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Representations of Gender and Age in Television Commercials: A Content Analysis
Unformatted Document Text:  Gender & Age in Commercials 19 Although this ratio is slightly smaller than or comparable to many recent studies (Allan & Coltrane, 1996; Brown 1998; Coltrane & Messineo, 2000; Fullerton & Kendrick, 2000; Hong, 1997), its disproportion still undermines females’ worth. Indeed, the prominence of male voices on television potentially teaches viewers that females are less important, credible, and knowledgeable. Generally speaking, these findings suggest that little has changed in depictions of females in recent years. Females continue to be associated more often with the domestic realm than do males. First, females were significantly more likely to appear in commercials for products used in the home, such as household cleaners and kitchen appliances. Second, although females were not likely to be depicted in domestic work as their primary activity in the commercials (a possible sign of progress), they were still significantly more often shown in domestic pursuits than were males. Moreover, they were less often shown in professional or non-professional occupations than males, even though neither sex was particularly likely to be shown as a worker. Finally, female characters were most often found in home settings, whereas males were most often found in the outdoors. This finding replicates many past studies (Bretl & Cantor, 1988); Coltrane & Messineo, 2000; Furnham and Mak,1999; Larson, 2001; Smith, 1994). Taken collaboratively, the repeated associations between females and domesticity promote traditional stereotypes regarding "women’s place." Social cognitive theory would suggest that female viewers, in particular, might learn that appropriate roles are anchored around the home. In terms of the physical appearances of commercial models, this study reiterated past findings that female characters are most commonly portrayed as young, thin, and attractive. Such repetitive emphases on youth and slenderness for females in commercials, and the scarcity of images of females who do not meet these standards, might lead female viewers to accept these narrow standards as cultural prescriptions for successful femininity. Precisely because commercials aim to show the enviable lifestyles which can be achieved through product purchase, these standards of attractiveness and their apparent association with happiness, love, success, and power, may become learned ideals. Moreover, by internalizing what have often been considered unrealistic standards of physical beauty for many women, viewers may experience dissatisfaction with their own appearance (Harrison & Cantor, 1997; Stice,

Authors: Mastro, Dana. and Stern, Susannah.
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Gender & Age in Commercials 19
Although this ratio is slightly smaller than or comparable to many recent studies (Allan & Coltrane, 1996;
Brown 1998; Coltrane & Messineo, 2000; Fullerton & Kendrick, 2000; Hong, 1997), its disproportion
still undermines females’ worth. Indeed, the prominence of male voices on television potentially teaches
viewers that females are less important, credible, and knowledgeable.
Generally speaking, these findings suggest that little has changed in depictions of females in
recent years. Females continue to be associated more often with the domestic realm than do males. First,
females were significantly more likely to appear in commercials for products used in the home, such as
household cleaners and kitchen appliances. Second, although females were not likely to be depicted in
domestic work as their primary activity in the commercials (a possible sign of progress), they were still
significantly more often shown in domestic pursuits than were males. Moreover, they were less often
shown in professional or non-professional occupations than males, even though neither sex was
particularly likely to be shown as a worker. Finally, female characters were most often found in home
settings, whereas males were most often found in the outdoors. This finding replicates many past studies
(Bretl & Cantor, 1988); Coltrane & Messineo, 2000; Furnham and Mak,1999; Larson, 2001; Smith,
1994).
Taken collaboratively, the repeated associations between females and domesticity promote
traditional stereotypes regarding "women’s place." Social cognitive theory would suggest that female
viewers, in particular, might learn that appropriate roles are anchored around the home.
In terms of the physical appearances of commercial models, this study reiterated past findings
that female characters are most commonly portrayed as young, thin, and attractive. Such repetitive
emphases on youth and slenderness for females in commercials, and the scarcity of images of females
who do not meet these standards, might lead female viewers to accept these narrow standards as cultural
prescriptions for successful femininity. Precisely because commercials aim to show the enviable
lifestyles which can be achieved through product purchase, these standards of attractiveness and their
apparent association with happiness, love, success, and power, may become learned ideals.
Moreover, by
internalizing what have often been considered unrealistic standards of physical beauty for many women,
viewers may experience dissatisfaction with their own appearance (Harrison & Cantor, 1997; Stice,


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