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Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Subject Guide — Images & Advertisements

How to guide for all women's, gender, and sexuality courses. Find information from many different kinds of sources -- worldwide research organizations, NGOs, peer-reviewed journals, books, ebooks, experts, etc.

Raise your Gender Sensitivity in Images

A Checklist for Analyzing Gender in Print Advertisements
  • Context: What is the context for the ad's publication? Where did it first appear on television, on the radio, on the Internet, or in print? What magazine or online site is it published at? If applicable, where is/was the original billboard located? How would readers/viewers see or have seen this ad?
  • Audience: Who is the intended audience for this ad?
  • Product: What is the ad trying to sell? Can you identify it at first glance? The primary function of a visual advertisement is to sell a specific product, service, or idea: Is the product prominently displayed? Or, is it less noticeable than other aspects of the advertisement?
  • People: Who is pictured in the ad? Are the models male or female?
  • Roles: What roles appear to have been assigned to the models? Are the roles stereotypical?
  • Appearance: What type of clothing are the models wearing? Do they appear to be wearing makeup? How is their hair styled? Does their overall ensembles reflect the product well -- why or why not? Does the ad suggest that people who purchase the advertised product will look like the models in the ad?
  • Body position: Are the models sitting or standing? Where are they in relation to the other elements of the ad? If there is more than one individual pictured in the ad, consider their positions in relation to one another. Does one model's body position seem inferior or superior to the other's? What relationship does he or she have with the product being advertised?
  • Body language: What are the models' postures? Are they standing straight and tall, leaning against something, sitting down, or hunching over? Where are their arms? How are their heads positioned? Is there a clear emotion being conveyed by either of the models' body language? If both male and female models are featured in the ad, consider their body language toward one another. Based on body language, can you make any assumptions about the relationships between the male(s) and female(s) represented in the ad?
  • Movement: Is there explicit action or movement in the ad? Implied action or movement?
  • Gaze: Are the models' eyes visible in the ad? If so, are they downcast? Looking out at the audience? Locked on another model? Focused on the product the ad is trying to sell? If they are not visible, are they obstructed or covered by the product? Or, is a model’s face cut out of the ad entirely?
  • Subtexts: What are the underlying arguments or assertions of the ad? That men should pursue women aggressively? That women should pursue men aggressively? That women should be passive? That women should be mothers? That men should be family-oriented? That men should work in the professional business world? Look for subtexts that both support and refute traditional gender stereotypes.
  • Written language: Is there text in the ad? If so, is the text informational? Does it directly relate to the product? Does it contain a slogan or catchphrase? Something else? What level of language is used? Slang? Jargon? Can it be interpreted in multiple ways?

"Analyzing Ads: Gender" by Angela Eward-Mangione, Emma Brown, and Susan Gail Taylor is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0