They are used to sell food. They are used to promote cars. They are used to create fashion hype. What am I talking about? Women’s bodies in advertisement. There’s no question that sex sells, but at what cost?
A new campaign called #WomenNotObjects is criticizing the ad industry for its constant objectification of women. The video comes from an all-women advertising company called Badger & Winters, and their goal is to reframe the messages sent to girls and women that can have a permanent psychological effect. They highlight specific ads while women sarcastically comment on these ridiculous, yet harmful, depictions.
Media constantly reminds us what is “sexy” in society, and how women should maintain the perfect body and beauty ideals that simply aren’t realistic. We fail to forget the endless amounts of photo manipulation put into advertisements, but still strive for this supposed “perfection,” resulting in self-esteem and self-confidence issues. When women’s bodies don’t live up to advertising standards, they are easily dismissed. Additionally, these ads leave very little to the imagination, and could otherwise be considered soft pornography. It’s evident that behind the fragrance bottle or tiny bit of clothing lies a scandalous body part. This commodification narrative tells us that women shouldn’t be seen as living, breathing human beings, but as products.
Objectification unveils another major issue. Since we only view women’s bodies in a sexual sense, it immediately comes as a shock to see their biological, primary use. Breastfeeding mothers, for example, are continuously scrutinized for “indecent” public exposure. The criticism doesn’t solely come from men. Some women also seem to find the idea perplexing. Actress Alyssa Milano appeared on the Wendy Williams show, defending her right to publicly breastfeed her baby. Williams disagreed, arguing that breasts should be referred to as “fun bags,” and only represented for sexual purposes. Milano reminded her that this is exactly how society has over-sexualized the female body. While public breastfeeding is certainly one’s own choice to make, it was interesting to see how one woman could shame another for an entirely natural act.
Will these forward thinking movements change how advertising agencies and PR representatives function? Maybe so, and campaigns like #WomenNotObjects are a good start. They’re shifting the conversation by stating that this ideology has a negative impact. This way of thinking affects how men view women and how women choose to see themselves. Conscious advertisements should empower people, not demoralize them. Posters like this one from Burger King have been pulled in the past due to public outrage. If an audience makes it overwhelmingly clear that hypersexualization and distasteful advertisements are undesirable, then agencies should follow suit.