Sexist ads

Advertisers sometime use the strangest techniques to sell a product. This lesson invites you to question the logic (or lack of logic) behind advertising, especially in relation to those that further sexism. 

  1. Watch the following satirical commercial. Satire aims to expose people's stupidity, especially in relation to topical issues. How does this video by Mitchell and Webb expose people's stupidity?

  2. As the previous video suggests, sexism can be used to sell anything. Study the 10 sexist advertisements below in groups. Like most advertisements, these advertisements are based on rather flawed logic. Logic is the study of argumentation and reasoning. An argument is valid when the truth of the conclusion rests on the truth of two or more premises. (It's TOK time!) Inductive reasoning takes two or more specific premises to arrive at a general conclusion. For example: Cat 1 purrs (specific premise 1). Cat 2 purrs (specific premise 2). Therefore all cats must purr (general conclusion). Deductive reasoning takes two or more general premises to arrive at a specific conclusion. For example: All cats have a keen sense of smell (general premise 1). Fluffy is a cat (general premise 2). Therefore Fluffy has a keen sense of smell (specific conclusion). These two examples are also syllogisms. Syllogisms are lines of reasoning, in which the premises and conclusion are articulated. Enthymemes are lines of reasoning in which at least one of the premises is NOT explicitly articulated. Advertisements rarely spell out their lines of reasoning explicitly and may be considered enthymemes. The conclusion of every advertisement implicitly suggests that you should buy something, take action or believe in an idea. The following sexist advertisements are no different. They want you to buy a product. But by what logic should you reach that conclusion? In groups, for each advertisement, write a syllogism that makes the implicit premises and conclusions explicit. After you have written your syllogism, read the suggested syllogism that has been provided. How was your syllogism similar to or different from Mr. Philpot's? There are no wrong or right answers to this activity, only informed ones. As you articulate these syllogisms, you may begin to see the absurdity of the logic on which they are based. 

  3. Premise 1: A husband reserves the right to beat a bad wife. (general)

    Premise 2: Wives are bad if they do not test different brands of coffee before buying them. (general)

    Conclusion: If I do not test different brands of coffee, I will be a bad wife and my husband might beat me. (specific) 

    Premise 1: A wife’s purpose is to cook. (general)

    Premise 2: Kenwood Chef makes cooking easier. (general) 

    Conclusion: Kenwood Chef can help my wife fulfil her purpose of cooking. (specific)

    Premise 1: Sexy women serve this man because he is wearing a Van Heusen jungle print shirt. (specific) 

    Premise 2: I am a man who wants to be served by sexy women. (specific) 

    Conclusion: Sexy women will serve me if I wear a Van Heusen jungle print shirt. (general)

    Premise 1: Hard working wives are cute. (general) 

    Premise 2: Pep vitamins make wives work harder. (general)  

    Conclusion: Pep vitamins will make my wife cuter. (specific) 

    Premise 1: She is one of those wives who is terrified that her husband will be upset with her for burning the dinner, but he is not upset at her for burning the dinner because she has Schlitz beer ready for him when he gets home from work. (specific)

    Premise 2: I am one of those wives who is terrified that her husband will be upset with her for burning the dinner. (specific)

    Conclusion: My husband will easily forgive me for burning dinner if I have Schlitz beer ready for him when he gets home from work. (general)

    Premise 1: She looks at him with yearning eyes because he blows cigarette smoke in her face. (specific)

    Premise 2: I want women to look at me with those yearning eyes. (specific)

    Conclusion: If I blow cigarette smoke in women’s faces, they will look at me with yearning eyes. (general)

    Premise 1: Husbands and children do not like angry, demanding mums. (general)

    Premise 2: Mums are not angry and demanding if they take an afternoon bath with New Ivory Soap. (general)

    Conclusion: I should take in bath in the afternoon with New Ivory Soap, so that my husband and children will like me in the evening. (specific)

    Premise 1: Men want to have power over women. (general)

    Premise 2: Mr. Leggs slacks give men power over women. (general)

    Conclusion: If I buy Mr. Leggs slacks I will have power over women. (specific)

    Premise 1: Women belong naked in the bedroom. (general)

    Premise 2: Women will stay where they belong if they receive new shoes. (general)

    Conclusion: If I buy these shoes for my wife, she will stay naked in our bedroom. (specific)

    Premise 1: Women can’t drive so they will inevitably damage their car. (general)

    Premise 2: Damage to a Volkswagen car is easy and affordable to fix. (general)

    Conclusion: If I buy a Volkswagen for my wife, the damage that she causes will be affordable to fix. (specific)

  4. So what has changed since these advertisements appeared in the 1950-1970s? What can advertisers do today to address sexism in advertising. What do you think of the following advertisements that were created by Budweiser to reconcile their past ads. Texts 11, 13 and 15 are the original advertisements and 12,14 and 16 are their newer counterparts. What do you think of Budweiser's new campaign?

  5. Can you think of other ways of challenging gender stereotypes in advertising? Create your own advertisement to challenge gender stereotyping in advertising and your work in your portfolio.

Last modified: Sunday, 21 April 2024, 11:51 AM