The Controversy of the Manipulation of Advertising
Is advertising manipulative; can it be controlling, or is it fueling the demand of the American economy? The exhaustive battle of what advertising is and what it’s not is never-ending and both ends of the spectrum can only battle with statistics, words, and opinions on the fact of the matter. Many arguments have arisen since the establishment of the advertising industry and everyone sheds their own light on the subject. In “Beauty and the Beast of Advertising,” Jean Kilbourne argues that the advertising industry portrayal of women is narrow-minded and produces emotional and psychological problems within women in regards with their roles in society, their physical appearance, and sexual attitudes. She also emphasizes how the world of advertising creates artificiality among women. On another note, the author of “What Advertisement Isn’t,” John O’Toole, takes a look at how the government has too much control of and poorly regulates advertising, how it is not deceptive on a subconscious level, and how advertising is a sales tool and should not be evaluated by journalistic or any other standards. These two arguments talk about issues in advertising that interconnect on broader levels but essentially are speaking of two different levels of advertisements.
Kilbourne looks at advertising as a guideline that women of today abide by. She argues that women in advertisements are portrayed as a sex object or a housewife. She goes on to say how the advertising housewife is “obsessed with cleanliness and lemon fresh scents”(238). She also states that the sex object “is a mannequin, a shell”(238). Her physical appearance is the only beauty about her. This “conventional beauty” is what all advertisement women are conformed to. Women of today are constantly bombarded with this ideal and feel they have to live up to the norm, and if they don’t then they are undesirable then feel guilty about it.
According to Kilbourne advertising creates artificiality in the sense that “beauty comes from without”(238). She supports her argument by stating, “more than one million dollars is spent every hour on cosmetics”(238). She said woman are conditioned to fit this false ideal and are going as far as altering body parts to reach the unreachable norm. She further supports her argument by stating more facts, stats, and surveys. Kilbourne complains that women are “dismembered in commercials, separated into body parts in need of change or improvement”(239). She reiterates that it is to reach this level of beauty and is not viable to maintain.
Kilbourne’s last point is that advertising influences sexual attitudes. She points out that “advertising’s approach to sex is pornographic: it reduces people to objects and de-emphasizes human contact and individuality”(239). She argues that the commercial women today are portrayed as independent hardworking women that can do it all. On the contrary she...