Putting On Appearances: Gender and Advertising

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Temple University Press, Aug 14, 1989 - Business & Economics - 219 pages
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In this lively critical analysis, Diane Barthel reveals the previously overlooked and underestimated depth of cultural meaning behind contemporary American advertising. Focusing mainly on ads for beauty products directed at women, she demonstrates how stereotypical gender identities are emphasized and how advertising itself creates a gendered relationship with the consumer. She explores psychological, sociological, and cultural messages in advertising to show how Putting on Appearances is anything but a purely personal matter, and how the social realities in which we are forced to live are conditioned by the personal appearances we choose to create.

Most advertisements are not sexually obvious, but rely instead on sexual story-telling in which seduction, deception, and passion are portrayed as acceptable means for achieving selfhood. Advertisements that proclaim, "Now is the time to paint your knees" speak with one form of authority: those that present the voice of the all-knowing scientist or the nurturing mother rely on others. Celebrities figure as professional beauties and wise older sisters, sharing their secrets with the consumer. "The Gentle Treatment Great Model Search Made Me a Star. Now it’s your turn."

Inseparable from the clothes we wear and the products we use are our ideas and fantasies about our bodies. Beauty products present beauty rituals as transcendent occasions, and diet products call up religious imagery of guilt and salvation. The body itself is to be anxiously manipulated and systematically worked over until the consumer "turns her body into...an advertisement for herself, a complicated sign to be read and admired."



In the series Women in the Political Economy, edited by Ronnie J. Steinberg.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Madison Avenue Method and Madness
15
The Voices of Authority
39
The Self Observed
57
Sex and Romance
71
Beauty Status Social Status
87
The Geography of Beauty
103
Woman in a Mans World
121
The Accursed Portion
139
Beauty Rituals
151
A Gentleman and a Consumer
169
Conclusion
185
Appendix
193
Notes
197
Index
213
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Page iv - There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men's hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.

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About the author (1989)

Diane Barthel is Associate Professor of Sociology at State University of New York, Stony Brook.


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