In my advertising class, a young man declared, “the best way to get people to attend an event is to offer them beer and half-naked women”. At the time, his statement did not offend me. It was true enough. College students, typically male students, do tend to flock towards beer and women. However, as I was thinking more in depth about the statement later, I became more and more offended. I was not just offended by his words. I was offended by the fact that myself, and the other women in the room, did not say anything to the young man in defense of our rights and our bodies.
At what point in time did it become okay for men to objectify women in this way? At what point did women, like myself and the others in my advertising course, decide that it was normal for men to use our bodies to bring in sales revenue or attract customers? At what point did women stop being offended by statements like the one this young man had made?
This highlights an important change in our culture – women are no longer offended when they are seen and used as sexual objects.
In recent years, the advertising industry has become more ‘sexualized’ than ever before. Women, in particular, have been reinvented by advertisers. Not only are they used in advertisements to entice the male population with their sexuality, but are also depicted as being happy to control men with our sexuality. For example, if a woman uses a certain beauty product, a man will fall to his knees before her. This gives the woman a type of power that she did not have previously. Advertisers are using this idea of female empowerment to sell products, and that sense of empowerment comes from the advertisers idea of attractiveness – the slim, tan, young, sexy woman.
In a way, this representation of women is more effective than the previous depiction of women in advertisements – the ever-willing, passive female that women loved to hate for so many years. However, I believe that this new woman in advertising, the empowered female, could be just as dangerous to the female ego as the passive, sexual object that women were previously shown to be.
The statement made in my advertising class went relatively unnoticed by the women in the room.
Is this because we felt empowered by his statement? Were we, as women, okay with being objectified, if that meant we held power in our hands? It was complimentary, almost. Men will come to the event if women and booze are available. Take one of those things away and men may not show up. We hold the power. We were not offended.
I, however, am offended. I am offended that advertising has convinced women that we are no longer being objectified. I am offended that in our blindness we have allowed a new wave of male-centered advertising to slap us. The ‘empowered’ female is truly just the ‘blind’ female. We are not free from objectification. We are only allowing ourselves to be objectified in a new way.
Kelcey Caulder, Managing Editor