Friday, March 11, 2016

The Portrayal of Women in American Society

American society has made significant progress concerning gender equality. We have come a long way since the solely domestic stigma that was forced upon women; but gender equality is still a pressing issue. Women are still objectified and seen as inferiors to men. John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing sums up the representation of women in Western culture. He states,"Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object—and most particularly an object of vision: a sight." Based on Berger's thoughts, men possess total power and dominance over women in American society, women act and think accordingly to a man's recognition of them. Women are portrayed in the media as just assets of men. The objectification of women has perpetuated stereotypes along with rape culture and this embodiment has developed into a norm in American culture.

Women are perceived as commodities in Western advertisements. In this Gucci ad, the woman featured is shown lying down provocatively across the man's lap, while he is positioned in a "power pose" with his hand on the woman's body. This ad perfectly summarizes the way women are portrayed in today's culture. The ideology that woman are just tools controlled by and for men is perpetuating rape culture by showing that it is acceptable and normal for men to have power and superiority over women.  Woman are merely accessories to men, never independent beings. Advertisements, like this one shown, are never challenged, and if the the roles in this ad were reversed, it would look ridiculous to have a man in the hands of a woman. The dehumanizing nature of this ad is not questioned because of the "men act and women appear" mentality that has been ingrained into our society.

This advertisement for WAD magazine is in celebration of the company's 10th anniversary. It can be assumed from the ad that the company is going to commemorate their achievement with a "piece of ass." This advertisement emphasizes the woman's body, everything above the shoulders is cropped out, as to dehumanize her. This perpetuates the idea that women are men's property, further bolstering the horrible existence of rape culture. Again, "men act and woman appear," men are the ones who are celebrating their efforts while women are portrayed as the prizes.

On paper, it may seem that gender equality is prevailing in American society; women can vote, women attend college and grad school, and many women hold career positions that are equivalent to men. Yet, Western culture is plagued with gender inequality. Women are still advertised as objects and men portrayed as powerful and successful. There is so much more to be done on the topic of gender equality. In retrospect, American society has made progress, but it has yet to develop into a culture that values women just as much as men.


  1. I like how you stress the fact that women have made significant progress. I agree with this, however, I don't think that with ads like the ones you showed, women could ever really be equal with men. As long as women's bodies are used to advertise in ways that dehumanize women, women will not be able to be equal to men because they will be seen as weak.

  2. I liked how you incorporated the pictures you used into your argument. I also liked how you wrapped up your argument in the end. You acknowledged the fact that there might SEEM to be gender equality, but when you step back and look at the broader social picture, society is plagued with inequality. I believe in the last century women have become relatively more equal but at the same time inequality has grown through gender stereotypes. I agree that America has made progress towards equality but it needs to continue on that path and not move backwards to inequality.