Changing Attitudes Towards the Objectification of Women in Advertising

The article titled, The Sexual Objectification Of Women In Advertising: A Contemporary Cultural Perspective, studies the attitudes of young women regarding sexually objectifying advertising. The journal combines results from two previous studies, the first from 1991 and the second from 2000, as well as a recent study conducted by the authors. For this study they took questions from the two previous surveys and received views from 94 female undergraduates. The results indicate the changing attitudes of young, educated women as the current survey showed that although the women agreed that females were portrayed as sex objects in advertising they were far less offended by this objectification than female respondents in 1991. Current results also show that the females’ attitude towards the advertisement have little to no affect on their purchase attention — this also contradicted the attitudes of women in 1991.

The study is written by Amanda Zimmerman and John Dahlberg. Zimmerman is a graduate of Canisius College and former director of communications whose research focuses on social effects of advertising, the role of women in advertising, media effects on society, and education. Dahlberg is a professor in the Communication Studies Department at Canisus College who studies mostly advertising effects, advertising and emerging technologies, and the creative process. The audience for this text would mostly be people who value feminism and are interested in the line between the objectification of women and sexual freedom receive in different media mediums.

The methodology used was to collect studies done over time asking similar research questions. The authors included a 1991 survey conducted by Ford, LaTour and Lundstrom and a 2000 survey conducted by Mittal and Laasar. They then compiled questions based on these two surveys and interviewed 94 female undergraduates from Canisius college.

Results show the difference between women in the early 90’s and women today. In the 1991 survey it was discovered that women were offended by the way they were portrayed sexually and it would affect the chances of them purchasing the product. In the article Zimmerman and Dahlberg discuss that the attitudes of women today have changed largely due to the changes in feminism. The new feminism, often described as third-wave feminism encourages women to brace their sexuality, viewing sex as power rather than something to be discreet and modest about. In the article they discuss the view of Paglia (1992) who claims that a major reason men continue to represent women as sex objects is because they are attempting to regain power from the femme fatale.

Essentially the idea present in younger women today, especially a value that would be present in the college girls being surveyed, is that they have the power to do anything and it’s completely acceptable to look hot while doing it. Contemporary women, while still aware of the objectification present in advertising, choose to be unfazed by the negative connotations, rather choosing to develop their own opinions on how women are portrayed.

The article uses a mix of both qualitative and quantitative data to identify how women’s attitudes to their portrayal in advertising has changed over time. Although the article is not organised by subheadings every few pages there is a quote taken from the text and enlarged to give an idea of what the authors are discussing in this section of writing. It is written formally from an academic perspective, giving well rounded views but mostly campaigning for female power.


ZIMMERMAN, A. and DAHLBERG, J., 2008. The Sexual Objectification of Women in Advertising: A Contemporary Cultural Perspective. J. Adv. Res., 48(1), p.71.

Ford, J., LaTour, M. and Lundstrom, W., 1991. Contemporary women′s evaluation of female role portrayals in advertising. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 8(1), pp.15-28.

Mittal, B. and Lassar, W., 2000. Journal of Business and Psychology, 15(1), pp.111-127.


One thought on “Changing Attitudes Towards the Objectification of Women in Advertising

  1. “The audience for this text would mostly be people who value feminism and are interested in the line between the objectification of women and sexual freedom receive in different media mediums.” That definitely describes me! This area of research is a particularly hot topic in 2015, as it should be. It is interesting to reflect upon the ways that women have chosen to own their sexual identities in recent years. Sexual representations of women are now more often than not viewed as a means of power, status and confidence rather than a means by which to shame and subjugate women. Your post has left me questioning whether this has come about as a result of changing social attitudes reflected in advertising, or a change in advertising reflected in social attitudes.

    I really enjoyed the way you broke down this article through analysis of both methodology of research, and results. Knowing the fields of expertise of the authors definitely adds to the validity of the article and its areas of research. You have chosen a very interesting concept and I look forward to reading your future blog posts!

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