How are representations of gender roles in the family presented in Boots advertisements
This essay will explore how gender roles and the family are represented in advertising, with a focus on the 2012 Autumn advert from high street drugstore Boots. Firstly, this essay will look at the traditional representations of family in advertising, with a focused look at the roles of mothers and fathers.It will then go onto the representation of families within the advert, and within more modern forms of advertising, as well as looking at the image and representations of women and motherhood, and men and fatherhood, all of which appear in this advertisement.
Traditionally, family representation in adverts reflects social ideas and attitudes toward the image of families. Several studies seem to suggest that changes in the roles that exist within a family is easy to trace by looking at adverts. For example, Robison and Hunter (2014) suggest that from the call of women to the workplace during WWII to the endless unpaid work of housewives in the 1950s and the return to the workplace in the 1970s and 1980s advertising in women’s magazines reflected these images back to its audience (2014: 466). Originally these images presented traditional ideology, with men as breadwinners and women as homemakers” but have since moved on to present images of supermoms” who do everything(2014:471) , and considerably less representations of men at all, often appearing just to play a part in the fun aspects of fatherhood(2014:479). Marshall et al also agrees with this, suggesting that this could be interpreted as reflecting more diverse family units where fathers may not be present (2014:1670). Geraghty (2000) seconds this by suggesting the importance on the difference kinds of knowledge and culture that we draw on when trying to decipher the meaning in adverts (2000: 365). The lack of male representation and increased appearance of women supermoms may be as a result of that being the main image in society, therefore making this advert more likely to relate and attract mass audiences who recognise this image.
Representations of women as mothers in this advert suggests a more modern image, rather than traditional. Eisend (2012) define four main ways to look at gender role presentation – trait descriptors, physical characteristics, role behaviour and occupational status – each with their own masculine or feminine version (2012:188). It could be argued that the women presented in the Boots advert often subvert expectations of their own gender roles, particularly when it comes to their role behaviour.As suggested by Gauntlett, women advertising today have more representation than they have previously, with these representations often being women who are busy, confident, attract success, in control of their professional and social life (2008:85). This can be seen quite clearly in this Boots advert. We get to see an army of women who are in control of the operations to transition between summer and autumn. This firstly links back to Gauntletts idea of women appearing in control – which one would hope an army leader is – but it also draws on an image that is more often used to represent masculinity.The image is taken on here by women in a way that doesnt represent them as feminine and fragile, but rather further suggests that they are confident in control and busy, characteristics that would normally be applied to more masculine representations.
However, despite this outward image of independence, it also draws on more traditional images of women in advertising. The previously mentioned ways of looking at gender roles, as used by Eisner, would see their presentations of occupational status to be very traditionally feminine (2012:188). Women in advertising were more likely to be seen inside the home and concerned with beauty, cleanliness, family and others’ ‘ (Gauntlett 2008:59). This can be seen in this particular advert. Although these women are in charge, their main role in the advert is preparing the house and family for winter, with the final images of them treating themselves only coming after the family is catered to. This is not unusual for the representation of women in advertising, with the, being three times more likely to be product users, and twice as likely to be associated with domestic products (2012:191).Although it appears that they are not subservient house wives they are very much re-enacting this role.
This advert also encourages any mothers who are watching to take part in self -surveillance. The narrative of the advert sees each mother going through a routine which includes having the correct medication for any wither illness, making sure the family are prepared for the weather and making sure their beauty regime is up to date for the season. By attaching these relatable situations to the products in the video, the products become associated with the need to feel good and get ready (Williamson J 1978: 51). These actions suggest to the audience that this is something they have to be doing as well, and as advertising is based on evoking emotions in a non direct manor, this one encourages women to find their own sense of meaning it this (ibid) .This is something that Windels et al (2019) suggests has come around as part of the representation of post-feminist ideals that are appearing more frequently in advertising. Instead of having to make sure that the women are performing their role in society through the way they look, advertisements are now focusing on how women can change themselves psychologically to be the best version of themselves (Windels et al 2019:20, 23).
However, we do also see how women are encouraged to be self- aware of how they look in this advert as well. The women in the advert look like normal mothers, and not a particular stereotypical image of feminine beauty which advertising is often criticised for. This does not stop the advert from highlighting beauty as important. Windels et al suggest that this is due to the current market place for feminist values, but also the need to still present beauty as important – that is what the advert is trying to sell. One of the most interesting points is the way this advert groups both health and beauty together. The images of each woman part taking in actions that would be considered part of a beauty routine – dying hair, putting on make – up, having a facial skin care routine – and mixed in alongside the women taking vitamins and looking after the family. It aims to show the wide selection that Boots has, but in doing so, implies that both health and beauty should be of equal importance in the life of a mother, and that the health of her entire family is no reason to not also look her best.
As well as representations of mothers and the expectations of women as mothers, this advert also presents images of fatherhood. During the narrative of this advert we see them twice – once at the start manning the BBQ and subsequently being disappointed when it gets put out, and again towards the middle, being wrapped in clothes and fed vitamins and medicine by the mothers before leaving the house with the children. Marshall et al found that there has been a changing image of men as fathers which often follows cultural images of the family and of the role of mothers.They found that the representation of fathers in adverts from 2010 onwards often sees them appear as absent. This can be seen in this Boots advert, despite the presence of men. The mothers in this advert are in control – with specific imagery linking their actions to that of an army or army general. We see the men being cared for alongside the children, with the mothers not needing their help with anything, and having complete control over the situation. This is as a result of the domestic space and personal relationships, particularly families, being seen as female concerns so their priority, something defiantly seen by the way the men appear in this advert (2000: 320).
In conclusion, the 2012 Autumn Boots advert presents a wide range of representation styles of family and the genders roles within it. At first glance it appears that this advert is exploring a more modern image of a family, as we see representations of women that are not made to look stereotypically attractive, and that are strong and empowered mothers, as well as fathers who are not presented as breadwinners, but only seen in context of a father role alongside their children. However, with first analysis, this advert actually provides us with a number of more traditional images of mothers and fathers in the family. For example, there is the emphasis on the importance of beauty for mothers, as well as the importance of putting family before themselves, with no representation of them outside a home setting. Fathers meanwhile are not seen as taking a primary care role. As theorists such as Windels et suggest, there appears to be a post feminist approach in this advert which often appears to support a empowered image of womanhood, but often masks it with more traditional ideas of how they should be presented, including a focus on heterosexual images of beauty and making sure that self-surveillance encourages women to buy into products that they believe they will need in order to appear the same as other women in society.
Boots 23/09/12, YouTube Video [online] Available At: https://youtu.be/398SfGXwsTk (Accessed on February 14th 2020)
Eisner M et al (2012) Gender Roles in Advertising in Rodgers S and Thorson E (eds.) Advertising Theory Routledge: London
Gauntlett D (2008) Media Gender and Identity (2nd Ed.) Routledge: London
Geraghty C (2000) Representation and Popular Culture: semiotics and the construction of meaning in Curran J and Gurevitch M (ed.) Mass Media and Society (3rd Ed.) Arnold: London
Marshall D et al (2014) From overt provider to invisible presence: discursive shifts in advertising portrayals of the father in Good Housekeeping 1950-2010 in Journal of Marketing Management Vol.30 Iss.15 Pg. 1654-1679
Robinson B and Hunter E (2008) Is mom still doing it all?: Re-examining depictions of family work in popular advertising in Journal of Family Issues Vo.29 Iss.4 Pg. 465-486
Williamson J (1978) Decoding Advertisements Marion Bayars: London
Windels K et al (2019) Selling Feminism: How female empowerment campaigns employ post feminist discourses in Journal of Advertising Vol.49 Pg. 18-33
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ASSESSMENT 1 :
Presentation Portfolio: slides plus supporting essay document (1500 words) 40% of overall mark
Using a relevant range of sources and theoretical approaches produce a presentation portfolio on an aspect of advertising OR quality television drama covered on the module. Your presentation should include your own analysis of an advertisement OR a scene or character from a quality television drama.
WHAT DO WE EXPECT OF THE PRESENTATION PORTFOLIO?
You should prepare between 6 and 10 PowerPoint slides on a topic chosen from the relevant block of lectures and seminars. The slides should include the main points of your presentation and any images you feel are relevant to the topic. Your accompanying short essay style document should detail the theoretical perspective and analysis you have employed (and why youve employed them) and with reference to the specific slides. For example, if for instance, you include an image from an ad in your slides then your supporting essay document should make explicit reference to what is on that slide eg a still from a particular scene in a movie or a close-up of an image or an advert etc. Presentation portfolios that fail to incorporate theory and/or critical discussion will not pass. You should read through the assessment criteria in this document and familiarise yourself with the requirements of assessment at Level 3. The usual criteria for the presentation of written work and requirements regarding plagiarism and collusion apply to this assessment.
Your documents (typed and presented according to academic conventions, especially with regard to bibliographic referencing) should be submitted to Canvas.
Representation of family and gender roles In Boots 2012 Autumn advert
Overview Representation of families in traditional advertising How this advert subverts the image of women Arguments to suggest that it does not subvert the image of women Howe men are represented and the new man
Traditional family representation From the call of women to the workplace during WWII to the endless unpaid work of housewives in the 1950s and the return to the workplace in the 1970s and 1980s, womens magazines have evolved alongside many of the major social forces shaping womens status in America (Robison and Hunter 2014 :466)
Representation of Mothers …commonly uses four different components to describe gender roles – trait descriptors, physical characteristics, role behaviour and occupational status – each of these has a masculine and feminine version (Eisend 2012:188) Modern representations of women are often more masculine when it comes to characteristics, and they include busy, confidant in control and successful traits (Gauntlett 2008: 83) For example, the army motifs in this advert such as marching and organisation
Self surveillance Surveillance has extended from bodily properties, such as weight and muscle tone, to performing feminine behav- iors, such as grooming, attire, and posture, to more inter- ior, psychological labor. Women are now asked to surveil their performance as a mother, a friend, and a lover (Windels et al 2019:20) Women are encouraged to change their actions and looks based on advertising – but by disguising it as choice it feels more feminine For example the direct use of words like feel good
Importance of beauty Advertising too is based on evoking emotion, but not directly, only through the promise of evoking pleasure (Williamson 1978: 51) This advert still highlights the importance of still using certain products to obtains a specific kind of beauty even though it uses normal people Beauty grouped in with health care – seen with equal importance
Representation of fathers We have begun to see calls in womens magazines to abandon the old attitude that men and domesticity do not mix(Marshall et al 2014: 1656) Husbands and fathers in commercials are, for the most part, passive, incompetent, or dependent on their wives (2014:1657)
Conclusion At first this advert appears modern in its approach But there is plenty of reasons to suggest that the new representation of women often still heavily draws in the expectations of women by society Men are appearing further and further away from the screen – is this the result of changing images of what family is, as well as a change in the role of mothers