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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Columns

Modern ads continue to sexualize and objectify women


I was walking on campus the other day when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the following advertisement on the back of a Texas Direct Auto cab: Don’t you just want to slap that bumper? My shock and disgust were immediate.

It was astounding that something such an obvious sexual innuendo could make it out of a corporate office, or that the company would even want this sort of publicity. However, my surprise did not last long. Women have always been, and continue to be, sexualized in all forms of promotion, and these sorts of images are ubiquitous and normalized.

No matter how much progress it feels like we’ve made, men — and the companies targeting the male demographic — continue to portray women as sexual objects, implying that male dominance over females is the most powerful advertising tool. Advertisements that degrade women to the level of the object they are attempting to sell further entrench our society with blatant rape culture.

This culture is one where the female body has been degraded to such an extent that our society accepts and normalizes the abusive sexualization of the female gender. This is done through ads that distract from a woman’s humanity and accentuate her value as an object.

From the promotions of female superhero movies, where the emphasis lies on bodysuits that enhance her body, to controversial advertisements, like Whataburger’s use of provocative imagery for food that will “blow your mind,” the tendency to sexualize the female body is prevalent.

 

Female superhero movies, which promote the ideas of empowered and strong women, are marketed more as alluring, charming and sexual fantasies. This practice is widely common in modern marketing, perhaps because if Wonder Woman was covered head to toe in an iron suit, ticket sales would drastically decrease.

Ads from the ’50s portray women as existing to service the man, both physically and sexually. These ads spread the idea that women’s roles are exclusively domestic: to cook, clean and care for her man. While ads now do not promote this outdated sexism as openly, advertisers have found another way to force women into the submissive stereotype.

In the 2000s, ads from Carl’s Jr. used women to imply a perverse and uncomfortable relationship between sexual pleasure and their products. The fast food chain has repeatedly released ads that show explicit and degrading content, such as Kate Upton grinding on a burger bag or lingerie-clad Paris Hilton washing a Bentley for no particular reason.

The message is the public is drawn so heavily by the female body that the most effective form of publicity is the type that feeds off of this desire: the male mind seeks pleasure from females as much as he seeks the pleasure of food. As a consequence, the female body is reduced to that of an object for the satisfaction of men.

We cannot attempt to counteract rape culture when advertisers value the female body no more than a one-dollar burger.

The ad I saw the other day promoted this idea that the man cannot control his desire for the woman, that there is no shame in wanting to slap that bumper — a very dangerous idea to promote around a college campus. 

All these similar advertisements make it clear to men that if they want to satisfy their appetite for the female body, it is socially acceptable and justified because, just like physical hunger, sexual hunger cannot be helped. If these advertisements are spread on campuses, the already prominent sexual harassment will only worsen.

When our gender is paraded in this way, when society is bombarded with hypersexualized images and no one bats an eye, it should come as no surprise that sex crimes among college campuses have increased by 50 percent in the past decade. Clearly, no matter how insignificant an ad might seem, these images solidify the coercion of women into submissive states.

Not only are young men told there is no shame in satisfying something as natural as their sexual urges, but women are actively reduced to objects explicitly for that satisfaction. Advertisements sexualize women in entirely unnecessary ways.

The female body, within this perverse culture, is as accessible for male satisfaction as the nearest fast food restaurant. The cyclical idea of boys will be boys continues and is even encouraged in our society by propaganda that justifies this dehumanizing behavior towards women.

An ad is not just an ad. It is a mirror image of the way our society views women.

Opinion columnist Paulina Ezquerra is a philosophy major and can be reached at [email protected]

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