The Representation of Women in Advertisements through the 20th and 21st Centuries

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The representation of women in advertisement has changed throughout the centuries. In the early twentieth century women were known to be subservient and inferior to their husbands, whilst in the present century women are acknowledge as equal and talented as mans, completely going against stereotypes. These changes are present in advertisement such as Listerine, Folgers and diet coke which show the stages of change.


In the 1920 Listerine advert it portrays women to be desperate for a husband by showing the model Edna can’t cope without a husband. The camera shot in the advert is long shot as it shows Edna body and background. Edna is in a dark room and her hands have a grip on an open chest, which is empty because there should be men’s clothes in the chest. By the empty chest you could connote that women’s in the 1920’s are expected to have a husband in order to be joyful. This represent women at that time to be distressed and anxious  for men’s attention because of society at the time expected women’s to be married before reaching that ‘tragic thirty-mark.’

The Listerine advert sends a message to women’s at that time that they should be married because happiness only comes in marriage. By using the words ‘pathetic Edna readers were expected to consider Edna’s story depressing because of her marital status: she was, after all, nearly 30 years old and still unmarried. What’s more, because of her halitosis, Edna had to be content being “always a bridesmaid but never a bride.” This represent women in the 1920’s to be a easily deceived as Listerine used dishonest approach in the advert like the fact that they mention that the mouthwash cures dandruff.

Women primary goal was to be a housewives and mother- if they couldn’t do this they were considered failure by society. The Listerine advert uses fear to frighten women in the 20’s society because of halitosis in a social situation and women’s would often compare themselves to “Edna”, who approaching her 30th birthday was still single, due to bad breath. She was, they said, “always a bridesmaid and never a bride.” This represent women’s in the 20’s society to have a simple goal that is to be married and have children and failing to have that met before they reach their tragic thirty mark would mean that something was wrong with them making them insecure.

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Similarly to 1920’s, the 1950s it was still considered important for women's lives around their family and home.  In the Folgers’ 1950 advert it demonstrates how inferior the wife is to her husband in the first scene. The wife is wearing scruffy clothing, which can indicate or connote that she’s deprived similar to the quality of her coffee. The husband is shown wearing a black suit which could signify control and power, making him more superior to his wife. The camera shot used in the scene between the husband and the wife is a two shot to demonstrate their ...

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