The role of sex in advertising is even more blatant in a food advertisement of an ejaculating Tabsco sauce bottle over a split bake potato -- hot and spice as a metaphor for intercourse.
Sex sells: a woman wants to be desired by a man which requires the perfect figure, in the perfect low-cut dress with the perfectly matching nail polish, and a man can only be desired by a woman if he drives a BMW, wears a Rolex watch and has on a Ralph Lauren suit (which is not a Polo suit but the higher end and much more expensive Purple Label suit). Media's objectification of women and the fact that sex does sell has lead to the "sexification" of young girls and teens. Kilboure makes her point with magazine covers and television spots, including JonBenet in full makeup for a toddler beauty pageant, a teenage Brittney Spears displayed as a sex kitten, and a young and shy Kate Moss being asked to unbutton and lower her jeans during a photo shoot. The inability of girls, teens and women to achieve this unattainable perfection and sexiness leads to low self-esteem, which then leads to women feeling that they deserve to be disrespected by men.
Two people, Oprah Winfrey and Teri Hatcher, are working to show girls and women how actresses and models fake being beautiful. On a recent Oprah Winfey show, Teri Hatcher shared how she looks straight from the shower and showed viewers how long it takes and how much makeup is used to turn her into a Desperate Housewife. Society needs to see more of this message; the self-esteem of women and girls would improve by convincing women that the perfectionism of a magazine cover requires smoke, mirrors, airbrushes and digital photography.
The third film, GENERATION M: Misogyny in Media & Culture, brings the pieces of the puzzle together. Thomas Keith explores the conflict between the media stating that women and girls have achieved gender equality and Hollywood and Madison Avenue's portrayal of women as sex objects whose worth is measure by their beauty. Like Katz and Kilbourne, Keith believes the media is training young girls to be sexual far before they are ready for sexual encounters. Keith illustrates this with the evolution of the Barbie doll. He presents images of the earlier dolls with apparel representing different career paths (teachers, nurses and secretaries) along side the beach and play outfits. Today, Mattel's Barbie, in competition with Hasbros Bratz dolls, comes dressed in lacy lingerie. Keith contrast the with music and movies which show truly empowered women, such as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies and Pink's song Stupid Girls. Emma Watson the actress who portrays Hermione is now attending Brown University and Pink includes lyrics like those in Stupid Girls: 'The world believes it [girls acting stupid to attract boys] and I'm going crazy. I cannot take any more. I'm so glad that I'll never fit in that will never be me. Outcasts and girls with ambition, that's what I wanna see."
Keith ends his film with the message that we need to counter-act the power of the media and make an intense effort to be role models for both our boys and girls. He feels the media has made a few attempts at portraying positive young men and women, but most have been drowned out by the messages of sex and power. Like Katz, Kilbourne and Keith, I believe that a grass-root evolution needs to take place. Parents, teaches, advertising executives, Hollywood moguls and music producers need to act responsibly; they need to remember you reap what you sow.
Keith, Thomas. 2008. Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP1ACIUHhp4&feature=related, parts 1-9.
Keith, Thomas. 2008. GENERATION M: Misogyny in Media & Culture. Available at http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=234&template=PDGCommTemplates/HTN/Item_Preview.html
Kilbourne, Jean. Date unknown. Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising's Image of Women. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zudgbjFvvo&feature=related
Moore, Alecia Beth (AKA Pink). 2006. Stupid Girls. Lyrics available at www.lyricstop.com/s/stupidgirls-pink.html. Music available at iTunes.com.