Represented in the Media

I have decided to investigate how women are represented in the media. I particularly chose the advertising area of the media because although I feel that women have striven for equality in all other areas of the media, that advertising is the last arena womankind have to conquer. In the advertising world women are still treated like ‘sex objects’. They are still portrayed as being ‘the little housewife’.

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The woman who does all the housework, food shopping, and caring for the kids, but still manages to get her husband’s dinner on the table when he comes home from work without having a hair out of place, or having to reapply her lipstick! I want to discover just how patronising these adverts are to women, and if there are any exceptions to the male chauvinistic attitudes seen in modern advertisements. Also, I wish to determine if there is a difference in the way women are used to advertise different products, e.g. men’s aftershave and cars compared to household cleaning products. I think it will be interesting to discover the difference in the way women are portrayed in different advertisements, aimed at different demographic groups. I will do this by collecting and studying newspaper, magazine and television advertisements.

Methodology In my investigation I will use mostly secondary information, and content analysis of advertisements, as I will not be able to use participant or nonparticipant observation, as I cannot watch adverts being made. It would also be impractical for me to try to find out the psychology behind the making of the adverts. This is a pity, because finding out how aware the advertisers are that they are creating these stereotypes would be very interesting.

As well as this, questionnaires or interviews would be of no use, as the public can only tell me their opinions, and I need facts to draw my conclusions from. Case studies would also be of no use, as I am working with facts to produce my results, not people’s lives or opinions. I will use similar investigations in my analysis anyway, to compare and contrast my study with others like it. The problem with secondary information is that articles, papers and books on this subject tend to be written from a certain point of view, and so I will have to ensure I remain unbiased by the author’s viewpoint if I am to look at the subject objectively.

Alternatively, I could use articles which put both sides of the argument forwards. I will use mostly text books and the Internet to find examples of past studies and theories, and I will look at TV, magazine and newspaper ads. I have decided to analyse the content of these adverts, which means I will examine the adverts, and count how many times a stereotypical image occurs, and whom the product is made by, what the product is, and which demographic group it is aimed at. This is the most suitable method of collecting results for my investigation. I will recognise that the only purpose of adverts is to sell, and that they are often biased, depending on what they are trying to sell and who they are trying to sell it to. To make sure I get a fair overall view of advertising to analyse, I will use adverts from both prime time and daytime TV, and I will ensure I use advertisements from a wide selection of magazines and newspapers so that all areas of the media are represented.

I will record adverts from TV, for 60 minutes per channel which features advertising ( channels 3, 4 and 5), It is necessary to record 60 minutes to ensure I record advertisements, and not just programmes. This will mean I end up with 180 minutes of TV analysed in my table, 90 daytime, and 90 prime time. I will use one copy of each magazine, as using a dated copy would give me unreliable results. I will use three magazines, ‘Cosmopolitan’, aimed at young professional women ( aged 20 – 30) and ‘FHM’ which is aimed at young professional males, (also aged 20 – 30). I will also look at ‘Woman’s Weekly’ which is aimed at older women, mainly housewives, (aged 30+).

I have chosen to use three newspapers, as with the magazines, I saw the importance of using recent copies of each newspaper, and so to ensure reliability I will buy each newspaper on the same day. I will use a copy of ‘The Sun’, ‘The Times’ and ‘The Daily Mail’, because I want to cover all areas of the newspapers, I will use ‘The Sun’ to represent the tabloids, for the broadsheets ‘The Times’ and ‘The Daily Mail’ which is approximately half way between the two.