Monday 28 March 2011


  • to analyse how advertising exploits people and stereotypes women, converting them into objects of beauty and sexual pleasure, dehumanising them; and in doing so, contributing to violence.
  • to reflect on advertising manipulation, on how it affects our decisions, concepts of beauty, self-esteem, values and human relationships.
  • to raise awareness of the major role ads play in our acceptance of pornography as something natural.
  • to think of how to respond to this aggression.

Suggestion: The following class, we can talk about one woman who has struggled for freedom, justice, etc. - See Inspiring Women Label - and we can do some activity (reading-comprehension; listening; discourse analysis;…) with this material. Later, we can use questions to lead students to see that what we really admire in people is not their physical appearance but their moral integrity, their values and their principles.

I.                              Introduction

How do we look at ourselves?
The advertising industry exploits people, especially women as objects of beauty and sexual pleasure, used to sell products to both men and women (i.e. cars, beer, cosmetics -- you name it). It also affects the image we have of ourselves and others. In addition, objectification and trivialisation of sexuality contributes to violence.

II.                          About Advertising

Did you know the average Spanish child watches 30 hours of TV a week?Advertising is an industry that makes billions of Euros a year. So, it is a powerful educational force in our culture. The current emphasis on beauty and sexual pleasure is one of the clearest examples of the power of advertising to influence culture standards.

III.                       The "ideal" body

Did you know less than 5% of European women approximate the ideal stereotype of beauty?
You may think your body is not normal, not perfect. However, the "ideal" body is abnormal for women. Moreover, unobtainable!!!... but poor body image sells a lot of products, and so many corporations profit.

You can use the following video as a lead-in to the discussion

Questions for Students: 
Before watching the video.

  1. How do you decide how you should look?
  2. Who or what influences your ideas about how you should look?
“It is hard to be sure I am being true to myself all the time. I think sometimes, ‘Do I try to look nice because I want to? Or is it because I feel I have to?’ I don’t know how I make the decision about what looking nice is, or whether I do look good or not....,” a teenager’s comment.

  1. How do you know whether you are dressing a certain way or acting a certain way because you want to and you are being true to yourself, or whether you are reacting to all of the messages that surround you?
  2. Which media do you think have the most influence on you? In what ways? Which have the least?
  3. In what ways can you recognize negative media influences in your life?

IV.          Watch “Killing Us Softly

After watching the video:

Pornography is against human beings’ dignity. It produces and sustains notions of femininity and masculinity that perpetuate violence against women.

Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry, which also controls the lives of the women used and in the business of prostitution. It is important to examine how women from developing countries and teenagers are increasingly being exploited and abused by a global sex industry.

The pornographic codes and conventions filter down to the image of women, especially in advertising. This means that we are often viewing pornographic images without consciously recognizing it.

Look at the advertisements of women and explore how these images construct particular notions and stereotypes.

Questions for Students:

  1. Look at facial expressions, body poses, the point of view of the camera and the story encoded in the images.
  2. Develop a list of the themes that run through the ads.
  3. What impact may this have on our acceptance of pornography as mainstream media?
  4. What could be the long and short-term effects of this?
  5. Compare the images of women and men in the ads. Explore how the images differ in terms of the messages of what constitutes the “perfect female” and the “perfect male”
  6. What do they say about what it means to be feminine and masculine in our culture?
Critical thinking:

  1. (FOR GIRLS) How do you see yourself and others, and how do you think others see you? How does advertising affect how you see boys?
  2. (FOR BOYS) How do you see yourself and others, and how do you think others see you? How does advertising affect how you see girls?
  3. Have you ever resisted and/or reacted against advertising? If so, in what ways have you done it? If not, how could you?
Some Suggestions of How to Resist and React against Advertising Manipulation

  1. Take ads seriously. Consciously choose to accept or reject the message.
  2. Discuss this with friends -- get some magazines out and analyse them together.
  3. Exercise your consumer power. Boycott products whose advertising you find offensive.
  4. Write letters to magazine editors and advertisers to let them know you are offended by their ads. This can make a difference if enough people do it and it is personally empowering.
  5. Scandinavian countries do not permit commercial sponsorship of children's programs. Sweden and Norway do not permit any television advertising directed to children under 12 and no advertisements are allowed during children's programming. What measures can be claimed to be taken in your country?

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