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Fashion advertising, men's magazines, and sex in advertising :
b a critical-interpretive study
h [electronic resource] /
by Jennifer Ford.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 84 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: This study examines sexualized portrayals of women in fashion advertising found in metro-sexual men's magazines as visual rhetoric. Historically, studies on sexual images of women in advertising have focused on content analyses of these images and how they affect women. This study asks how sexualized imagery of women functions rhetorically as part of a branding message designed to sell products. The exemplar advertisements were chosen specifically for their sexual imagery from an earlier study by the researcher on sexual images of women in fashion advertisements found in men's magazines. The messages interpreted within the visuals of this study reveal a current slice of history in terms of gender and sexuality. In the case of this study the constructed "ideal" heteronormative view of gender, masculinity, femininity, and sexuality are what are for sale; they are the merchandise to be purchased. Women are present in the exemplar ads as an accessory to prove and support heterosexual masculinity through sex, as if to ward off any ideas that metro-sexual men may be anything but heterosexual. Though we cannot generalize beyond these five magazine ads, we can think of the exemplar ads as a small sample of contemporary culture. The narratives of these ads suggest that man continues to be the prevailing figure in terms of importance and power relative to woman, who is subordinate to man. This thesis supports prior research on women in advertising where men are more important than women, and the ads in this thesis continue to define masculinity and femininity in classic patriarchal and heterosexual terms. However, this thesis adds important critical-interpretative work through visual rhetorical analysis on advertising in men's metro-sexual magazines to a body of research that includes very little of such work.
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Advisor: Kim Golombisky
x Mass Communications
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Fashion Advertising, MenÂ’s Magazi nes, and Sex in Advertising: A Critical-Interpretive Study Jennifer Ford A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts School of Mass Communications College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Kim Golombisky, Ph.D. Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D. Kenneth Killebrew, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 28, 2008 Key Words: advertising, communicati on, gender, visual rhetoric, women Copyright 2008, Jennifer N. Ford
Dedication This project has truly been a journey. I would like to thank each person who has helped me achieve this signifi cant milestone; this paper also belongs to you. First I want to acknowledge my family (Mom, Dad, and Amber) for their endless love, encouragement, and understanding. To Tim, you have been a rock and a cheerleader; thank you for never letting me give up. In honor of my grandfather whom I lost during this process and in celebration of my grandmothers, you are all inspirations to me. To Kim, thank you so very much for pushing me beyond my own limits, always believing in me and leading me to success Â– you have been a mentor, friend, and inspiration. To Dr. Bell, Dr. Killebrew and the mass communications faculty, and others within the USF community, your excitement for knowledge set a fire inside of me. Thank you for passing on your passion. And, finally, to my peers, you have felt the growing pains just as I have; I could not have finished this journey without you to lean on. Thank you all again and again.
i Table of Contents Abstract iii Chapter One: Introduction 1 Chapter Two: Background 5 Chapter Three: Literature Review 8 Sex and Sexuality 9 MenÂ’s Magazines 11 Sex in Advertising 12 Stereotyping 15 Audience Interpretations 18 Chapter Four: Theoretical Framework 20 Visual Rhetoric 20 FossÂ’ Method 23 Chapter Five: Research Questions 25 Chapter Six: Methodology 26 The original study: Â“Fashion Faux Pas: Fashion Advertising, Sexy Women, and MenÂ’s MagazinesÂ” 26 The New Study 28 Chapter Seven: Analysis 33 The Visual Elements 34 Denotative and Connotative Meanings 43 Rhetorical Function 48 Chapter Eight: Discussion 54 Chapter Nine: Conclusion 64 References 73
ii Appendices 79 Appendix A: Banana Republic 80 Appendix B: Calvin Klein 81 Appendix C: David Yurman 82 Appendix D: Rockport 83 Appendix E: Sketchers 84
iii Fashion Advertising, MenÂ’s Magazines, and Sex in Advertising: A Critical-Interpretive Study Jennifer Ford ABSTRACT This study examines sexualized portrayals of women in fashion advertising found in metro-sexual menÂ’s magazines as visual rhetoric. Historically, studies on sexual images of women in advertisi ng have focused on content analyses of these images and how they affect women. This study asks how sexualized imagery of women functions rhetorically as part of a branding messa ge designed to sell products. The exemplar advertisements were chosen specifically for their sexual imagery from an earlier study by the researcher on sexual images of women in fashion advertisements found in menÂ’s magazines. The messages interpreted within the visuals of this study reveal a current slice of history in terms of gender and sexuality. In the case of this study the constructed Â“idealÂ” heteronormative view of gender, masculinity, femininity, and sexuality are what are for sale; they are the merchandise to be purchased. Women are present in the exemplar ads as an accessory to prove and support heterosexual ma sculinity through sex, as if to ward off any ideas that metro-sexual men ma y be anything but heterosexual. Though we cannot generalize beyond these five magazine ads, we can think of the exemplar ads as a small sample of contemporary culture. The narratives of these ads suggest that man continues to be the preva iling figure in terms of importance and power
iv relative to woman, who is subordinate to man. This thesis supports prior research on women in advertising where men are more important than women, and the ads in this thesis continue to define masculinity and femininity in classic patriarchal and heterosexual terms. However, this thesis adds important critical-interpretative work through visual rhetorical analysis on adver tising in menÂ’s metro-sexual magazines to a body of research that includes very little of such work.
1 Chapter One Introduction Fashion in the media, particularly in advertising, may communicate the roles men and women play in life, how they are to look, and who they are to be as people. Â“Fashion, clothing, and dress are signifying practices, th ey are ways of generating meanings, which produce and reproduce those cultural groups along with their positions of relative powerÂ” (Barnard, 2002, p. 38). Ewen and Ewen (1992) write, Â“The image, the commercial, reaches out to sell more than a service or product; it sells a way of understanding the worldÂ” (p. 24). They argue that visual comm unication, especially through advertising, creates a cultural language, which helps shape society. The way society views fashion, dress, and, therefore, fashion advertising, may contribute to social norms including how society views class, gender, sex, and sexuality. Fashion and clothing often portray who we ar e or who we desire to be, whether it is through brands, styles, or other adornments. Dress helps define social roles, and how fashion is advertised and sold is important in signifying the meaning behind the roles portrayed in the advertisements, especially gender roles. It is important to investigate message s in fashion advertising found in menÂ’s magazines to discover how the images work as persuasion regarding class, sexuality, gender, and, specifically, how women are bei ng portrayed to men as consumers. This
2 advertising genre is also significant because fashion, and thus fashion advertising, may play a role in determining cultural views of class, women, gender, sex, and sexuality. As Thompson (2000) writes: Advertisements showcase attitudes and ideas; the corresponding power to influence is formidable because advertising can also change values, such as those surrounding the display and meaning of the body. Nowhere is the potency of advertising more evident than in the arena of selling clothing and appearancerelated commodities. (p. 178) This study examines sexualized portrayals of women in fashion advertising found in menÂ’s magazines. While conventional advertising prac tice increasingly depends upon the aphorism that Â“sex sells,Â” conventional mass communications research approaches to advertising containing sexual ima gery have assumed that such images do affect audiences and such images portray inaccurate truths to audiences. This thesis, however, makes no claims about audience interpretations or media e ffects. Instead this thesis looks closely at the visual rhetoric of sexualized images of women used in fashion advertising in menÂ’s magazines to ask how sexualized imagery of wo men functions rhetorically as part of a branding message presumably designed to sell a product. By treating the visual communication in Â“sex sellsÂ” fashion ads in menÂ’s magazines as rhetoric, this study looks at how these images work to produce persuasion. Specifically, I use the present study to build on my previous research that looked into the portrayal of women in menÂ’s fashion a dvertising found in menÂ’s Â“metro-sexualÂ” magazines (Ford, 2006). The previous study found sexualized images of women to be a significant theme in fashion advertising targ eting young men as magazine readers. This
3 thesis looks closely at the visual rhetoric in five exemplar ads drawn from the earlier study. The five ads studied were selected as Â“worst offendersÂ” in terms of overt sexual content. The method of analysis adopts Mu llen and FisherÂ’s (2004) visual analysis process, which Mullen and Fisher adapted fro m FossÂ’ techniques for visual rhetorical analysis (Foss, 1994; Foss & Kaengieter, 1992). The visual rhetoric of th e exemplar ads suggests that for the intended viewers, men ages 22-35, an Â“idealÂ” masculine lifestyle is attainable through the purchase of certain brands, but not necessarily specific products. These featured idyllic lifestyles suggest that a Â“modelÂ” masculine standard of living is signified by possessions, leisure, travel, sex, and, essentially, wealth and l uxury. These characteristics are suggested by visuals of sexually aggressive women, moto rcycles, hotel rooms and luggage, jewelry, and outdoor adventure. Yet, without the presence of women in the ads, such a masculine lifestyle is not necessarily signifying a heterosexual masculinity. I argue that the ads in this study position women as interchangeable with the advertised fashion products, accoutrements to a heterosexual masculine fantasy lifestyle. I also argue that this representation of women as a heterosexual masculine accessory functions to prove heteronormative masculinity in both a magazi ne genre devoted to teaching young men to care about their physical a ppearance through consumpti on and a homophobic visual culture struggling to come to terms with the reality that looks can be deceiving when it comes to assumptions a bout sexual orientation. Below I first provide some background on the topic of women, advertising, and magazines. Second I position this thesis within the literature. Third I offer visual rhetoric as the framework for the study, before outlining my method. Next I analyze and then
4 discuss the five exemplars. Finally, I conc lude by discussing the studyÂ’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as direction for future work.
5 Chapter Two Background According to Williamson (1978), Â“people are made to identify themselves with what they consumeÂ” (p. 13). Thus, fashion can be considered a part of what we consume to create ourselves. Advertisements and their imagery have the ability to Â“show you a symbol of yourself aimed to attract your de sire; they suggest that you can become the person in the picture before youÂ” (p. 65). For more than 150 years, products in newspapers, magazine s, television, and other types of advertising have used women and sexuality as persuasive sales messaging (Reichert, 2003). During this 150-year history, magazines typically have set the tone for what the American woman is to be (Kitch, 1998). Through illustrations, short stories, advertisements, and other content, early magazines portrayed the Â“New WomanÂ” in her various roles as a housewife, an outdoor active girl, a Â“businessÂ” woman, and a social lady. At the turn of the 20th century, editors and marketers alike soon realized that women were the main audience for both general interest magazines and consumer product advertising and that began a profitable relations hip between magazine publishing and the advertising industry that focused on women (Kitch, 1998). One of the earliest and most successful of these magazines, the Ladies Home Journal, became a reference for many American women on how to act and dress, as well as what products to buy for their homes. The pages of the Journal Â“featured the latest
6 dresses, hairstyles, decorating, and, most of all, consumer productsÂ” (Kitch, 1998, p. 246). The magazine featured outdoor-wear co rsets that allowed women to obtain a Â“bicycle waistÂ” as Â“graceful as the New WomanÂ” and silk skirts that would be worn Â“by every lady who pays any claim to styleÂ” (p. 254). These advertisements did portray more freedom for the Â“New Woman,Â” but they also portrayed images of what was socially acceptable as far as womenÂ’s appearance and their social roles. Shields and Heinecken (2002) describe cha nging trends in U.S. idealizations of womenÂ’s bodies in fashion across the 20th century: the cinched-waist ideal of 1900, the flat-c hested and straight bodied flapper of the 1920s, the full-chested hourglass figure of the 1950s, the skinny waif of the 1970s, the muscular, tanned breast-implanted aerobicized body of the 1980s that continues today, albeit w ith smaller hair. (p. xii) These images, or trends, reveal the ways that culture idealizes women; these idealizations then become the standards by which wome n judge themselves and others. Such idealizations of womenÂ’s appearance also reflect a cultureÂ’s view of gender characteristics in political matters, the economy, and in the popular culture of the period. Gender roles and biases are created and idealized in magazines, as well as in television, movies, the internet, newspapers, and c ountless other formal and informal media channels and vehicles. Idealized notions of womenÂ’s bodies may become cultural ideals for sex appeal, even fetish. Beyond gender roles, it is important to look at the sexual roles women play in advertising, particularly fashion advertising, because sexual imagery of women is so pervasive.
7 Advertisements tell about our societyÂ’s current, past, and possibly future culture; they also suggest how individuals in our culture choose to represent themselves (Barnard, 2002). Society takes its cues and forms its culture from a variety of sources, and individuals strive to conform to the norms set by the culture. Media images may even help shape our fashions and sexual desires because what we see in the media often becomes what we consider Â“normalÂ” (Berger, 1991; Watson, 1998).
8 Chapter Three Literature Review The long history of women in advertising offers a reflection of cultural attitudes toward women. The advertising industry has l ong operated on the idea that Â“sex sells,Â” and with this idea has come the sexual objectification of womenÂ’s bodies in advertisements. However, research on the visual rhetoric of ads featuring these sexual images of women is limited to a few studies. Even less scholarship has focused specifically on fashion advertisements or on the newer menÂ’s magazines that cater to younger men as audiences than such magazinesÂ’ predecessors. On the topic of sex in magazine advertising, the research mainly has investigated womenÂ’s magazines, with some comparisons across other genres, such as general interest and menÂ’s magazines. Other research areas focus on the conven tions of sexualizing women in magazine advertising and the frequency with which this happens. These studies suggest that the sexualization of women in advertising is incr easing. Research on audience interpretations of sexual images of women in magazine advertising is quite limited. The following literature review organizes relevant scholarship topically by menÂ’s magazines, sex in advertising, stereotyping, and audience inte rpretations. First, however, I discuss the socially sanctioned forms of sex and sexua lity that permeate popular culture, including advertising.
9 Sex and Sexuality Definitions of normative gender roles and sexual practices not only define Â“abnormal,Â” Â“pathologic,Â” and Â“deviantÂ” gender roles and sexual practices, but also are always implicated in social power relati ons and the political economy. Although most Westerners tend to think of sex and heterosexual practice as a Â“naturalÂ” result of human biology, normative performances of se x and sexualityÂ—and thus what constitutes Â“normalÂ” gender roles, sexuality, and sexual practiceÂ—vary widely across history and cultures (Foucault, 1978; Rubin, 1984). Â“Sexual essentialismÂ” descri bes the belief that sex is an unchanging Â“natural force that exists prior to social lifeÂ” (Rubin, 1984, p. 275). In recent decades a growing literature across numbers of academic disciplines argues that human understandings, performances, and cultura l ideals of gender and sexual orientation do not pre-date the socio-cultural contexts in which they appear. Instead the sociocultural political context works to produce and constrain normative sex. Notions of acceptable gender, sexuality, and varieties of sexual practices, then, are not merely Â“essentialÂ” and Â“naturalÂ” biological ur ges (thereby by default determining the unacceptable and un-natural). Instead they are shaped and performed by material bodies within the particular historical periods, cu ltures, and social orders from which they emerge. Beyond the political consequences, this shift in thinking has important implications for social movements such as womenÂ’s, gay, lesb ian, bisexual, and transgender rights. Understanding sex as a fluid continuum of cultural phenomena implicated in social institutions and power stru ctures suggests that cultural manifestations of sex, such as visual representations of wo men in advertising, are available for critique.
10 The Western-European Christian tradition from which U.S. advertising developed, privileges monogamous heterose xual relations within marriage for reproductive purposes at the top of a hierarchy of sexual normalcy. For the most part, mainstream contemporary U.S. advertising has tended to endorse this approved form of sex. Even unmarried heterosexual relations in popular media tend to be monogamous if sometimes serially so. Unless the ads are featured in gay and lesbian media, Â“sex sellsÂ” content mainly has limited itself to a narrowly cons tructed and ideal heterosexua l lifestyle (Gauntlett, 2002). Additionally, this privile ged heterosexual cultural ideal depends upon a gender hierarchy in which men are superior to wome n; for example, the ideal suggests that men are more socially empowered and, ironically given the so-called Â“naturalÂ” state of marriage, men are encouraged to be more sexually active and experienced. On the other hand, prior to the wide availability of birth control and the second wave womenÂ’s movement of the Â‘60s and Â‘70s, ideali zations of women who were worthy of monogamous heterosexual commitment meant th ey had to be virginal prior to commitment and reluctantly sexually available afterwards; sexually available unmarried women, while necessary for masculine exploits, became unsuitable mates. After the second wave womenÂ’s movement, this cultural narrative adapted to include the sexually active woman, whether sexually active while still looking for a permanent mate or already committed. Indeed, one of the most persistent popular culture legacies of that period is the co-optation and recuperation of womenÂ’s social equality into a narrowed definition of womenÂ’s liberation as equivale nt to a heterosexual liberation in which women are eagerly and sexually available to men. It might be argued that Western 20th century heterosexual masculin ity has depended upon demonstr ating gender dominance in
11 a variety of ways, including sexual pr owess and conquest. Contemporary menÂ’s magazines offer a site for exploring how this cultural narrative fares at the beginning of the 21st century. MenÂ’s Magazines MenÂ’s magazines have grown in popularity over the last 10 years. Newcomers such as Maxim, FHM, Stuff and Details have joined the ranks of more established titles such as GQ (GentlemanÂ’s Quarterly) and Esquire According to the 17th Annual Magazine Top 300 by Advertising Age (September, 2006), menÂ’s magazines account for over $1 billion in annual total gross advertising revenue, and since 1999, Maxim alone has had a consistent circulation around 2. 5 million, easily surpassing most of its predecessors (Ives, 2006). This new era of me nÂ’s magazines reaches out to the Â“sexyÂ” man as a consumer. These magazines are not ashamed to focus on sex and sexuality, which, in turn, defines for readers what sex is for our culture (Krasses, Blauwkamp, & Wesselink, 2003). The newer menÂ’s magazines ha ve a fashionable Â“metro-sexualÂ” point of view. Metro-sexual is a fairly new term that refers to young men ages 22 to 35 who are known as Â“the sexy consumerÂ…versed in gadge try, clothing and cultureÂ” (Fine, 2005). The term Â“metro-sexualÂ” has become so mainstream that it now appears in the dictionary as: Â“a usually urban heterose xual male given to enhanci ng his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fa shionable clothesÂ” (Merriam-Webster, p. 1). MenÂ’s magazines often have sexy content not just in their advertising but also in their editorial content. Exploring the sexual rhetoric of the editorial photography in Maxim and Stuff, Krasses, Blauwkamp, and Wesselink (2003) concluded that the editorial
12 photography in both magazines Â“frame sex a nd sexual practice in limited ways that reinforce the objectification of women and privilege heterosexualityÂ” (p. 114). Maxim and Stuff have similar content and the same pub lisher, Dennis Publishing. The authors note that previous research has focused on genres such as womenÂ’s magazines and general interest magazines, but little research focuses specifically on this variety of magazines. They also note that in the pa st when menÂ’s magazines were included in studies, their inclusion was meant onl y as a comparison to other genres. Historically there appears to be a differe nce in the amount of sexual content in the advertising found in menÂ’s, womenÂ’s, and gene ral interest titles. Reichert and Carpenter (2004) looked at sex in advertising from 1983 to 2003, using magazine genres as variables. The trend, according to the study, is toward the sexual objectification of women, with an increase in the sexualization of women in menÂ’s magazine titles. Advertising showing nudity, suggestive dress, and intimate situations led the researchers to conclude that the women in the ads are increasingly represented as sex objects. The authors attribute part of this trend to a larg er trend in menÂ’s magazines that targets the young metro-sexual menÂ’s market. Sex in Advertising The combination of advertising and sex is powerful. Past studies have found that in magazine advertising women often are shown as objects of heterosexual masculine desire. These studies often group together analys es of the different magazine genres into one research study covering a small sample of each (Baker, 2005; MacKay & Covell, 1997; Reichert & Carpenter, 2004; Reichert, Lambiase, Morgan, Carstarphen, & Zavoina, 1999). Other studies look at advertising speci fically in womenÂ’s magazines (Courtney &
13 Lockeretz, 1971; Ewen & Ewen, 1992; Ford, LaTour, & Clarke, 2004; Kitch, 1998; Lambiase & Reichert, 2003; Lambiase & Reichert, unpublished manuscript; Lundstrum & Sciglimpaglia, 1977; Millum, 1975; Orth & Holancova, 2003; Reichert, 2003; Reichert & Carpenter, 2004; Shields & Heinecken, 2002; Wagner & Banos, 1973; Wolin, 2003). Finally, other studies have found that the majo rity of sexual content is found in womenÂ’s and menÂ’s magazines, rather than general interest magazines (Reichert et al., 1999; Reichert & Carpenter, 2004). Advertisers have used sex to sell products fr om cologne to cars. Sex is used to sell not only products but also opinions, trends, and stereotypes. In theory, sex in advertising is likely to attract attention, but it also gives sexual meaning to otherwise nonsexual products. Simply stated, conventional wisdom assumes that Â“sex sells,Â” but it seems to sell much more than products. It sells a new product meaning that Â“resonates with the consumers in a way that will make the cash register ringÂ” (Reichert, 2003, p. 42). These meanings may be implicit or explicit promises that the product will make the viewing consumer more sexually attractive and help one achieve oneÂ’s sexual desires. Whatever meanings the products accrue from being asso ciated with sexual imagery, such messages are most likely nothing more than fantasy. Similarly, MTV videos, for example, sell much more than CDs, according to Jhally (1990, 1995, 2007). As the ultimate Â“commercial,Â” Jhally argues that music videos sell young heterosexual men Â“dreamworldsÂ” of promises and fantasies about women and sex. He shows that women featured in these fantasy landscapes are represented as nymphomaniacs who are dependent on and subs ervient to men. The music video, or music advertisement, has been reduced to a mere template that Â“relies on a narrow set of
14 characters and plot linesÂ” (Earp & Gelssman, n.d., p. 1). Jhally (1990, 1995, 2007) believes that the dysfunctional portrayal of heterosexuality in music videos leads to a greater acceptance of these depictions as normal, including the tacit message that sexual violence against women is acceptable. Over ti me, the continued repetition of such visual messages reinforces not just gendered heterosexual stereotypes but also sexist attitudes towards women and heterosexua l relationships. It is no great leap from the formulaic depiction of heterosexual masculine dream wo rlds in music videos to the increasing sexualization of menÂ’s metro-sexual magazine content, since the target audience is the same for both: young adult men. Lambiase and ReichertÂ’s (2003) analysis of erotic rhetoric in advertising in menÂ’s and womenÂ’s magazines describes how persua sive messages are constructed visually. The researchers, however, take a different approach to content analysis by analyzing specifically chosen exemplars as visual rhetoric. The researchers purposely chose advertisements that contained visual sexual content unrelated to the productsÂ’ characteristics or the ways consumers use such products. The authors argue that such ads offer up meanings unavailable through tr aditional content analysis. Lambiase and Reichert note that this kind of visual rhetorical analysis is needed in mass communication scholarship, especially in advertising, in order to understand more systematically the messages behind the visuals, instead of just a headcount of the numbers of such images. Lambiase and ReichertÂ’s analysis of the vi sual rhetoric contained in their exemplars found that each Â“either implicitly or explicitly offers the promise of sexual benefitsÂ” (p. 253), even though none of the products could be construed as having any relationship to sex or sexual practice. While a progressive and promising research approach, Lambiase
15 and ReichertÂ’s work to date has not accounted for the sexual orientation of the audience or the idea that people may take pleasur e from seeing people of their own gender portrayed sexually. Stereotyping Sex sells more than just products, however Sex role portrayals in advertising can influence fashions, trends, ideas about class, notions of ideal bodies, and even stereotypes. As defined by Perse (2001), stereo types are Â“beliefs held and recognized by large groups of peopleÂ” (p. 172), and Tuchma n, Daniels, and Benet (1978) define sexrole stereotypes as: Set portrayals of sexappropriate appearance, interests, skills, behaviors, and selfperceptions. They are more stringent than guidelines in suggesting persons not conforming to the specified way of a ppearing, feeling, and behaving, are inadequate as males or females. (p. 5) Gender stereotyping in advertising generally refers to social roles for women; they usually are homemakers, sex objects, or depe ndent and insignificant adornments of men. A landmark study by Courtney and Lockeretz (1971) looked at sex-role portrayals of women in advertising during the last week in April 1970. The study found that four major gender stereotypes existed in the early 1970s advertising they studied. Using content analysis, the authors looked at 700 advertisem ents from eight general interest magazines that appealed to both men and women. The first stereotype found in the study suggested that womenÂ’s main role is as homemaker. Second, the study found that the advertisements assumed that women do not make important decisions. Third, most
16 advertisements made women a ppear dependent on men, and, fourth and most important to the present purpose, women were portrayed primarily as Â“sex objects,Â” which the researchers defined as the decorative-only role women tend to play. Women, the researchers argue, are used for looking at only and there is no interest in the women as people (Courtney & Lockeretz, 1971). Wagner and Banos (1973) conducted follow-up research to investigate whether the advertising industry had responded to the Courtney and LockeretzÂ’s (1971) findings. This second study found that advertisements had begun to show women in more positive roles as reflected in the agenda of th e second wave womenÂ’s movement, although the numbers of women shown in these new more positive roles were low (Wagner & Banos, 1973). Nevertheless, additional research over the next three decades shows that most stereotypes about womenÂ’s social roles s till hold true (Lundstrom & Sciglimpaglia, 1977; Wolin, 2003; Ford, LaTour, & Clarke, 2004; Morris, 2006). Ford, LaTour, and Clark (2004) argue that Â“stereotypical handling of women in adver tisements may have detrimental effects on womenÂ’s self concepts as well as their achievement aspirationsÂ” (p. 46). A review of three decades of research on gender portrayals in advertising between 1970 and 2002 suggests that stereotyping has in fa ct decreased to a certain extent since 1970, but stereotyping has not disappeared totally (Wolin, 2003). After GoffmanÂ’s (1976) work in Gender Advertisements that examined the ways women are portrayed in advertising, he expressed puzzlement as to why readers do not find advertising representations of women st range or unusual compared to everyday life. Goffman outlines the idealistic representations of gender he observed in categories such
17 as relative size of the models, the feminine touch, function ranking within the ad, the family culture portrayed, the ritualization of womenÂ’s subordination and licensed withdrawal of women. For instance, as an elaboration on the ritualization of subordination, Goffman found women and children are more likely to be pictured on the floor or bed. He interpreted this Â“loweredÂ” placement as a cultural symbol of their submission to men, who tended literally to be positioned above wome n in advertising, which signifies superiority. Similarly he found women were more likely to caress objects, whereas men firmly grasped them, and women were often portrayed as children or childlike compared to the men counterparts in the ads. A sociologist, Goffman (1976) concluded that these kinds of advertising re presentations are not normal, but idealized Â“illustrations of ritual-like bits of behavior which portray an ideal conception of the two sexes and their structural relationship to each other, accomplishing this in part by indicating, again ideally, the alignment of the actor in the social situationÂ” (p. 84). Advertising then can influence how gender stereotypes continue to be formed and reinforced. Jhally (2007) writes that Â“gender id entity is constructed in part through social representations of which the most pervasive and powerful form in the consumer society are those associated with advertisingÂ” (p 4). He calls these representations Â“hyperritualistic images,Â” which offer extremely concentrated messages about gender and sex (p. 7). However, research on how audiences actually interpret these messages about gender, sex, and sexuality is limited.
18 Audience Interpretations Some audience reception studies indicate that consumers are aware of the stereotypical gender images found in magazine advertising (Ford, LaTour, & Clarke, 2004; Lundstrom & Sciglimpaglia, 1977). Gender, defined by Wolin (2003), is Â“the social and cultural meanings associated with the maleness and femaleness imposed and expected by societyÂ” (p. 111). Wolin writes that Â“both male and female gender role attitudes can be influenced by the mediaÂ” (p. 117). A 2003 survey by Orth and Holancova meas uring the attitudes of 320 adults (161 women and 159 men) on gender roles in a dvertising found that embedded consumer prejudices invited different reactions and emotions from consumers toward the gender roles represented in the treatment ads (Orth & Holancova, 2003). The surveyÂ’s researchers argue that the public expects wo men and men to behave and look in certain ways depending on established be liefs; thus, stereotyping occurs both in the ways that advertisers construct their me ssages and in the ways that consumers bring their life experiences and points of view to interpre ting the same messages. As Condit (1989) has demonstrated, the notion of polysemous texts open to multiple audience interpretations may be attributing an overly optimistic agency to audiences who do not necessarily have the cultural equipment to produce critical or resistant readings of mediated messages. To summarize, there has been extensive research on magazine advertising, women in advertising, and even sex in advertising. Much of this scholarship focuses on womenÂ’s magazines, on the means used to turn women into sex objects in magazine advertising, and on the numbers of advertisements that do so. A much more limited literature on audience reception attempts to account for consumersÂ’ interpretations of
19 sexual images of women in ma gazine advertising, but a thinness of data prevent generalizations beyond the assump tion that audiences do not always interpret messages in the ways they are intended. As to progressi ve changes among advertising practices since the second wave womenÂ’s movement, results are mixed. The representation of status roles for women in magazine advertising has increased somewhat. But so has the sexual objectification of womenÂ’s bodies. Research on th e visual rhetoric of ads featuring sexual images of women is restricted to a few studies. However these studies raise questions about the limits of traditional social scien ce methods, both quan titative and qualitative, for studying the rhetorical functions of adver tising or the multiple meanings available for interpretation in advertising that brand non -sex-related products with heteronormative stereotypes about women as objects of me nÂ’s sexual desire. Research focusing specifically on the newer young menÂ’s magazines is also scarce, as is research on fashion advertising in such magazines. Overall it appears traditional mass communications research has focused on the inaccurate and unfair portrayal of women in advertising and the assumption that such images do have an effect on audiences. This thesis asks how sexualized images of women in menÂ’s magazines advertisements are c onstructed visually and how these visual constructions function rhetorically. This is an area that few researchers other than Tom Reichert and Jacqueline Lambiase have studied.
20 Chapter Four Theoretical Framework Visual rhetoric is well suited for evaluating the sexual imagery in menÂ’s magazine fashion advertisements because it can be used to understand how these images are constructed as a means of persuasion. Some argue that visual communication is necessary in todayÂ’s marketing communications mix, and visual elements are more than just mere objects for the eye to look upon (McQuarrie & Mick, 1996, 1999). The visual component is Â“essential, intricate, meaningful, and cu lturally embeddedÂ” in t odayÂ’s advertising and promotions (1999, p. 51). Visual Rhetoric Visual rhetoric is the study of how visual information is used in communication or persuasion. The definition of visual rhetoric can be explained as using a visual cue, be it text, symbol, photo, or other mark, to stimu late the viewer into taking action (Burke, 1969; Kenney & Scott, 2003). Theories of visual rhetoric allow researchers and scholars to make sense of and critique visual info rmation. Those using visual rhetorical approaches are interested in symbols as fo rms of communication. These symbols may be magazine advertisements, television commercials, or other mass media images (Foss, 2005). This study builds on the work of Lambiase and Reichert (2003), who have studied sexual images in advertising. Using visual rh etoric, they argue that visual cues in
21 advertising offer promises Â“both implicitly and explicitly through words and imagesÂ” (p. 248). Their work on erotic rhetoric in a dvertising examines how images and layout are related to the message being c onveyed; however, erotic images rarely have anything to do with the products being sold. The idea of Â“sex sellsÂ” often means it sells the imaginary promise of sex; visuals suggest to viewers that using the product will give the consumer access to sexual gratification (Lambiase & Reichert, 2003). Advertising is interpreted through its vi sual rhetoric and has its own visual language with which the a dvertisements may communicat e meanings and social standards (McLuhan, 1964; Scott, 1994). According to Scott (1994): The sender, therefore, crafts the message in anticipation of the audienceÂ’s probable response, using shared know ledge of various vocabularies and conventions, as well as common experien ces. Receivers of the message use this same body of cultural knowledge to read th e message, infer the senderÂ’s intention, evaluate the argument, and formulate a response. (pp. 252-253) Kenney and Scott (2003) add that consumer in terpretations of visual symbols depend on the ideas and beliefs shared within a particular culture. Sexual images can be viewed in a variety of ways according to the culture in which they are presented. Â“In every case, the overriding influence of culture and history ar e crucial in giving the object rhetorical powerÂ” (p. 26). It is these embedded beliefs of a culture that affect both the production and reception of visual rhetoric in advertising. Historically there are three different approaches to visual rhetoric, Â“classical, Burkeian, and Â‘criticalÂ’Â” (Kenney & Scott, 2003) Classical criticism is a formal approach using multiple categories and set standards of measuring message quality. This tradition
22 often adapts the five canons of rhetoric fo r interpreting images: i nvention, arrangement, style, delivery, and memory. In the Burkeian approach to rhetoric, all messages have a motive, and the medium used becomes Â“symbo lic actionÂ” in which a messageÂ’s producer tries to achieve a certain outcome (Kenne y & Scott, 2003). Jacqueline Lambiase has pioneered research using BurkeÂ’s ideas in the analysis of visual rhetoric. The Critical approach to visual rhetoric is used with the intention of revealing something about a particular societyÂ’s power structure. This type of scholarship is derived from the cultural studies of the United KingdomÂ’s Birmingham School. Despite the variety of approaches available, however, little scholarship has focused on the Â“visualÂ” rhetoric of womenÂ’s imagesÂ—particularly eroticized images of women (and, increasingly, men). Additionally, there is a fourth more recent and distinctly U.S. approach to visual rhetoric. This approach has two techniques known as Â“message formulation from imagesÂ” and Â“evaluation of images, Â” as describe d by Foss (Foss, 1994; Foss & Kanengieter, 1992). These techniques look closely at the i ndividual communicativ e elements of an image and the relationships among the elements to construct the message and the role of the visual images. Foss also applies a femin ist perspective in using these methods of visual analysis in the study of visual rh etoric to reveal underlying messages about women. Consumer interpretation of visual symbol s is dependent on the ideas and beliefs shared within a particular culture. In the case of images of women, they can be viewed in a variety of ways, according to the culture in which they are presented and the life experiences audiences, including rhetorical critics, bring to reading such images. If advertising is a mirror to our society, as W illiamson (1978) says, then it is important to
23 look at cultural images as messages about women, men, gender, sexuality, and sexual practices. FossÂ’ Method Mullen and Fisher (2004) combine, elabor ate, and, in the end, condense FossÂ’ method of visual rhetorical analysis into wh at they call the elaborated method. In this method, the first step is identifying the pres ented elements in a visual image, and Mullen and Fisher (2004) offer three categories of elements. In the first category, aesthetic elements, such as line and color, are most useful to note. Graphic representations of textÂ—typographyÂ—also may be studi ed here. It may be helpful to think about this category as looking at traditional elements of artistic composition and graphic design. The next category of elements considers elements in terms of traditional mediated production techniques; this could be lighting, camera angle, and graphics, etc. Finally, the critic accounts for human interpersonal and nonve rbal components represented, such as facial expressions, gaze, and body language (similar to GoffmanÂ’s  work). After separating the presented elements into the three categories, the critic must process the visual elements and Â“examine the way the presented elements influence one anotherÂ” (Mullen & Fisher, 2004, p. 188). In the elaborated method, the critic assumes that the Â“message is the functionÂ” of the image, in order to simplify FossÂ’ original method, which separated the identification of message from the identification of the purpose (Foss, 1994; Foss & Kanengieter, 1992; Mullen & Fisher, 2004). The Mullen and Fisher (2004) method calls for the critic to postulate meanings, both denotative and connotative, and argue how these meanings in fluence each other or form relationships among the elements.
24 Finally, the elaborated method asks the critic to explore the function of the image before offering an ethical evaluation of it Mullen and FisherÂ’s (2004) definition of Â“functionÂ” refers to rhetorical functionÂ—how the image functions to convey the adÂ’s persuasive message. Foss (1994) writes, Â“Func tion, which I have made central to the evaluation of imagery from a rhetorical perspe ctive, is not, then, the function its creator intended but rather the action the image communicates, as named by the criticÂ” (p. 216). She further cautions that Â“the function the critic names is but one possible function, it is by no means the correct oneÂ” (Foss, 1994, p. 216). Hence, Â“functionÂ” may not necessarily coincide with the traditional purpose of an advertising image (to sell the features and benefits of the brand). This last step al so questions the ethics of the image when considered against possible audience effect s, according to Mullen and FisherÂ’s (2004) elaboration of the method. If Lambiase and Reichert (2003) observe th at erotic imagery in advertising often has nothing to do with communicating the adve rtised productÂ’s material features/benefits or with selling the brand per se, then their approach suggests yet another step in the analysis of visual rhetoric: There is value in assessing whether the image has a material relationship to qualities of the brand, or if the erotic appeal is gratuitous. In this thesis Mullen and FisherÂ’s (2004) elaboration of FossÂ’ ideas serves as both a theoretical framework for understanding the wa y visual images act as rhetoric and as a method for analyzing the visual rhetoric of advertising imagery. This thesis adopts Mullen and FisherÂ’s (2004) elaboration of FossÂ’ techniques and expands upon the method using Lambiase and Reichert (2003).
25 Chapter Five Research Questions This thesis critiques and evaluates th e persuasive sexual images in fashion advertisements found in menÂ’s magazines. The research questions guiding this study are: How are the persuasive arguments in ad s containing sexualized images of women constructed as visual communication? Do th e images presented perform their purported intention by conveying and/or supporting the supposed purpose of the adÂ—to sell the features and benefits of the advertised products? What do these images and their messages say about women, me n, gender, and sexuality?
26 Chapter Six Methodology The five ads chosen for visual rhetorical analysis were taken from my previous content analysis of fashion advertisements found in menÂ’s Â“metro-sexualÂ” magazines issued in April 2005 (Ford, 2006). The five advertisements chosen for analysis in the current study were among the worst offenders in the original study and fit into specific categories outlined in the earlier study. The original study: Â“Fashion faux pas: Fashion advertising, sexy women, and menÂ’s magazinesÂ” My original study (Ford, 2006) was a content analysis of four popular menÂ’s magazines, Maxim, GQ, Esquire, and Details although it did not delve into the actual visual message of the ads. The original study merely categorized the ads by content, and found that fashion ads containing women in th ese magazines were likely to have sexual themes. The magazines chosen were from the 15th Annual Magazine 300 Report by AdAge (September, 2004) as top circulation metro-sexual titles with a strong fashion emphasis. Metro-sexual magazines are define d as reaching out to young men ages 22 to 35. Metro-sexual, as it refers to magazines, also can be described by Maxim magazineÂ’s own tagline: Â“Sex. Sports. Beer. Gadgets. Fashion.Â” The original study pulled fashion advertising from the April 2005 issues of Maxim, GQ, Esquire, and Details The sample included all fashion advertisements,
27 including clothing, shoes, sunglasses, watches, jewelry, or any other items that may be worn on the human body. The ad sizes ranged from a quarter page to doubleand triplepage spreads. This resulted in 152 fashion advertisements. From those 152 fashion ads, I pulled every ad showing any woman, group of women, or the implied presence of a woman (Â“implied presence of a womanÂ” incl uded a physical woman, her belongings, or some other visual sign or symbol of her pr esence). This resulted in 26 advertisements. The advertisements were then coded for th e sexualization of women and overall sexual themes using criteria from Lambiase and Reiche rt (2003); visual cues or themes used to identify the presence of sexual themes were: A) lack of clothing or very little clothing; B) the gaze of models; C) body position; and D) body language. Results showed that women in fashion advertising for these four metro-sexual magazines were often sexualized in the study sample and that women were reduced to beautiful objects of desire whose main pur pose is to promise sexual gratification associated with purchasing or using the brand. Women in the ads were represented either as wanting (hetero)sex or as sexy objects of heterosexual menÂ’s desire. This result agreed with Reichert and Carpenter (2004), who conc lude that todayÂ’s magazine content has become more sexually explicit and racy than ever before, featuring more skin and more sexual situations. My original study was illuminating, but, as critical work, it did not go far enough in terms of examining how such images work as a kind of visual rhetoric and then critiquing the implications of this kind of persuasion. As Condit (1989) notes, Â“Critical analysis should therefore, at least at times, be rhetorical; it should be tied to the particularity of occasions: specific audien ces, with specific codes or knowledges,
28 addressed by specific programs and episodesÂ” (p. 115). In this thesis, episodes or programs become specific magazine adver tisements, although the present study does not explore audience membersÂ’ knowledge and sk ill at interpreting, as ConditÂ’s (1989) argument on Â“rhetorical limits of polysemyÂ” suggests. It is important, however, to take my first study one step further to do the critical-interpretive analysis of this kind of advertising as a visual rhetoric in a particul ar time, targeting a particular audience, and to ask questions about this adve rtising genreÂ’s conventions. The New Study Following KenneyÂ’s (2005) advice to push the analysis of mediated visual images beyond social science or rhetorical formalism, this thesis takes the earlier study to the next level of analysis. Since analyzing every advertisement pulled for the original study is not feasible for the limited scope of a mast erÂ’s thesis, the new study follows Lambiase and ReichertÂ’s (2003) argument that exemplars of sexual rhetoric in advertising offer rich sites for analyzing, thus understanding, how sexual content in advertising works rhetorically. That is, the worst offenders of sexual visual rhetoric provide the most fruitful units of critical analysis. Vande Berg (1991) also made a case for the rhetorical analysis of exemplars based on the assumption that the principle features that define a genre or category of mediated rhetorical arti facts will be present for examination in its exemplars. This thesis, then, applies Mullen and FisherÂ’s (2004) visual rhetorical analysis techniques to the worst offenders among the a dvertisements analyzed in the original study. Building on the initial study and using ads drawn from that study, the present study analyses the visual elements of persuasi on in five of the ads from the original study.
29 The exemplar ads for this study were purposel y selected because they represent the worst offenders in the original study. These ads also appear to represent one or more of the visual themes used in the original study, which were first laid out by Lambiase and Reichert (2003). The themes used to select the ads for this thesis include: A) lack of clothing or very little clothing; B) the gaze of models; C) body position; and D) body language. This method was chosen so that the present study would have representation across all four themes. The goal was to obtain a variety of visual elements that would put each ad into at least one thematic categor y, even though some overlapping does occur. Advertisement one is a full-page, full-color ad from GQ for Banana Republic (Appendix A-1), and it was chosen according to the original coding to best represent the category of lack of clothing and body langua ge because the figure of the woman is not wearing pants, the man in the ad is fully clothed, and they appear in a bedroom. Three of the four themes are represented in the second ad, a black and white Calvin Klein Jeans advertisement (Appendix A-2) found in Maxim Nudity combined with the body position and body language make this a highly sexual ad and a solid reason for its inclusion in the study. The Calvin Klein advertisement is a two-page spread featuring a woman with a nude torso positioned on top of man with a nude torso. Advertisement three is a single-page black and white ad for David Yurman (Appendix A-3) from Details It represents the categories of body language and lack of clothing. In this ad the man is the one show n without clothing, except for the watch he is wearing, and the fully clothed woman is wearing jewelry as well. This nudity rolereversal is one reason why this ad was chosen.
30 The fourth advertisement is a GQ ad for Rockport (Appendix A-4). It is a fullcolor single-page ad that shows coded themes of lack of clothing, body position, and body language. The two white models in the ad app ear to be naked in this close-up visual. The couple seems to be taking a shower toge ther with a not-too-subtle hint at sexual relations. The final ad is a full-color one for Sketchers Footwear (Appendix A-5) pulled from both GQ and Maxim This single page ad was coded for each of the four themes: modelsÂ’ gaze, lack of clothing, body position, and body language. The white figures in this ad are set in a glacier-like or arctic-like cartoon landscape. The woman in the ad, kneeling on one knee, is positioned between the manÂ’s legs. She is wearing a bikini top and skirt, which appears to be made of animal skin and fur. She is grasping the manÂ’s shirt in one hand and a whip in the other hand. The man is leaning back on one arm pushing the woman back with his other arm. The man featured is fully clothed, and he is looking directly at her as he turns his head aw ay. The woman in the ad is looking directly into the manÂ’s eyes. Rhetoric and popular culture scholar Tom Frentz (personal communication, April 2006) also noted that th is exemplar deserves further study because of its gender role reversal. Some caveats regarding the selected exemplars are in order. First, all the exemplar advertisements depict images of heterosexuality. Some scholars have noted that homosexual images and themes in menÂ’s magazine advertisi ng are ripe for exploration (Kolbe & Albanese, 1996; Krasses, Blauwk amp, & Wesselink, 2003; McRee & Denham, 2006). However, Krasses, Blauwkamp, a nd Wesselink (2003) concluded that menÂ’s magazines such as Maxim and Stuff encourage heterosexual lifestyles since they market
31 themselves to young men using heteronorma tive sexual content. My original study contradicted this argument somewhat since I found homosexual themes present in fashion ads, although I did not find any themes of le sbianism. Because the ads that were open to gay readings in the first study did not offer representations of women, they were not analyzed in the first study. Since the present second study is based on the worst sexual rhetoric offenders in terms of representations of women from the original study, the ads containing gay themes were not included here, either. Second, the exemplars chosen for this thesis all portray young models. This bias can be explained due to the fact that th e magazine genre under analysis targets young adult men as readers. Finally, all but possibly one of the exemplars selected for the present study depict white models, with just one ad using what readers may interpret as a model of color. Race and ethnicity were not used as selection criteria per se, and this mostly white trend among the exemplars occurre d spontaneously as the Â“worst offendersÂ” surfaced in the original study. It should be noted, however, that, in U.S. magazine advertising, women of color (especially black women) historically have tended to be exoticized (as animalistic and predatory), eroticized, and sexualized at a greater rate than white women, even though the percentage of women of color appearing in magazine ads is far lower than that of white women in magazine advertising or than the percentage of women of color in the general population (Plous & Neptune, 1997). Following Mullen and Fisher (2004), who elaborated and streamlined FossÂ’ techniques of visual rhetor ical analysis (Foss, 1994; Foss & Kanengieter, 1992), this thesis analyzes exemplar advertisements considered Â“worst offendersÂ” in terms of sexual content in the representation of women from the original study (Ford, 2006). This kind of
32 analysis has practical and ethical implicati ons for media practices by asking, Â“What do the adsÂ’ visual rhetorics do ?Â” In addition, it is also imperative to ask how do the messages available for reading within the visuals speak of, for, and to the present historical moment in terms of men, women, gender, and sexuality?
33 Chapter Seven Analysis The five advertisements in this study suggest that men are main characters in adventurous and luxurious lifestyles associated with the advertised brand, and women are accoutrements, little different than the advertis ed products, to these lifestyles. The women in the ads, by their physical proximity to the fashion products in the ads, become standins for these products, mere objects to adorn the men. This narrative suggests that women are interchangeable with the adsÂ’ products which function as key accessories to the fantasy heterosexual masculine lifestyles advertised. Additionally, the women in the ads, while portrayed as sexually adventurous, are visually subordinate to the men. In the (hetero)sexually intimate situations portrayed in these ads, visual cues also suggest that women and men who are sexually intimate are not emotionally intimate. These five ads, then, seem to place the importance of the brand, represented by the men in the ads, over the importance of the actual product, which, in these ads, is represented by the women. Thus, the visual rhetoric of these ads invites the young men who view them to identify with the personality of the brandÂ—or brand ch aracterÂ—which is represented in the ads by the men and their lifestyles. This suggests an old advertising industry story, albeit with some new twists, in which men are more powerful, important, and independent than
34 women, in which relationships between women and men are merely sexual ones, and in which women are signified as equivalent to the property of men. The Visual Elements In the first exemplar ad, Banana RepublicÂ’s visual elements, such as the womanÂ’s long dark vertical legs and the large size of the torso in the foreground, pull the viewing eye towards the large foreground figure. Taking up nearly half the page and clearly dominating the ad, the large torso forms an asymmetrical balance between the torso and the logo placed in the large white space at the bottom of the ad. The torso is wearing neutral clothing; the long-legged figure, pink. Assuming the seated figure is a man and the standing figure is a woman, the colors of the two figures are gender appropriate, according to gender rules that code pink as feminine. We may infer that this ad features a sexual relationship since the scene is staged in what appears to be a bedroom and the woman is not wearing pants; however, the two figures have their backs to one another, possibly indicating through their body language that it may not be an emotionally intimate relationship. The figure in the foreground is headless, so readers can only assume it is a man until the narrative text identifies the figure as a Â“he.Â” The adÂ’s copy reads: Â“As usual, the postcards he wrote were still in their luggage.Â” The visual of the headless man contradict s itself. A larger figure generally reads as Â“superiorÂ” in an ad such as this, and yet this larger figureÂ’s head is cropped off, which
35 means the figure is less important and he is only as good as his emphasized buttocks (Goffman, 1976; Jhally, 2000; Kilbourne, 1979, 1987). However, this headless anonymous man also could be what Williamson (1978) argues is the Â“holeÂ” in which the viewer (in these ads, a male viewer) inserts himself into the advertisementÂ’s narrative. According to the narrative (Â“he wroteÂ”) and visual texts (larger foreground figure), the man appears as the main character. Conversely, he sits on the Â“floorÂ” of the adÂ’s scene, and historically, this positioning goes against GoffmanÂ’s (1976) findings in which women and children as subordinates often appear positioned on the floo r. However, additional visual cues such as the partially dressed headless woman with her back to the man and her classically feminine pink clothing, her childlike pose on her tiptoes, and her positioning in the background, all suggest that this woman is a subordinate. In addition to clues about the womanÂ’s subordinate status in this adÂ’s visual narrative, a key bit of visual information is her visual proximity to the product advertis ed. She literally Â“stands inÂ” (for) the product advertised, a Banana Republic shirt. Her role seems to be as both travel and fashion accessory, not much different than his shirt that she is wearing as she stands in the closet where we might expect his shirt usually to hang or his suitcase open on the floor in the scene where he would pack this shirt. The ad suggests a closet, a suitcase, or a woman becomes a suitable place to put a manÂ’s Bana na Republic wardrobe when not in use. The visual elements presented in the second ad by Calvin Klein create visual texture; the grass/leaves
36 repeated around the human figures create a fr ame of greenery focusing the eye on the bodies in the center. The womanÂ’s rounded shoulder pulls the viewer down her arm to her elbow pointed at the logo at the bottom of the page. The womanÂ’s exposed breast in the center of the ad is positioned atop the manÂ’s crotch. This juxtaposition suggests that th is woman also may be substituted for the product: wear the jeans or wear the woman. Similar to the Banana Republic ad, this woman also wears the product advertised, in this case, a pair of Calvin Klein jeans. The scene in the ad shows part of a single motorcycle, which is a traditional masculine cultural artifact that harkens back to James Dean and Marlon Brando. Motorcycles signify rebellion and the adventure of the open road for those who have no place-bound obligations or relationships. The ad essentially transfers the characteristics of this sexual adventure and nature fantasy to the jean brand, as Williamson (1978) argues that advertisements do. Demonstrating GoffmanÂ’s (1976) arguments about the feminine touch and eye aversion, the Calvin Klein adÂ’s visual cues suggest that the woman is less important than the man. There is no eye contact between the man and woman because she is looking down at the manÂ’s chest as she gently car esses him. The man does not touch her, emphasizing her status as an object like the jeans and the motorcycle. Again, there does not seem to be any emotional intimacy in what is suggested to be a sexual situation, but the woman does appear sexually assertive given her position atop the half-undressed man. The Calvin Klein ad is literally just body parts; the manÂ’s head is missing, but his crotch and the womanÂ’s breast become the adÂ’s center of visual interest or focal point.
37 The headless man is shirtless, although it is pe rfectly acceptable for men to go shirtless, especially in a rugged outdoors adventure scen e such as the one suggested in the ad. So, in essence, only the woman is exposed. According to Kilbourne (1979), both models are broken down into sexual body parts, which ar e the only parts necessary for a sexual fantasy, of course. The dismemberment dehumanizes both characters. But this headless manÂ’s torso invites the viewer, in this instance a male viewer, once again to place himself into what Williamson (1978) contends is the Â“ holeÂ” in which viewers identify with the fantasy narrative of the advertisement. The ad suggests that both the jeans and the woman, like the motorcycle, are necessary accoutrements to the adventurous lifestyle the adÂ’s scene implies. On the whole, the Calvin Klein ad suggests that the bare-breasted woman is an accessory in this fantasy. For a second time in this study, th e woman literally stands in (or lies down in) the product, a pair of jeans. The black and white ad for David Yurman jewelry, the third exemplar, is aesthetically balanced. The figures and visual elements mimic each other, and there are nearly equal areas of light and dark. A line is created down the center of the ad between the naked man and clothe d woman; the line draws the eye down to the adÂ’s watch, bracelet, and finally logo. Though the space covered by the man and woman is nearly equal, the manÂ’s head is positioned slightly in the foreground where, according to Goffman (1976), the most important character usually appears.
38 This ad is an example of a gender role reversal created by the manÂ’s nudity and the womanÂ’s state of full dress (a robe or dressing gown, perhaps?). In traditional Â“sex sellsÂ” advertising, the woman is partially nude, as in the Calvin Klein and Banana Republic ads. In the David Yurman ad, the manÂ’s hair also appears longer than the womanÂ’s (and most menÂ’s), and the woman a ppears to be making the sexual advance. The man almost appears to display the feminin e head cant that Goffman (1976) describes, but so does the woman; head cants, however, are required to navigate around noses in preparation for kissing, which the David Yurm an adÂ’s figures seem close to doing. The visual cues that indicate a gender role reversal also could represent feminine insubordination or power. She is making the move on him as she reaches to caress his face with GoffmanÂ’s (1976) feminine touch. His hand, however, grips her wrist, symbolizing feminine subordination since he s till controls her physically in this sexually charged situation. Both the woman and the man in the Yurman ad seem to represent GoffmanÂ’s (1976) feminine mental drift, as their expressions take them away from the physical moment. The facial expressions of both characters lack emotion, as they both look downward, and, significantly, away from each other. This is no eye contact. This head/eye aversion allows one momentarily to conceal oneÂ’s feelings, or, in this case, perhaps, lack of feeling. In another type of licensed withdrawal, the woman nuzzles in just slightly behind the man, signifying the manÂ’s greater importance and his control over her. On the whole, the David Yurman ad de picts conventional portrayals of men and women in which men have greater power than women, usually demonstrated visually by
39 subtle forms of physical domination. The woman, though shown in a kind of role reversal, quite literally has lost her Â“upper handÂ” in th is situation. Having been subordinated, and given her physical proximity to the advertised product/jewelry, the woman wraps herself around the man as if he is wearing her in the same way he wears David Yurman jewelry. For a third time, the woman in the ad becomes both a stand-in for the advertised product as she is wearing the je welry, too. As a stand in for the product, she becomes an accessory to the man playing the lead role in the narrative of this ad. In the fourth ad, the large Rockport shoes pictured in the foreground are the focal point of the scene. The background is all neutral flesh tones (and flesh). Several lines (the manÂ’s fingers, streams of water, strands of wet hair, shoe laces) move the eye down toward the text and the logo. In this ad, the text plays the most functional advertising role among all the exemplars in this study. The headline reads: Â“Lather Up,Â” and the body reads: Boat shoes and bare skin are meant to go together. RockportÂ’s soap and water washable boat shoes will keep that relationship from turning sour. Feel the Rockport experience. Comfor t, technology and style have never felt so great. This text actually gives product features and benefits. But there is some unnecessary text that connects the shoes to sex. The text reads, Â“Boat shoes and bare skin are meant to go together,Â” and although it is true that boat shoes are often worn without socks, the two apparently naked models shown w ith this text seem to suggest that the shoes also go with
40 nudity and, most likely, sex. The text also suggests that the shoesÂ’ features keep smelly feet and (sexual) relationships from going sour. The Rockport ad shows several of Goffman Â’s (1976) gender ritualizations that imply women are inferior. For instance, the woman displays GoffmanÂ’s feminine head cant and eye aversion as she lowers her head and looks downward. The lack of eye contact between the models in this ad may demonstrate that the relationship between the man and woman lacks emotional attachme nt, though their nudity proves physical intimacy. The manÂ’s arm encircles the womanÂ’s shoulder, which signifies the womanÂ’s subordination to him. The man holds both the woman and the shoes near his chest, as if to protect both as his possessions. For a fourth time, the woman in the ad appears to be interchangeable with the adve rtised product, in this case a shoe, by physical proximity. The main design emphasis in the Sketchers Footwear ad, the fifth and last exemplar, is on the man and woman. They appear in the center of the ad, and the lightcolored background provides a neutral palette for the two modelsÂ’ performance. The eye is drawn to the dark center of this proportional advertisement. The purple sky and the dark grey bottom of the ad create symmetrical balance. The center figures wear opposite colors, and the light and dark clothing intertwine. The modelsÂ’ arms create balance between their bodies as his right arm extends backwards and her left arm weakly attempts to raise a flaccid whip. His dark-colored right arm leads the eye down to the logo. Even though the woman is kneeling on the ground, following GoffmanÂ’s (1976) observation that women and children as subordina tes often appear depicted on the floor,
41 the woman is still positioned higher than and above the man who also is sitting on the ground. The man is leaning back, looking up at the woman. But this is not exactly masculine subordinationÂ—at least not the kind that lasts beyond the implied sexual encounter. His viewpoint is reminiscent of JhallyÂ’s (1990, 1995, 2007) arguments in the Â“DreamworldsÂ” series on music videos that camera angles emphasize the adolescent fantasy of boys looking up girlsÂ’ skirts. Though the womanÂ’s position breaks historical advertising gender rules, she is barely clothed while the man is fully dressed. Her lowered head shows that in the end she still submits to the man. Lambiase and Reichert (2003) argue that visual cues such as lack of clothing, body language, body position, and the gaze of models signify the presence of sexual overtone. In the Sketchers exemplar, the womanÂ’s skimpy outfit (on a glacier), eye contact, body position, and body language then indicate that the woman is present to signify Â“sex.Â” At the top of the page the headline reads, Â“We put the S in action!Â”Â—an ambiguous if not incomprehensible message. Th e headline could mean Â“Action!Â” as in a film directorÂ’s shout at the start of a movie scene. The headline could mean Â“actionÂ” as in the man is looking to get some sexual action. The Â“SÂ” could represent Sketchers, sex, or even S&M. Readers are left to draw their own conclusions. Facial expressions in the Sketchers ad s uggest that the two actors do not like each other; however, their body language and the womanÂ’s position between the manÂ’s legs suggests physical intimacy. The man and the woma n are ready either to harm one another or tear off each otherÂ’s clothes in the h eat of passionÂ—or both. As his hand spreads across her bare stomach, the notably larger scale of his hand to her stomach is emphasized. Because this size difference displays the manÂ’s features more prominently,
42 Goffman (1976) might have argued that this size ratio emphasizes the manÂ’s importance over the woman. He clearly could overpower her physically if he were in real danger of being whipped by a woman. The woman kneels at the manÂ’s feet, not only a ritualized position often used to signify supplication but also positioning the woman literally at the manÂ’s feet where the advertised product is shown. The woman even wears brown leather, the material the shoes are made of. For the fifth time, the wo man and the product, in this case a pair of shoes, are visually connected, which seems to suggest that they are substitutes for one another. Ultimately the woman in the Sketchers ad displays signs of submission through sexual intimation as she and other elements exhibit further advertising rituals for signifying gender such as the head cant and size ratio (Goffman, 1976). The ad suggests that a woman can be in chargeÂ—if she wears little or no clothing, is sexually adventurous, and makes hersel f available for heterosexual masculine pleasure (or pain, depending on oneÂ’s proclivities). As in the all the exemplar ads, the SketcherÂ’s ad suggests that a woman is interchangeable with the advertised product while a man signifies both the brand that owns the product as well as the characteristics of the lifestyle associated with the brand. In the heterosexual patriarcha l gender hierarchy, men are symbolically superior to women. In marketing and adve rtising, the brand owns the product. In the exemplars, these two relationships of superiority and ownership are transferred to the women and men in the ads. In all five advertisements, the men seem to represent or stand in for the advertiserÂ’s brand. The women appear to be interchangeable with the product.
43 Furthermore, the five ads suggest to th e target audienceÂ—young metro-sexual menÂ—that heterosexual relationships with women are about physical, not emotional or interpersonal, intimacy. Denotative and Connotative Meanings The five exemplars toy with popular understandings of the womenÂ’s movements only to recuperate them back into more traditional symbolic gender relations. Women may be powerful and assertive, but only in their quest for sex with men. WomenÂ’s equality is signified as sexual freedom. WomenÂ’s independence is limited to emotional independence in their sexual relationships Men may be submissive to the sexual advances of women, but only to a point. MenÂ’s bodies may be atomized into sex objects (for women), but only insofar as men retain sym bolic superiority in the social order along with their physical dominance and contro l over women. Women and men may be partners, but only in their equally strong sexual urges. Williamson (1978) argues that advertisements not only sell things to us in the literal sense, but also make the products and brands being sold mean something to us Those who do not read advertising critically end up purchasing the meanings sold in adver tising, which may or may not have much to do with the material features and benefits of the products advertised. In the exemplars, the meanings being sold offer much more information about cultural myths of young heteronormative masculinity than about the advertised products themselves. In the advertisement for Banana Republic, the denotative meanings communicate that the man and woman are travelers. Visually the fully dressed man sits on the Â“floor,Â” and the half-dressed woman wearing an oversized pink shirt and pink underwear stands in a closet. A suitcase lies open with its contents strewn on the floor. The visual text
44 invites the viewer to imagine the two figur es in a sexual relationship. However, the suggestiveness of the situation portrayed, as well as the written text (Â“As usual, the postcards he wrote were still in their l uggageÂ”) communicates that the man not only travels frequently (Â“as usualÂ…Â”) but also ha s sex frequently as he travels (since the postcardsÂ— as usual Â—are still in the luggage). Regarding connotative meaning, the visuals of his clothes on the suitcase are replicated by her because she also wears his clothes. She, too, is one of his possessions one of his accoutrements. The woman and the clothing are interchangeable adornments. T hus, if you own the clothing, you can obtain the lifestyle that includes this woman, the sex, the travels, etc. Essentially the imagery argues a connection between this lifestyle and this brand. The lifestyle signifies the brand, which is cast as heterosexually masculine. The advertisement for Calvin Klein shows a man and a woman next to a single motorcycle all nestled in the grass. Both the man and the woman are wearing Calvin Klein jeans and nothing else, and it is obvious by the positioning of their bodies that they are about to be sexually intimate. The denot ative meaning is clear. Connotatively, it appears that the two have ridden the one moto rcycle together to what we can hope is a secluded outdoors setting. This suggests that, whatever else the woman rides, it will not be her own motorcycle. Indeed, according to this adÂ’s imaginary, the woman and the motorcycle both are ride-able. In fact, the woman, the jeans, and the motorcycle are all symbolically connected to manÂ’s crotch, and so the woman, the jeans, and the motorcycle are, in a sense, interchangeable accessories for the manÂ’s crotch. Skipping the Freudian implications and psychoanalytic interpretations regarding the phallus, this association in the ad implies that the woman, jeans, and motorcycle are all possessions owned and
45 controlled by the man. The ad persuades the r eader that by consuming the brand, one can obtain women, sex, recreational vehicles, and th e rebellious lifestyle that goes with it all. By giving the product (represented by the woman) and brand (represented by the man) meaning this ad literally genders the product as feminine and the brand as masculine. Here femininity is defined as an object owned by masculinity, and masculinity is defined by a lifestyle that caters to oneÂ’s crotch. David YurmanÂ’s advertisement denotes a fully clothed woman who cannot keep her hands off of a shirtless man. The only adornments the man wears in the ad are bracelets and a woman. The connotative meaning of this ad suggests that wearing David Yurman jewelry is like wearing a womanÂ—or just as good as having a woman draped on you. Once again, the woman is interchangeable with the productÂ—a piece of property. She becomes the jewelry or adornment a nd, thus, his possession. Williamson (1978) argues that a product in an ad literally becomes the reader, but in this ad the woman (not the target metro-sexual reader as man) b ecomes the product and a Â“brand characteristic.Â” One can own the characteristics of the brand by owning the product, and, in the present case, these characteristics include beautiful women who cannot keep their hands off of the men as readers invited to identify with the advertised brand. Brand equals man who owns the product that equals woman. Outdoor or physical activity is the de notative meaning derived from the Rockport shoe advertisement featuring a naked man and woman. This activity, possibly boating, requires the couple to take a showerÂ—togeth er. The adÂ’s connotative meaning, however, suggests that the woman is associated and interchangeable with the shoes; even the strands of her hair replicate the shoestrings that hang down from the shoe. The man must
46 preserve his toys to keep them in good working order; before he puts the boat, the woman, and the shoes away for the day, he needs to Â“maintainÂ” them. The man Â“ownsÂ” both the shoe and the woman he grips. Goffm an (1976) argues that the Â“shoulder holdÂ” is a gender ritualization symbolizing subordi nation and sexual proprietary. The woman seems to accept the man holding her. He controls her moves and takes ownership of herÂ—and the shoes. Brand/man controls product/woman. Owning Rockport shoes, then, is as good as having a woman in your shower. This ad suggests that one can obtain the same lifestyle represented by the brand, which includes taking showers with womenÂ— and your shoes. The Sketchers shoe advertisement shows a surreal glacier setting where storm clouds are gathering. The man is lying on the ground propped up on one arm as he fends off a petite dominatrix; the woman wears only an animal skin bikini and high heels. The ad implies that the dominatrix is about to physically overpower the man, though clearly by the manÂ’s size he is capable of saving himsel fÂ—even if the reader is invited to imagine that he will not. The tiny Amazon woman is a fantasy, just like the cartoon glacier they kneel upon. In the background, the dark clouds suggest a storm is brewing, threatening thunder and lightening. These atmospheric Â“fireworksÂ” may imply the sexual fireworks about to occur between the man and the woman as she kneels between his legs. Denotatively, the ad is pure nonsense about shoes, cold climates, and chilly women. Connotatively, the ad is a fantasy about sexua l adventureÂ—in which it is best to keep your Sketchers shoes on your feet. Glaciers and lovemaking are cold affairsÂ—and the shoes may be needed for traction to grip the ice, whether for running awayÂ—or not.
47 The sexual situation in the Sketcher ad is a gender role reversal with the woman role-playing as dominatrixÂ—an S&M fantasy even. Perhaps the cartoon setting suggests that Â“hell has frozen overÂ” to allow this particular fantasy to come true. This constructed ad-fantasy offers a glimpse into the advertiserÂ’s beliefs about the target readerÂ’s heteronormative relationships with wome n. Women may feign control of the heterosexual relationship, but only terms of sexual assertiveness. Clearly, the adÂ’s woman is not really in control as she is about to catch pneumonia kneeling at the feet of a man whose hand is as big as her entire head. And should things turn for the worse, she will not get far because her stilettos are not Sketchers. The SketcherÂ’s ad is not the only one among the exemplars about chilly relationships. For the target market of men who read them, all five exemplars communicate narratives in which sex with wo men is an emotionally detached physical activity associated with adventurous lifes tyles, masculine superiority, and feminine subordination. Williamson (1978) argues that a dvertisements must sell not only material products but also the symbolic meanings. When stripped of its Â“fashionÂ” meanings, clothing essentially represents a parity product with few distinguishing features to sell as Â“USPsÂ” (unique selling propositions). Thus it is the brandÂ’s symbolic meaning transferred to the product that positions or brands the produc t as singular, special, or different. In the case of the exemplars, branding means the same thing over and over again: Real men are brand men who consume, thus become, particul ar lifestyles. Real men do not really care about what they look like wearing fashions ; nor do they especially care about the functional features of the fashions they w ear. Real men merely need the appropriate
48 accoutrements to symbolize, thus prove, th eir manhood, including women adorning the scene as they seek sex (heterosexual sex of course). Rhetorical Function The five advertisements in this study e ssentially sell the brand, not the product ostensibly advertised, and they sell the brand as a particular kind of masculine lifestyle that includes women and sex but not intimacy The visual elements that make up the advertisements argue that a brandÂ’s mascu line lifestyle is signified through branded possessions that are treated as casually as th eir relationships with women. These branded possessions not only include clothing, recreationa l equipment, jewelry, and shoes but also women, who become branded as they ar e positioned as interchangeable with the advertised products. The ads a ttempt to define a heterosexua l masculine lifestyle with their brandsÂ’ characteristics, which include the availability and ease of having sex with women. The womenÂ’s roles are as Â“accessoriesÂ” to the men. The women have no other parts in the ads; they are interchangeable with products and their sexual availability functions as a key accessory to the masculine lifestyle. Thus, the visual rhetoric of these ads invites the young men who view them to id entify with the personality of the brand, called Â“brand character.Â” Women, the ads argue, are not partners in this branded lifestyle; women, like the branded products being sold, are accessories that prove the heterosexual masculinity of the lifestyle and the men who live it. In sum, in each of the five ads, the man becomes the symbol of the brand, and, narratively speaking, the brand becomes the symbol of heterosexua l manhood or masculinity. Lambiase and Reichert (2003) have argued persuasively that the idea of Â“sex sellsÂ” in advertising often means that ads sell the imaginary promise of sex: Â“If you buy,
49 and thus consume, this product, then you will get to have sex.Â” This is a linear cause-andeffect logic that promises a return on th e consumption investment with a sexual payout. However, in this study, I wish to argue that the five exemplars shift the promise of sex with a woman from being a payoff for consump tion to a more casual and naturalized sign of heterosexual masculinity. For example, imagine a photograph of a shining sports car for sale with a bikiniclad model sitting on the carÂ’s hood. This model is either ready to kiss the reader or is embracing a man standing between her legs in the photo. His face is most likely obscured. By Lambiase and ReichertÂ’s argument, there is no intrinsic relationship between the car as a product for consumption and a half-dressed woman. But the visual rhetoric of such an image suggests that buying the car will attract a sexual encounter with a beautiful woman. So it is the sexual encounter as much as the car that the image sells. In the present case of the five exemplars, however, I argue that it is neither the car nor the sexual encounter that is being sold. Instead what is being sold is the promise of proving a rather traditional heterosexual masculine virili ty associated with the lifestyle of owning both the car and the woman. Banana Republic is not selling clothing to young adult men; it is selling the adornments, including desira ble women, of a young heterosexual lifestyle for traveling men. Calvin Klein is not selling jeans; it is selling the promise of a rugged, carefree heterosexual lifestyle for men. David Yurman is not selling jewelry per se; David Yurman is selling a manÂ’s lifestyle that can afford designer jewelry and the women who wear it. Rockport may be selling shoes in this studyÂ’s exemplar ad, but it is also selling the idea of the heterosexual Rockport man (who does not shave the hair from his
50 chest) whose leisure lifestyle is more complete with both a pair of Rockports and a pair of breasts next to his naked skin. Sketchers, a brand typically associated with a younger target market, is not selling shoes; Sketcher s is selling a cartoon-like adolescent fantasy about being irresistible to petite, half-dressed sexu ally aggressive women. In a culture of image and branding, one needs the branded accoutrements of the lifestyle to signify oneÂ’s membership in the lifestyleÂ—even if the lifestyle does not exist per se outside of the advertising industry, corporate branding, and entertainment industry that invent itÂ—and even if the young target market generally is not in a position to afford such a lifestyle if it does exist. In fact, none of the scenes in the exemplars signify jobs, careers, or lifestyle-maintaining labor. These are fantasies. Considered within the context of the target audience of the metro-sexual magazines in which the exemplar ads appear, I also argue that the young men who read these magazines, because of their young age, are more than likely not nearly so sexually experi enced, self-confident, or blas about their sexuality as the exemplar ads imply. Indeed, I would argue, this young target audience of men if anything might tend to be insecure a bout masculinity and sexual prowess. Like the advertising promise of curing a headache by consuming a pill, the exemplars promise a cure to heterosexual gender insecurity through associating oneself with brands. Buy this brand, associate with our products, to ach ieve the Â“imageÂ” of this lifestyle and Â“advertiseÂ” your heterosexual ma nhood. The gender story here not only suggests a soulless kind of sexual intimacy for men and women, but also positions women as products to be treated as possessions in a disposable culture. This story also characterizes women as sexually aggressive yet submissive to heterosexual masculine authority.
51 Each of the five exemplars visually suggests to young men as viewers that, by purchasing the Â“brand,Â” they accrue a certain heteronormative masculine cach associated with the lifestyle symbolized in th e ad. A brand is the sum total of the products and services offered by a company, but brands also can take on iconic lives of their own. Brand character is defined by consumer pe rceptions, and it endures over time even though the product line or services change. Becau se marketers do not always have control over how the brand character develops or changes in the minds of consumers, contemporary advertising works hard to project the traits or characteristics a corporation wishes to be part of the brandÂ’s character. In a very real sense, then, contemporary advertising focuses more on brand image than on product features and benefits. In this study the visual elements of the ads suggest that the real men have certain characteristics, which also happen to be associated with the advertised brands. Associate yourself with the brand by buying the products in order to become this man and signify this lifestyle. For example, the Banana Re public adÂ’s visuals argue that a Banana Republic man is a traveler who has access to so much hetero sex on his treks that he has difficulty getting out of his hotel room to mail his postcards. The ad suggests that putting Banana Republic clothes in your closet or your suitcase is equivalent to putting your Banana Republic shirt on a half-dressed woman in a bedroom. The visuals in the Calvin Klein ad suggest that a Calvin Klein man is a rebellious outdoorsman, so much so that he trades the Banana Republic manÂ’s bedroom for a patch of weeds. Associating with this brand means strapping a pair of CK jeans, a motorcycle, and a beautiful topless woman to your crotch. The Rockport man is also an outdoo rs guy. The visual elements and the text
52 suggest that this rugged Rockport outdoorsm an is physical enough to get his equipment sweaty and dirtyÂ—as well as his shoes, his woman, and maybe even his boat. A little soap and water cleans it upÂ—all at once if he is efficient. The David Yurman man is more refined. He likes the feel of fine jewelry, as well as beautiful women who find him irresistible, on his bare skin. He might come off as a little vain with his long hair and penchant for adornment, but heÂ’s definitely in control of his lifeÂ—and his women. Finally, a Sketchers man is about Â“action,Â” advent ure, and fantasy, including the kind that a scantily clad petite dominatrix provides. He can handle any situation anywhere, even on a glacier. The rhetorical function of these ads goes beyond merely selling a product. Each of these ads positions the brand itself via images that represent a certain kind of man and associated masculine lifestyle. Women are cast as one more possession or product necessary for the lifestyle. In the ads, there are no messages about the symbolic, material, or emotional work, labor, or cost involved in obtaining or maintaining the lifestyle, just as there is no work involved in getting women to find you sexually irresistible. The ads suggest that becoming the branded man comes naturally. The ads say this is the Â“naturalÂ” order of things, and, even if it is not, the brand says it can improve upon nature (Williamson, 1978). This kind of menÂ’s fashi on advertising is not about getting Â“the lookÂ” on the material body the way we typica lly think about fashion. Here, lifestyle is the Â“look,Â” an ensemble of visual accoutreme nts extending beyond the material body that signify an independent unattached hete rosexual manhood. Indeed, the woman as
53 accoutrement becomes a key accessory for signifying the Â“heterosexualÂ” part because, otherwise, the lifestyles in the exempl ars could be misconstrued as homosexual.
54 Chapter Eight Discussion The visuals in this study speak to the current historical moment in terms of gender and sexuality. While we may find some new advertising approaches to gender and sex in the exemplar ads, the story remains a familiar one in which men are winners and women are losers. The exemplars construct an Â“i dealÂ” heteronormative view of gender and sexuality, but now they have become branded commodities available for purchase and consumption. If gender and sexuality have always functioned as social normalizing and idealizing factors, then the consistent kind of gender and sexuality for sale in the five magazine exemplar ads represents a standardized ideal of normal. According to these five ads, a reading man can purchase the ideal normal hetero brand/man/masculinity, which includes mastery over oneÂ’s world and fina ncial and interpersonal independence. Women, in this world of men, are necessary possessions proving the ideal normal manhood. Essentially, the five ads in this study mimic traditional U.S. patriarchal beliefs about gender and sexuality. However, these five ads are not selling Lambiase and RiechertÂ’s (2004) promise of sex in return for consumption of product. In this study, the ads sell reading men a reflection of their more ideal manhood. This ideal masculine heterosexual self dominates each adÂ’s world, including a woman in it, and suggests real
55 men also dominate their life worlds. A study by Pompper, Soto, and Piel (2007) of 108 men revealed that men of different ethnicitie s and age groups agree that magazines have power to set the standards for the Â“idealÂ” man. The ads in this study, however, also feature women, and this study suggests that these five ads attempt to define womenÂ’s gender roles as well. These ads suggest that being a woman means being part of the dcor, or landscape, akin to a possession to be purchased and consumed like any other product. Women are necessary fashion accesso ries signifying heterosexual masculinity. In this advertising logic, the brand becomes equivalent to man and masculinity and the brandÂ’s product becomes equivale nt to woman and femininity. Berger (1972) and Rose (2001) write about Western visual traditions of men dominating the landscape and nature, always symbolically feminized. This Â“way of seeingÂ” includes man as the surveyor of all that he owns. In visual terms, man is assumed to be the viewer. But, if he is represented visually, he is represented as the conqueror of the material world he possesses. Power is equated with colonizing space, external to man as agent, and this colonization may be either visual, material, or both, because the symbolic order remains the same: man as master. Berger notes that, with the rise of capitalism, this view of controlling nature has evolved to include a logic that equates what can be seen with what can be purchased and thus possessed. Both Berger (1972) and Rose (2001) critique the gendering of this way of seeing as reproduced in the conventions of visual representation. In this logic, wo men become objects to be seen and possessed. In this studyÂ’s five advertisements, each man not only plays the main character in the scene of the ad but also colonizes the entire space of the ad. In the logic of the five ads, a man does not rely solely on his physical/material body to define him. All that he
56 possesses defines him as well, including comm odities/women and the scene/landscape of their consumption. This scene functions as a mirror reflecting who he is, whether Â“heÂ” is the visual narrativeÂ’s protagonist or the read er gazing at the ad where he will insert himself into the role of the protagonist. In advertising, this visual rhetoric positions women as equivalent to products adorning the landscape, possessions of the men who possess and define themselves through the lands cape. Most damaging, this tells a gender story that symbolically and materially privileges men with not just greater power than women, but power over women. Indeed, if the brand defines the product, then, in the exemplar adsÂ’ gendered equivalence, the man defines the woman, thus the relationship between a man and woman. In the ads, he is her master, and heterosexual seduction is her only agency. Her role is aggressively to woo him the way advertisers court consumers. Additionally, while interaction between the men and women in the five ads is sexual, these human relations communicate no interpersonal intimacy. The he teronormative relationships in the ads are defined visually through adve nturous locations, physically demanding leisure, and sexual situations; however the sex appears detached and without emotion. The images in these five advertisements suggest that sex is a casual physical leisure activity with no with strings attached. In each exemplar, the sex act is severed from human intimacy. Heterosexual relationships are defined as physical sex. If the exemplars define manhood and rela tions between men and women, then they also define the meanings of masculinity and femininity. Heterosexual masculinity in these ads is decidedly not about the domestic ; masculinity is adventuresome. Masculinity also requires possessions as accoutrements to signify itself, and heterosexual masculinity
57 requires the possession of a woman to signify itself. Heterosexual masculinity signified by adventure and wealth also requires a landscape or scene in which to act as master, and in the exemplars the scene is one of leisure, neither wholly public nor wholly private, dissociated from a job or careerÂ—the labor necessary to acquire such a lifestyle for most men. In addition, masculinity means dem onstrating power over women who are sexually assertive to flatter his greater sexual prowe ss and power over his life world. Heterosexual femininity is defined in the exemplars as ha ving a strong sexual attr action to heterosexual men. This feminine sexuality is not merely passively available; it is insistent, even aggressive. One might be tempted to read th is advertising sexual assertiveness as a sign of womenÂ’s increasing social empowerment, ye t it is neutralized through the adsÂ’ other messages that womenÂ’s sexuality serves men. It might be argued that in this narrative, the womenÂ’s movement is contained within wo menÂ’s sexual urges, which, in turn, are contained by men. In the exemplars, womenÂ’s sexuality means little for womenÂ’s empowerment. Instead it is reduced to an accoutrement to the heterosexual masculine lifestyle, a kind of masculine trophy proving the virility of his masculinity (as opposed to his procreative powers). Heter onormative gender is, therefore, defined in the ads as a hierarchy in which men (brand) are more im portant and active than women (product). A womanÂ’s power to act, her agency, is limited to the power to seek physical sexual contact with a man on his own terms within his own world, where she is merely an object. Although the symbolic, thus socio-cultural, hierarchy of men over women is not new, in some ways the portrayal of sex and sexual intimacy in this study appears to go against traditional Western cultural thinking about sex. Mass media and popular culture
58 sometimes are regarded as a bellwether for what is considered ideal normal sex, sexuality, sexual practice, and attractiveness for consumers (Berger, 1991; Bordo, 1999; Krasses, Bauwkamp, & Wesselink, 2003; Pompper, Soto, & Piel, 2007; Watson, 1998). According to Rubin (1984), Westerners consider sex (in life and in media) a negative force, dangerous and destructive, and they treat sex and erotic acts with suspicion. However, in this study, sex, though adventur esome, is not negative; it is a positive necessity proving the heterosexual masculinity of the men pictured in the ads. The ads in this study feature what appear to be unmarri ed heterosexuals engaging in sexual acts for pleasure, leisure, and adventure, going against RubinÂ’s erotic hierarchy where marital, reproductive sex between one man and one woma n is supreme. On the other hand, while this kind of advertising sex is ostensibly unmar ried and not procreative, it is reflective of the patriarchal order in which women are possessions. Two points are worth considering here, then. First, womenÂ’s sexuality, like the natural wilderness men are enticed to conquer and master, has always been a dangerous yet attractive thing. It also has always been a thing to contain. If Rubin (1984) suggests that womenÂ’s sexuality has historically been contained by marriage to a man, then the exemplars suggest a powerful man outside of ma rriage can contain it as well. Second, in the adsÂ’ logic, the requirement of a sexua l woman to prove heterosexual masculinity speaks to contemporary fears of homosexuality As long as homosexuality was closeted as taboo, a man had little to fear that his masculinity would be read as homosexual because the presumption was heterosexual unless otherwise signified. But today one cannot as easily presume heterosexuality as in the past. Hence, while manhood may be
59 required to signify its masculine dominance in the world, now heterosexual manhood is required to signify itself the only way that it canÂ—through sex with a woman. If women reject this role, whether for sexual prefer ence or political strategy, heterosexual manhood loses its power to signify itself as currently defined. In a sense, then, the exemplar adsÂ’ emphasis on heterosexual sex not only signifies the presence of an absent homosexuality (the elephant in the room) but also ties women to an even more restricted role as heterosexual signifier. Moreover, the prosp ect of a generation of young men Â“buyingÂ” this rhetorical message along with c onsequences for women is terrifying. Rubin (1984) argues that Â“one of the more tenacious ideas about sex is that there is one best way to do it, and that everyone should do it that wayÂ” (p. 283). According to the visual messages suggested in these five exemplars, if sex is not just for married couples anymore, it remains just for hetero sexual couples. Furthermore, the sex featured in these ads does not take place in a domestic setting as RubinÂ’s hierarchy predicts. Rubin notes that marital, reproductive, and heterose xual sex typically takes place in the Â“private sphereÂ” of oneÂ’s home for proc reating the nuclear family. The sexual situations in this study are outside the private bedrooms of th e domesticated nuclear family home, unless we read the Banana Republic adÂ’s hotel room as a domestic bedroom. The Rockport shower seems unlikely to be in the family home, as well; one can imagine bathing with shoes only in more public showers, at the dock or the campground. Yet these sexually charged scenes also seem void of the traditionally Â“publicÂ” spaces where men flaunt their power and authority. No public podiums, offices, or boardrooms appear in these ads. The spaces in the ads are not domesticated, but th ey are not public either. The scenes of
60 masteryÂ—and sexÂ—seem either purposely vague as with Banana Republic, Rockport, and David Yurman, or purposely Â“wildÂ” and uninhabited, as with Calvin Klein and Sketchers. In any case, sex occurs neither in the marital bed nor in the corner office. These advertising men are freed from the responsibilities of family and career. So it would be a mistake to interpret these adsÂ’ attitudes toward sex as progressive. Krasses, Bauwkamp, and Wesseli nk (2003), as well as Bordo (1999), argue that for the last 30 years the mass media have tried to dictate sexuality in increasingly narrow ways. The exemplar ads suggest that there are many adventurous ways and places to have sex, and that it is not reserved for the married husband and wife alone. They also suggest that women are sexually active, neith er virginal prudes nor passively available whores. However, these ads also reempha size the heterosexual man and woman as representing Â“gender normativeÂ” sexual activity in an unmistakable gender hierarchy where women are the losers, and active sex for women continues to defer to dominant heterosexual men. This most likely can be attributed to the magazines in which the ads were found since the magazines market th emselves to young adult heterosexual men. And, if ads signify some segment of societyÂ’s beliefs through hyper-ritualized representations of reality, as Goffman (1976) argues, then the ads in this study suggest that we continue to reserve sex for one man and one woman. At the same time, the exemplars demonstrate some interesting twists on advertising conventions. The ads not only s how undressed women, but also undressed men, as in the ads by David Yurman, Calvin Klein, and Rockport. These undressed men also are cropped in ways similar to the wa ys contemporary visual culture objectifies
61 womenÂ’s bodies by atomizing them into discrete parts, usually erotic or sexual parts, as Kilbourne (1979, 1987) has demonstrated. Howe ver, this practice of robbing womenÂ’s body parts of their agency and humanity takes on a wholly different meaning when applied to the bodies of men. Rather than objectifying men, I argue that the cropped, headless men in the present study serve a different function, not as the objects of desire for heterosexual masculine viewers, but as mirrors inviting the heterosexual man as the adÂ’s viewer to identify with the ad. Un like cropped objectified images of women, the cropped men retain their agency in the narra tives and their power over women, as well. So, while women may be sexually active in these seemingly Â“newÂ” visual logics, they remain the objects possessed (if not desired) by heterosexual men. And, while menÂ’s bodies may be forced into unrealistic ideals of naked masculinity that are difficult for real men to achieve, men remain the viewers, not the viewed, in these ads. After all, as Berger (1972) shows, men do not just Â“appearÂ” as women do, men Â“actÂ” (p. 47), and men continue to control the contours of the active gaze. Persuasive advertising c ontaining sexual narratives are not uncommon (Lambiase & Riechert, 2003). According to Krasses, Bauwkamp, and Wesselink (2003), certain types of menÂ’s magazines even show evid ence of hegemonic masculine communication systems and gendered speech. As in research done by Krasses, Bauwkamp, and Wesselink (2003), the women featured in the ads of this thesis remain the focus of MulveyÂ’s (1975, 1981, 1989) male gaze. Though the visuals suggest the women are sexually assertive, the male gaze commodifi es the women, presenting their bodiesÂ—and sex with those bodiesÂ—not only as equivalent to consumable products but also as objects
62 to be possessed in order to signify heterosexual masculinity. In contrast, the men in these advertisements have an identity other than a sexual one: traveler and writer of letters, outdoorsman with quality shoes, driver of motorcycle, hero under siege on a glacier, and refined man of taste in jewelry. This is consistent with traditional research on gender advertisements (Krasses, Bawkamp, & Wesselink, 2003; Goffman, 1976). In effect, men Â“get sexÂ” as consequence of who they are, while women Â“seek sexÂ” with powerful men because of who they are, and womenÂ’s sexual pleasure is secondaryÂ—or perhaps not at issue at all. Kilbourne believes that advertising is a key U.S. st oryteller (Jhally, 2000). If this is true, then the persuasive sexual images a nd gender messages in fashion advertisements found in menÂ’s magazines should be a concern fo r all. The ads in this study make an old heterosexual gender story seem new, progre ssive, and exciting. But the plot has not changed. Ethical considerations for such a dvertising are challenging if we wish to open up rather than close down the possibilities for men, women, gender, and sexualityÂ—in all their forms. But Henthorne and LaTour (1994) argue, Â“As the ethical considerations of society change over time, what is considered appropriate and acceptable in advertising must also changeÂ” (p. 88). According to Jaggar (1991), feminist moral codes challenge traditional western ethics that undervalue and degrade womenÂ’s moral experiences; feminist ethics attempt to modify, reformulate, or reorganize thinking, symbolism, and material culture. Feminist ethics ask questions about power and look to create a moral philosophy that generates non-sexist moral id eologies and practices. The stereotypical and negative depictions of bot h sexes found in the ads in this study reinforce patriarchal principles where men are more powerful than women. In the case of these
63 advertisements, applying feminist ethics further demonstrates the gender inequality pictured in this studyÂ’s ads by underlining the fa ct that advertising practices that promote such images perpetuate womenÂ’ s subordination. As Jaggar (1991) suggests, studies like this one must be voiced not only to articulate moral critiques of such images, but also to Â“prescribe morally justifiable ways of resi sting such actions and practices; andÂ…envision morally desirable alternatives that will promote womenÂ’s emancipationÂ” (p. 98). Jaggar (1991) also argues that capitalism, racism, imperialism, male dominance, and the traditional nuclear family are all part of an established system. While Ewen and Ewen (1992) contend that visual communi cation, especially through advertising, represents a cultural language. This thesis argues that the visual rhetorics of the five exemplar advertisements work as a persua sive language intende d to convince men as viewers that culturally masculine traits lik e independence, autonomy, separation, and reason are still superior and preferable to culturally feminine traits like interdependence, connection, and emotion. This thesis then s uggests that the visual rhetorics in the five advertisements work as persuasive messaging that attempts to sell ideal normal representations of gender and sexuality. In terms of advertising and consumer culture, it is significant that brand and product have been gendered into a hierarchy that shadows symbolic and material relations between women and men. Equally significant, this gender alignment of brand/man that possesses product/woman not only echoes a time when women were chattel but also commodi fies relations between men and women, including sexual ones, in an imagined ideal normal world inhabite d by only one man and one woman who will not make eye contact with each other.
64 Chapter Nine Conclusion Early U.S. womenÂ’s magazines, using illustrations, short stories, and advertisements, defined the new woman for the 20th century (Kitch, 1998). A century later, in the present study, five ads pulle d from menÂ’s magazines define a new man for the 21st century and in doing so define womenÂ’s role within an idealized masculine world. In this heterosexual masculine worl d, a man dominates his personal landscape, including his possessions and the women in it, while he maintains both economic and personal freedom. Women, in this heterosexually masculine mis en scene, function as essential commodities for authenticating he terosexual manhood. Scholars have argued that media may define or even se ll gender (Kacen, 2000; McCracken, 1993), and previous research demonstrates the ways wo men are often portrayed in advertising as objects of sexual desire (Baker, 2005; MacK ay & Covell, 1997; Reichert & Carpenter 2004; Reichert et al., 1999). Ads in the present study, however, symbolically represent women as must-have accessories, interchangeable with fashion apparel, for signifying heterosexual masculinity. Alt hough the objectification and commodification of women in mass media is not a new idea, the representation of women in consumer culture as possessions that prove heterosexual masculinity is an idea new to mass communications scholarship.
65 The visual rhetoric in the fashion advertisements for this study, with the exception of Rockport, does not promote commodity feat ures and benefits, or even the specific products per se. Superficially, these are brand image advertisements, more interested in positioning the characteristics of the brand as desirable. On closer examination, however, the advertisements gender both brand and product by aligning man with the brandÂ’s ownership of product and by aligning woman with the purchased, owned, and consumed product itself. In doing so, the ads invite the young men targeted to read the ads to step into a corporate-branded fantasy world that caters to carefree adventure with no responsibilities beyond enjoying the moment, in cluding the availability of sex with beautiful women. Indeed, in the frozen narrative moments of the exemplars, while the men clearly have access to sex with beautiful women, it is not always clear that the men want it. In the ads for Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, David Yurman, and Sketchers, the visual clues of proximity and body la nguage suggest the men are nonc halant if not ambivalent about their sexual desire. At the same time, in the Calvin Klein, David Yurman, and Sketchers exemplars, the women seem to have no choice but to be driven by their sexual desire. In the sexual dynamics of all the exem plars except the Sketchers ad, the men are self-possessed and in control of the sexual moment. Yet, even in the Sketchers ad, visual clues tell readers that the Sketchers man ulti mately can physically dominate the Sketchers womanÂ—if he so chooses. This formula in the exemplars communicates control, thus choices, for the men and an ever-present possibility of humiliation for the women. At the same time, the ads suggest that the brands, thus men, are masculine and powerful and products thus women are subordinate to the needs and whims of both brand and men. In
66 short, the ads grant the brand/man a free will, sovereignty, and liberty denied to product/womanÂ—a very old gender story, indeed. As to what this visual rhetoric does I argue that it functions to rescue and recuperate white heteronorma tive masculinity. This recuperation is occurring during a historical moment when not only womenÂ’s movement and feminism seem to threaten the social and material preeminence of white heterosexual manhood but also a more open discourse about and material action for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights and culture. In the cultural mythos of heterosexual white manhood, as well as in the exemplar ads, real men, even metro-sexual ones, do not have to work to make their bodies sexually attractive by adorning themselves with fashi on. Their sexual appeal is defined by their power over and status in their social and material worlds. We can imagine that if this power and status were threatened, the white heterosexual masculine mythos may take on greater significance. Thus, fashion advertis ing targeting young adult men, even those with a penchant for consumer culture, may tap into this threat to white heterosexual masculinity by reinforcing the myth of white heterosexual masculine supremacy. Within the current social and cultural context, th e exemplar ads, while ethically repugnant, become comprehensible. Because the visual rhetoric of the exemplars is accomplished at the expense of women and non-heterosexuals, it is regressive. Moreover, if women are subordinated to men in the exemplar ads, then homophobia is th e elephant in the room of each exemplar adÂ’s fantasy, particularly when considered in light of the feminizing potential of the selfgrooming definition of the metro-sexual lifest yle and of fashion consumption. Remove the women from the exemplars and the adsÂ’ sexual landscapes become more ambiguous
67 in sexual orientation. Without the women, th e men as main characters in the adsÂ’ brand fantasies are no longer clearly heterosexual. Perhaps ironically, then, while the adsÂ’ visual rhetoric connotes masculine power and control regardless of se xual orientation, the menÂ’s sexual nonchalance and ambivalence toward the women in some of the ads connotes something else. We might conclude th en that in the symbolic order of the exemplars, signifying masculinity only requires power and control, but signifying heterosexual masculinity requires the presence of a subordinated but sexually aroused woman. The arrogance of such a fragile hete rosexual masculinity would be humorous if the consequences for women were not so serious, since the symbolic order grants heterosexual masculinity the right to define women for its purpose, and the power to keep her yoked to that purpose. According Hoagland (1991), heterosexuality or heterosexism is not just a label for a way of life or type of relationship involving a man and a woman. Instead, she argues that heterosexism provides a model for heterosexual masculinity and femininity. So any contemporary discussion of feminism would do well to consider the ways that heteronormativity plays into the status of women. Hoagland (1991) writes: Heterosexualism is men dominating and de-skilling women in any number of formsÂ…it is a way of living th at normalizes the dominance of one person in a relationship and the subordination of another. As a result it undermines the female agency. (p. 29) In the exemplars, heterosexual masculinity is a detached and effortless mastery of the material and social world. Heterosexual femininity is an aggressively seductive even dangerous threat that challenges heterosexual masculinity if it is not controlled and
68 contained by the masculine master. The womenÂ’s agency is limited to the pursuit of sex with men who dictate not only the terms of the (hetero)sexual relationship, but also the material and social world at large. The pot ential for abuse in such an order should be apparent but too often is not, even as we glo ss over its manifestations in the daily flow of news about brutality, abuse, neglect, a nd violence against women, children, and minorities. If advertising can be described as a kind of cultural call and response to social discourse, then I would argue that the exempl ar ads are responding to a historical moment of perceived vulnerability for the social and cultural dominance of heterosexual white men. Using women, often sexually, to shore up heterosexual masculinity is not news. In the exemplar ads, if the women were absent, the adsÂ’ visual rhetoric would continue to position men as dominant and in control of their social worlds. The only purpose women serve in these ads is to make the men in the ads straight, and that may be news. Furthermore, the idea of brand as straight man is new and worth pursuing further. This thesis contributes to a thin literature that examines sex in advertising as visual rhetoric as well as a thin literature on menÂ’s magazines, including the newer metro-sexual genre. This kind of scholarship also contributes to a historiography of the representation of women in the media and the mediaÂ’s normalization of gender ideologies. One strength of this thesis is a consistency of findings across all five exemplars ads: First, brand and product in advertising have been gendered into a heteronormative hierarchy. Second, the ads are selling men not so much just the promise of sex with women, but instead sex with women as proof of heterosexual masculinity,
69 which requires the subordination of women as heterosexual signifiers. These are new twists on familiar themes in the literature on sex in advertising. The limited scope of this thesis is an obvious weakness. First, despite the consistency of findings, five fashion advertisements is a limited number from which to draw conclusions let alone generalize to a trend. The themes found here require more systematic scrutiny in other product categorie s of advertising and in other kinds of advertising vehicles and genres. Second, while discussion of heteronormativity is important and valuable in the present case, it must be remembered that these exemplars were chosen because they included sexualized images of women, which automatically implicates heterosexuality since the ads were drawn from menÂ’s magazines. We can assume that sexualized images of women appearing in menÂ’s magazines are meant for heterosexual men. I have Â“stacked the deckÂ” in a very real sense with important consequences. While I can make claims about the kind of heteronormativity represented by these five advertisements, I cannot make claims about hete ronormativity, or its cultural representation, beyond these five ads. Regarding my methodology, Mullen and Fi sherÂ’s (2004) streamlined adaptation of Sonja FossÂ’ approach to visual rhetori cal analysis proved to be an effective though somewhat cumbersome analytic procedure. Further refinements to the method might include more holistically combining the analysis of visual elements with the analysis of connotative and denotative meaning because both processes during the current study led to the same kinds of conclusions. The similarity of findings in both steps might be considered a further strength of the study. But it resulted in a somewhat awkward and redundant reporting, although the redundancies across visual elements and
70 connotative/denotative meaning may be a charact eristic of the exemplar ads rather than the method itself. Further research building on this thesis might include a more systematic look at the sexual visual rhetoric in fashion advertising in menÂ’s magazines using quantitative content analysis, as well as additional studies using rhetorical, qualitative, and critical approaches to the representation of women, men, gender, and sexuality. Additionally, it would be important to pursue further exa mination of advertising for the symbolic gendering of brand and product. Further research also ought to include more demographic diversity of representation as well and be qualified for age, race, ethnicity, and class. This would assist in determining if and how th e kinds of gender messages in the exemplar ads vary across different demographic groups. Furthermore, my original study (Ford, 2006) did find evidence of homoerotic themes among the 152 fashion ads from which I extracted the five exemplar ads, even though the magazines in which all the ads a ppeared supposedly encourage heterosexual lifestyles using heteronorma tive sexual content (Ford, 2006; Kolbe & Albanese, 1996; Krasses, Blauwkamp, & Wesselink, 2003; McRee & Denham, 2006). That observation about the presence of homoerotic themes in my original study when combined with the implied homophobia in the exemplar ads of the present study beg further investigation into relationships between more open though still highly contested contemporary discourses about gay, lesbian, bisexual, tr ansgender sexualities, and what the exemplar ads hint could be a heterosexual backlash How then do mainstream discourse, news, popular culture, and advertising organize and represent this discursive moment, along with the various stakeholders?
71 Last, two additional areas of future research require human subjects: reception studies on the ways audiences read and interpret this kind of visual sexual rhetoric and qualitative fieldwork on the ways advertising creatives understand and intend the visual sexual rhetoric they produce. If the literature on audience reception is scarce, the literature on professional practices regard ing advertisingÂ’s creative content is nonexistent. Yet, as the encoding professional sources of such rhetoric, the people in advertisingÂ’s creative professions remain an im portant area of study if we are to have any hope of reversing sexism and hetero sexism in professional practices. We can think of the exemplar ads as a small biopsy of contemporary culture, revealing a view that man remains the domin ant figure in importance and power relative to woman. The ads classically define masculinity and femininity in heterosexist, patriarchal, and racially prejudiced terms within a capitalist consumer society that requires each person to participate, but di stributes its privileges disproportionately. Heterosexual white men are granted the agency to accumulate wealth and to define leisure as unattached adventure including sexual adventure, while women, although sexually insistent, function as accessorizing trophies to men. This cancer, however, is a new strain revealing white masculine homophobic fears, which, if left unchecked, promise severe consequences for women an d non-heterosexuals. Shoring up the primacy of white heterosexual men requires reinforcing current inequities and the prospect of even more restrictive symbolic, cultural, social, in stitutional, legal, and economic practices and policies for everyone else. U.S. femininity has been commodified for at least a century. It is likely that U.S. masculinity, although an understudied and re latively new research area, has been
72 increasingly commodified as well. Beyond id entifying and counting such practices in research and scholarship, visual rhetoric can help us unlock the mechanics of their persuasiveness and, hopefully, rebuild a more ethical visual cu lture. Whatever the method, documenting and unders tanding subtle social and cultural changes and their accompanying cultural contexts may help researchers understand not only why such images still exist but also why they are so widely tolerated. Kacen (2000) notes that postmodern society is obsessed with appearan ce and consumption; fashion, thus fashion advertising, brings both of these obsessions together seamlessly. I would argue that appearances as visual rhetoric in consumer culture run deeper than adorning the material body.
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80 Appendix A: Banana Republic Copies of each ad reviewed in this study are included in this paper. While some fashion companies granted permission to re print the advertisements, others were unresponsive. Every effort was made to gain permission to replicate the visual material before this paper was completed. If an y appropriate acknowledge ment has not been noted, the researcher invites copyright holders to make the oversight known.
81 Appendix B: Calvin Klein
82 Appendix C: David Yurman Reproduced with permission.
83 Appendix D: Rockport
84 Appendix E: Sketchers