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Representations of Gender and Age in Television Commercials: A Content Analysis
Unformatted Document Text:  Gender & Age in Commercials 5 Frequencies. Despite their actual proportions in the real world, women have chronically been underrepresented in television commercials (Browne, 1998; Coltrane & Adams, 1997; Coltrane & Messineo, 2000; Craig, 1992; Signorelli, McLeod & Healy, 1994; White & Kinnick, 2000). Under- representation is considered problematic because the sheer numbers of different peoples represented on television presumably signals information about their worth. Recent studies show that women tend to be outnumbered in all types of television commercials, including those that air during prime time (Coltrane & Adams, 1997; Coltrane & Messineo, 2000; Craig, 1992; White & Kinnick, 2000), on MTV (Signorelli, McLeod & Healy, 1994), during children’s programming (Browne, 1998), and during programming most popular among girls ages 12 to 17 (Signorelli, 1997). When females are shown on television commercials, they tend to be younger than their male counterparts. Indeed, studies both domestically and internationally have documented this pattern, as well as the observation that older women (65 years and over) are substantially less visible than older men (Furnham & Mak, 1999; Signorelli, 1997). Roy & Harwood (1997) claim that "the underrepresentation of older women compared to older men may be the most consistent finding throughout content analytic literature on older adults," and they conclude that such low visibility of older women serves as additional evidence that sexism extends and likely even intensifies through the life span (p.50). Girls also tend to be underrepresented. Brown (1998) found that Saturday morning commercials in both the U.S. and Australia contained more male than female figures, and Larson (2001) found significantly more single-gender commercials that were boys-only compared to girls-only (although she found no overall discrepancies in the proportion of boys to girls). When females are shown, they are most likely to be young adults (Furnham & Mak, 1999; Signorelli, 1997). Although this age group is valuable to represent, it is also important to see images of older women and girls. Indeed, Atkins, Jenkins & Perkins (1991) argue that under-representing or omitting various populations from television suggests that the "needs, opinions, and demands of this group are of no real consequence and can, therefore, be ignored" (p. 31). Moreover, some scholars have voiced the concern that repeated depictions of young women to the exclusion of more diversely aged

Authors: Mastro, Dana. and Stern, Susannah.
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Gender & Age in Commercials
5
Frequencies. Despite their actual proportions in the real world, women have chronically been
underrepresented in television commercials (Browne, 1998; Coltrane & Adams, 1997; Coltrane &
Messineo, 2000; Craig, 1992; Signorelli, McLeod & Healy, 1994; White & Kinnick, 2000). Under-
representation is considered problematic because the sheer numbers of different peoples represented on
television presumably signals information about their worth. Recent studies show that women tend to be
outnumbered in all types of television commercials, including those that air during prime time (Coltrane
& Adams, 1997; Coltrane & Messineo, 2000; Craig, 1992; White & Kinnick, 2000), on MTV (Signorelli,
McLeod & Healy, 1994), during children’s programming (Browne, 1998), and during programming most
popular among girls ages 12 to 17 (Signorelli, 1997).
When females are shown on television commercials, they tend to be younger than their male
counterparts. Indeed, studies both domestically and internationally have documented this pattern, as well
as the observation that older women (65 years and over) are substantially less visible than older men
(Furnham & Mak, 1999; Signorelli, 1997). Roy & Harwood (1997) claim that "the underrepresentation
of older women compared to older men may be the most consistent finding throughout content analytic
literature on older adults," and they conclude that such low visibility of older women serves as additional
evidence that sexism extends and likely even intensifies through the life span (p.50).
Girls also tend to be underrepresented. Brown (1998) found that Saturday morning commercials
in both the U.S. and Australia contained more male than female figures, and Larson (2001) found
significantly more single-gender commercials that were boys-only compared to girls-only (although she
found no overall discrepancies in the proportion of boys to girls).
When females are shown, they are most likely to be young adults (Furnham & Mak, 1999;
Signorelli, 1997). Although this age group is valuable to represent, it is also important to see images of
older women and girls. Indeed, Atkins, Jenkins & Perkins (1991) argue that under-representing or
omitting various populations from television suggests that the "needs, opinions, and demands of this
group are of no real consequence and can, therefore, be ignored" (p. 31). Moreover, some scholars have
voiced the concern that repeated depictions of young women to the exclusion of more diversely aged


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