Women of Color and Advertisement Stereotyping Term Paper

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Stereotyping of Women of Color in Contemporary Television Advertisements

This paper presents a detailed examination of the way television commercials portray women of color. The writer explores past and present issues that media entertainment has had with minority women and details the current trends and attitudes in television advertising. There were 20 sources used to complete this paper.

Stereotypes of Women of Color in TV Ads

Since the 1960's the civil rights movements have worked to equalize the playing field for everyone in America. Whole the constitution of the nation claims all men are created equal the fact has remained that minorities have suffered racism and indignities in many life areas. One of the areas that minorities have been portrayed differently than non-minorities has been the area of entertainment. Television has been a recreational tool for Americans for about six decades and during that time minorities have been portrayed in ways that reflected society's mind set. Today, current portrayals of minorities, specifically women of color make an interesting study in societal views. Women of color in television advertisements used to be portrayed differently than they are today. Today they are shown to be strong, forward thinking and forward moving individuals, yet usually only as mothers or wives. They are rarely portrayed in a position of power.

How minority women are portrayed in television advertisements is important because mass media has always driven consumer behavior and attitude. Consumer training through the use of advertising is not a new concept, therefore the way those in the ads are portrayed becomes central to the attitude society adopts outside of purchasing products or services.

In one study of consumers, the study revealed that the treatment and portrayal of black females has improved simply by the numbers in the past decade. It used to be that minorities were never represented in commercials, and minority females were even scarcer.

Recently there have been shifts in attitude and women in general including minority females have been given parts in commercials that remove the former stereotypical attitude that used to dominate society.

This holds true whether the consumers are children or adults.

Television is America's past time. It is used for recreation, escape, information and entertainment. Television often reflects real life, and the advertisements play into the entire mindset that real life and television go hand in hand. Advertisements on television are use to sway viewers. Viewers see the ads and the marketing departments hope that the viewer either decides to buy, support, think or do the action or item that the commercial is pushing. For many years television commercials used white males and females almost exclusively. The products or services being sold were universally needed, but the commercials only used white Anglo Saxon actors in them. It was so common that it was accepted as normal for television, until recently when more minority women began getting used in them.

Excluding minority women from television commercials does more than influence the product buyers that only whites use the product. It shows the nation once again that minority women are treated like second class citizens. It supports the psychological understanding that they are not as important or as capable as white women are.

The shift from using no minority women at all to using them and portraying them as capable strong females helps society change its attitude about the women as well.

One study found that consumers believed minority women are not adequately represented in television commercials and that it created the belief that they are not viewed as important or part of society.

Such advertising may also negatively affect the consumer socialization process being engaged in by minority consumers, especially young minority consumers, because they may feel they are not valued as potential customers in the U.S. marketplace (Subervi-Velez and Colsant 1993). With the growing buying power among ethnic minorities as well as young consumers of all ethnic backgrounds, fair representation of minorities in all marketing communications is not only necessary to marketers who look for new markets, but also valuable to ethnic consumers who learn to be consumers in the U.S."

One of the problems has been the lack of study about female minorities in television commercials. There has been very little study conducted and what has been has had conflicting results.

In an extensive content analysis of weekend and weekday afternoon commercials in children's programming, Barcus (1977) found that Caucasians appeared in 89% of the weekend commercials and in 96% of weekday commercials. About 7% of weekend and 3% of weekday commercials included Blacks, although they represented more than 11% of the population at that time. The study also found that Blacks appeared mainly in snack commercials and were portrayed primarily as children and teens rather than as adults. According to this study, other minorities (i.e., Hispanics or Asian-Americans) were virtually nonexistent in children's television commercials. Another content analysis of Saturday morning advertisements suggested that overall minority representation may be lower than the proportion of minorities of the actual population, and that minorities may be underrepresented in ads for certain product categories (Atkin and Heald 1977)."

In a study of what type of commercials minorities including minority females are used in it was found they are used in snack and food ads more than any other type of advertisement.

Minorities were seen more frequently in food advertisements, with 28% of food ads showing minorities with Caucasians and 3% of the food ads showing minorities alone. Because the study focused on variables other than models' ethnicity (e.g., product information), it did not specify which minority groups were present."

Another study found that minority women were most often associated with low cost or low end products and rarely used in the high end products. One example is the commercials for cars. ABC and NBC have both run commercials for Lexus and Hyundai. The minority women are used more often in the lower cost car than in the Lexus commercials, which almost always uses white models in the commercials.

Other studies have found that there is a stigma about non-white women and what they are associated with mentally.

When men are specified as white, they are still portrayed as leaders, powerful, active, independent, self-assured, innovative, and decisive. They either have no particular occupational associations, are connected to the forces of law and order (police, soldiers), or are part of the upper class (Kervin 1990). Not much is said about their bodily hygiene, which probably means that they constitute the norm. With regard to sexuality, again not much is said, apart from their being "studs" (Smith 1976; Kervin 1990).

White women, on the other hand, are ladies, victims, gentle, unoriginal, illogical, confused, inept, conformist, nurturant, and shrewish. They give up easily (Sharply-Whiting 1995; Levy 1990). Although emotional, they are expected not to show anger. They smile, flatter, and use feminine wiles. White women differ by class: middle-class women are "nice;" lower-class women are not (Levy 1990; Landrine 1985). Occupations include actress, prostitute, teacher, nurse, secretary, and family roles (mother, wife) (Levy 1990; Council on Interracial Books for Children 1980)."

Conversely black or Hispanic women are still thought of as loud, wild and incapable of refinery.

Blacks generally are associated with jungles; thus, they are savage, loud. quick-tempered, violent, and aggressive (Dubin 1987; Bogle 1989). They are also child-like, foolish, incompetent, and ostentatious (Wood and Chesser 1994; Hacker 1951). They are servants, entertainers, and athletes (Bogle 1989; Wood and Chesser 1994). They are comic-looking, with rolling eyes and a shuffling gait (Dubin 1987; Council on Interracial Books for Children 1980). To be sure, many of these portrayals come from earlier periods, but they are not entirely gone from popular culture, as protests over the Jar-Jar figure in Star Wars II demonstrate. Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima still decorate food containers, and blacks are found in comedy programs on television more than in any other kind of program (Nardi 1994)."

According to the study women of color are presented as loud and effective in several aspects of life. This leaves them looking inferior to white me. Television commercials portray women of color in roles as mothers, sisters or daughters more than businesswomen, or women in power.

Signoirielli, Nancy. Aging on television: messages relating to gender, race, and occupation in prime time. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media; 6/1/2004.)

While minority females are getting more parts on television shows and prime time spots, the advertising world was slow to catch up. The advertising world recently began to shift to portraying minority women as capable and more than just moms and sisters, but even today there is a mindset that keeps them in that spot during commercials.

All three of the major networks are guilty of portraying minority women in secondary roles. They have commercials that portray them as wives but rarely are they portrayed as business women or smart women. One commercial about soup has the black mom providing lunch for her child. She is portrayed as a warm and loving mother, but…

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