Is Advertising Leading The Way For Violence & Sexism In Our Culture?


It’s an interesting question, and it certainly has arguments both for and against. Our argument? We believe it certainly is one of the leaders of sexism in our culture. Why? Because the media, advertising, fashion, beauty, and entertainment are the most powerful forms of communication and we as people are more influenced by those industries than anything else in our lives.

Dumbo Feather, an Australian online magazine started a campaign on to force the publishing industry to implement strict guidelines about what should and shouldn’t be published in magazines that especially young women see.

In fact there are so many groups working against the tidal wave of advertisers who take full advantage of the fact there is no one to regulate what they do, and they themselves don’t care as long as it makes money.

Perhaps ignorant decision makers won’t ever see the full impact unless they have a personal experience with it…

A group based out of the UK called Everyday Sexism works to expose sexism in the media and tries to make them take accountability for their products. They ask women to share their stories to create more awareness.

The group was founded by 26-year old Londoner Laura Bates in April 2012, and has already had a massive impact since their inception. So far they have had 50, 000 entries by everyday women who have shared stories on their site about being harassed, made to feel unworthy, or treated in a demeaning way by men.

It is an important community because the more women share, the more we can work toward becoming stronger, and change the way society treats us. They say a lot of what happens in our everyday lives is a direct result of what we are saturated with in the media.

“Women who complain about disrespectful comments being made to female members in the House of Commons are accused of ‘overreacting’, yet only 22% of MPs are female. Those who object to the sexist portrayal of women in the media are branded ‘killjoys’, yet nearly 70% of speaking parts in Hollywood films are taken by men, (though female characters are five times more likely to strip down to sexy clothing.) Women who object to the over-sexualisation of female celebrities are told ‘it’s a choice’, yet it is almost impossible to think of a modern female singer who hasn’t bared all. Women are told that modern ‘equality’ means career girls can have their cake and eat it, yet only around 13% of FTSE 100 corporate board members are female.”

Sexism in Advertising

“We are encouraged to celebrate the advance of women into the cockpit, yet Ryanair still releases an all-female nude calendar and Virgin flight attendants go to work every day on a plane emblazoned with a cleavage baring, swimsuit clad caricature. We simply aren’t living in an equal society, but we are blasted for ‘whining’ or ‘not knowing how lucky we are’ if we try to point it out.” says the website.

One of their biggest achievements was its Facebook Rape campaign in May 2013 which made headlines around the world. The campaign was about forcing Facebook to change its policy on content endorsing rape and violence against women, and they were successful! After several major companies pulled advertising dollars from the site, the social media leader decided to change its policy on the content they allow.

It has also forced other industries to wake up to the fact sexism is well and truly alive, and they need to do their part.

The Everyday Sexism Project joined forces with the British Transport Police on Project Guardian, an initiative that saw 2000 police officers given special training to crack down on sexual offences on public transport.

The Everyday Sexism Project has been used by MPs, businesses, schools and universities, and took part in the drafting of new guidelines on media equality at the Council of Europe.

So it is no wonder Laura Bates won the Cosmopolitan UK’s Ultimate Woman of the Year Award a couple of weeks ago for her work against gender equality. Everyday Sexism has expanded into 17 countries worldwide, and 15 more are to be added to the roster in the coming years. It seems the voice of the people has spoken and they want to see an end to this ridiculous notion.

If facebook is a direct reflection of who we are a global culture, then shouldn’t pictures like this make us want to change something?


In the US, the documentary crew behind the eye-opening film Miss Representation put together a montage video of all the ways women were discriminated against in the media in 2013, for millions of vulnerable impressionable young minds to see. While we made a lot of good progress, it was saddening to see how far we still have to go.
Jean Kilbourne, who has been researching the ways the media portrays women, and the connections between advertising and violence against women since the 1960s, is part of an organization called the Media Education Foundation, which works to “inspire critical thinking about the social, political, and cultural impact of American mass media.”

She is the creator of the renowned Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women film series, and there are four films altogether which are used as educational and informational tools.

The video below, taken from Killing Us Softly 4 gives you an idea of the compelling information she has put together over the years. It is easy for us to brush an issue like this aside, especially if it doesn’t impact us directly. But the more we open our eyes to the deeper psychological impact it has, surely it will make us want to do something about it.
The first 60 seconds alone is enough to make you realize the great deception of the advertising industry toward women. They want women to feel ashamed, unworthy, not beautiful, not skinny enough etc as a marketing tool to sell, sell, sell. At what cost? Our souls, our self-esteem, our self-worth and it has to stop. We can only control ourselves and what we choose to consume, promote, like, and share.

Both Jean, Laura, Dumbo Feather and many other groups say the first step to change is awareness, and recognizing this issue affects all of us. Jean says the link between advertising images of women and public health issues like eating disorders and violence can only be changed if we change the environment.

With that in mind, how we can each do our part to spread awareness and make little changes in our world? Share this post, video, and links on every social media platform you have, and talk about these important issues with your friends, colleagues, families, social network and the like. The more we know, the more we as a community can utilize the power of our voices to enforce change in big influential industries like advertising and the media.


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