Gender Advertising

Hi all, sorry for the delay in posting this, I was at an event all weekend.

Goffman talks about how advertisers use their advertisements to depict the “behavioral representations of our cultural assumptions about the nature of the sexes.” He also speaks about how these representations and expressions depict an “ideal conception of the two sexes and their structural relationship to each other, accomplishing this in part by indicating, again ideally, the alignment of the actor in the social situation.”

Goffman also talks about how commercial photographs involve performed poses that are presented in a style of being “only natural.” Are there any commercial photographs that you believe have poses and situations that are portrayed as “natural” but you have not experienced in your life? Are there any advertisements that you believe accurately depict “natural”  gender expressions? How do you think advertisements target transgender people with these idealistic representations of gender?


4 thoughts on “Gender Advertising

    I think that this JCP series is fairly natural because it captures family moments that could happen at any moment in time and not everyone is looking at the camera. The one with the two moms shows the moms’ affection for each other as they would at any family event, and their daughter is distracted and looking elsewhere like many young kids do when asked to take a picture. I can’t really relate to this because I am a heterosexual woman, but I know that scenes like this happen in real life.

    As for the accurately depicted gender expressions, I think that the JCP ad with the two dads accurately depicts natural gender expressions because it shows to men playing with their children as they would in every day life. The ad doesn’t characterize either of the dads as “feminine” and it just shows them enjoying their time with their kids.

    While I think that the ads in Gofflman’s work fail to target transgender people because they were not seen as a large audience at the time, I think that there is a move being made now-a-days to target a more diverse audience. The picture in which the mom paints her son’s nails in the J.C. Penny series depicts a possible transgender child with his mom doing something natural and ordinary. These ads are still quite rare today, but I think that we will continue to see more like them.

  2. I think a great example of “only natural” or “candid” advertising comes from athletic brands. Companies such as Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour always have print ads which show off various athletes competing in their respective sport. A great example of this can be found in the old Air Jordan ads that Nike ran: Despite the fact that I have never played some of these sports, I can tell they’re natural because I’ve watched those same athletes compete on television or in real life.

    I think it’s rather difficult to target transgender people because of these so called natural gender expressions. Theoretically speaking a transgender woman and a woman are one and the same because that is the gender they identify with. As a result their natural expressions are technically identical. So unless you make an obvious point to highlight their gender (like a man or masculine-looking person acting feminine), it is hard to create an ad specifically tailored towards transgendered people.

    But then this in and of itself creates another issue. Is one’s natural expression even tied to one’s gender? If not how do you even tailor ads towards transgender people. In the modern age should ads attempt to tailor their messages towards specific genders at all?

  3. “Are there any advertisements that you believe accurately depict “natural” gender expressions?”

    When thinking about this question you’ve proposed, what comes to mind is how can we actually consider an advertisement to depict “natural” gender expressions? Goffman discussed how advertisements sometimes play into gender stereotypes or norms, but if we’ve placed constraints on gender, can this be considered natural? I feel like a characteristic of something being natural is that it has to be instinctive, without thought. Are our gender expressions therefore unnatural? Or is it because our gender expressions stem back to our animalistic tendencies make the expression of gender natural? I can’t really decide on how I feel about it, if you all have some thoughts…

    In regards to you question ,”How do you think advertisements target transgender people with these idealistic representations of gender?”, it seems that the representation of transgender people is becoming more normalized, but it is still a minority ideology overall in America. I think the media’s best strategy in representing transgender people and breaking gender restrictions is by proposing this message in controversial areas where the topic will gain a lot of circulation and discussion.

    An example of this can be seen in this article I found about a Transgender Ad campaign being presented during Trump’s GOP Nomination. Obviously, Trump’s acceptance is going to stir a large audience. His controversial ideals and his rejection of a truthfully all-inclusive America sort of aid in the impact that this transgender message can have on the audience who supports total gender equality.

    Check out the article and the commercial campaign:

    This seems like an effective way to appeal to transgender people. I think another strategy that advertisers use might be to make their characters more sexually ambiguous. Yet at the same time, will those who classify as males and those who classify as females actually relate to a sexually ambiguous character?

  4. In terms of figuring out what’s really a “natural” expression of gender, related to advertisements or not, the conclusion of Goffman’s book helped guide my thoughts: he says that advertisers, “do not create the ritualized expressions they employ” but rather “hyper-ritualize” these expressions. I disagree with this, at least as a cut and dry fact. Most advertisements depicting femininity and masculinity could not be further from actual or even exaggerated events I’ve been a part of. There are a few ways I’ve seen gender be performed in a “natural” way, such as manspreading on the subway or women smiling coyly and flipping their hair while flirting. But these performances of femininity and masculinity seem to have been widely dispersed by advertisements, movies, television, and other forms of media, rather than vice versa. I could see ads about period products accurately depicting “natural” gender expressions (noting that not all women experience periods and not all people who do experience periods are women) because they often attempt to display natural side effects of PMS and periods, like bloating, cramping, etc. But again, I’m not sure how much of that has to do with gender.

    For your second question, I looked to modern advertisements depicting transgender people. For instance, one Hillary Clinton advertisement video had a segment with Laverne Cox. In the segment, Laverne is depicted as traditionally feminine, with a full face of makeup and long blonde hair. It’s difficult to say how advertisers target transgender people, since there are relatively few examples of this. There are androgynous models, sure, but I’d agree with Allen’s point that maybe it’s about time advertisers forego these traditional gender expressions in lieu of allowing models to express their gender in whatever way they feel comfortable. This might lead to pretty similar patterns, because of the other media that surrounds us constantly, or something we never would have imagined.

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