As through clothing, color, and fashion. We assign

As a society, we socially construct what it means to be masculine or feminine through clothing, color, and fashion. We assign meaning to objects such as shoes, clothes, handbags, and accessories; and the meanings we assign to these objects define one as either masculine or feminine. Fashion is complex and sometimes a difficult part of shaping femininity. 

The advertisement by Nine West shows a woman holding a handbag that has a glossy black leather and fuzzy cheetah print design. This is the item Nine West is trying to advertise. Peeping out of the handbag is a pair of bold, baby-blue flip-flops. “Shoes and bags have become the main fashion event, whether on the Web or in the printed media” (Wharton, 2013). The color and design of the bag and shoes send a more playful message than other, more subtle designs. 

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“To be considered feminine, what we see in advertisements is that you need certain things to be womanly, and to be attractive to other people” (Class Lecture: Cultural Studies). Who determines what is beautiful and what is not? The saying goes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder… but advertising says otherwise. While advertisements aren’t necessarily immoral, many use manipulative tactics to reassure certain beliefs. In the construction of femininity, most ads use these tactics to reassure the belief that the ideal woman is white, skinny, young, submissive, and erotically dressed. This advertisement reinforces the common assumptions of what makes one attractive and plays a strong role in the construction of femininity in various ways.

First, both the background and the woman’s skirt are pink. As a society, we agree that pink is a feminine color. Therefore, the use of the pink color reinforces ideas of what it means to be feminine. As noted in the Cultural Studies lecture, “the only reason we think of boys in blue and girls in pink, is because of mass marketing.”

Second, the woman in this ad is white – as most women in the media are. This is an example of how “whiteness is the standard of beauty in the mass media” (Class Lecture: Cultural Studies). The simplest way to verify society’s belief in whiteness as beauty is to look female advertisements on Google. Search “women in advertisements” and you will notice that almost every image that comes up, is images of flawless white women and very few women of color.

Additionally, the media believes women need to be thin to be attractive. While the woman’s clothes in this advertisement aren’t overtly revealing, you can still notice she has a perfect, thin figure. Constant images of women with ideal figures affect women negatively. It makes women feel insecure and less desirable. Imagine if this woman had fat legs and a big stomach. The ad would not be as alluring, would it? This is because the media has corrupted our brains into believing larger women are less attractive. This advertisement is a mild example of how the media idealizes thinness; however, the media is strewn with images of women who exceed these unrealistic standards. 

Furthermore, this advertisement reassures that sex and advertising go together like peanut butter and jelly. Written in the upper left corner of the ad are the words “Anticipatory Walk of Shame.” Without these words, the ad wouldn’t hold much meaning. It would simply be a woman carrying flip-flops in a bag. However, with the added three words, the message being sent now implies that a woman is in preparation for a one-night stand. Therefore, the message being sent now becomes sexual.

Why would Nine West add these scandalous three words to their advertisement? Because “Sex sells, and the representation of female identity has been increasingly reductive in a media suffused by images of youth and glamour” (Wharton, 2013). The message viewers receive from this ad, is if they buy this handbag they will feel sexy and will become desired by a man enough to partake in a one-night stand.

The flip-flops in the ad imply that they would come in handy after a long night; because if one must do the walk of shame… no one wants to do it in last night’s heels. The shoes are also an addition to the sexual vibes being sent because “Shoes are long established as sexual objects {…} The connection between shoes, power, glamour, and sex is one which is relentlessly in popular culture” (Wharton, 2013). 

While some women find the addition of “Anticipatory Walk of Shame” as an innocent joke, other women have found this offensive. This is because men and women view sex in a different light. For example, after a one-night stand, women rarely come home feeling proud. Most women feel shameful after having casual sexual relations with a man who lets them walk home alone after partaking in such an intimate act together. The man is most likely proud and most likely isn’t concerned with how she got home. This ad is an example of how the media portrays women as objects always available for sexual pleasure.

In conclusion, it’s important to acknowledge that ads construct and reinforce ideas of what it means to be feminine or masculine. Advertising industries profit greatly from convincing us we’re not good enough; and therefore, we need to buy something to increase our looks. While some may think this advertisement is subtle and innocent, others could interpret it negatively. “This implicit assessment of the values of the organization may not be accurate, but that is not the point: the importance is one of perception, based in personal values” (Wharton, 2013). Most people will have strong beliefs about what is right and what is wrong based on their ethical standards; and the fact that this ad could easily offend one’s values, this ad is criticized for promoting negative values. 


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