue which is known to exist in the United States. This study also gives us the potential to conclude that Americans are not the only ones to responsible for gender stereotyping in television advertisements or that we are better or worse than than most of the international community in this regard.

Gender Representation Analysis: Annotated Bibliogrpahy

1. Gilly, Mary C. “Sex Roles in Advertising: A Comparison of Television Advertisements in Australia, Mexico, and the United States.” Journal of Marketing, vol. 52, no. 2, 1988, p. 75., doi:10.2307/1251266. (Peer Reviewed)
This article is valuable because it was one of the first to examine the portrayal of gender roles in television outside the United States and gives a different perspective than the recent news articles, showing the progress that international media has made in this regard. Notable findings from the article are that only 12% of the voiceovers in the advertisements were done by females and the females in Mexican commercials appearing to be much younger than the male characters appearing. Women were much less likely to be portrayed as employed in both the American and Mexican advertising. Additionally, no female characters in either the U.S. or Mexican commercials were portrayed in jobs that could be as a high-level corporate executive. Males were portrayed as much more independent and self-reliant in each of the countries. Overall, the Australian advertising seemed to promote gender equality more than the other countries. This article appeared in the highly regarded Journal of Marketing.

2. Fullerton, Jami A., and Alice Kendrick. “Portrayal of Men and Women in U.S. Spanish-Language Television Commercials.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 77, no. 1, 2000, pp. 128–142., doi:10.1177/107769900007700110. (Peer Reviewed)
Although this article is about advertising in the United States, the advertising being discussed primarily appeals to people who were born outside of the country, making it a suitable source for this project. Eighteen hours of Univision (the most popular Spanish language channel in the country) were analyzed. The study found that women were more likely to be targeted in ads than men alone. More than half of the advertisements were found to feature “stereotypical” gender roles, although there were several ads that portrayed men and women equally or even in the reverse of stereotypical gender roles. Women were also much more likely to be dressed in a sexually suggestive manner than male characters. Overall, the study found that women were portrayed in a fairly similar manner to English-language programming in the United States. The article is published in the Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, an industry publication.

3. Villegas, Jorge, et al. “Marianismo and Machismo: The Portrayal of Females in Mexican TV Commercials.” Journal of International Consumer Marketing, vol. 22, no. 4, 2010, pp. 327–346., doi:10.1080/08961530.2010.505884. (Peer Reviewed)
This article provides an update on the status of women in Mexican television advertising twenty years after the first article cited above. This article goes into depth on the importance of gender roles in advertising due to the fact that people act similarly to what they see on television. The article describes how women are depicted as ideally renouncing her personal interests in favor of her husband and children. In Latin America, this belief is partially due to strong religious beliefs and the significant role of the Virgin Mary in culture. This article found similar results to the others in women being more likely to be portrayed in a family or homemaker role while males were more often portrayed as professionals. A surprising finding was that female characters showed more arousal and excitement than their male counterparts.
This article was published in the well regarded Journal of International Consumer Marketing.

4. Beaudoux, Virginia García. “How Media Sexism Demeans Women and Fuels Abuse by Men like Weinstein.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 19 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/how-media-sexism-demeans-women-and-fuels-abuse-by-men-like-weinstein-85789. (Not peer reviewed)
This article is useful because it provides several specific examples of advertising portraying women in traditional gender roles. The first advertisement, about a cleaning product, portrays a women as both a housekeeper and princess. Another example discusses how men often “mansplain” how to use a product to women who are portrayed as less intelligent. Often times when men are portrayed as doing domestic work, it is for a sexual reward from their partner. The author takes a broader view and positively declares that significant progress has been made in advertising toward gender equality, but there is a long way to go. The recent decision by the United Kingdom to ban gender stereotypes in commercials is applauded as an example for the rest of the world. This article was published by The Conversation, an Australian news outlet that has expanded internationally in recent years. The article was written by a Argentinian professor in the School of Communication at the University of Buenos Aires.

5. Mailonline, Siofra Brennan For. “First Razor Ad Showing Real Body Hair Airs on UK TV.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 27 July 2018, www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5999613/First-razor-ad-showing-real-body-hair-airs-UK-TV.html. (Not peer reviewed)
In contrast to other articles, this recent article zeroes in on a specific advertisement and the gender stereotype that it smashes. The ad (for a razor), which aired in Britain over the summer, depicts a woman shaving her body hair. This was significant because it had long been considered taboo for a women to have body hair in commercials. This is especially strange, considering the main purpose of a razor is to trim body hair, and men’s razor commercial zoom in on hair being cut. This advertisement followed an American body brand releasing a video campaign featuring models with body hair a month prior. This advertisement being released provides hope that more gender stereotypes can be destroyed by television. However, there are still only a few companies in a few Western countries that are promoting this portrayal of women. This article is published in the Daily Mail, a well-known British newspaper.

6. Issues, por Youngers’. “Top 8 Most Sexist Ads in Spain.” Youngers’ Issues, 26 Apr. 2017, wehavesomethingtotellyou.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/top-8-most-sexist-ads-spain/ (Not peer reviewed)
This article also analyes several advertisements that range from women being portrayed in a stereotypical gender role to being overtly sexist. The first advertisement discussed, for a luxury car, is a severe case of the latter. The female narrator says “Look at me, touch me, incite me, provoke me, seduce me, control me, protect me, shout me, relax me … I am [name of car]”. This advertisement depicts a woman as a sexual object for someone else’s (presumably a male) pleasure. Barbie and other girl toy advertisements establish a gender hierarchy and influence girls toward being household figures. An ad for a cleaning product claims that it will give the protagonist, a woman, more time to be with her children, assuming these are her primary responsibility. Alcohol advertisements are primarily aimed at men and appeal to their sense of manliness, in addition to frequently featuring females in sexualized roles. Although this article is written in a blog, I believe it is credible due to the professional manner of the writing an well-chosen examples of a writer who put significant research into their articles.

Gender Representation in European Advertisements

“Jodie Whittaker: Doctor Who’s 13th Time Lord to Be a Woman.” BBC News, BBC, 16 July 2017, www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-40624288.

This source is one I was rather excited to use and write about. The central argument is about the 13th regeneration of the Doctor into Jodie Whittaker. This is significant because it will be the first female actress to play the Doctor. The article explains some central concepts of the show and how the change to a female will be new, beneficial, and exciting. There are a few problems as some of the fans or fellow BBC actors or critics have gone against this decision. Saying it feels to forced or they simply don’t like the idea. However, many say, including the 12th Doctor and previous writer, that this has been in the works for a long time. The show was first aired in 1963 so its change throughout the years into what it is now and the articles detailing of it is why this is an important and useful source.


Magra, Iliana. “Britain Cracking Down on Gender Stereotypes in Ads.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 July 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/world/europe/britain-ads-gender-stereotypes.html.

This source is the second and final source that is not peer-reviewed. It is written by the New York times about the Britain banning different ads that encourage gender stereotypes. One of the ads that this article focuses on depicts a female baby growing up to become a ballerina and a young boy ending up being a mathematician. The article talks about many ads that set body standards or enforce gender stereotypes that are being banned. The author of the article Iliana Magra talks about the negative effects this can have on a young child’s outlook on life and hurt females self-image. This is an important article because of its focus on the changes being brought about by the UK in response to gender-based advertisements. It illustrates the countries views on these matters and allows for a source that is written for a simpler reader than that of a peer-reviewed source.


Kumari, Shyama, and Shraddha Shivani. “A Study on Gender Portrayals in Advertising through the Years: A Review Report.” Journal of Research in Gender Studies, vol. 2, no. 2, 2012, pp. 54-63. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1347635154?accountid=11107.

This source is peer-reviewed and written as an overview of gender portrayals in advertising in several different countries. A central argument through the source is that gender portrayal should be observed as a whole instead of looking at it based on individual countries. This of course goes against my groups project on international gender portrayal in television. Though this article is still worthwhile. The article talks of too much focus on printed advertisement as opposed to television ads which is what my group is doing. The article talks of gender stereotypes that occur in adverts no matter the country or continent whether in the US, UK, Korea, or Australia. This article in particular speaks of women being displayed as mere objects of sex and servitude in some countries advertisements. It also shows and speaks of research data on the past 4 decades of adverts throughout Europe, America, and Asia. Overall, the previous research data alone makes this article useful towards the gender portrayal project.


Furnham, Adrian, Matte Babitzkow, and Smerelda Uguccioni. “Gender Stereotyping in Television Advertisements: A Study of French and Danish Television.”Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, vol. 126, no. 1, 2000, pp. 79-104. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/231505739?accountid=11107.

This source is a full scientific experiment. It starts out with a hypothesis that French television would have more gender stereotyping than Danish television. The results found were that France had about the same amount of stereotypes per advert, with 165 being studied, as the average country does in their advertisements. The experiment was correct in saying France would have more as Danish advertisements had lower stereotyping among 151 adverts than most other countries. The paper explains some background to the role of advertisements and how feminists view them. It is up for debate whether adverts deliberately enforce gender stereotypes through its messages, but nonetheless the effect is negative. It talks of only 13% of adverts showing women in the workplace. They also noted that gender stereotypes decrease when the advertisement is aimed at children. Overall the comparison of stereotypes between two European countries and the subsequent comparison of that data to studies done on other continents makes this source beneficial to the purpose of the project and can be used as a valuable resource.   



Bush, Bianca, and Adrian Furnham. “Gender Jenga: The Role of Advertising in Gender Stereotypes within Educational and Non-Educational Games.” Young Consumers, vol. 14, no. 3, 2013, pp. 216-229. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1430565522?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/YC-11-2012-00324.

At first the title of this study may be slightly misleading but the study is about advertisements for children and children games in relation to gender stereotyping. Specifically, this focuses on British children’s advertisements and the UK’s displayance of its gender stereotypes. Similar to one of the previous sources, it is a study that analyzes 130 commercials from UK television. The study had nine hypothesis that were tested, most of which were supported by the study. Some include males being the main character of educational adverts, female-only casts of female oriented adverts, and young boys typically being alone while young girls often had another girl with them. It spouts off some statistics about the average amount of ads per hour, how much kids watch television in the UK, and how many households have a television set in the UK. This just focuses on the UK as opposed to many European countries so it might not be quite as useful as a few of the other sources.



Whitelock, Jeryl, and Delia Jackson. “Women in TV Advertising: A Comparison between the UK and France.” European Business Review, vol. 97, no. 6, 1997, pp. 294-305. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/225423500?accountid=11107.

This is a study done on how women are shown in advertisements on UK television and in French television. It focuses on the women’s roles in each of the countries adverts. This is an analysis done of several already completed studies done individually on French and British television advertisements. The studies begin in 1971 and continue onward until recent times. This gives a good feel of the change of television throughout the years as it has become more progressive than what it was in 1971. However, there are still gender stereotypes on newer advertisements and enforcement of gender roles. Some examples of this include the majority of main characters in adverts being male and any voice overs being almost always done by a man. One interesting data point was that France did have a slightly larger majority of female main characters among adverts, however this is only due to beauty products and sex appeal which is no better than the opposite and enforces certain beauty standards among women. Therefore, the new types of data in this study makes it a fine addition to the sources for the project.

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