Zhou Wenyue of Shanghai Daily tells us about the debate that has been simmering for some time now, since the issue of sexual discrimination in advertising ignited.
These ads can be divided into two categories according to the reasons they have been labeled as discriminatory. First is focusing too much on female features and the second is misleading people’s understanding about women’s social role. Concrete examples of the first category include Lux nutritional body wash and Martell liquor. These ads are labeled as sexually discriminatory for their use of too many close-ups of the female body and alluring eye expressions that may imply women as sex symbol.
In the Martell commercial, a woman wearing a professional suit responds to several men’s flirtations, and is seen as sadly discriminating. Ads for a cooking oil brand and a washing powder brand presenting ideal wives and mothers who are very willing and happy to devote themselves to family life and these fall into the second category. Many advertisers argue that the report is exaggerated and has no base or evidence.
Televised media, and it’s constant low-level output, undeniably plays a huge part in the image that is presented to Chinese people of what is the “norm”. The happy family in McDonalds, the young couple (and chivalrous boyfriend) in Pizza Hut, and in our opinion the worst of them all — the Martell advert (mentioned above), in which the achievement of the businessmen is that they can swill whisky while maintaining an eye-brow so askew, and a head-wobble so nonchalant, that they are lucky that all of their facial features remain in one place.
If you’ve been listening to Chinese university students giving English lectures, you may have heard that “every coin has two sides”. Some could argue that people are over-analysing the adverts, and it just happens to be a woman advertising cleaning products. Zhou Wenyue finishes with:
Commercial ads do condition the public’s mind in a much more powerful way than one could imagine. Long-time passive exposure to TV ads reinforces people’s ideas or discriminations against certain things. If only house wives appear in ads for washing powder, the audience may well think that men should be excused from household chores.
We’re inclined to agree with her, and we think that debating the messages that pour from the television and advertising media is an excellent step forward for Chinese society.
Image from Colism.
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