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THE REPRESENTATION OF MEN AND WOMEN IN ADVERTISEMENTS: A CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS

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Abstract

This study examines the social values, choices and ideologies that are produced and reinforced in and through advertisements. The analyses are based on twelve different advertisements aired on Pakistani T.V channels and internet (Western). The study has focused on how male and female are represented differently through ads in order to serve gender inequality and power relations. The study has used critical discourse analysis (CDA) and semiotics as research tools. It provides researchers to analyse how different meanings and ideologies are constructed, processed and legitimised in social practices than just examining the discursive texts. The analysis is based on Fairclough's three dimensional framework – description (textual features), interpretation (discursive practice) and explanation (social practice). The study has also problematized ads by applying 'a propaganda model' presented by Herman and Chomsky. The findings have indicated that advertisements promote gender inequality and the patriarchal ideology. The advertisers use various strategies (textual and body features) in order to naturalize stereotypical roles of male and female. Such
THE REPRESENTATION OF MEN AND WOMEN IN
ADVERTISEMENTS: A CRITICAL DISCOURSE
ANALYSIS
Marvi Shaikh*
Dr. Faraz Ali Bughio
Shafkat Ali Kadri
ABSTRACT
This study examines the social values, choices and ideologies that
are produced and reinforced in and through advertisements. The
analyses are based on twelve different advertisements a ired on
Pakistani T.V channels and internet (Western). The study has
focused on how male and female are represented differently
through ads in order to serve gender inequality and power
relations.
The study has used critical discourse analysis (CDA) and
semiotics as research tools. It provides researchers to analyse how
different meanings and ideologies are constructed, processed and
legitimised in social practices than just examining the discursive
texts. The analysis is based on Fairclough’s three dimensional
framework description (textual features), interpretation
(discursive practice) and explanation (social practice). The study
has also problematized ads by applying ‘a propaganda model’
presented by Herma n and Chomsky.
The findings have indicated that advertisements promote gender
inequality and the patriarchal ideology. The advertisers use
various strategies (textual and body features) in order to
naturalize stereotypical roles of male and female. Such
* M.Phil Scholar, Institute of English Language and Literature, University of Sindh,
Jamshoro
Assistant Professor, Institute of English Language and Literature, University of
Sindh, Jamshoro
Assistant Professor, Institute of English Language and Literature, University of
Sindh, Jamshoro
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (109)
advertisements reinforce soft, decorative, ignorant, family
oriented b ut intellectual women. On the other hand, men are
represented as courageous, bold and bread winner. As a result,
the ads serve social power relations and support the patriarchal
state. This study, therefore has suggested that critical a nalysts
needs to reveal and challenge implicit social values and decided
images for male and female embedded in advertisements. The
study also suggests how the role of women may be presented
beyond her traditional role in a patriarchal society.
INTRODUCTION
Advertising discourse plays a central role in shaping and
constructing our attitudes, values and notions towards lifestyle,
choices, public roles and the decision between the right and the
wrong. Advertisers use visual, semiotic and textual means to
convey their particular messages. This work attempts to analyse
what power relations and status quo are maintained and
distributed through advertisements in order to promote gender
inequality and patriarchal ideology, and how men and women are
represented in advertisements. This study also examines how the
ideology of perfect’ and ideal’ social role is produced and
constructed in and through advertisements. For this purpose,
twelve advertisements have been selected in order to analyse the
different roles performed by women and men. The ads have been
chosen from various Pakistani channels, such as ARY, HUM TV,
Dawn News, contemporary magazine (SHE and ASIANAIRES) and
internet (Western ads).
The analysis is based on Fairclough’s three-dimensional model of
critical discourse analysis as it focuses on the production and
reception process of discourse than just analyzing the text. This
approach does not only emphasize on social and historical
perspective but also social practice which normalizes dominant
ideology and inequality.
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Selection of the Advertisements
Selection of advertisements for the present study is based on the
paramount influence of advertisements on the ideology of the
people. Adverts are pervasive form of media to which the people
do not pay conscious attention and thus its values, notions remain
natural, normal and unquestioned. Admittedly, the people are
exposed to ads everywhere and every time such as TV commercials,
newspapers, magazines, billboards and signs. As Kilbourne (1999)
mentions:
Advertising is our environment. We swim in it as fish swim in
water. We cannot escape it… advertising messages are inside our
intimate relationships, our homes, our hearts and our heads.
According to Cook (2001) advertisements inform, persuade,
influence and perhaps change opinions, emotions and attitudes.
That is to say, advertisements do not only sell products, attract
consumers but also change society and force people to buy things
they do not want and compel them to make the ideal roles. As
Stankiewicz and Rosselli (2008) examine that advertisements
provide a judgment for what is desirable and normal.
Furthermore, advertising is the most influential and ideological
institution of socialization in modern era (Kilbourne, 1999). In a
related vein, advertisements portray women stereotypically. Such
as, women are represented as passive, exploitative, complex,
decorative, submissive, helpless and likely to be manipulated. On
the other hand, men are portrayed as powerful, autonomous,
authoritative, and dominant (Brown, 1998). Stereotype is a
characterization of a person based upon narrow, essentials and
incorrect assumptions. Thus one has to problematize stereotypes
portrayed in advertisements because they affect our ideas, choices,
and the expectations of what the people’s values should and should
not be like.
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (111)
Such stereotypes have the power to convince the people that they
are the only ‘real’ and ‘right.’ This view has been further examined
by Hoepfner (2006). That is, advertising which stereotypes women
can form unconscious and unthinking attitudes about women and
their abilities in society. Survey of the related literature, notably
Berberick, (2012); Hoepfner, (2006); Sharma, (2003) and Perucha
(2009) examines that all over the world semiotic of the women
projected through the advertisements tend to strengthen the
traditional, submissive and decorative attitudes and often present a
degrading and humiliating picture of the women to reinforce
patriarchal social power. This makes it crucially necessary to
examine the advertisements by adopting critical discourse analysis
approach. As it attempts to unveil the implicit ideologies embedded
in advertising discourse.
In this domain, the study has emphasized on what ideology and co-
optive hegemony is underpinned in product-selling advertisements
which promote stereotypical roles of women and reinforce gender
inequality. In addition, how advertisements strengthen and project
a specific image of women as sponsored and desired by the state
and social power relations.
Selection of the Particular Advertisements
The product-selling ads are selected in order to analyse how men
and women are represented in advertisements. The study has
focused on twelve ads which are used for food items, cooking oil,
washing powder, cosmetics, electronic device and drugs. The
research has emphasized on Pakistani and Western ads. These ads
are selected on this basis: the desired roles by the state for women
and men, and the way advertising discourse promotes gender
inequality.
In addition, Western ads are selected in order to analyse what
values and ideologies are being inculcated in West to reinforce
gendered attitudes and gender inequality. Nevertheless, the
(112) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
Western ads are chosen from 1960s and 1970s, they still reinforce
the patriarchal ideology. This has been clarified by Eckert and
McConnell-Ginet (2003). They mention that each institute promotes
gender inequality as women are supposed to perform soft,
emotional and feminine work while men are preferred to perform
bold and courageous act.
These ads are selected because the main motto of ads is to
emphasize on the submissive and exploitative roles of women. As
Gallagher (2005) mentions that 75% of all adverts using women are
the products used in the bathrooms or kitchens and 56% of women
in adverts are shown as domestic housewives. On the basis of this
research, it is clear that the role of women is much domestic and
family oriented. This study has focused on the semiotic (gestures,
dressing, setting and places) and linguistic features of
advertisements as to analyse how state sponsored ideology
becomes so influential and powerful in order to sustain and protect
exiting patriarchal society.
Theoretical Construct of the Study (key Concepts)
For critiquing the advertisements, it is crucially important to
interpret the key concepts used in this study.
Text, Semiotic and Discourse
A text consists of linguistic items such as vocabulary, grammar,
semantics and the sound system. It is a product of a social event
(Fairclough, 1989). On the other hand, semiotics refers to non-verbal
signs which focus on the process of production of meaning. As a
result, semiotics leads to the creation of social relationships,
systems of knowledge and thus cultural identity (Chand &
Chaudhery, 2012). In a semiotic sense, signs produce meanings in
the form of images, sounds, gestures and objects (Chandler, 2014).
However, one cannot isolate semiotics from discourse.
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (113)
The term discourse designates specific patterns or ‘rules of
distribution’ (Foucault, 1972). This emphasizes on who has access to
produce advertising discourse. As Fairclough (1989) mentions that
discourse is just a particular form of social practice, which in its
center power and ideology influence and interact with one another.
Discourse is also considered as language (spoken or written) in use
with more socio-politically oriented meaning (Gee, 2005 cited in
Vahid & Esmae’li, 2012). Discourse allows us to understand what
the object is about and a process of delimitation from other objects.
This study has analysed semiotics as the process which produces
meaning. Similarly, text and semiotics are analysed in the form of
how meanings are interpreted and received in society. In addition
to this, advertising discourse has been analysed in a three-
dimensional process: text (semiotic and linguistic aspects)
interaction and social context. It is also interpreted at
microstructure: grammar, words, images and macrostructure: social
power, ideology and co-optive hegemony. In order to analyze the
use of power and implicit hegemony in discourse, critical discourse
analysis is considered to be essential tool.
Critical Discourse Analysis
Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is a form of research that analyses
the relationships between discourse, society, power and ideology. It
unveils the interests of particular class enacted in the discourse.
According to Fairclough (1989)
CDA aims at demystifying texts shaped ideologically by relations of
power; it emphasizes on the opaque relationship between discourse
and societal structure; and it does through open interpretation and
explanation.
In a related vein, critical discourse analysts want to know what
structures, strategies or other properties of text and communicative
events play in the modes of reproduction (power, inequality,
legitimacy of gender injustice). For this reason, CDA is committed
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to the analysis of social wrongs such as unequal access to power,
privileges and symbolic resources.
In addition, it enables us to examine how gender inequality is
discursively enacted and legitimately represented through
advertisements. On the other hand, Wodak (1999) clarifies that the
main aim of CDA is to unmask ideologically permeated and often
obscured structures of power, political control and dominance.
Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus
Ideology is the lived relation between the people and their world. It
is further defined as an entire system of notions, values which
provides a decided, fixed and restricted view of the lifestyle. Thus
ideologies are representations of practices formed from particular
perspectives in the interests of strengthening and maintaining
unequal power relations. Dijik (1995) is of view that ideologies are
expressed and reproduced in discourses including non-verbal
semeiotic messages and linguistic elements. This helps to analyze
what ideologies are enacted in advertisements which naturalize the
male-dominance, and women take their exploitative roles as
decorative.
In this domain, Althusser (1969) elaborates ideological state
apparatus. Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) operate through
ideas that we encounter throughout our lives and led us to believe
that the ideas, notions and attitudes are natural. Ideological
apparatus refers to large social institutions that condition us in a
certain way and compels us to obey and follow ideology
spontaneously. Advertising is one of the most influential
ideological state apparatus. Thus it is invariably necessary to
examine what power and social control are underpinned into our
thinking mode in a form of subtle truth.
Pow er and Symbolic Violence
According to Dijik (2001) the exercise and maintenance of power
presuppose an ideological loaded work. Such power is exercised
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (115)
and expressed through access to styles of discourse. Thus the
owners of advertisements or advertisers control the technological
production of advertising discourse, selection of themes and
exclusion of various topics. In fact, media (advertisements) is very
much under professional and institutional control and those who
have the access to the media have already possess other forms of
economic, political and cultural power (Fairclough, 1989).
In addition, it is argued when power is represented symbolically, it
is hardly problematized by the people. Discourse producers can
create the particular, decided image to the audience as the best, true
or the subtle symbolically. Thus to maintain the dominant ideology
and seize the control of the state, power is represented through
symbolic language. Bourdieu (1986) terms this symbolic as
‘symbolic violence’. Admittedly, symbolic violence has the
opportunity to expand the dominance unnoticed by the people.
Thus, the people take it as fairness. As a result, symbolic violence
constructs and shapes dispositions of the people, a process that is
known as habitus.
Habitus and Co-optive Hegemony
Habitus generates perceptions, expectations and practices on the
basis of historical and socio-economic power corresponding with
present events. According to Bourdieu (1989) an individual’s
habitus is an active residue of his or her past that functions within
the present to shape the perception, thought and bodily
comportment. Such insight helps to understand why the
advertisements are audibly accepted by the public and taken as the
form of only right way of life.
Another important concept which helps in unveiling discourse of
advertisements is co-optive hegemony. It refers to the leadership
without force, leadership through legitimation and consensual rule.
In such a way the dominated people take their position as their own
choice. For instance, two positions are promoted for women,
namely housewife and model. Women take these two positions as
(116) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
their real choices. Consequently, such consensual rule reinforces
gendered behaviors and gendered inequality.
Gender as an Ideological form and Gender Inequality
According to Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (2003) gender is not
something we are born with, not something we have, but rather we
do, we perform gender role. It is clear from the analysis of key
concepts: ideology and co-optive hegemony that we are provided
by certain notions which lead us throughout our lives. Gender is
embedded and structured in and through our institutions, our
actions, our beliefs, our dressing that it appears to us to be
completely commonsensical and normal.
It is invariably important to analyse gendered roles as the portrayal
of women in stereotypical roles are not constructed because of her
physique but rather a set of dispositions (habitus) attached to her
physique. Lazar (2000) is of view that gender ideology is hegemonic
as it often does not appear as domination at all, but rather
appearing as largely consensual and acceptable to the majority of
the population. Thus one is not born to do cooking, cleaning,
decorating but rather compels to do these domestic labour as the
holy and prime duties. Finally in the process of construction of
gendered roles advertising discourse is one of the most important
social institutions.
THE RATIONALE OF THE STUDY
Advertising subtly distorts reality and manipulates the people to
make them buy a way of life. Women have been portrayed in
advertisements as patriarchal society and the state wants them to be
for instance, beautiful dummies, submissive daughters, sisters,
wives, mothers and efficient house keepers. In such a symbolic
violence, it becomes essential to elaborate how inequality becomes
legitimized through sophisticated language and semiotic.
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (117)
Advertisements are important in shaping habitus but a little
concentration has been provided to ads in the local context from a
critical discourse analysis. For this reason, there is indeed a need to
analyse critically the use of language and other semiotic aspects in
the product-selling advertisements. Nonetheless, a number of
studies have elaborated power behind advertisements, notably
Fairclough, (1995); Vahid & Esmae’li, (2012); Dijik (2001); Bazergan
(2012). The present study is a contribution in this field. The study
tries to elaborate the effect of figurative language, presentation of
setting on the existing power relations. Finally, this work has
emphasized on how grammatical structures and use of symbols can
strengthen and reinforce the exploitative representation of women
in a decorative form.
METHODOLOGY AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
This study has used the approach of Fairclough (1989) for the
analysis of advertisements. The researcher has selected this
approach as it focuses on the text and social practice as well. In
addition to this, a propaganda model has been chosen in order to
interpret how advertisements become effective in particular society.
Three-Dimensional Approach (Fairclough)
Fairclough (1989) proposes three dimensions for every discourse
analysis, notably a spoken or written text, a discursive practice and
a social practice. The first phase represents the discourse fragments
where focus lies on vocabulary, verbal texts, relational and
identification value of words. The second phase expresses the
aspects of context or place where the object is produced and
received in society. Finally, the third phase mentions power behind
discourse or social practices because one needs to analyse socio-
historical conditions in which discourse operates.
In a similar vein, for each phase there has to be a different type of
analysis. For the textual dimension a description is required in
order to examine linguistic features in advertisements. For the
(118) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
second phase, interpretation is needed. This refers to relationship
between text and interaction. In the case of third phase, social
analysis or explanation is required. It emphasizes on the production
of discourse and the social ideologies embedded in every
interaction. All phases are interdependent and all three can be
analysed collectively.
Figure: 1 Fairclough’s (1989) dimension of discourse analysis
Furthermore, I have analysed the advertisements from semiotic
perspective. In this case, the study has focused on settings,
particular places where discourses are produced and interpreted.
Propaganda Model
A propaganda model is presented by Herman and Chomsky (1988).
This model argues that media serve political benefits by mobilizing
bias, constructing particular choices, marginalizing dissent and by
allowing the state and dominant private interests to get their
messages across to the public (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). It
analyses that advertisements protect the interests of dominant elite.
Social conditions of production and interpretation
Process of production and process of interpretation
Discursive Practice
Social Practice
Text
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (119)
In addition to this, the propaganda model explains that
advertisements have elite advocacy, prior plausibility and are
accepted by the majority of the population. In such a paradigm, we
can analyse that what is played up and what is deleted, more
specifically, how the way things are structured.
ANALYSIS OF THE ADVERTISEMENTS
This paper has attempted to analyse adverting discourse at four
levels: textual analysis, semiotic analysis, discursive analysis and
hegemonic analysis of advertisements. The study has anlaysed
twelve advertisements collectively.
Lexical Analysis
The analysis of lexical categories determines the linguistic features,
more specifically, the selection of vocabulary. The uses of
vocabulary represents ideological framework. According to
Fairclough (1989) one can analyse the discursive participants’
choice of vocabulary in relation to their experiential, relational and
expressive value of words, with these choices encoding assumption
about power is manifested. The advertiser represents the
experience of social world by the experiential value of words. S uch
as the Pond’s advertisement expresses:
White Beauty face wash.
Reveal the natural fairness hiding behind dark skin cells.
(Appendix, A: 1)
The underlined words signify the importance of being white and
fair. The text characterizes ‘dark skin’ as embarrassing, unwanted
and scathing. It is assumed for women that they must be fair and
white. They possess the beauty, although they just need to explore
or reveal it by using pond’s cream.
The advertisement assumes that the perfect and ideal state for
women skin should be without dark skin cells. It is implicitly
(120) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
transmitted to women and men as well that the duty of women is to
look beautiful and white. All other women who possess dark skin
cannot find the true happiness as the lady symbolizes in ad. Such
concept of beauty emphasizes on women to burn all energies in
order to achieve perfect and ideal face.
The underlined words can be analysed in positive and negative
representation. Positive words as beautiful, natural beauty, fairness
ratify features constructed as desirable. While dark skin is denoted
as negative word. In this way, the concurrence of these words lead
to the interpretation that is a white, young and beautiful skin is
desirable for women. Furthermore, another ad mentions:
It’s time to play dress up with your hair. (Appendix, A: 2)
The words play and dress up denote that women feel happy when
they play with their hair. Similarly, it is assumed that if they do not
play with their hair so it is the right time to decorate and nourish hair.
This ad also shows a particular view of woman as necessarily having
problems. As it is mentioned in the same ad:
6 Natural ways to Beautiful you! (Appendix, A: 2)
Such usage of words functions on the inference that the magazine
possesses the solution for the problem. For instance, a woman may
not have perfect beauty (a problem) but it is possible to get ideal
beauty by six natural ways (a solution). Thus the state and
multinational companies create the trivial problems for women and
provide fictitious solution as well to keep women dumb and
decorative object. Since the message is conveyed in such a
fascinating way that one hardly realizes the hidden ideology of the
ad. In such a symbolic violence a woman finds her meaning only in
and through her looks.
It is important to examine that advisements become meaningful
only in particular society. In a patriarchal country like Pakistan
women are excluded at many levels from decision-making and
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (121)
intellectual positions. Thus they are promoted to decorate their
body and consider themselves as mere objects. In fact women are
reduced to being sex and submissive objects and only their looks
are considered their important assets.
In a similar vein, the advertising discourse needs to be analysed at
relational and expressive value of words. The former refers to social
relationships which are embedded in the advertisements. While
later represents the identities, social roles which are emphasized
through advertisements. The ad of Nido mentions:
Your instinct is to protect him. Nido helps to keep your child’s
tummy healthy. (Appendix, A: 3)
The word instinct naturalizes and normalizes the duties and
exploitative form of mother hood. Through this ideological word
only the identity of being mother is emphasized. Thus
advertisement develops the relationship with the ideal mothers
only. Through this relationship, advertisement informs and orders
women that it is the only prime duty of women to protect her
‘child’. This ad becomes influential and meaningful only in
Pakistani patriarchal culture because a woman’s assets are
calculated in terms of her power of reproduction. She completely
feels that her social credibility and status depend on her
childbearing (Hakim & Aziz, 1998).
Furthermore, in the name of product-selling ad, the state functions
as a pedagogue. That is to say, the state decides certain duties for
women and they are accepted only in performing the particular
duties. The ad further signifies the matter of healthy diet for child.
As the social identity of women in the form of mother is produced
in this ad, thus the healthy diet is to be selected by mother because
it is a matter related to home.
(122) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
GRAMMATICAL ANALYSIS
According to Lazar (2000), power relations are a struggle over
interests, which are exercised, reflected, processed and maintained
through a variety of modalities, presuppositions and degrees of
explicitness. This dimension emphasizes on the social actors
presented in terms of experiential relational and expressive value of
linguistic features. The very selection between grammatical
features, choice of particular topics, registers and topicalization can
be ideological.
Experiential Value of Linguistic Features
The experiential value of words represents happenings or
relationships in the world (Fairclough, 1989). Three main processes
are mentioned through experiential value of grammatical aspects:
actions, events and attributions. These three processes also signify
whether agent is implicitly or explicitly present. In addition to this,
we can also analyse the topicalization of a sentence. In ad of
‘Kenwood’, it is mentioned:
I am giving my wife a Kenwood Chef (Appendix, B: 2)
This sentence denotes action process where an agent (husband) is
depicted as having power than the patient (wife) and an action of
giving food mixer has been presented. It shows that the best present
for a woman is food mixer. It is the present a woman will be happy
with. The study has focused on how Western values also emphasize
on the division of labour. That is to say, the gendered division of
labour involves differential power and status (Eckert & McConnell-
Ginet, 2003). Such as man’s activities are closely linked with public
and social sphere. On the other hand, woman’s activities are
associated with domestic and private realm.
Expressive Value of Linguistic Features
The analysis of expressive value emphasizes on presupposition. It is
a part of sentence in a form of subordination and co-ordination.
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (123)
More often, subordination clause is considered as presupposed
knowledge or information. In the ad of fresher-coffee, it is stated:
If your husband ever finds out you’re not store-testing for fresher
coffee. (Appendix, B: 6)
This form of sentence presupposes that a woman must be obedient,
docile and follower. The subordination clause emphasizes on the
authoritative and powerful position of man because he is
considered as a bread-winner. Since, he is an authoritative person
so he is provided to do all important works. While buying fresh
coffee for husband is the work of woman because it does not
require more intellectual understanding in order to choose fresh
coffee.
Furthermore, the expressive value of words can be examined by use
of modality in sentences. The analysis of modality is to explain the
degrees of affinity which characterizes the discursive representation
of social roles and the control of ways in which reality is
constructed in advertisements. Such as the ad of LUX:
You’ve Won him – Now yor must keep him. (Appendix, B: 5)
A modality ‘must’ expresses the obligation. It is assumed that
woman must make herself beautiful in order to attract male or
simply get the attention of her husband by the looks. The
sentence reinforces ideological function in which woman is
ordered to be beautiful, stunning and seductive not for herself
but rather for man. In addition to this, the use of modality
implies that woman possesses no individuality but rather she
does each work to please her husband (male) or appears
pleasing to him. The ad represents co-optive hegemony as it
marginalizes the individuality of a woman in natural and
decorative manner. As Beauvoir (cited in Schwarzer, 1984)
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says women are exploited and they allow themselves to be
exploited in the name of ‘love’.
In a related vein, direct address in advertisements serves the
interests of elite. The use of second-person personal such as
you seeks to address the public directly. When individuals are
addressed directly and personally instead of collectively, it is
considered highly valued. For instance:
You must keep him. (Appendix, B: 5)
Here, ‘you’ implies that everywoman must please her
husband by being beautiful. The pronoun ‘you’ refers to
ideological and symbolic violence which projects the
exploitative condition of woman as b eautiful, natural and
deferential. It also indicates a common urge in everywoman
to seduce her husband.
Furthermore, the use of pronouns helps to analyse the implicit
co-optive hegemony enacted in advertisements. The use of
personal and common pronouns affect directly the audience.
According to Smith (2004) the use of pronouns establishes a
kind of relationship between the advertisers and the audience.
Such as:
It indicates that everywoman has to perform the duty of
motherhood. On the other hand, the pronoun ‘him denotes
the protection of son or son is more important to be cared and
protected. Such types of ads are produced because in
patriarchal society, a son is regarded as paramount and
permanent part of the family and an asset who will strengthen
the family status (Hakim and Aziz, 1998). Thus girls are not
preferred because they are not assumed to support their
family financially throughout life.
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (125)
Relational Value of Linguistic Features
The relational value of sentences focuses on what modes are
used in order to convey the message. Three maj or modes are
used in advertisements: declarative, questions and
imperatives. In the declarative sentence, advertiser (the state
and multinational companies) provides the audience with
some commands and the audience takes the command
unquestioningly. In the ad of Kenwood, it is mentioned:
The chef does everything but cook that’s what wives are for!
(Appendix, B: 2)
The above sentence informs and clarifies to audience that
cooking is the prime, holy and natural duty of women. It also
implies that the existence of women is to perform domestic
work. A wife is accepted if she cooks and maintains her home.
Thus through such discourse, the state denies the
individuality and personality of a woman and provides her
submissive and passive roles. According to Beauvoir (1953)
women have always been confined to the domestic labour
and never have been provided with the opportunity to create
something valuable or intellectual piece of work. In this sense,
advertising discourse does ideological work which buttresses
and legitimizes unequal distribution of power. Such as a man
is associated with authority and power while a woman is
confined to domestic and decorative chores.
On the other hand, advertisers use questions to persuade
audience. Questions impose to the readers to create a personal
relationship by simulating informal conversation with the
audience to engage them rather merely convening
information (Fairclough, 1989). An example of question is as
follows:
(126) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
You mean a woman can open it? (Appendix, B: 4)
As women possess the passive roles in advertisements, so any
work which requires intellectual power is reduced to men.
Nonetheless, the food-item is related to kitchen, it also
signifies that woman can only do these trivial things, such as
opening of ketch up (jars). Thus woman is ideal only when
she is in her nurturing roles. This represents gender inequality
at micro level (linguistic feature) which as a result produces
and legitimizes inequality at macro level as only those women
are considered good and perfect in society who are
sub ordinate and supplement to men.
SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS
Advertising processes as signifying practice. Throug h this
process, advertising diffuses its meaning into the belief
system of society. Semiotics enables us to analyse symbols
and setting of discourse (Chandler, 2014). The advertisement
of ‘Kashmir cooking oil’ is symbolized as follows:
This ad emphasizes on the position of woman in the kitchen.
It suggests that a woman’s primary function is to cook and
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (127)
look after her husband. In fact, domestic residence i s the most
common setting for women in advertisements. The holding of
dish by woman emphasizes that her work is to serve the food.
The smile on her face denotes that she is happy and satisfied
by cook ing and serving the food.
The Kashmir cooking oil expresses the roles of man and
woman within society. It signifies that expectation of a good
and perfect wife is to show innocence and servant-like role. In
addition to this, the ad symbolizes a perfect couple. In this
perfect and happy couple man is taller, bigger and darker.
The picture symbolizes different gestures and emotions to be
performed by man and woman. Such as he looks confident,
straight ahead and direct while she look s down and shows
shyness. Thus at macro level these roles are desired by
everyone in our society.
In a related vein, advertisers endorse famous celebrities to
ensure the people that they can also achieve happiness and
satisfaction (like Eman) if they perform such activities.
Another ad symbolizes:
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This ad of vitamin aims to present woman as a domestic worker. In
the ad, man and woman both seem happy, although to some extent
husband queries and at the same time praises her wife on doing
domestic works (cooking, cleaning, washing and dusting). The
smile on her face symbolizes that she becomes happy in performing
these trivial duties. For her happiness is cleaning, cooking, dusting
and washing.
In addition, the very dressing signifies gendered roles. The wife in
working apron symbolizes that she is the one who remains in home
man in a suit represents work in an office. He is represented as a
bread-winner in his suit. This ad implies that woman does not have
any professional role; most importantly a woman must not perform
work outside the walls of home. On the other hand, the beauty soap
is presented as:
In this ad, the capitalist owners and the state have used ‘Islamic
values’ in order to capture the attention of audience. This ad
signifies the distorted religious morals. Because it emphasizes on
covering the head of woman and at the same time making her more
beautiful for others. The ad implies that woman is religious and
beautiful only when she uses revitalizing beauty soap. Thus a
desirable feature for woman is to cover her head and make herself
‘white beautifulthat is not possible.
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (129)
On the contrary, the same capitalist system produces advertisement
in which a woman is represented as sex object. Such as:
It is therefore clear that Islamic values and modern ideas both
emphasize on the appearance of women. They want the women to
be docile, decorative and submissive. Islamic and cosmopolitan
values distort the reality for woman and present a desirable image
for her. In such habitus, women hardly problematize the real
problems of society; and in this way 50% of the population is
excluded from major issues in the name of religion, beauty, love
and marriage. Consequently, advertisements serve the interests of
the state, as instead of providing certain benefits to mothers or
promoting the independent image of women, the state forces the
women to perform housework with satisfaction and achieve the
distorted level of beauty.
(130) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
SOCIAL PRACTICE ANALYSIS
Advertisements become meaningful in a particular context.
Meanings in advertisements are produced through the process of
‘interpretation’. Interpretation takes place through complex
relationship of what is represented in the semiotics of
advertisements and what is in the people’s mind. Fairclough (1989)
terms the cognition of receiver’s mind as member resources (MR).
Thus MR refers to the historical knowledge which the advertiser
implies that the people have. That is the reason, the advertisement
of domestic violence, and the portrayal of woman as obedient,
docile and follower received naturally and unquestioningly by
masses.
The advertisers further promote such behaviors to teach complete
slavery to women and distort the reality. In this way they are
directing the mass audience, the state thus set a framework in
which everyone else operates. This also denotes discursive practices
which represent how to be happy, sad and beautiful and inform
women how they must look.
In addition, interpretation processes in society as men and women
as well tend to see women as the object instead of human being and
this image of women as a sex object or salve-person stay in the
heads of the people. For instance the ad mentions:
So the harder a wife works, the cuter she looks! (Appendix, B: 2).
The advertiser implies that a woman wants to look cuter, so in
order to achieve this state she needs to do housework. A feeling of
relief is provided in this ad as it claims that the problem
(unattractiveness) can be solved through the consumption of the
product (vitamins) and housework. In this ad man is depicted as a
person who seems withdrawn and stands at a distance from
housework, whereas woman is shown completely involved in
home. The state surreptitiously inculcate that woman must not take
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (131)
interest in public affairs and outdoor work, for this reason we do
not find a cry of unemployment for women but men. The co-optive
hegemony processes as trivial and slave labour is represented as
holy. Marx (cited in Mackinnon, 1982) further clarifies this slavery
system (family) as a form of decorated exploitation.
On the other hand, explanation indicates social institutions and
reconstruction of MR through linguistic features. It implies that
how advertisement establishes certain truth for MR, how
advertisements changes the cognition of MR and similarly how MR
reinforces and processes social inequality. It is clear from the
examples that advertisers (whole process of production) structure
women to be passive, submissive, docile and decorative, and at the
same time women accept this decorated form of exploitation
because it is represented in a co-optive hegemonic form, that is to
say subtle, right and only accepted form for women. This view can
be further clarified by the advertisement of cooking oil:
Through this ad, women are ordered that for them only desirable
form is to serve the family. They are encouraged to perform the role
of good mother and housewife within the four walls of the house.
In this way women are excluded from the intellectual and
important works.
Furthermore, dining table is also represented to provide a look of
traditional and typical family atmosphere. Mother takes care of
(132) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
everyone and is docile. The message is being conveyed silently that
if this situation will be in every house, there will be comfort and
happiness. Thus ideology is not only processed through the
semiotics but also the form of meaning the way settings, topics and
gestures distributes and produces. Finally ideologies offered in
advertisements may not be real, but through constant exposure to
them, they become a normal experience for the people and masses
accept inequality and injustice as created by some natural power.
CONCLUSION
To conclude, advertisements shape and construct the values,
notions, attitudes and desirable image; and they are produced to
serve the interests of social power relations. The study has
mentioned how gender inequality is maintained and reinforced
through the linguistic features and semiotics of advertisements.
Through advertisements women are represented in lessening ways
such as being with the family, cooking, serving, caring son, pleasing
man, decorating and trying on makeup. As a result, the state
hinders women’s ability o perform active tasks.
In addition, women are exposed as objects to be looked at rather
than individuals with their own intellectual abilities. Through such
ads, the patriarchal ideology promotes the physique of women and
it implies as if they do not possess mind but body that has to be
cared of.
Based on the analysis of the advertisements, it can be summarized
that the most important message in the advertisements indicates
perfect appearance or look for women. Simultaneously, ads
emphasize that domestic labour is the task of women alone and this
is their pride, achievement and happiness.
Moreover, this study also shows that the endorsement of family
setting has been used in advertisements to legitimize the passive
roles of women. It explains that Western societies present nuclear
families while Pakistani ads endorse nuclear and traditional
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (133)
extended families as well. Nonetheless, Western and Pakistani
advertisements represent men and women in stereotypical roles
such as male as a bread winner and female as an ignorant, less
intelligent, decorative piece and family oriented.
In such an ideological spider web, CDA plays an important task to
uncover and unveil the hidden messages embedded in beautiful
images and decorated settings. Critical discourse analysts need to
problematize each strategy used by advertisers to manipulate and
distort the reality. In addition to this, critical discourse analyst must
aim to reveal how power and dominance are organized and
institutionalized through advertisements in order to provide
decided images of social roles. Thus it is crucially necessary for
critical analysts to focus on discursive strategies that legitimate
(Fairclough, 2005) gender inequality; naturalize the social order and
exploitative images contained within advertisements in order to
have developed and equal society.
In a related vein, the advertisers must introduce intelligent,
courageous, strong and independent woman. They must encourage
professional and economic independent roles for women in order to
create the real means for the emancipation of women. At the same
time, it is certainly vital to portray women and men as equals in
advertisements. Finally well-organized efforts are required to
establish a new image of woman as courageous, strong and
independent person.
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APPENDICES
Appendix A: 1
Appendix A: 2
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (137)
Appendix A: 3
Appendix A: 4
(138) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
Appendix A: 5
Appendix A: 6
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (139)
Appendix A: 7
Appendix B: 1
(140) The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements
Appendix B: 2
Appendix B: 3
The Women Annual Research Journal Vol. 7, 2015 (141)
Appendix B: 4
Appendix B: 5
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Discourse of advertising has been of interest and significance to many researchers. Linguists are particularly interested in studying creation of meaning and advertisers are largely concerned about studying consumption of meaning. The two go hand in hand. The present study aims at gauging the gap between creation and consumption of meaning through a pair of print advertisements. Creation of meaning was studied using an amalgamation of Norman Fairclough's critical discourse analysis and Daniel Chandler's compilation of semiotics whereas for studying the consumption of meaning a field survey was conducted; the sample for which was 450 college going students. At the face value the adverts were projecting novel notions of challenging the stereotypes related with men and women. But on a semiotic and critical discourse analysis it had been found that the advertisement which overtly appeared to break the old norms and welcome the fresh ones were embedded in stereotypical norms related to women. In the end both the advertisements have been compared. Endorsement by a popular celebrity, fair complexion, femininity related with gratification of men's desire-all such discourses are viewed as legitimate by the consumers. Consumers generally do not understand the copywriters' strategies and manipulations in reproducing and propagating these discourses through advertising.
Article
The Book Routledge has now published my book version of this text under the title Semiotics: The Basics. The online text (which is not the same) will continue to be available. The publisher's details of the book are here. Amazon UK lists it and readers may order it online; Amazon.com states that it will be stocked from March 2002 -readers from outside the UK who are in a hurry are therefore advised to order it from Amazon UK. Please support this site by ordering the book here. It shouldn't cost you any more than elsewhere and it will earn me more than my meagre royalty fee! Online ordering ISBN RRP (Pounds Sterling) Paperback edition 0-415-26594-0 9 ($15.95 US; 110,79 FF; DM 33,50; EUR 16,89-17,13) Hardback edition 0-415-26593-2 00 Note that it will be cheaper to buy the book than to print out the online version, and that the book will be much tidier to shelve and easier to browse! Praise for the Book 'This is the best introduction to semiotics I have read. The author combines a scholarly command of the subject with the ability to organise and present it in an enticing and informative way.
Book
Bringing together papers written by Norman Fairclough over a 25 year period, Critical Discourse Analysis represents a comprehensive and important contribution to the development of this popular field.