About This Blog

We have become absolutely immune to advertising in this day and age; it has become so common that we don’t even pay attention to how many advertisements we’re presented each day. Oftentimes I hear people say things like “oh it’s just an advertisement, no one takes those seriously.” And it makes sense that we would think these things. Advertisements are just those pesky things that we can’t seem to get rid of. We would if we could, we don’t care about them at all, so there’s no way that we pay any real attention to them now, right? As much as we want to deny it, these images DO have an impact on us. We internalize them much more than we think that we do. The average United States resident is exposed to 5,000 advertisements each day and a study in 1992 found that 1 out of every 3.8 of these advertisements sends some kind of “attractiveness message,” commenting on what is or is not beautiful.

These images we’re shown don’t really do a great job of reflecting reality. But they’re presented as if they do. I feel like so many of my friends, family, and those around me see an advertisement for a beauty product and think “I wish I looked like that” rather than “it’s not possible to look like that.” Even though we now know how prevalent photoshopping is, we know that companies don’t use any size diversity, we know that they sexualize and objectify women’s bodies. But so many of us still continue to glance at these advertisements and wish that we had the same pore-free skin. We still continue to not think twice when we see thousands of images per day and barely any of them qualify as being anything larger than a size 6. Many of us have come to accept that our bodies might not ever look like theirs, that some bodies are just built to be larger, but we still don’t see images in advertising that accurately reflect the diversity that is so present in real life. So many of us still see those images and wish that we COULD look like them.

Because even beyond the fact that we physically cannot look like these images is something deeper. We’ve internalized the message that these images represent standards of beauty, that there is a divide between “pretty enough” and “not pretty enough” and that we are not enough the way that we naturally are, no matter what that looks like. We should love our bodies and appreciate them absolutely regardless of what they look like, what their fitness level is, whether or not they meet current expectations of what is “attractive.” We should take care of our bodies for the purpose of taking care of them, not for the purpose of looking a certain way. And advertisements aren’t helping us to do that. They’re trying to make us feel bad about our bodies so we’ll buy their product or service.

In this blog I’ve taken advertisements out of various magazines and written the “critiques” that come to my mind when I see them. That doesn’t mean I’m always going to be right. There will be things that I say that people disagree with. The idea here is just to get people thinking about some different ways to become more media literate. To show people some of the thought processes involved with critiquing advertising. To encourage people to question those 5000 advertising messages they see each day.

I’m primarily focusing on the way that women’s bodies are presented in advertising, and how that can impact the way people feel about themselves, the way they present themselves, the way they feel about the people around them, and the greater impact this has on equality and self-esteem. By no means does this mean that men are excluded from these unfair standards of beauty. So many of these images portray different but equally unrealistic expectations for men to conform to, and many of them suffer from the same feelings towards their bodies as many women do. Because of this, I will frequently include images that don’t specifically relate to female body image. Gender stereotyping, male standards of beauty and issues of race and sexuality are also things that I am extremely interested in. That being said, don’t let your critique of advertising extend to only these issues. Rather, consciously take a look at every advertisement that you see, look at the messages sent by every advertisement, not just those featuring women’s bodies. Branch out even farther. Take a look at every piece of media you see. Challenge the things that we have normalized and are shown every day.

Maybe advertisers won’t ever stop showing us these images. But maybe they will. Either way, learning to critically view these advertisements can only help. Perhaps everyone will begin to question them and then companies will be compelled to change their policies. Perhaps, they won’t. But at least people will have the skills necessary to view the advertisements we can’t avoid while also keeping their self-esteem and body image intact.

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