ADVERTISING AS A MODERN UTOPIA:
ii.im.itc pliysicol facts, latently
A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE 50'S AND THE 80'S
Cynthia DeBoer Simms
B.A., University of Northern Colorado, 1974
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities
This thesis for the Master of Humanities degree by
Cynthia DeBoer Simms
has been approved for the
Simms, Cynthia DeBoer (M.H., Humanities)
Advertising as a Modern Utopia: A Comparative Study of
the 50's and the 80's
Thesis directed by Associate Professor M. Kent Casper
This thesis asserts that the language of
advertising is a contemporary form of utopian dis-
course. This opinion is supported by the comparison
between the characteristics of advertising and
traditional forms of utopian thought. Both forms of
discourse speak to the future. Their creation is an
attempt to relieve current anxiety through anticipated
The thesis argues that the creation of
utopian thought is influenced by psychological
conditioning and previous utopian thought, especially
by the enduring Biblical utopias of Eden and Heaven.
One of the effects of Christian theology upon
contemporary utopian discourse is the emphasis on a
patriarchal social structure.
The author examines two advertisements from
the 1950's and two from the 1980's. This comparison
allows an observation of how advertising reflects a
Western patriarchal social structure, and what
impact the women's movement has had on the imaging of
The conclusion which the thesis draws is that
women in both decades are imaged to represent the
female paragon at a point in history. The 50's ads
show women whose primary concern is the status of
their marriages. One of the main components of a
happy marriage is a wife's sexual attractiveness to
her husband, and her submissive willingness to be
available for his needs. The 80's ads show women
whose primary concern is still the achievement of
sexual attractiveness for men, but marriage is not a
requisite for sexual behavior. Women in the 80's are
also seen as sexually aggressive, and share with men
an equal desire for sexual gratification.
The analysis of all four ads demonstrates that
a woman's personal identity or occupation is not
important. What counts is that she maintain a
physical presence which is sexually desirable for a
man. The 80's ads further conclude that a certain
type of ideal woman is sexually aggressive. The
author calls for the rejection of such narrow
definitions in order to embrace images which depict
women as fully rounded, integrated beings.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I
recommend its publication.
To Rick, with love and appreciation for
hundred forms of support.
This is the time I have looked forward to when
I can thank all of the people who have been so
generous with their time and energy in helping me
complete this thesis.
Nobody ever had a better thesis committee.
Kent Casper and Brad Bowles made this experience more
enjoyable than I thought possible. Their intelligence
and wisdom were indispensable. But their mutual sense
of humor and firm grasp on reality helped make this
experience a pleasure.
My special thanks go to Jan Carnal, Deda
Nelson, and Howie Lambert, who willingly volunteered
their time in providing invaluable feedback during the
many stages of completion.
My thanks also go to all my friends who always
let me know that they cared about my work and offered
encouragement: Ellen, Judith, Janine, Bill, Gary,
Rex, Kirk, Joan, Terry, Jim, Larry, Diane, and Gail;
and to Heather and Ryan and the rest of my family who
patiently waited for me to finish.
My deepest gratitude goes to Bill Satterfield
who held the light in the dark and showed me the way.
A Personal View............................1
Research Method .......................... 4
II. LIFE IN PARADISE.............................6
Advertising as an Escape...................6
The Need for Utopia........................8
The Cost of Escape........................17
III. A LOOK AT ADVERTISING.......................20
A Look at the 80's........................48
A Look at 3 0 years.......................69
1. Please, Dave . . Don't Lock Me Out..........27
2. Mothers Help Guard Family Health...............28
3. That Other You Could Lose His Love!............35
4. The Cause of Her Husband's Frigidity...........36
5. That Other You Could Destroy His Love!. ... 37
6. This Grave Womanly Offense.....................38
7. That Other You Could End Your Marriage! ... 39
8. A Husband Can't Tell a Sensitive Wife!. ... 40
9. That Other You Could Kill Your Marriage!. .41
10. New Mildness From Lysette.....................4 2
11. Forbidden Fruits...............................56
12. Smart. Beautiful .Maybelline...................64
A Personal View
I am in charge of the grocery shopping for our
house. Part of the ritual of grocery shopping is
standing in line at the checkout counter. I get a
chance to catch up on all of the latest gossip on the
covers of the tabloids. I'm never interested in
looking at more than the headlines, but if the line is
especially long, I'll pick up one of the women's
magazines that are also available at the checkout
counter. I choose one with something on the cover
which looks interesting, and I flip through the pages
while I wait. Even in the space of a minute or two, I
get an update on the newest hair and clothing styles,
the current trends in home improvement, and menu
suggestions for the next holiday. I generally don't
read magazines, but occasionally I get a notion to buy
one, and I throw it in the basket with the groceries.
There is something about a "magazine day"
which distinguishes it from other days. When I buy a
woman's magazine, it is because I feel bluenot quite
happy about the events of my day. Maybe I'm fighting
with my husband or one of the kids, maybe I have PMS,
or maybe I'm worried about some inevitability like
death or taxes. Whatever it is, a magazine offers an
escape from reality. For a few minutes I can forget
about the problems of my day.
The escape is in the pictures. In fact, I
rarely read any of the articles in a woman's magazine.
I enjoy the ease of letting the pictures do all of the
work. Magazine pictures offer a view of the world
with which I might agree or disagree; it doesn't
really matter. What the pictures provide is a
momentary retreat from the present. Women's magazines
are filled with photographs, largely comprising
advertising images,1 which gives them the feel of a
I also have a weakness for chocolate on these
same "blue" days, maybe because magazines and
chocolate have something in common. They both satisfy
the senses. Chocolate smells and tastes good. A
magazine has substance in its weight, it is pliable,
the paper is smooth, it is filled with colorful
pictures of places and people, it stimulates emotions 1
1In the July 1989 issue of Cosmopolitan.
forty-nine percent of the pages contain advertising.
of sexual desire, love, personal insecurities, and
Magazines, with their emphasis on advertising,
go one step beyond offering a temporary escape by
titillating the senses. Advertising suggests that
solutions are available for real life problems. The
problem may be as mundane as ring-around-the-collar,
but a solution is offered. For a moment in time, an
advertisement offers a better reality and a way of
achieving that reality.
The problem that I have with chocolate and
women's magazines is that I can't enjoy either one
without unpleasant side effects. If I eat chocolate,
I enjoy it for a moment, but it has no real food
value, it is loaded with calories and it doesn't
really satisfy my hunger. When I look at a woman's
magazine, I experience a temporary escape, but it
doesn't feed the hunger of my soul. I can garden,
make music or take a long walk, and I return to my
routine feeling spiritually fed. A retreat into
advertising leaves me feeling empty and dissatisfied.
I eat chocolate because I love the taste. But I do
wonder why I sometimes look at magazine advertising
when I know that it leaves me unhappy. What needs of
mine are being met by magazine pictures?
This thesis is divided into two sections. The
first section deals with the psychological appeal of
advertising. What psychological need is being met by
looking at pictures in a magazine? How does a
magazine function as a method of escape? The second
part of the thesis looks at specific advertisements in
Cosmopolitan to examine their impact on the viewer.
The review of the advertising includes ads
from the years 1950, 1959, 1980 and 1989. A
comparison of the 50's and 80's provides a method of
examining images of women before and after the women's
movement2 to see what impact feminism has on
advertising. A comparison of these decades also
provides a method for examining images to see to what
degree advertising is a reflection of historical
circumstances, or simply a representation of
traditional roles for women.
The research is limited to Cosmopolitan.
because it is one of the few magazines that is
published primarily for women in both decades. Four
ads are reviewed. The two ads of the 50's, both for
2For this discussion, the womens' movement
refers to the 1960's and 1970's, distinguished by the
issues of birth control, abortion rights, and the
Equal Rights Amendment.
feminine hygiene, are indicative of the importance of
marriage for women in the 50's, and their responsi-
bility in maintaining a happy marriage. The two ads
from the 80's advertise Maybelline products. These
ads ignore marriage, and concentrate on the sexual
assertiveness of women, as well as the importance of
female attractiveness in maintaining a sexual
relationship. Restricting the research to four ads
allows a detailed review of each ad as a method of
examining advertising's impact on women.
LIFE IN PARADISE
Advertising as an Escape
Just how does advertising function as an
escape? Simply stated, advertising offers hope. A
momentary retreat into the pictures of advertising
allows me to forget about the worries of today and
dream about the possibilities of tomorrow.
It is not so much that I believe that buying will
solve my unhappiness of the day; rather, advertising
offers a dream world into which I can temporarily
escape, and from which I fully expect to return.
Janice Winship in her book, Inside Women's Magazines.
describes the dream world of advertising:
. . we frequently luxuriate in the advertisement
without ever a thought of the product. ... We
recognize and relish the vocabulary of dreams in
which ads deal; we become involved in the fictions
they create; but we know full well that those
commodities will not elicit the promised fiction.
It doesn't matter. Without bothering to buy the
product we can vicariously indulge in the good
life through the image alone.1 1
1Janice Winship, Inside Women's Magazines
(London: Pandora, 1987) 55.
It is the "vicarious indulgence] in the good life"
which is a handy escape on a day when I'm not content
Then what is the "good life?" People who know
me tell me that I live the good life, and on most days
I think so too. But depending on the factors that
create unhappiness for me on any given day, my concept
of the good life continues to change. Some days the
good life necessitates unlimited financial resources.
I think that if I just had enough money all my
problems could be solved. Some days I wish for
children who are grown, and sometimes I want a new
baby. Some days I want to travel the world or move to
a warm climate. The list goes on and on and changes
from day to day.
My quest for the good life is not a journey
which I alone experience. Mankind's quest for the
good life, or utopia, is a common feature found in
every culture throughout history. Frank and Fritzie
Manuel in their book, Utopian Thought in the Western
World. state that, "blessed isles and paradises are
part of the dream world of savages everywhere."2
2Frank E. Manuel and Fritzie P. Manuel,
Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge: The
Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1979) 1.
"Utopia" is a word coined by Thomas More in
the fourteenth century. By combining the Latin u with
the Greek topos he creates utopia which literally
means "noplace." Utopia is a place which does not
exist. Over time utopia has taken on the implication
of perfection. Randon House Dictionary defines Utopia
as "a place or state of political or social
perfection." The Manuels suggest that, "Through the
centuries utopias have preserved the complexity of the
More's use of utopia does not imply a value
judgment of good or bad. In More's book, Utopia. he
talks about the island of Utopia which he describes as
simply better than what currently exists. More uses
the word "eutopia" to describe a utopia to which the
creator ascribes positive attributes. "Dystopia," on
the other hand, describes utopia which the creator
views as negative. Therefore, what might be one man's
eutopia may be another man's dystopia.
The Need for Utopia
Thomas More's description of Utopia serves as
a literary device for criticizing the English
government of the fourteenth century. Some scholars
argue that More's Utopia also reflects a young man's
dream that such a humane place actually exists.
Creating a utopia is a mechanism for coping with
anxiety, and More's creation of Utopia is a function
of his anxiety about the English government. Frances
Bartkowski in her book, Feminist Utopias, states:
utopia is the work of anticipation motivated by
anxiety. . It is precisely the absence of
plenitude and satisfaction (dystopia) which will
constantly and radically transform desire into
Bartkowski goes on to state that utopia stems from the
impulse to satisfy our wishes.6
The language of advertising can be viewed as a
form of utopian discourse. This comparison is made
easier by creating a more condensed definition: utopia
is a place which does not exist in the present,
created for the purpose of relieving anxiety and
Advertising is a place that does not exist in
the present, at least for the implied viewer. John
Berger, author of Wavs of Seeing, states that
Frances Bartkowski, Feminist Utopias
(Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1989) 10.
advertising always exists in the future.7 Ads deal
with the way things can be tomorrow instead of the way
things are today. Secondly, our individual anxieties
are anticipated and represented by advertising.
Berger argues that advertising is a function of
anxiety.8 9 If our anxiety is created by marital
unhappiness, advertising anticipates our problem and
offers products which promise a happier marriage.
Finally, advertising offers a way of fulfilling our
wishes. If our wish is for attention and approval
from the opposite sex, then we can find advertising
for products that promise to enhance our
attractiveness. Berger asserts that advertising is,
"about social relations, not objects. Its promise is
not of pleasure, but of happiness. . .1,9 In the
"utopia" of advertising, we are promised happiness
through successful relationships.
What makes the concept of utopia so powerful
is that it seems achievable. The potential for
achievement is what separates utopia from fantasy.
Aldous Huxley wrote a eutopian novel, Island. and a
7John Berger, Wavs of Seeing (London: BBC,
1972; Middlesex: Penguin, 1972) 130.
dystopian novel, Brave New World. Both of these
novels create societies which seem to be future
possibilities. Likewise, advertising creates a utopia
which seems achievable by buying a specific product.
The problem with utopia is that it changes. Huxley's
Island is invaded by outside forces, and the fate of
its citizens is unknown. Advertising represents the
utopia of tomorrow, which will change next week, or
next year. Utopia's promise is always in the future.
It is critical to point out that we don't
individually create utopia in a vacuum. Our
imaginations about the future are restricted by our
experiences in the present and our memories from the
past. Joseph Campbell in his interview with Bill
Moyers states, "When you start thinking about these
things . there aren't too many images for you to
use. You begin, on your own, to have the images that
are already present in some other system of
thought."10 The Manuels assert:
Since utopian themes are often handed down from
one generation to another, with modifications and
variations of recognizable thought patterns and
pictorial details, and utopia-writers either
invoke the authority of their predecessors or
engage in explicit or implicit debate with them,
10Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth. ed.
Betty Sue Flowers (New York: Doubleday, 1988) 39.
there is an evident continuity that can be
established and described.11
Perhaps one of the most enduring utopias in
the Western world is the Christian concept of the
Garden of Eden and Heaven. The Manuels assert that
the "psychological roots of the paradise myth . .
are so profound that their existence may sometimes be
taken for granted or overlooked."11 12 It seems apparent
that our contemporary notions of utopia reflect the
ideology of our Christian heritage.
The Garden of Eden, the Biblical utopia of the
past, and Heaven, the Christian utopia of the future,
are linked together through time by the common element
of God, the father, as ultimate ruler of both domains.
This image of God as father, as a man, has created a
patriarchal structure that seems to exist throughout
utopian thought. Bartkowski notes that
". . creators of utopias make a 'place' for women
that seems only to mask oppression while imagining
The patriarchal structure of Biblical paradise
continues into the Christian teachings throughout the
New Testament. I Corinthians 11:8-9 reads, "For the
man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the
woman for the man." Also, Colossians 3:18 says,
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as
it is fit in the Lord." Finally,
I Timothy 2:12 says, "But I suffer not a woman to
teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be
in silence." In the creation of contemporary utopian
discourse such as the language of advertising, we are
influenced by our Christian heritage and its
patriarchal structure. The utopian language of
advertising incorporates Christian patriarchy "which
make[s] a 'place' for women. . .14
The idea of man as the head of the family has
a broad impact on the way that men and women think.
Patriarchy separates the role of men and women and
ascribes certain "natural" characteristics to each
sex. In Contemporary Feminist Thought. Hester
Eisenstein articulates the characteristics that are
traditionally ascribed to men and women. Such traits
as "passivity, affection, obedience, responsiveness to
sympathy and approval, cheerfulness, kindness, and
friendliness" are considered feminine qualities.15
Women are also expected, because of their ability to
bear children, to be naturally capable of nurturing.16
Men, however, are seen as "active, tenacious,
aggressive, curious, ambitious, planful, responsible,
original, and competitive."17
These gender defined "characteristics" are the
result, according to Eisenstein, of social pressures,
or psychological 'conditioning.'18 Unfortunately,
these traits are not viewed equally. The traits
ascribed to men tend to have more status in our
society.19 Although these traits are not innate, R.
W. Connell in Gender and Power claims that many people
believe that the fundamental differences between men
15Hester Eisenstein, Contemporary Feminist
Thought (Boston: Hall, 1983) 8.
16Juanita H. Williams, Psychology of Women:
Behavior in a Biosocial Context (New York: Norton,
19Jane Root, Pictures of Women: Sexuality
(London: Pandora, 1984) 15.
and women create a boundary beyond which we can not
Through the process of social conditioning,
men and women are taught that women are passive and
obedient. Women are able, however, to achieve certain
control through manipulation. E. Figes, referred to
in Psychology of Women by Juanita Williams, says a
". . woman, otherwise powerless, gets what she wants
by using devious, cunning means in which her sexual
attraction is a strong element to effect the downfall
of her prey, man."21 Williams also notes, however,
that although women are sometimes viewed as the
seductress they are also seen as the "embodiment of
virtue."22 This tension between the cunning
seductress and the manifestation of virtue places
women in the position of incorporating behavior that
seems largely irreconcilable.
Women's attempts to integrate two such
dichotomous traits as virtue and seduction has
influenced the way in which women view themselves in
20R. W. Connell, Gender and Power: Society,
the Person and Sexual Politics (Stanford: Stanford UP,
society. In Understanding Women. A Feminist
Psychoanalytic Approach. Eichenbaum and Orbach claim
that cultural demands are reflected in the psychology
of women. They claim that:
Women do not feel whole; women do not feel
confident in themselves; women feel less than
equal; women feel like children, not adults; women
feel powerless; women feel overdependent, women
feel passive; women feel imprisoned by their anger
and by the clouds of depression that often
surround them.23 24
It would seem that attempts by women to conform to a
set of standards, which they have inherited from the
past and learned through socialization, has a negative
impact upon their psychological development.
Although contemporary women have primarily not
defined their own roles within the patriarchal
structure, we can question how this system of
categorization continues to function in the wake of
three decades of feminist discourse. Eisenstein
addresses this issue as defined by Kate Millett:
The social control of women in a "free" society
such as the United States was not carried out
through a rigid, authoritarian system of force.
Rather, it took place by means of the engineering
of consent among women themselves. Instead of
23Luise Eichenbaum and Susie Orbach,
Understanding Women: A Feminist Psychoanalytic
Approach (New York: Basic, 1983) 139.
24Rochelle Gatlin, American Women Since 1945
(Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1987) 8.
being openly coerced into accepting their
secondary status, women were conditioned into
embracing it by the process of sex-role
stereotyping. From early childhood, women were
trained to accept a system which divided society
into male and female spheres, with appropriate
roles for each, and which allocated public power
exclusively to the male sphere.25
It would seem that we are conditioned by a legacy of
patriarchy which has been challenged by feminist
thought but not eradicated. When I view advertising,
I do so through the lens of my patriarchal
conditioning. A particular ad may correspond to my
conditioning in a way that stimulates a personal image
of utopia, and I can escape to that utopian vision for
a moment in time.
The Cost of Escape
The use of advertising images as a catalyst
for escape does not come without a price. The cost is
the feeling of dissatisfaction which advertising
evokes. Ads offer hope that the future will somehow
be better. As Berger says, advertising promises
happiness.26 When I make my inevitable return from
the dream world of utopia, I don't feel any happier.
I still experience the same feeling of unhappiness
that I had before looking at the magazine. In fact,
the feeling of unhappiness is intensified because the
promise offered by advertising has not been fulfilled.
Another cost of using advertising to stimulate
utopian thought is that ads are a reflection of our
society which still image men and women in a
traditional fashion based on patriarchal stereotypes.
June Sochen in her book, Enduring Values, says it
best: "The popular culture of the United States
contains both new and old elements; it searches
constantly for new stars, new plots, and new twists
while remaining true to old images, old formulas, and
Our guest for utopia is a human impulse
motivated by anxiety and the hope for fulfilling our
wishes. In the past, this quest has been satisfied
for many through faith in the Christian promise of
utopia in Heaven. But Joseph Campbell asserts that we
no longer respond to the myths of a biblical paradise
in the same fashion as past generations.28 In
addition, the Manuels assert that there is a void in
27June Sochen, Enduring Values: Women in
Popular Culture (New York: Praeger, 1987) xi.
contemporary utopian discourse.29 Certainly, anxiety
in our modern world is a significant factor, and we
still maintain the hope of fulfilling our wishes.
Advertising, and its reliance on the language of
images, plays a role in satisfying our utopian impulse
by addressing our anxieties and creating a dream world
A LOOK AT ADVERTISING
The language of advertising is a form of
contemporary utopian discourse. Critical thought has
always examined the message of discourse and its
impact on humanity. It is important, therefore, to
examine the language of advertising in order to
understand its message and the resulting impact on our
behavior. This thesis asserts that part of the
function of the message of advertising is to stimulate
our utopian impulse by articulating specific sources
of anxiety, and offering hope for the fulfillment of
Advertising promises satisfactory
relationships, but these relationships are based upon
patriarchal standards which serve to reinforce
stereotypes of women. A thorough review of these ads
helps us understand how the language of advertising
accomplishes this goal.
The 50's.1 Numerous factors affected the
attitudes of the 1950's, but most significantly, the
United States was recovering from World War II. Men
were returning to the work place, and women who held
traditionally male jobs during the war were encouraged
to return home. Nationalism was strong, which
encouraged a return to the traditional values of the
working father and the mother who reared children and
cared for the home.
A renewed interest in traditional values
sparked a religious revival, and by 1950 sixty percent
of the population belonged to a church.1 2 A
patriarchal view of traditional values was reinforced
by strong Christian ideals that encouraged the
delineation of male/female roles and provided a clear
understanding of each role. Both traditional and
religious values recognized the man as the head of the
family and viewed the woman as his helpmate.
To a large degree, a willingness to embrace
traditional values was necessary to postwar recovery,
1Unless otherwise noted, the information in
this section is a composite drawn from Part I.
Rochelle Gatlin, American Women Since 1945 (Jackson:
UP of Mississippi, 1987) 7-23.
2Lyn Levitt Tornabene, "Our Moral Revolution,"
Cosmopolitan Magazine March 1959: 44-51.
and women played a primary role in the return to
traditional values. Women were encouraged to
surrender the jobs they held during the war. This
shift in the work force was necessary to increase the
number of available jobs for returning soldiers. But
women were also encouraged to return home to have
children in order to reverse the low birthrates during
the war years. An employed male work force and an
increased birthrate were seen as instrumental to
economic recovery. Women were encouraged to embrace
the domestic sphere as a necessary step in the
revitalization of the country.
As the country headed toward recovery,
families headed for the suburbs. The American dream
of owning a home was made possible through the G.I.
Bill, which provided government subsidized loans for
veterans. But suburban sprawl had a dual impact on
women. First of all, the suburbs increased women's
isolation by creating a physical separation between
the work place and the home. Men commuted downtown or
uptown to work, but women were left to tend to the
home and children. Secondly, women were charged with
the responsibility of decorating the new home and then
keeping it clean. In spite of the onslaught of new
technology and labor saving devices, housework was a
time consuming and boring job because homes were
larger and new standards for cleanliness were
introduced.3 According to Gatlin, "as housework
became less satisfying as work, it was infused with
sentiment. . Household tasks were not depicted as
onerous chores . but as expressions of wifely and
motherly love."4 The roles of wife and mother were
seen as the embodiment of womanhood.
The troublesome fact for women of the 1950's
was that their accomplishments in the domestic realm
were not viewed as work. Rather, homemaking was
viewed as a woman's "natural" role. Her "job" was to
nurture relationships. She was encouraged not to work
outside of the home so that she could be available for
the needs of her husband and children. Motherhood and
the caretaking of children was seen as her most
important role. Nonetheless, women in the 1950's felt
the strain of their non-working world because
"mothering was the most important work they as women
would ever do; yet they received neither formal
training nor a salary."5
In spite of the persistent belief that the
woman's place was "in the home, there was a need for
women to fill positions in teaching, nursing and in
clerical positions. Yet the majority of women were
not actively competitive in the work place, and this
void placed them in an economically subordinate
position. Women who did not work were dependent on
men to provide financial security. In a society that
valued economic recovery, it is little wonder that
women who did not contribute to economic betterment
shared inferior status. In fact, Juliet Mitchell
states that a woman's "inability to work is the cause
of her inferior status. . ."6 The economic recovery
of the nation fueled spending; and women, as the
primary shoppers, held a distinct position in that
At the heart of the post-war financial
recovery was the advent of installment buying. The
use of credit allowed Americans the ability to
purchase many consumer goods which were often
unavailable or in short supply during mandatory
wartime rationing. The age of instant gratification
was launched. Spending fueled the demand for consumer
6Juliet Mitchell, Women; the Longest
Revolution (New York: Pantheon, 1966) 23.
goods, and credit offered an avenue for greater
spending. There was also a rise in the amount of
leisure time, and leisure time activities supplied a
new source of spending. Advertising played an
important role during the post-war years by picturing
the new goods that were financially available to
middle America and by instilling the desire to buy.
Ads reinforced the notion of the happy housewife,
because women who did not "work" had more time to
shop. In addition, women who were involved in
decorating, cooking, cleaning, child rearing, and in
personal beauty were seen as the perfect targets for
the endless supply of new products. Advertising
employed idealized images of women, and the feminine
mystique of the 1950's offered an updated stereotype
of the ideal woman. The model woman of the 50's was a
contented wife and mother who enjoyed the respon-
sibilities of domesticity. She was available for the
needs of her husband and children, and she did not
question her dependence upon her husband. She was
available as lover, mother, housekeeper, and cook, and
she was never too tired to "keep herself up."
This thesis inspects two ads from the 50's,
hardly enough to examine the full extent to which
advertising supports the American paragon of the 50's.
When I began my review in Cosmopolitan. I did find all
of the advertisements that I expected for various
beauty products. Bobbi Pin Curl Permanent, SweetHeart
Soap, and Lustre-Creme Shampoo were all memories from
my childhood; and they were well represented in the
pages of Cosmopolitan, along with an array of other
products. What I didn't expect to see was in the
March 1950 issue of Cosmopolitan. In 1950 Lysol Brand
Disinfectant was advertised as a feminine hygiene
douche! (Fig. 1). I was shocked. I had no idea that
Lysol was sold for feminine hygiene. I was only
familiar with it as a household disinfectant. In
fact, I had already seen in a previous issue of
Cosmopolitan. February 1950, that Lysol was advertised
as a safeguard against the spread of contagious
diseases (Fig. 2). The very same product was being
sold for feminine hygiene!
I talked to several women who were old enough
in the 50's to care about douching to see if they
remembered Lysol being sold for that use. Some of
them did and some of them didn't, but the proof was
before me in print. Once I recovered from my shock, I
reminded myself that it was unfair to make judgements
about the past based on contemporary perspectives. I
could accept that medical science in 1950 thought that
PLEASE, DAVE..PLEASE DONT LET
ME BE LOCKED OUT FROM YOU!
Often a wife fails to realize that doubts due to one
intimate neglect shut her out from happy married love
A man marries a woman because he
loves her. So instead of blaming him
if married love begins to cool, she
should question herself. Is she truly
trying to keep her husband and herself
eaaer. happy married lovers? One most
effective way to safeguard her dainty
feminine allure is by practicing complete
feminine hvgiene os provided by vaginal
douches with scientifically correct prep*
aration like Lysol. So easy a way to
banish the misgivings that often keep
married lovers apart.
Germ* destroyed swiftly
Lvsol has amazing, proved power to
kill germ-life on contact . truly
cleanses the vaginal canal even in the
presence of mucous matter. Thus
Lysol acts in a wav that makeshifts
like soap, salt or soda never can.
Appealing daintiness is assured, be-
cause the very source of objectionable
odors is eliminated.
Use whenever needed!
Yet gentle, non-caustic Lysol will
not harm delicate (issue. Simple direc-
tions give correct douching solution.
Manv doctors advise their patients to
douche regularly with Lysol braad
disinfectant, just to insure feminine
daintiness alone, and to use it as oftea
as necessary. No greasy aftereffect
For feminine hygiene, three times
more women use Lysol than any
other licruid preparation. No other is
more reliable. You. too, can rely on
Lysol to help protect your married
happiness . keep you desirable!
For complete Feminine
Hygiene roly on . .
Pwlm a) t*ke 4 Fmk
NfWI... PIMININI HYGIINI PACTS!
FRfff Ne booklet of information be
leading gynecological aulhorilv. Mail
coupon to Lehn A Fink. Avenue. Hloomneld, N. J. 192 Bloomlielii
Fig. 1. "Please, Dave . . Don't Lock Me Out
Cosmopolitan (March 1950) 101.
How Mothers Help Guard Family Health
TO HELP PREVENT disease germs from
striking at family health, alert mothers, the
country over, take this simple precaution:
they disinfect with potent Lysol" brand
disinfectant when cleaning their homes.
Floors, walls, woodwork .. everywhere.
IP SICKNESS should be carried in from
outside, then dependable Lysol becomes
even more a imi.vf in the sickroom. The
patients bed. bedding and utensils all
need disinfecting with "Lysol... 2'i table-
spoons to each gallon of cleaning water.
Look lo your Doctor and
Call on thrir knowledge and skill when-
e\ot needed. Ik* prepared, before sick-
ness muv occur, with basic Sickroom
Needs! Your druggist is featuring these
items now. Check with him today I
TAKE SPECIAL CARE, with sickness in the
home, in cleaning bathroom and all sick-
nx>tn utensils. Use potent Lvsol" dis-
infectant solution, lo fight disease germs.
HELP PROTECT tjottr home against disease
germs. Remembermany healthy, happy
homes, cuast-to-coast. depend on power-
ful Lysol to help guard family health.
Fig. 2. "Mothers Help Guard Family Health,
Cosmopolitan (Feb. 1950) 93.
a household disinfectant was also acceptable for
What was more difficult to accept was the
picture which accompanied the ad. A small, black-and-
white picture showed a woman, obviously upset, unable
to open a door secured by larger-than-life locks. The
caption over her head, 'Please, Dave..Please don't let
me be locked out from you!,' explained that this woman
had been unhappily locked out from a man. The words
below the picture completed our understanding of her
unhappiness. The words, "Often a wife fails to
realize that doubts due to one intimate neglect shut
her out from happy married love," suggested that she
was locked out because she hadn't douched with Lysol.
It was difficult to believe that women in 1950
seriously felt that marriage was so fragile that it
was jeopardized by a woman's failure to douche. But
this ad skillfully combined a number of factors to
deliver a powerful message.
The mood of the ad is set by the picture of a
woman unhappily trying to open a door. She appears to
be middle aged, with dark hair, almost grey at the
temples, neatly combed. She looks average in size and
wears only a minimum of makeup. Her skirt and blouse
seem simple enough to suggest that she is at home.
The skirt, however, is black and serves as a strong
contrast next to the white door. This contrast
accentuates the skirt, and its dark color functions
simultaneously as an ominous hint of the source of her
problem as well as keeping her largely undefined from
the waist down. She has both hands on the door knob,
and she is leaning slightly backward indicating her
desire to open the door. Her head is turned upward,
and her eyes are fixed above the frame of the ad as if
pleading for help. Her mouth is slightly open as she
begs Dave to let her in.
The door appears to be situated in a hallway
with a picture hanging at the immediate right. The
woman struggles with the six-panel door, a door often
used in homes, which suggests that she has perhaps
been locked out of the bedroom she shares with Dave.
The ad has literally cut her off at the knees and
isolates her from her desired domestic realm. She
can't walk away, and she doesn't have the strength to
open the door.
The locks securing the door are huge. They
symbolize the magnitude of her problem, and the extent
of her ignorance in dealing with the problem. The
arrangement of the ad places the woman and the locks
in the center of the picture engaged in a struggle.
The woman has been locked out from her husband, and
she pleads for his help. Although Dave is not in the
picture, his power is evident, because he is the one
who she turns to for help. In spite of Dave's
physical absence, he holds the key to their sexual
Dave seems like someone familiar because he is
identified by name. We don't know what he looks like,
but his looks are not important. He is Dave, holder
of the key, and master of the bedroom. The woman, on
the other hand, we only know as a "wife," but she is a
wife who "fails" through "neglect" and "ignorance."
She has been "shut out" from "happy married love."
Her "neglect" and "ignorance" have jeopardized her
This ad for Lysol gives us all the necessary
information to understand an entire scenario with one
picture and a few words. In the process of setting up
the scene, however, the ad also makes a variety of
suggestions about the very nature of women and men.
Lysol's ad suggests that women have germs.
Women, because they have a vagina, carry a source of
disease that must be disinfected, destroyed. The
source of her disease can be hidden in a dark place,
but the smell can still be detected. A woman's
ignorance about her own odor can jeopardize her
The ad also suggests that men control sex, a
notion supported by the knowledge that a man has the
ability to rape a woman. Women, because of their
inferior physical strength, are less powerful then
men. The patriarchal structure supported by our
society poses a double bind for women. They are
controlled, especially sexually, by men, and yet they
are responsible for the man's sexual happiness.
Lysol's ad threatens the 50's notion that a
woman is in control of the home. She may be in
charge, but only so long as she keeps her husband
happy. Her sphere of domestic supremacy would appear
from this ad to be subject to her sexual desirability.
Women in the 50's are told that they are the queen of
the castle, but the castle belongs to the king, and he
is in charge. We identify the king, Dave, by his
authority; he is in charge. We identify the queen,
"wife," by her appearance. The wife's only action is
her attempt to open the door, which is neutralized by
her apparent lack of success and her inability to walk
away. She is defined by her inaction; her "neglect"
and "ignorance" about douching. This tendency to
identify men as authoritative and women as ignorant,
would indicate that the most important action for a
woman is to take measures to assure her sexual
The intensity of Lysol's ad is reinforced by
the potent copy which accompanies the picture. A
thorough reading of the copy is not required in order
to understand the intention of the words. Such
phrases as "dainty feminine allure," "scientifically
correct." 'Lysol," "banish the misgivings," "lovers
apart," "amazing, proved power," "Appealing
daintiness," "objectionable odor," "will not harm,"
"doctors advise," "help protect your married happiness
. . keep you desirable!," all reinforce the
impressions established by the picture. The woman in
the picture has an odor which threatens her
daintiness, her allure, and separates her from her
husband/lover. Lysol has scientific power, the
endorsement of doctors, it will banish her fears, and
keep her desirable, i.e. acceptable to her husband.
This ad suggests that marriage is the most
important relationship in a woman's life. Further-
more, the success or failure of marriage hinges on a
woman's assurance of her sexual attractiveness. Her
future happiness and security depend on her husband's
continued sexual interest in her. For a woman who is
economically and emotionally dependent on marriage,
this ad delivers a powerful message about a her
personal responsibility for marital success.
Lysol's advertisement implies that a happy
marriage can be maintained by proper feminine hygiene.
A woman who feels anxious about the burden of
maintaining marital happiness, will find Lysol's
promise the fulfillment of her wish.
Lysol's ad in the March 1950 issue of
Cosmopolitan is not an isolated image (Figs. 3-9).
The notion that marriage and douching are critically
connected is reinforced throughout Cosmopolitan that
year. Zonite brand feminine hygiene also has a series
of ads in Cosmo during 1950 that support Lysol's claim
that douching is essential in a happy marriage. All
of Lysol's ads imply that a woman is a divided self.
The "real" self uses Lysol, which allows a woman to be
"happy," "poised," and "confident." The other self is
filled with "doubts," "misgivings," and "inhibitions,"
which can "destroy" male love. Lysol implies that a
woman must present the "real" self, the right self, in
order to be loveable.
Zonite maintains that women have a "grave
womanly offense," an odor which they may not detect,
which can jeopardize marriage. Women's odor can be
That OfW Could
Lose His Love!
Your husband loves the reo/ you happy, poised,
confident of your intimate feminine hygiene. Don't lei
doubts, misgivings, inhibitions create another youl
You're Hire nf feminine daintim*" when
you douche regularly with Lysol."
Lvsol c!ran?es the vaginal canal even
in the presence of mucous matter. No
makeshifts like soap. salt or soda can
posiblv act the samp way!
Lvsol" is tile famous disinfectant with
amazing, proved |>ower to kill germ-life
<|uicklv on contact!
solution in the limple directions on everv
bottle. Manv doctor* advise patients to
douche regularly with "Lysnl." just to
insure daintiness alone, and to use it as
often as needed. No greasy aftereffect.
Dont take chances! Don't let neglect
create a dual personality"... another vou.
full nf doubts, misgivings and inhibitions!
Don t let that other you destroy your love!
Yet. gentle, non-caustic Lysol" will
not harm delicate tissue. Correct douching
Preferred over any
of her liquid preparation for
Get L\sol" brand disinfectant today,
A Concentrated Germ-Killer
Fig. 3. "That Other You Could Lose Hi
Cosmopolitan (April 1950) 91.
Send for FREE dook idling alrout this grave womanly
offense. Learn how no oilier type liquid antiseptic*
germicide tested for the douche is so powerful yet harmless!
Isn't it a shame when a woman doesn't
realize how important it is to always
ut zomte in her fountain syringe?
ailure to practice hygiene (internal
cleanliness) often results in such need-
less tragedieshomes broken up, few
social invitations, the feeling of being
shunned without knowing why.
A modern woman realizes huw impor-
tant hygiene is to health, married hap-
piness, after her periods, and to combat
ail olTcnsive odor even greater than lud
breath or body odoran odor she her-
self may not detect but is so apparent
to people around her.
And isnt it reassuring to know that:
NO OTHER TYPF. LIQUID ANTISEPTIC-
(KKMICtOL TESTED FOR THE DOUCHE IS
SO POWERFUL YET SAFE TO TISSUES AS
Developed by a famous surgeon and
scientisttlic zomte principle was the
first in the world to be so powerfully
elective yet so hurinJess. ZONITE is posi-
tively non-poisonous, non-irritating,
non-burning. Remember that z.omtk is
safe! svfk! safe! to the most delicate
tissues. You can use zonite as directed
as often as needed without the slightest
risk of injury.
61m BOTH Inltrnal wi Eitiritol
zonite ileialorizes not hy masking
it actually destroys, dissolves and re-
moves odor-causing waste sulwtanccs.
And zomte has such a soothing elTect.
It promotly relieves any itching or irri-
tation if present. ZOMTE gives lioTTl in-
' ternal and external protection, leaving
one with such a refreshed, dainty feeling
so r-V-txj-n/ Complete douching dircc*
tionscome with every Uittlc. Buy ZOMTE
today! Cut it at any drugstore.
FREEI NEW I
For amazing enlightening new
mUl-i coniaming trank liiscu^ion
uiimale physical facts, recently
ii*liel nimi this coupon to
nIiicIs Corp.. Dept. C-SU.
leime. New York 17. N. Y.*
OS*f )d only n ill U. V
Fig. 4. "The Cause of Her Husband's Frigidity,"
Cosmopolitan (Aug. 1950) 91.
That Qtlwi (jo* Could
Destroy His Love!
Be the real you, the one your husband loves . .
not withdrawn . unsure of your intimate feminine hygiene.
Remember, doubt. . inhibitions . can create another you!
YOU can be jure of feminine daintiness
when vou douche regularly with
LvsnPcleanses (he vaginal canal even
in (he presence of mucous mailer. No
makeshift like snap, salt or soda ran pus*
>iblv act the same wav
Lysol is tin* famous disinfectant with
amazing, proved power to kill germ-life
quickly on contact!
Yet. gentle, non-caustic Lysnl" will
not harm delicate tissue. Correct diniching
solution in the simple directions nneverv
bottle. Many doctors advice patients to
douche regularly with "Lvaol, just to
insure daintiness ulnne, and to use it as
often as needed. No greasy aflereirect.
Take no chances! Never let neglect
create a "dual personality". . another
you. full of doubts, misgivings and in*
hihitums. Don't let that other you destroy
Cct Lysol liraml disinfectant todav.
ami use it regularly.
Preferred 3 fel over any other liquid preparation for Feminine Hygiene/
Fig. 5. "That Other You Could Destroy His Love!"
Cosmopolitan (Sept. 1950) 109.
No other type liquid antiet'ptic-ficriniciue tesled for
the douche is so powerful yet safe lo tissues as ZONITE!
Failure to succr*uully practice coin*
plele hygiene (including internal clean-
liness) nil too often accounts f<>r an
irnrensing coolness on a husband's part.
And the pathetic young wife is often
lift in the dark ns to the real reason.
If only a woman would realize the
necessity of putting zonite in her foun-
tain syringe lor womanly charm, mar-
ried happiness, after her jmtnmIs. and lo
combat a womanly offense even graver
Ilian lifdv *lur or Iwul Iwe.iilian odor
whieh she may not detect herself.
And wliui a comfort for women to
know: no other type liquid antiseptic-
germicide tested for the dmuke is so
ptreerittl yet safe to tissues as ZONITE.
Otvelopad By A Famous Swrgaos ond Scientist
What greater assurance could you want
*OHr good only ! Ih* U. E
of ZONITE s effectiveness and safety than
to know the ZONITE principle was de-
velo|>ed by a world-renowned surgeon
and scientist, zonite is positively non-
poisonons, non-irritating, non-burning
yet Safeto tissues. You can use
ZONITE as directed as often as needed
Zonila't Amazing Action
Zonite actually dissolves and removes
odor-causing waste substances. It helps
guard against infection and kills every
germ it touches. You know it's not
always possible to contact all the germs
in the tract, hut you can he sure zomte
immediately kills every reachable germ
and keeps germs from multiplying.
Instructions in detail with every bottle.
Available at any drug counter.
Z For amazing enlightening new
f llooklct containing Irank discussion
* of intimate physical facts, recently
published mail this coupon to
ZmiUo I'rnducta Curp.. Dept. C-100.
JIMI lark Avenue. New York 17. N. Y.*
Fig. 6. "This Grave Womanly Offense
Cosmopolitan (Oct. 1950) 129.
That OHwi (feu Could
End Your Marriage!
Let your husband keep the real, the beloved youl
Be confident of your intimate feminine hygienenot
troubled with uncertainty . another youl
YOU make sure of vour feminine dainti-
ness when you douche regularly with
Lvsol cleanses the vacinai canal even
in ihe presence of mucous mailer. No
mukeshifl like snap, salt or soda can pos-
sibly ael the same woy!
Lysol is ihe famous di
ama/.inp, proved power to kill germ-life
ijuirkly on contact!
Vet. gentle, non-rautir *'LvolM will
not liarm ilelii'ale tissue. Correct diniehiiu;
solution in the simple directions on every
bottle. Many doctors advise patients to
douche regularly with Lysol, just to
insure daintiness alone, and to use it as
often as needed. No greasy aftereffect.
Dont just chance it! Don't ever let
neeleet create a dual personality" . .
anoltier yon, full of doubts, misgivings
and inhibitions! Don't let that other you
destroy your love!
Get I.vsol" brand disinfectant today,
and use it recularlv.
Preferred 3 fd over any other liquid preparation for Feminine Hygiene/
p,ojM.t at if Fimk
Fig. 7. "That Other You Could End your Marriage!"
Cosmopolitan (Nov. 1950) 139.
ifcto 15 & ^otwuj u)i|e!
Do YOU Know About This Grove Womanly Offense?
Too many wives arc careless, ton tired
nr simply don't know how to practice
.1 complete hygiene (including internal
cleanliness). Failure to do this so often
results in l>rokcn marriages.
A modern woman realizes how imjxir-
t.int it is to put Zonite in her fountain
syringe fur health, womanly charm,
alter her periods and for marriage lia|>-
pincs . anil to cumhat an odor even
more olTcnsivc than bad breath or Ixxiv
oilor. She seldom detects this odor her*
seil. but its so apparent toothers.
And what a comfort fur a wife to
know that NO OTHER TYPE UpllO AN-
I l.Kl*Tlt -GERMICIDE TESTED FOR THE
l*H CHK ts 0 POWERFUL YKT SAFE TO
ll'tit K> AS ZOM Tt. Just listen tu this
The ZOM rt principle was developed by
.1 lamotis surgeon and a scientist. It is
the uni in the world to Ik: so ptr.^erfully
r-jff. tn* yet abioiuUly safe to tissues,
e so *>
Scientists tested even. known antiseptic-
germicide they could find on sale for the
douche and no other type was so ptrxer-
ful yet safe as ZONtTE! Zonite is posi-
tively non-poisonous, non-irritating.
You can use this wonderful antiseptic-
germicide as directed as often as needed
without the slightest risk of injury.
Girii 80TH Infernal and Eiternal
ZONtTE dissolves and removes odor-
cuisine; waste aulrstances. It promptly
relieves any itching or irritation if pres-
ent. It helps guard against infection and
kills even.1 germ it touches. You know
its not always possible to contact all
the germs in tile tract but you CAN he
si re zonite immediately kills every
reachable germ and keeps germs front
multiplying, zonite gives external pro-
tection. ton. Instructions in detail with
every bottle. At any drugstore.
For nm.wiuc enliithtcninu nbw
i>klet eoiuamiiie frank
ii>lislieilmail this coupon to
/acme Products Cnrp.. Dept. C-120.
IUO L'ark Avenue. New York I". X. Y.*
Jeminine /yyiene r
*0ltr good onIf bi rtw U.S
Fig. 8. "A Husband Can't Tell a Sensitive Wife!"
Cosmopolitan (Dec. 1950) 149.
That QHwi (fete Could
Kill Tour Marriage!
Only the reo/ youhappy, confident of your intimate
feminine hygienecan hold your husbands love.
Never let doubt, Inhibitions create another you!
Be sure of your feminine daintiness . .
douche regularly with "Lysol!
LysoI cleanses the vaginal canal even
in the presence of mucous matter, .No
makeshift like soap, salt or soda can
possibly act the same way!
"Lysol is the famous disinfectant with
amazine, proved power to kill germ-life
rjuicklv on contact!
Yet, gentle, non-caustic "Lvsol will
not harm delicate tissue. Correct douching
solution in the simple directions on every
bottle. Many doctors advise patients to
duuche regularly with "Lysol, just to
insure daintiness alone, and to use it as
otten as needed. No ercaav aftereffect.
Never take chances! Never let neglect
create a "dual personality. . another
you, full of doubts, misgivings and inhibi-
tions! Dont let lhat*r/rer you destroy
Get "Lysol brand disinfectant today,
use it regularly.
Preferred 3 Tot over any other liquid preparation for Feminine Hygiene/
Fig. 9. "That Other Your Could Kill Your Marriagel"
Cosmopolitan (Dec. 1950) 141.
Effective as it is gentleI
No sting / No burn/
Safe for delicate tissuesI
Lysette is the new way . the
nice way . the convenient way to
feminine daintiness! Scientifically
formulated to cleanse thoroughlyto
check embarrassing odor!
Gentle as dew, it will not sting or ir-
ritate delicate tissues. For new mild
Lysette is based on a sound med-
ical principle .and so will not upset
the normal internal "climate.
Just one tablespoonful per quart of
douche water cleanses . refreshes
... checks embarrassing odor! Leaves
you feeling sweet and cleansure of
yourseif, of your personal daintiness!
Try new Lysette to-
night. So much hotter
than old-fashioned liq-
uids. So much nicer
to use than messy pow-
ders. Convenient to buy
at drug counters every-
Fig. 10. "New Mildness From Lysette
Cosmopolitan (Nov., 1959) 93.
the cause of a husband's "cool" behavior as well as
This monthly reinforcement for a regular Cosmo
reader by Zonite and Lysol delivers a powerful
message. It serves to support the sociological
conditioning of women of 1950 by reinforcing the
importance of marriage and a woman's precarious
position as a wife.
By 1959, Lysol's marketing strategy is
noticeably different when compared to the strategy
employed in 1950 (Fig. 10). For one thing, the
Lysette picture is much larger than Lysol picture
using seven of the eleven vertical inches in
comparison with just four of eleven inches used by the
1950 picture. Lysol now offers an exclusive product
specifically for douching. Lysette sounds enough like
Lysol so that we connect it with a brand that has been
available for years, and yet it is distinctly softer.
"Effective" like Lysol and yet "gentle." The Lysette
ad uses far fewer words in contrast to the Lysol ad.
In addition, the position and the size of the word
"Lysette" has a more prominent location than the word
"Lysol" has in the previous ad.
The tone initiated by the picture in the
Lysette ad is much different than that suggested by
the Lysol picture. Instead of feeling empathic
anxiety as I do for the woman in the Lysol ad, I feel
a sense of demure sexuality when I look at the woman
in the Lysette ad.
The sexual mood of the Lysette ad is
effectively enhanced by a lighting technique which
creates a strong contrast of lights and darks. The
light shining from the upper left-hand corner, giving
the effect of moonlight, serves to highlight the
woman's neck, shoulder, right breast, and left hand.
I can't recall ever seeing another ad which emphasizes
these specific body parts in quite this fashion, but
the technique effectively places the focal point of
the picture at the woman's neck. Her hair is pinned
up, and her head is slightly tilted which serves to
expose and elongate the entire length of her neck.
This total exposure of her neck makes her vulnerable
and available. The rough texture of fabric at her
shoulder accentuates the smooth texture of the skin on
The lighting creates a secondary focal point
at her right shoulder which leads the eye across her
chest to her right breast and then downward to about
her waist. This use of light, along with the position
of her body and the slight rotation of her shoulders,
places her right breast in the middle of the frame
facing the viewer. Her negligee, fashioned primarily
out of a translucent fabric, allows us to see the
position of her breast without revealing any details.
The negligee appears easy to remove by simply untying
the bow at the neck and sliding it off her shoulders.
We are not given any clues about the specific setting
of the ad, but her clothing would suggest an intimate
The upper section of the picture offers a
profile of the woman's head. We can see her blonde
hair, a portion of her right ear, and her right jaw.
The balance of her face is heavily shadowed, but
positioned against a lighted backdrop, we can see the
outline of her nose, lips and chin. Her eyes would
appear to be downcast because of the position of her
head and the angle of the eyelashes on her left eye.
The position of her head and the focus of her eyes
emphasizes her submissive, vulnerable posture.
A feeling of pensive, motionlessness is
created both by the inertia of her right arm and the
fold of her negligee from the collar downward at a 45
degree angle, suggesting that she is seated.7 Her
seated position, combined with her exposed neck, her
bowed head, and downcast eyes emphasize her
vulnerability and availability. I can imagine her
lover's entrance through the moonlight; he kisses her
on the neck, and follows the pattern of light downward
towards her breast. Her static posture suggests that
she will not initiate any action, nor will she resist.
Like ripe fruit hanging from a tree, she is ready for
The position of her left hand serves two
functions. First of all, it allows us to clearly see
her wedding ring. She is married, and we can assume
that her lover is her husband. Secondly, the position
of her hand at her chest, just above her heart, with
three fingers barely touching her skin as if she might
break, suggests that she requires delicate care from
her husband and Lysette.
The ad copy acts to reinforce the message of
the picture through the use of repeated words.
"Daintiness", "gentle", "delicate" and "mildness"
7I simulated the position of the model's body.
They only way that I found that fabric would naturally
fall from the shoulder at a 45 degree angle is from a
seated position. Otherwise the fold conforms more
closely to the angle of the right arm.
("mild") are each repeated two times in the copy.
These words are all synonymous, and their repetition
throughout the ad connects Lysette to the woman.
Although these adjectives are all used to describe
Lysette, they also describe her image. They seem to
say that this image of female "daintiness" is
"delicate" and requires "gentle" treatment from "mild"
The ad copy also tells us that Lysette works.
Such words as "effective", "scientifically
formulated", and "checks embarrassing odor" tell us
that its mild nature does not preclude it from getting
the job done. The sharp contrast between these
scientific words of action and the former words
describing a static state of being reinforce the idea
that the actions of women are focused on the sexual
happiness of their husbands. We assume that her
blissful state is the result of her using Lysette, but
we see her in a state of completed action. We see the
final resulta woman who is "sweet and clean."
The image of this woman creates a number of
impressions which reinforce the stereotypes of women
in the 50's. The woman's face, hidden in shadow, does
not give us any sense of her identity. She does not
exist as an individualshe is a wife. She appears to
be passive, affectionate, and obedient, as imaged by
her downcast eyes and the vulnerable, static position
of her body. Not only is her identity not revealed,
but her implied former action of douching would
indicate that her goal as a wife is to be sexually
available and desirable to her husband.
In spite of the nine year time span between
these two ads of the 50's, their message is
essentially the same. A woman is defined by her role
as a wife. Marriage is the most important relation-
ship in a woman's life, and she is responsible for
preserving marital happiness by insuring her sexual
desirability. Lysette promises to eliminate any
anxiety about a woman's responsibility for marital
success by allowing a woman to "feel sure of
A look at the 80's. A review of two ads from
the 1980's indicates that images of women no longer
stress the importance of marriage. The feminist
movement of the 60's and 70's enables women to be
defined outside of marriage. Three events are
significant in redefining the role of a women.
One of the most significant occurrences is the
introduction of the birth control pill.8 For the
first time women have real control over preventing
pregnancy. Reliable birth control allows a woman to
limit the number of children she bears as well as
controlling when she gets pregnant. This reality
allows women greater sexual freedom, and it also
allows them to enter the work place on a more equal
footing with men.
A woman's ability to control pregnancy is
increased by the legalization of abortion. At last,
women have access to legal and safe abortions.
Pregnancy which is the result of inadequate or
defective birth control, as well as rape, can be
A third significant occurrence of these two
decades is the Equal Rights Amendment. Although the
status of this legislation remains precarious in some
states, it addresses the need to view women as having
equal rights with men. This legislation serves to
demand that women be given equal job opportunities as
well as equal pay for equal work. Although equality
Kathryn Weibel, Mirror. Mirror: Images of
Women Reflected in Popular Culture (New York: Anchor,
is difficult to legislate, the ERA does make it
unfashionable and morally unethical to view women as
subordinate and inferior. The ERA does pave the way
for women to be viewed in a new light.
As we look at the 80's, we can see that the
women's movement has affected a change among women
themselves. Ninety-four percent of the women polled
in a recent issue of Time feel that the woman's
movement has helped women be more independent. But
the same survey indicates that although 57.8% of all
women and 68% of women with children under eighteen
are in the work force, they "still earn only $0.66 to
the man's dollar", an adjustment of less than $0.10
over the last ten years. In addition, women still
perform 70-75% of all household tasks.9
In the 80's a woman is often not just a wife
and mother. The image of the happy housewife is no
longer a realistic portrait for many women. As
pointed out by Sochen: "It has become fashionable
among educated western women to want to 'have it all.'
Life is seen as consisting of three compartmentalized
9Claudia Wallis, "Onward, Women!" Time 4
December 1989: 80-89.
arenas: career, marriage, and motherhood."10 11 But
having a career has become more than a simple desire
to "have it all." In our capitalistic society where
we value the pursuit of money above all else, women
work to achieve equal status with men, and in some
cases to provide the sole support for their family.
It is an economic reality that the majority of
women must work, evidenced by the fact that "60% of
all adults below the poverty line are women," while
greater than half of poor families are headed by
women.11 However, in the eyes of conservatives, a
woman's state of singleness and her resulting poverty
have been her fault.12 70% of the women polled in
Time feel that women's efforts to combine marriage,
children, and career has been at the expense of their
marriage or children.
The fight for economic equality has become a
double edged sword for many women, because the
conservative backlash of the 80's suggests that
women's entrance into the workplace is eroding the
10June Sochen, Enduring Values: Women in
Popular Culture (New York: Praeger, 1987) 165.
family. In their struggle for equality, women are
once again being held accountable for domestic success
In the 80's, keen competition in advertising
places emphasis on the need for a specific product.
Thus, an ad for mascara may be less interested in
persuading us about the need to use mascara, and more
interested in convincing us that we need a certain
brand of mascara. So it is recognized that
advertisers are not simply selling the "steak"
(mascara), they are selling the "sizzle" (what the
mascara promises). The problem is that women often
are the sizzle. In a recent article published in
Women's Studies International Forum it is noted that,
"Females are the sizzle and the meat." The article
goes on to state:
For the male consumer, the implicit promise is
that, if you buy product x, you will also get the
sweet young thing associated with it. For the
female, the dynamics are those of incorporation:
buy product x and be the sweet young thing."13
For women, the sizzle (the promise) is personal
transformation into a person desired by men. This
13Michelle A. Masse and Karen Rosenblum, "Male
and Female Created They Them: The Depiction of Gender
in the Advertising of Traditional Women's and Men's
Magazines," Women's Studies International Forum 11
notion of women becoming the sizzle makes it clear
that not just any old mascara will do. What matters
is buying the right kind of "promise to achieve the
Advertising itself plays a big role in the
80's. We have all, men and women, become increasingly
reliant upon images as a source of information. In
fact, scholars worry that unless the trend for us to
rely more on images and less on reading is reversed,
the consequences will be disastrous.14 It is
estimated that each person sees an average of 32,000
television commercials every year.15 Add that to the
number of ads seen on billboards and in newspapers and
magazines, and the number is staggering. Ronald
Berman in his book, Advertising and Social Change,
states: "Advertising socializes individuals in a way
that roughly resembles education, providing them with
ideas, images, and examples of cultural
uLewis Beale, "Pictures, Not Words, in
Illiterate America?" Denver Post 19 Sept. 1989: Cl.
15"Consuming Images," narr. Bill Moyers, prod.
Gail Pellett, The Public Mind. Public Affairs
Television and Perlmutter, New York, 8 Nov. 1989.
expectations."16 When we look at ads, then, we get a
clue about society's expectations of us.
The importance ascribed to images in the 80's
has an impact on society's expectations of women.
Although research indicates that women and men are
imaged in advertising in about equal numbers, women
are the main consumers. Images are created to
encourage women to buy.17 The way that women are
represented in advertising contributes to our social
expectations and our shopping habits.
In a study conducted in 1988 by Sullivan and
O'Connor, they examine six magazines from 1983 that
appeal to a broad readership.18 Although the
conclusion of their study would indicate that
advertising has responded to the "increased status" of
women, their statistics indicate that we have much
work to do. This study does not give specific details
about how they achieve their classifications of women,
nor does it qualify the way that women are portrayed
16Ronald Berman, Advertising and Social Change
(Beverly Hills: Sage, 1981) 32.
17Mieke Ceulemans and Guido Fauconnier, Mass
Media: The Image. Role, and Social Conditions of Women
(Paris: United Nations, 1979) 7.
18The magazines are Life. Newsweek. The New
Yorker. Reader's Digest. Time, and U.S. News & World
within these categories. They examine 240 ads in
these magazines. Of the 240 women represented, 23%
are portrayed as employed. The remaining 77% are
portrayed in nonworking activities. Of the 77% of
nonworking images, 60% use women for "decorative"
purposes.19 The emphasis in advertising images of
women still centers around how they look rather than
on what they do. This emphasis on how women look is
articulated by Jane Root in her book, Pictures of
The images of women in advertisements show females
as sexualized bodies, whose status in the world,
and position in the advertisement is dependent on
how they look rather than what they do.
Achievement is primarily visual achievement and
perfection is the attainment of physical beauty.20
The trend to show women as "sexualized bodies"
is seen in Maybelline's ad for lip gloss in the July
1980 issue of Cosmopolitan. which features a
contemporary version of Eve in the Garden of Eden
(Fig. 11). She is positioned in the midst of an area
crowded with fruit. Just behind her is a vine bearing
ripe grapes which she seems ready to pluck from the
19Gary L. Sullivan and P. J. O'Connor,
"Women's Role Portrayals in Magazine Advertising:
1958-1983," Sex Roles 18 (1988): 184, 186.
20Jane Root, Pictures of Women: Sexuality
(London: Pandora, 1984) 66.
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Fig. 11. "Forbidden Fruits,"
Cosmopolitan (July 1980) 132.
vine. Completed by the caption, "Forbidden Fruits,"
Maybelline's reference to Eve is anything but subtle.
The image of woman as Eve sets a tone which is
reinforced by every component of this advertisement.
Over the centuries, Eve has come to represent, in the
opinion of Sochen, "the sexual temptress, the
beautiful, alluring woman who uses her sexuality to
tempt males into sin and excitement."21 This woman,
as Eve, suggests that women are not sexually passive,
as they appear to be in the ads from the 50's.
Rather, they are actively engaged in enticing men.
Eve is also perceived by Sochen as "immoral,
disobedient, and dangerous."22 She has at once the
ability to excite and endanger men. She is invested
with power that she alone controls which serves to
hold her responsible for the sexual behavior of men.23
The composition of the picture is crowded.
The woman largely fills the space which she shares
with the grapevine, a bowl of watermelon, and a basket
of fruit. In fact, the space is so full that the top
23This power vested in women explains, in
part, the enduring notion that a woman is raped
because she asked for it.
of her head is out of the frame as well as her body
below the waist. The grapevine is cropped at the top
and both sides of the picture and the fruit at the
bottom of the frame. This compact composition serves
to push the picture frame forward into the viewer's
space creating a sense of intimacy and conspiracy.
For the viewer, there is a sense of being just across
the table from the fruit, encircled by the grapevine,
and within easy reach of sharing her food. She is
preparing for behavior which is not innocent. The
space also acts to render the woman immobile. She is
closed in on all sides by the fruit and vines and cut
off at the waist. Her action is confined in this
small space where she picks grapes and applies lip
The woman's action of picking grapes and
applying lip gloss supplies our only source of
information about who she is. She isn't wearing a
wedding ring, so we don't know whether or not she is
married. We have no idea if she has children, and
there are no clues about what kind of work she does,
or if she works at all. We know nothing about her
life. What we do know is what she looks like, that
she uses lip gloss, and apparently likes fruit.
Unlike the two ad images from the 50's which defined
women in terms of marriage, this ad for Maybelline
defines a woman in terms of her appearance. How she
looks is what is important in this case.
We see a nearly complete picture of her face,
but her eyes and her lips attract our attention. Her
eyes are round, outlined by eyeliner and mascara, and
highlighted by full brows. Because of her sidelong
gaze, we see a large part of the white of her eyes,
particularly the right eye. The white of her eye is
in sharp contrast to the iris and dark makeup which
serves to capture and hold the viewer's gaze. I find
the effect spellbinding. Her gaze, focused directly
at the viewer, functions as a kind of transference
between her and the viewer. We can envision ourselves
in her seat, preparing for the implied male
The ad presupposes the desirability of the
model to the implied male spectator. The transference
between the viewer and the woman in the ad allows us
to envision ourselves preparing for the male
spectator. This ad functions differently than the two
50's ads. Instead of the viewer identifying with the
24The copy of the ad states that the lip gloss
will "give your lips the most delicious shine he's
ever tasted." (My own emphasis.)
problem of the model in the ad, we can actually see
ourselves, through the models gaze, as being desirable
to men. By envisioning ourselves in her place, we can
imagine that Maybelline lip gloss will transform us
into a sexual temptress. We too can sizzle.
If her eyes are the bait, then her lips are
the hook. Her lips are full, parted ever so slightly,
and moist as she applies fresh gloss. Her lips, like
the grapes on the vine, are ripe, "forbidden fruits"
ready to be picked. She holds the lip gloss in her
right hand as if she is pointing out to the spectator
the exact location of her forbidden fruit.
Forbidden fruit has a double meaning in this
ad. Not only does it refer to her lips, but it also
refers to her breasts, or "melons" as I've heard them
delicately called. Situated just above the fruit,
they look like one belongs with the watermelon and one
belongs in the basket. Her breasts are full, round
and distinctly outlined by the fit of her T-shirt and
the faint shadow under each breast. They add depth to
her chest, but they also extend the plane of the
picture into the viewer's space. The words, "I'm not
as innocent as I seem," accentuate the contour of her
breasts while creating a point of interest which
becomes the focus of the ad.
The ad's reference to her innocence is a
further reminder of woman as Eve. Eve is innocent, or
unknowing, until she plucks the fruit from the tree.
It is significant that the woman in the Maybelline ad
has not yet picked the grapes. She seems to walk a
tight rope between innocence and seduction. But as
Eve betrayed her innocence, this woman appears
prepared to do likewise. That she will pick a grape
from the vine seems imminent, and the preparation of
her lips signals that she is also prepared to be
Eve as the seductress is emphasized by several
of the phrases in the body of the copy. The actual
name of the lip gloss, Kissing Slicks, seems to
reinforce the idea that her lips are slick, juicy like
fruit, created for the purpose of kissing. Eve tempts
with "Wicked Watermelon" and "Peppermint Pleasure"
Kissing Slicks which give her "lips the most delicious
shine he's ever tasted." She's "ready for anything."
Maybelline adds a second dimension to this ad
by offering for sale the "not-so-innocent T-shirt."
This offer, combined with the final paragraph of the
ad, completes the transference between the ad and the
viewer. "Kissing Slicks. Just add our not-so-innocent
T-shirt. And you're ready for anything." Maybelline
makes sexuality sound like a recipe. Take a woman,
add one part lip gloss and one part T-shirt. Stir
until all ingredients are combined. Store at room
temperature. Yields one Eve. All that seems required
in order for the viewer to become a seductress is to
purchase a T-shirt and a tube of lip gloss.
Once again, this ad, in the process of selling
a product, makes some generalizations about women.
Although women of the 80's strive to combine work,
marriage, and children, this ad focuses on appearance.
We don't know that this woman works, is married, or
has children. Our only way of defining her is based
upon her appearance. She is Eve, the seductress, who
prepares her lips for his kiss. She waits for him in
a state of suspended animation. She is preparing to
pick grapes, and she is preparing to apply lip gloss,
but what she does is gaze at the implied male
We can again see a woman who is defined in
terms of her relationship with a man. This woman of
the 80's takes aggressive action in securing a
relationship where she shares a desire for sexual
gratification. Her actions are focused on indicating
her availability, and in preparing her lips for his
kiss. All we know about her is that she is sexually
Fig. 12. "Smart.Beautiful.Maybelline."
Cosmopolitan (March 1989) 103.
desirable and available. This advertisement delivers
a potent message to women who wish for a sexual
relationship with a man. Any anxiety about being
desirable is relieved by Maybelline's promise that
Kissing Slicks will get you "ready for anything."
Maybelline implies that getting a man or keeping a man
is the most important action in which a woman can
Maybelline's ad in the March 1989 issue of
Cosmopolitan takes a totally different approach from
their ad of 1980 (Fig. 12). Instead of filling the ad
space completely, Maybelline's ad for Perfect Pen
eyeliner has a noticeable amount of blank space.
The ad is divided into sections which gives it
two distinct points of focus. By placing just three
eyeliner pens in an expanse of white in the upper half
of the ad, Maybelline focuses on the pens. This
technique signals the importance of the pens because
they require their own space. The left side of the ad
is blank space which is interrupted by a line "drawn"
by the pen. The line leads the eye across the page to
the focal point of this section of the ad. The angle
of the line draws the eye up the pen and across the
name, Maybelline Perfect Pen eyeliner. The line also
leads the eye up the shadow of the pen which
highlights the word "incredible!" This section of the
ad is completed by the image of two partial pens. By
using just a portion of the pens, their sharp points
are emphasized and they act as pointers. The top pen
points back to the image of the entire pen, returning
our eye to the focal point. Our return to the focal
point also gives us a second look at the line which
shows the variety of widths that this eyeliner pen is
capable of making. The bottom pen points directly to
the word "smart."
The lower half of the ad shows the face of a
woman. What I notice first is that she doesn't have
any one feature which I would consider outstanding.
Her features work in harmony to present an attractive
image of "everywoman." Her eyes, however, serve as
the focal point for this portion of the ad for several
reasons. Although she appears to squint slightly, the
light shining on the iris of her eye creates a
reflection to which we are immediately drawn. This
reflection indicates that she sees something outside
of the picture frame which we can not see. Her eyes
are accentuated by her strong brows. As we would
expect, her eyes have been heavily outlined with
eyeliner. The pen is still poised at her left eye and
acts as a pointer to focus our attention.
The woman appears to be situated in front of a
window. Two factors lead me to this conclusion. One
factor is the translucent "something" that runs down
the right side of the ad. It cuts off her hand which
is holding the pen and also a small part of her head.
It looks like a sheer curtain hanging at a window.
The second factor is the bright light on the left side
of her head. The intensity of the light over just a
portion of her head would seem to indicate sunlight.
Her eyes are focused out the window at the implied
male spectator. The words, "right where you want
'em," would infer that she has him right where she
wants him. Seeing him brings a smile to her face.
She looks happy.
Maybelline does some unusual things with the
words in this ad. Most noticeably, the copy is
confined to a mere thirty words. The words "smart"
and "beautiful" appear twice, but they are most
prominent at the mid portion of the ad which separates
the ad into two halves. The word "smart" consists of
white letters on a dark background in the same tone as
the curtain. The word "beautiful" consists of dark
letters, which also match the curtain, set against a
white background. The placement of these two words in
opposite colors does several things. First of all,
they meet at the exact dividing point of the ad. They
look almost like a mirror image of one another, except
that they use different letters. This technique
connects the two portions of the ad and allows us to
assimilate both portions of the ad into one message.
We associate both words with both the pens and the
woman. The pens are "smart" because they provide
"absolute control," and the woman is "smart" because
she uses the pen. The woman is "beautiful" because
she uses the pen, and the pen does "beautiful" work.
"Smart" is next to the word "ingenious."
Again the positioning of these words allows us to make
a double association. The first message is that these
"smart" pens are "ingenious" because they provide
"absolute control of your line." The second message
is that this "smart" woman uses these "ingenious"
pens. "Beautiful" is situated next to "right where
you want 'em." The first messages is that this
"beautiful" woman has "em" (him) right where she wants
him. The second message is that these pens will make
you "beautiful" because their "absolute control"
allows you to put the lines "right where you want
'em." The third message is that if you use these
"ingenious" pens you too can be "beautiful" and have
him "right where you want 'em" (him).
The words "smart" and "beautiful" are repeated
at the bottom of the picture. This time "smart" and
"beautiful" are placed just above "Maybelline." The
addition of periods after "smart" and "beautiful"
create a sense of finality. The final word to the
viewer is that women who are smart and want to be
beautiful buy Maybelline.
Maybelline's ad does more than simply sell
eyeliner. The ad also makes generalizations about
women. As we have seen in the previous ads, this
woman also has no identity. We know nothing about
her, aside from the way that she looks. The ad makes
use of just her head which would seem to imply that
everything we need to know about her is visible. She
is beautiful and smart.
The ad's use of just her head functions to
immobilize her. She is confined to a small area with
no visible means of relocating. The only implied
action is her apparent application of eyeliner. What
she does is not important; how she looks is what
matters. She does, however, have him where she wants
him. There is a sense of aggressiveness in this
statement, but this aggressiveness is belied by her
inaction. She may have him where she wants him, but
it is because of her appearance, not because of any
action which she initiates, except for applying
This is the most difficult ad for me to
examine because it is contemporary, and I find nothing
overtly offensive about it. The message is subtle.
It looks like many other ads which I see everyday.
But when I see this ad, I respond to the image of an
attractive woman, and I connect intelligence, beauty,
makeup, and happiness. This connection makes me
uncomfortable. I like to think of intelligence and
happiness as qualities that are not reliant upon
This ad by Maybelline implies that women can
control their relationships with men. She has him
where she wants him. Not only is she in control, but
she is beautiful and smart. This ad asserts that
women can have it all, beauty, brains, and control
over relationships. This apparent sense of control
acts as camouflage for the recurrent message that we
have seen in all of the ads. Women are defined in
terms of their relationships with men. Their identity
does not matter; appearance is most important.
Finally, women's actions are confined to making
themselves attractive and desirable to men. Women in
the 80's who are anxious about having it all, will
find hope in Maybelline.
A Look at 30 Years.
In spite of the 30 year span between these
ads, they share two messages. The first message is
that a woman's identity does not matter. The only
thing that we learn about these four women is that two
of them are wives. The second message is that how a
woman looks is more important than what she does.
The emphasis on a woman's appearance is
reinforced by these ads that use only a portion of her
body. None of the ads shows an entire woman. Masse
and Rosenblum in their article, "Male and female
Created They Them", discuss the impact of depicting
women as dismembered parts. They argue that:
. . the ready dismemberment ... of female
bodies presumes the absence of any coherent,
integrated, substantive self. The use of
synecdoche underscores this point: the
functionalism that lets a hand, eye, or leg
represent a whole woman inevitable implies that
there is not much more there to consider.25
I have also noted that the use of dismembered women
restricts their actions.
25Michelle A. Masse and Karen Rosenblum, "Male
and Female Created They Them: The Depiction of Gender
in the Advertising of Traditional Women's and Men's
Magazines," Women's Studies International Forum 11
The few actions which we do see in these ads
are initiated by the women because of an implied male
spectator. The woman in the Lysol ad tries to open
the door that is secured with locks. Her goal is to
be reunited with her husband. The woman in the 1980
Maybelline ad applies lip gloss to prepare her lips
for the implied male spectator. She also prepares to
pick grapes as a signal of sexual willingness. The
woman in the 1989 Maybelline ad applies eyeliner
because beauty is what counts. These ads function to
reinforce traditional patriarchal stereotypes of
woman. Primarily, these ads reinforce the notion that
women seek male approval.
This thesis reviews a very narrow sample of
advertising. It would be inaccurate to conclude that
this sample supports any sweeping notion of how women
are imaged in advertising. This thesis does examine
in detail the language which advertising utilizes to
articulate its message. We understand the language of
advertising, and it plays an important role in our
perception of social expectations. Advertising is a
form of communication in our society, and an important
function of a our capitalistic economy. It seems
unlikely that its importance will diminish in the
foreseeable future, so it is critical to examine its
Advertising is a contemporary form of utopian
discourse. Like other forms of utopian thought,
advertising addresses our anxiety about everyday
problems, and provides hope that a solution is
available. Advertising speaks of social
relationships, which it promises to improve, resolve,
or create through the purchase of a specific product.
Advertising promises happiness by providing a means of
achieving satisfactory relationships.
To deny our quest for utopia is to deny a
basic human need. We can, however, control our
individual utopian experience. The important work of
feminists is to explore the outer reaches of utopia in
search of a new language outside of the patriarchal
structure. Bartkowski echoes this sentiment.
"Feminist fictions are the 'places' where women speak
the desires that frame the anticipatory consciousness
of utopia made concrete, bringing the not-yet into the
here and now."1
We are all, men and women, conditioned by
patriarchal standards. The woman's movement has
played an important role in articulating the impact of
assigning specific traits based on gender. Although
there have been some modifications to these gender
specified traits, I have noted the persistent tendency
to view women based upon how they look. We need to
ignore the language of advertising so that we can
create a new language which satisfies our utopian
impulse, and still allows us to define ourselves based
upon individual needs.
1Frances Bartkowski, Feminist Utopias
(Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1989) 162
In my personal utopia, men and women will each
be individuals with traits that stem from personal
need. Our actions will be paramount in defining who
we are, and our relationships will not be compared to
artificial standards. Our physical appearance will be
defined by a personal aesthetic. We will merge the
divergent extremes of female stereotypes into an
integrated notion of what it means to be a woman.
I don't want to give up dreaming about a
better future. But it seems important the I cultivate
the language of my own utopiaone that provides a
retreat from which I can return feeling renewed and
Bartkowski, Frances. Feminist Utopias. Lincoln: U of
Nebraska P, 1989.
Beale, Lewis. "Pictures, Not Words, in Illiterate
America?" Denver Post 19 Sept. 1989.
Berger, John. Wavs of Seeing. London: BBC;
Middlesex: Penguin, 1972.
Berman, Ronald. Advertising and Social Change.
Beverly Hills: Sage, 1981.
Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Mvth. Ed. Betty Sue
Flowers. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Ceulemans, Mieke and Gudo Fauconnier. Mass Media: The
Image. Role, and Social Conditions of Women. Paris:
United Nations Ed., Sci., and Cultural Organization,
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