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Women in Ads~

Media business and different companies regarding feminism must all have balanced principles that would deal with financial viability via the advertising revenue. Yet advertising relied heavily on the hypothesis that sex sells. During my researches, I’ve noticed that sex appeals in women’s magazines of feminism are often portrayed in a demeaning manner. The third wave of feminist political economy theories to evaluate how sex appeals are created in the discourse and images of advertisements.

In my investigation, it is suggested there are three methods that signified how sex functions in advertising department: one, sex appeals and connected to sexual merchandise with a precept of feminism; two, sex appeals that promote feminist political protest; and lastly sex appeals that sponsor a feminist obligation to different identities, it suggested the idea not only provide different opportunities for profits streams but also opening to reinforce feminist ideology throughout.

Feminist in advertising begun as helping aid and supporting during the war, however when the battle has ended, the supportive of feminist was taken down and replaced with feminist ads of house cleaning product, the image below is one of the ads.


Though throughout in the 1970s, feminist groups came together to draw the public’s awareness regarding the sexual stereotypes with in advertising and to change them through protests, letter-writing campaigns and lawsuits. While feminists were occasionally successful in their protests against particular as, they were not always able to attain their goal of the government bylaw.

Those small victories then encouraged other protests, like the one against National Airlines’ 1971 “Fly me”, a promotion that required stewardesses to wear buttons bearing the slogans “Fly me” and “We make you feel good all over’ giving them all sort of sexual suggestive and unnecessary underline. The National Organization for Women then worked with Stewardesses for Women’s Rights to go against these ads. The groups began to run TV spots showing how badly the ads failed to show a stewardess’ primary function as the enforcer of safety rules. While the protests attained a great deal of media hype, they failed to stop the ads from being used by other airlines.

Feminists worked together to encourage the business to control and maintain sexism in advertising. In 1975, the National Advertising Review Board, an industry self-regulation organization that deals with truth and accuracy in advertising, released a report, “Advertising & Women,” confirming the existence of sexist advertising and criticizing the industry for reinforcing dated stereotypes of men and women. NARB proceeded to offer advertisers guidelines for revising images of women to conform to the realities of a changed society.


A feminism billboard of a woman walking two naked men…


An ad for burger king with sexual suggestive undertone.


Another Ad, but this time is lottery with sexual suggestion of the female anatomy.

What clearly had changed by the mid-1970s was the amount of publicity the production itself paid to images of women in advertising. Companies such as Procter & Gamble Co., which usually only targeted TV spots to women during the day, began buying time on nightly news programs to reach working women. Revisions of women’s symbol during the mid-1970s, it was putting more pressure on the industry to make different changes. Jean Kilbourne’s influential 1976 film “Killing Us Softly” judged the industry’s sexism in particularly devastating and detailed ways that produced widespread industry response.

In the 1980s, the art market may have glorified the return to large scale painting by various young male artists who sometimes engaged in retrograde “backlash” representations of women, “but much of the most important art of the period was made by women critiquing such representations in photography and performance art and using appropriation, to critique the nexus between women and the commodity fetish.” An example of this piece of art is below:


Shifting the Gaze revealed how many feminists had not given up on painting, feminist artists who did see, who do see painting as a space in which they can explore a wide range of social themes from female sexuality, gender transformation to genocide and war, using a wide variety of aesthetic strategies, like from abstraction, pattern and decoration to photography-based representation to language. And the field of women painting along feminist themes or informed by a general feminist politics is much bigger than one show can accommodate, there are so many more artists who could be included, it is a vibrant field.

By the 21st century, feminism’s impact on advertising could be felt most in society’s increased awareness of sexism in advertising, it was an awareness that continually encouraged by many feminist scholars, journalists, advertisers and activists. There are currently many Internet sites dedicated to the representation of women, and a large number of international women’s organizations continue both to monitor women’s representation and to resist increasing global domination by a small number of corporations in which women have very little power.

In advertising in all-purpose, there is a new and different focus on female consumers compared to ads of the 1950s and earlier. “An increasing number of marketing researchers apply feminist perspectives to marketing phenomena, particularly within the field of consumer research.” (Catterall, Maclaran, Stevens, and interestingly enough, “Since the 1970s, a considerable feminist literature has accumulated which simultaneously confronts and confirms our marketing assumptions about women as consumers. There are feminist analyses of women and food, diet, body image, eating out, fashion, romance fictions, glossy magazines, savings and debt, home decorating, design, shopping, sport and leisure.” (Catterall, Maclaran, Stevens)

“The ads themselves… began to portray a consumerist version of liberated women, and new products (or at least products with new names) were devised for them to buy… Cosmetic companies were… quick to exploit feminist rhetoric. Revlon introduced ‘Charlie’ in 1973, a fragrance designed for and marketed to the ‘new woman.’ ‘Charlie ads featured what purported to be a no-nonsense single and independent working ‘girl’ with a fashion model face and figure, usually pictured in a pantsuit.”


This modern ad of a woman, compliment her, suggesting she is sexy and strong.

In my conclusion, feminism have supplied and transformation numbers of advertise over the past decades. The advertising business itself has been somewhat changed by the new presence of women in leadership roles. This new presence allows women’s ideas and opinions to be heard in advertising campaigns, which reasonably results in less stereotypical female images. Both the attitudes of these women and their presence in the industry are largely attributable to feminism. Adding together, the impact of feminism are illustrated in a more noticeable and differences between ads of present-day and several decades ago. Women’s advertising, which used to portray a household, inferior portrayal of women, are now more often shows them as strong, intelligent, sexy, and equality to men – concepts that are directly related to feminism. Moreover, advertising responds to the societal conditions of the time, since they help to shape peoples values, beliefs, and priorities. The feminist movement was a social provision and therefore it shaped people’s values. It is evident in a more gender-equalized society than in decades past. It follows then, that feminism equally influenced, if not transformed advertising.


PKim 0807539


Music makes a point!

Music, as far as I’m concerned, has and always will be one of the best forms of self expression. It is a great way of making a stand for something you believe in. Look at the punk movement – one of the best examples because it actually made a difference. It was American bands like the New York Dolls who were one of the first groups to come out with punk music. Malcolm McClaren saw them, liked them, and wanted to bring that kind of DIY attitude to the UK, hence setting up Sex Pistols.The punk movement was one of the biggest and most effective attitude adjustments we’ve ever had as it is still pretty strong nearly forty years later. Clearly music is pretty powerful.
So, I thought why not look at how women are portrayed and talked about within the music industry. But rather than look at just the artists and the latest tabloid headlines about Rihanna or Lady Gaga, I’d rather look at what the music itself is saying.
I want to look at two songs, one from the present and one from maybe thirty years or so in the past. I’ll be mostly discussing the lyrics but also looking a little bit into the performers too. I am interested to see the differences and possible similarities between the two songs and the artists to whom they belong.

“Feminism is a belief that women and men are inherently of equal worth” (Freedman, 2003, page 7) and the first song that I have chosen is one of the most obviously feminist songs I have heard.
My first choice is ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’ which was written by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart and sung by Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin. Although “in 1980 the New York Times assured readers that the “radical days of feminism are gone”. (Freedman, 2003, page 10), this single was released in October 1985 by RCA Records. (Discography,

Okay, so a little bit about Annie Lennox herself.

She is an incredibly strong female character who has presented herself as a very independant and capable woman. She is a very inspirational person as she has had an active role in the campaign to raise awareness for HIV and poverty in Africa as well as being an ambassador for Oxfam and UNAids.
In many of her music videos she is seen wearing masculine cut suits with short boyish hair and so looks fairly androgynous. The idea behind this was to make herself look similar to and ‘equal’ to Dave Stewart (her partner in Eurythmics). Laura Mulvey continuously presents the idea that a woman is just a castrated men, giving the idea that we are all men (and therefore all the same/of equal worth) but some have a penis and some do not.
Lennox doesn’t just want to be known for her music as she tells an interviewer from The Guardian “I want people to understand me as a person with views, not just performing songs,”. (Lennox, 2012)
Now to look at the music.

Now there was a time when they used to say
That behind every – great man
There had to be a – great woman
But in these times of change you know
That it’s no longer true
So we’re comin’ out of the kitchen
‘Cause there’s somethin’ we forgot to say to you (we say)

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves
Standin’ on their own two feet
And ringin’ on their own bells
Sisters are doin’ it for themselves

Now this is a song to celebrate
The conscious liberation of the female state
Mothers – daughters and their daughters too
Woman to woman
We’re singin’ with you
The “inferior sex” got a new exterior
We got doctors, lawyers, politicians too
Everybody – take a look around
Can you see – can you see – can you see
There’s a woman right next to you

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves
Standin’ on their own two feet
And ringin’ on their own bells
Sisters are doin’ it for themselves

Now we ain’t makin’ stories
And we ain’t layin’ plans
‘Cause a man still loves a woman
And a woman still loves a man
(Just a same though)
The main point of the song is to establish that women are no longer relying on men as they are capable of doing it all themselves.
To be honest, my main problem with these lyrics is in the last verse.
“Cause a man still loves a woman, And a woman still loves a man” just sounds like they’re saying ‘don’t worry, we’re all straight!’ which kind of annoys me because although I am aware that a lot of fairly ignorant (and often obnoxious) people will think that most feminists are man-hating lesbians, it seems to me that it is saying that women should be treated equally but maybe not homosexuals yet.

The A.V. Club criticized Lennox for these lyrics, saying “it traffics in cliches about women as much as it disproves them”. (Heller, et al, 2010) They also picked up on the same lines that I have mentioned, as well as “Women are ”comin’ out of the kitchen” to tout their ”new exterior” as if feminism was a shiny paint job.” (Heller, et al, 2010)


The second song I want to look at is ‘If I Were A Boy’ by Beyonce.

If I were a boy even just for a day
I’d roll out of bed in the morning
And throw on what I wanted
And go drink beer with the guys

And chase after girls
I’d kick it with who I wanted
And I’d never get confronted for it
‘Cause they stick up for me

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man

I’d listen to her
‘Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
‘Cause he’s taking you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

If I were a boy
I would turn off my phone
Tell everyone it’s broken
So they’d think that I was sleeping alone

I’d put myself first
And make the rules as I go
‘Cause I know that she’d be faithful
Waiting for me to come home, to come home

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man

I’d listen to her
‘Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
‘Cause he’s taking you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

It’s a little too late for you to come back
Say it’s just a mistake
Think I’d forgive you like that
If you thought I would wait for you
You thought wrong

But you’re just a boy
You don’t understand
And you don’t understand, oh
How it feels to love a girl
Someday you wish you were a better man

You don’t listen to her
You don’t care how it hurts
Until you lose the one you wanted
‘Cause you’re taking her for granted
And everything you had got destroyed
But you’re just a boy


She mostly talks about how guys have it so much easier than girls, because they don’t care as much and therefore don’t get hurt as much as girls do. She also implies that guys can pretty much do what they want without getting too much hassle for it; “I’d kick it with who I wanted,
And I’d never get confronted for it”.
To me this is implying that women are also weaker than men as they are relying on a man to keep them happy, even though this guy is out doing whatever he likes and the girl is just waiting around for him. The lines “‘Cause I know that she’d be faithful, Waiting for me to come home” reinforce the idea of the naive, weak woman sitting around awaiting the man to come home.

The words “but you’re just a boy” are repeated a few times within the song, which could be saying two different things. The first could be comparing a boy to a girl, making the male sound inferior because the male is ‘just’ a boy. The second could be comparing a boy to a man, making it an excuse for his poor behaviour – he is only a boy, he hasn’t grown up to be a man yet. This presumes that when the boy becomes a man his behaviour will improve.

It is mostly the third verse from the bottom where the female actually sounds strong.

“It’s a little too late for you to come back
Say it’s just a mistake
Think I’d forgive you like that
If you thought I would wait for you
You thought wrong”

She finally says that the girl wont just wait around and let the guy do what he likes.
She finally gives herself some value!
Beyonce is another powerful, often thought to be inspirational, woman. She is a successful singer, songwriter and dancer as well as a devoted daughter, wife and now mother.
Some seem to think that you cannot preach feminist views and make sexy, provocative music videos. Beyonce clearly disagrees. The reason, I think, she can get away with doing this is because she is embracing her sexuality, using it to become empowered rather than degrading herself by sleeping around or being ‘slutty’. Laura Mulvey talks about the “male gaze” (Mulvey, 1975) and how women are looked at as objects of desire. Beyonce takes this idea and uses it to her advantage. Men will stare or ‘gaze’ at her, and so she can show them how strong she is while she has their attention.



Freedman, E. 2003, No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, Ballentine Books.

Heller, J., Koski G., Pierce, L., Robinson, T., Ryan, K., Withrow, E., Zulkey, C. 2010.
A soundproofed room of one’s own: 17 well-intended yet misguided feminist anthems. Available at:,39169/

Martinson, J. 2012. Annie Lennox: The world has bcome more sexualised. Available at:

Mulvey, L. 1975, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. [online] Available at:

Schneir, M. 1994 Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings. Vintage, London.

Lads’ magazines: What is “lad”

For this part of the blog, I will be explaining how women are portrayed in men’s’ magazines, particularly lads magazines.

Lads’ magazine are a subcategory of men’s’ magazines generally aimed towards straight men. The term “lad” was coined from British culture during the 90’s. It is generally used to refer to young men and boys in general.

” LAD’ lad, n a boy; a youth; a male companion, workmate, etc; a stableman or woman, a dashing, high-spirited or extrovert man(colloq)”

(The Chambers’ Dictionary, 2001, pg. 899)

To define this subculture of people, one could observe the behaviour of some of the male youth culture around us. But to examine this topic further, we should use the term “lad culture”

Lad culture is considered a lifestyle but it’s not a lifestyle that one would willingly pursue. This lifestyle can be considered a luxury as it’s a way of “living to the fullest”. This is quite similar to the “yuppie” culture as they both involve living in a style that ignores the negative backlash presented in these cultures. It’s also a culture which can only be experience by the young and young at heart.

Lad culture can be just described as just sexual banter, footy talk, drunken antics and poor diets. Yuppie culture is roughly spending money on items that would be expensive for most people but buying it for the purpose of looking good in front of others or for indulging.

There have been tv shows that portray or parody this culture. Such as the sitcom “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps” which first aired at 2001 and ran for 9 seasons. Another sitcom which can be compared to this was “Men Behaving Badly” which ran from 1992 to 1998.

Lad culture has also been shown to lead to hooliganism which then leds to vandalism and bullying sometimes due to drunk behaviour. This quote relates to this point;

“Laddism[ lad culture] was a celebration of the irresponsible, of unreconstructed young men running wild…” (Beynon, J. (2002) Masculinities and Culture, Buckingham, Open University Press)

Although, this could just mean that times have changed and this could be very well be a new part which gives way to more subcultures like the similar “ladettes” lifestyle.

Matthew Odei-Hanson (0737252)

The ‘Dumb Blonde’ Effect – Sexualization of Women in Modern Film

Hannah Adamson

Cinema is regarded as one of the most prevalent social tools of the modern day, despite, first and foremost an agent of entertainment, it is also a visual tool to affirm certain behaviours and characteristics of groups and individuals in society. Perhaps one of the most targeted groups is women, who sought humble beginnings in cinema in its early days as the damsel in distress or the shy and retiring wall flower. Modern cinema has created a new wave of sexually charged female characters who sport nothing more than a ‘hot body’ and subsequently lack substance. It is commonplace to find a macho leading man risking life and limb whilst the ‘supporting’ actress spends most of the film wearing very little. Has modern day cinema created a new breed of oversexed women that has one purpose and one purpose only, to satisfy the male gaze?

According to Amy Villajero in a 1991 article entitled ‘Reconsidering Visual Pleasure’,

woman is left in only a ‘negative relation, defined as ‘not-man’, and trapped within a theory that brilliantly describes the power relationships of patriarchy acknowledges no need for escape (Villajero, 1991, pg 110)

In other words Villajero is saying that thanks to visual interpretation by media such as film women are often just seen as ‘the other’ by an explicitly male driven society that dictates how a women should behave and become trapped by male ideology and are consequently reinforced with a false consciousness meaning that they do not realize they are being objectified so do nothing to change their circumstances. Such is echoed in film as women are seen as vacuous and just ‘a body’ made for sexual gratification of men. Take the 2008 film ‘The House Bunny’ starring Anna Faris and Emma Stone. The plot centred around a disgraced playboy bunny who seeks refuge in the throngs of a misfit group of college girls who are in desperate need of a house mother for their failing sorority. Faris’ character is the physical embodiment of the male sexual fantasy and her journey through the film is a poor attempt at discovering herself as more than a sexual entity. In ‘Hollywood’s New Herioine: The Skank’ Brian D. Johnson discusses that new type of female protagonist has been created by modern cinema;

the honourable slut (Johnson, 2010, pg 76)

Faris’ character ‘Shelley’ in this instance is indeed considered to be an ‘honourable slut’ or ‘tart with a heart’ ,as British society as affectionately dubbed women who use their sexual wiles to attract attention, but have good intentions in themselves as people. Yvonne Tasker has gone further by suggesting that oversexed female characters are often portrayed as

…good-hearted caricature[s] who…for example, [are] more than willing to share information (Tasker, 1998, pg 94)

Thus, is Tusker justifying Hollywood’s conscious decision to create female characters that get through the plot by using their bodies ? Or is she simply demonstrating a new more independent breed of female character who doesn’t need to be validated by a man’s actions nor do they need to be rescued or seen as a reward for a job well done.However, it must be noted that such depiction of women just further proves a satisfaction of the male gaze and how film has created a new sub-genre of good intentioned ‘sluts’ that has done little to change the perception of women in cinema.

As if the movie content itself wasn’t enough to reaffirm the issue of an oversexed female protagonist then the accompanying promotional poster that came before the film’s subsequent release will surely create a vacuous ‘dumb blonde’ persona for the budding ‘well intentioned slut’.

                                                       Promotional Movie Poster for The House Bunny (2008) Dir. Fred Wolf

The vacant expression on Faris’ face alone is somewhat damaging to the reputation of women-kind, suggesting that, as females, we have no real intellegence or substance and are purely seen as ‘eye candy’ (Faris becoming the stereotypical female embodiment of beauty with her peroxide blonde hair and slim physique). In her 1975 essay entitled ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Laura Mulvey suggested that the sexualized female body hold’s the attention of the male gaze and plays upon the male sexual fantasy.

Women displayed as sexual object is the leit-motif of erotic spectacle…she holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire (Mulvey, 1975)

Another prime example of the sexualized female is Megan Fox’s character in ‘Transformers’ (2007) and it’s sequel ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ (2009). Despite Fox being regarded as the female lead to Shia LaBeouf’s male lead, she does little to carry the storyline along, in fact it may even be suggested that she was chosen for the role due to her sexual appeal to a largely male audience rather than based on any acting talent. We find Fox’s character to almost always be dressed in outfits that leave little to the imagination. Whats more is that she is given a token job as a mechanic in a feeble attempt to create an interest around her character that isn’t purely sexual, however such attempt is in vain as she fixes bikes in tiny hot pants and tight tops once again reaffirming the idea that female characters in modern film are purely sexual entities with no real purpose other than to feed male sexual fantasy.

                       Film still from Transformers (2007) Dir. Michael Bay

What has perhaps become a far more frightening realization in recent years concerning the portrayal of the female protagonist in film is that sexuality is not an exclusive trait of the sane but the mentally unstable female character is now holding her own when it comes to her sexuality. In the article entitled ‘Crazy Chick Flicks’ (2011) Ramin Jetooden discusses how modern cinema has created an oversexed women even with deep psychological problems.

the female protagonist doesn’t just lose her mind; she loses her clothes. And sometimes she loses her sexual orientation as well (Ramin, 2011)

Films have materialized in recent years that center around a female protagonist that has either deep emotional or psychological problems, from Amanda Seyfried’s troubled prostitute in the 2009 film ‘Chloe’ to Natalie Portman’s mentally disturbed ballet dancer in Black Swan from the following year. Such characters, instead of addressing the issue of their mental states head on, are still glorified in a sexual way, in particular Portman’s character Nina Sayers who has a lesbian sexual encounter with fellow co-star Mila Kunis, which consequently became one of the film’s most iconic scenes and every young man’s wet dream. Amanda Seyfried’s character has a similar experience with Julianne Moore’s character in ‘Chloe’. Consequently, is it now a trend in modern film to create a mentally unstable female lead that still eludes sexual appeal and satisfies the male gaze? Or is Hollywood going too far to promote the age old saying ‘sex sells’?. Filmmaker Lizzie Borden (1992) in the article ‘Redefining Female Sexuality in the Cinema’ , suggested that the sexuality of female characters in film is a heavily scrutinized subject.

the idea of female sexuality comes under so much attack by everyone. it’s a subject everyone thinks they know something about [5]

                       the infamous lesbian kissing scene from Black Swan (2010) Dir. Darren Aronofsky

Thus, is it acceptable to create a sexualized identity even for the mentally unstable female in Hollywood or is it making a mockery of an issue that is becoming even more prevailent in modern society and should not be taken lightly or underplayed for the sake of satisfying a male gaze or selling tickets in the cinema. The oversexed trend emerging from Hollywood stretches even further with attempts to create a sexual identity for the older female character as well. Rose Weiltz in the article ‘Changing the Scripts: Midlife Women’s Sexuality in Contemporary U.S Film’ (2010) suggests that the sexuality of the older female is becoming more accepted and less of a taboo subject in modern film with the emergence of the cougar.

…the cougar phenomenon also suggests a growing recognition of the sexual potential of at least some midlife women (Weiltz, 2010, pg 31)

Is the emergence of the cougar Hollywood’s feeble attempt at giving older women a sense of sexual agency in film? Or is it just a new way of satisfying the male gaze and furthering the spectrum of the gaze beyond youth. There appears to be a sense of mocking surrounding the sexuality of the older women in film as a cougar is generally looked down upon by much younger, and often much more sexually active co-stars. Thus, the perceptions of the oversexed older women in modern society bears nothing but negative connotations thanks to the portrayal of such women in cinema and the number of cougars is definitely growing with each summer blockbuster or hit romcom.

  Catherine Zeta Jones plays the older women with a younger love interet

    in the form of Justin Bartha in 2009 film The Rebound. Dir. Bart Freundlich

So much female sexual empowerment from different aspects of film can only been seen as a good thing right? i mean these women aren’t necessarily seen as vacuous eye candy for the male gaze and a method of selling seats in the cinema are they? Subsequently, recent film Sucker Punch (2011) proved that there was much more to a female character than the fact she had a ‘hot body’. The film sees Baby Doll (Emily Browning) , a young girl abused by her cruel stepfather, sent to a mental asylum after accidentally killing her sister. The bleak outlook of the asylum is shadowed by a make believe world of burlesque style dancing and sexual flirtation which then goes on to manifest into a world of tough ass-kicking females brandishing machine guns. Browning’s character strives to save herself and others from the cruelty of the mental asylum and so ensues a quest to collect items that will aid them in their escape. Despite the fact the girls are scantily clad as it were they are never shown to be using their sexuality to gain advantage at anytime throughout the film (we know that whenever Baby Doll dances she is using her sexual prowess to gain an advantage but we never see this happening, it always cuts to an action sequence) Director Zack Snyder has stated that he wanted to show a sexual liberation of the female characters in Sucker Punch without any sexual exploits.

The women take control of the sexual trappings foisted upon them, even turn them into weapons (says Snyder) The challenge was to confront the concept of the exploitation of women without creating exploitative imagery (Snyder, cited in Jenson, 2011)

                  girls with guns (l-r Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish and Vanessa Hudgens) Sucker Punch (2011) Dir. Zack Snyder

Snyder could easily have gone ahead with the concept of the seedy strip club scenario that partly features in the plot and take it in the stereotypical direction that most films do i.e the women use their sexuality to get what they want, but he chooses instead to focus on the ass-kicking action scenes that feature whenever Baby Doll dances. Perhaps this is Snyder maintaining the moral integrity of his female characters and proving that a women doesn’t have to take her clothes off to get what she wants. Although directors like Snyder are attempting to reinvent the portrayal of women in modern cinema there is still an underlying sense of sexual intent about the way a female character is often introduced to the audience, it is all about the visual aesthetics. Mulvey goes on to discuess how the female character in film is seen as having a dual purpose however both lead to being controlled by the male gaze, the character has no agency over whether she is gazed upon.

Traditionally, the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the spectator within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator in the auditorium, with a shifting tension between the looks on either side of the screen (Mulvey, 1975)

So according to Mulvey the women essentially have no control over their portrayal to the male gaze, there is a sense of eroticism regardless and there is almost a competition between the gaze of the characters on screen and the audience in the cinema, but perhaps this is simply the macho competitive streak that most post-adolescent males possess. Mulvey goes on to express her frustration at the oversexed female character held captive to the male gaze and feels that there should be major changes to the film industry in regards to plot and character persona’s to change the way in which women are percieved on screen.

 To produce a cinema no longer ‘obsessively subordinated to the neurotic needs of the male ego’ it is necessary to break with illusionism, making the camera material, and producing in the audience: ‘dialectics, passionate detatchment (Mulvey, 1975)

Mulvey, feels that there needs to be a change in the way that women are viewed as individuals thanks to the contributions of Hollywood playing on the ‘sex sells’ angle to bring in the punters and earn extortionate amounts of money. Although, it must be understood that sexualization isn’t a complete disregard of the respectability of women. As suggested before it can be viewed as a sense of independence and sexual liberation as the male gaze is controlled by the females who have their own agency in film when it comes to who views them, although that isn’t true of all films which is why the argument that women are only seen as sexual entities to satisfy the male gaze is such a prevalent one.

Consequently, it can be determined that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that Hollywood has created a breed of vacuous female characters that are only seen for their bodies and sexual wiles rather than any reputable character or skill they may possess. There have been moves towards a more intelligent and self sufficient female in modern film, such as Zack Snyder’s characters in Sucker Punch, but there is still an overpowering sense that a male driven film industry is creating roles for the sake of the male gaze alone and have no wish to consider female audience members in the equation. Thus, will cinema forever be privy to the age old marketing ploy that ‘sex sells’ or will there be a change in female character from brainless to brainy?


  • Jenson, Jeff, (2010), Decoding Sucker Punch, Entertainment Weekly, Issue 1147, pg 64, EBSCO Academic Search Complete [online] Available at:
  • Johnson, Brian (2010), Hollywood’s New Heroine: The Skank, Maclean’s, Vol. 123, Issue 37, pg 76, EBSCO Academic Search Complete [online] Available at:
  • Lucia, Cynthia (1992), Redefining Female Sexuality in the Cinema, Cineaste, Vol. 19, Issue 2, pg 6, EBSCO Academic Search Complete [online] Available at:
  • Mulvey, Laura (1975), Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, [online] Available at:
  • Ramin, Jetooden, (2011), Crazy Chick Flicks, Newsweek, Vol. 157, Issue 6, EBSCO Academic Search Complete [online] Available at:
  • Tasker, Yvonne, (1998), Working Girls – Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema, Routledge,London, pg 94
  • Villajero, Amy, (1991), Reconsidering Visual Pleasure, NWSA Journal, Vol. 3, Issue 1, pg 110, EBSCO Academic Search Complete [online] Available at:
  • Weitz, Rose, (2010), Changing The Scripts: Midlife Women’s Sexuality in Contemporary US Film, Sexuality and Culture, Vol. 14, Issue 1, EBSCO Academic Search Complete [online] Available at:

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Through this collaborative blog we aim to explore the portrayal of the female body through various visual media under the lens of feminism. The portrayal of women in the media has altered dramatically over the last century developing how female’s are seen by a largely patriarchal society, there is a far more sexualized view that is a far cry from the conservative nature of the past. Each blog post aims to address this shift in perception from different media giving varying representations of the female form. Cinema, music, advertising and magazine publication will all be explored in order to discuss just how the female body has been molded to become a sexual object to satisfy a male gaze.


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