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It’s almost 2020, and advertisers still see women as mom-shaped placeholders

It’s almost 2020, and advertisers still see women as mom-shaped placeholders
[Photo: bruce mars/Pexels]

Ever wonder why women do the lion’s share of caregiving? And why CEO suites are filled by men? Consider the advertising industry, which spends $1,712 per person each year, apparently to depict women as mom-shaped placeholders.

A study of 60 years of ads in Good Housekeeping UK and Australian Women’s Weekly finds that advertisers still expect women to use their knowledge for their families, and not for their own advancement or enjoyment.

Troublingly, this is actually a long-term improvement, because as late as the 1990s, advertisers treated women as dingbats who did not have their own knowledge; now women have knowledge on lots of topics—when to give ibuprofen! how to buy organic!—but only for the improvement of their families. This, of course, perma-casts women as “selfless caring mothers.”

This casting is apparently omnipresent. “In all instances, the knowing mother is presented as what mothers should aspire to, and this is an enduring vision across seven decades and two continents,” says coauthor David Marshall, professor of consumer marketing of the University of Edinburgh Business School.

Fast Company paging the ad industry: Women have selves. Please do better. Thanks.

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