Tablets. Pens. Greek Yogurt.
These three items are not typically used by or associated with one gender. They are simply products.
Recently, however, these everyday items have been the focus of sexist advertising campaigns.
Every day we are exposed to an array of these advertisements, and although we might not realize it, they are affecting us.
These advertisements portray an overgeneralized and idealistic version of reality, but most people still use them as a measuring stick when it comes to beauty, health or behavior. This in turn creates unattainable goals and expectations that can lead to a variety of negative consequences. For example, Dr. Robert Rydell of Indiana University has found that women don’t learn as well when they are reminded of negative gender stereotypes before performing an exercise, according to Psychology Today.
This is especially relevant when it comes to advertisements geared toward specific genders. These types of ads create overgeneralized images of a specific gender while supposedly presenting what is considered “normal” in our society, perpetuating gender stereotypes.
People are not products. They have unique traits, emotions and capabilities. Instead of advertising to these needs, marketers tend to illustrate all the things an individual “should be.”
Edward Ackerley, an instructor at the Eller College of Management department of marketing, said that advertising is reflective of the current mindset of society.
“It’s simply like holding up a mirror,” Ackerley said. “Advertising will only go so far as society has gone.”
It seems like recent advertisements have become bolder than ever in their use of gender stereotypes and sexism to try to sell a product.
Just last fall, the Middle East-based company Eurostar released a tablet that it dubbed “the world’s first tablet exclusively for women,” and plans to start selling on Amazon.
To make it easier on women, the tablet has apps already downloaded on it that cater to what women “do and want.” These include: weight loss, yoga, recipe generator, shopping and a measurement converter, among others.
Plus, the background is pink.
These notions of “what women want” are based on outdated stereotypes. What makes this new trend worse is that it’s not just Eurostar — companies like BIC and Powerful Men LLC have also both advertised “gender-specific” products in the past year.
Powerful Men LLC recently released Greek yogurt called “Powerful Yogurt” or, as Grub Street has dubbed it, “brogurt.” The yogurt is targeted at men because it is high in protein.
According to Ackerley, back in the 1970s and 1980s there was a move away from targeting specific groups and being more inclusive.
It seems that this is no longer the case.
Instead of trying to cater products to a wide range of individuals, marketers are taking minute aspects of societal expectations and amplifying them.
However, some blame also falls on us.
If our society lets this type of advertising to continue, we will set a precedent for future products and how they will be marketed — and allow greedy businesses to define the limitations of our genders.
— Razanne Chatila is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter via @Razanne92.