Women & Exploitation




Exploitation of Women in Advertising



Advertising is everywhere: the average American consumer sees over 3,000 commercials messages each day. In many of these messages women are depicted as sexual objects.

Here is what an expert says:

Carol Moog Ph.D., a practicing psychologist and consultant to multiple advertisers wrote a book called “Are They Selling Her Lips” in 1990. Her book takes a focused look at the psychological effects of ads, what they say, what they actually mean, and how consumers react to them. She describes an ad for Chanel lipstick that is very disturbing. “Some of the most pervasive, persuasive, sexual imagery in advertising is more symbolic than blatant, although the connotations are far from subtle. The ad for Chanel lipstick by Doyle Dane Bern Bach (Milan) shows a women with her upturned , open mouth grasping a tube of the product between her teeth. The red lipstick is fully extended, her eyes are closed, and her face shows pleasure. The image is visually arresting, clearly evocative of fellatio, and symbolically links the cosmetic with the promise of sexual allure” (143).


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so the saying goes, but who feeds the beholder’s view of desirability? I believe the language of advertising over the past few decades has reinforced the notion that the ideal female is white, thin, sexily clad, and above all, submissive. Everybody struggles to develop a sense of security, a sense of personal identity. But most of us end up constantly glancing around to see if we measure up to those around us - and that includes supercharged media models. We hate ourselves for it, especially if we can see exactly what buttons the advertisers are pushing, but many of us buy into the images just enough to wish we could do it all … could be that thin or that rich, or that happy or that confident. And then telling ourselves that we‘re not affected by advertising, we find ourselves shelling out for the product.

Do you let advertisements affect your sense of self-worth?


Above is an example of the exploitation of women seen in print ads. What does this ad suggest to you?



The Internet,

When we talk about the exploitation of women and the use of the Internet we are not merely speaking of Internet porn. The exploitation of women via the Internet holds a host of threats to women and children. The following definition of sexual exploitation is offered by Donna Hughes, a well-known researcher in the area of Women’s Studies and woman’s advocate from the University of Rhode Island, she claims:

            “A practice by which a person achieves sexual gratification, financial gain or advancement through the abuse or exploitation of a person’s sexuality by abrogating that person’s human right to dignity, equality, autonomy, and physical and mental well-being; i.e. trafficking, prostitution, prostitution tourism, mail-order-bride trade, pornography, stripping, battering, incest, rape and sexual harassment. Sexual exploitation preys on women and children made vulnerable by poverty and economic development policies and practices; refugee and displaced persons; and on women in the migrating process. Sexual exploitation eroticizes women’s inequality and is a vehicle for racism and "first world" domination, disproportionately victimizing minority and "third world" women. Sexual exploitation violates the human rights of anyone subjected to it, whether female or male, adult or child, Northern or Southern.”

As you can see many forms of exploitation can be manifested via the Internet; i.e. trafficking, prostitution, prostitution tourism, mail-order-bride trade, pornography, and stripping. A recently new phenomenon, Cyberstalking, is becoming more frequent and is another way that the Internet allows for the exploitation of women. In a national survey of college women during the 1996-97 academic years, 13% were stalked and 25% of those incidences reportedly involved cyberstalking.

The following web sites are given as further reading on this extremely important women’s issue:

Tracking and Sexual Exploitation on the Internet http://www.feminista.com/archives/v1n8/hughes.html

Violence Against Women on the Internet


Mass Media’s Influence on Violence Against Women





The Pressure of Staying Thin






Women in America have become more and more obsessed with how their body is seen. The need to have the ‘perfect body’ is a result of various messages that society, both directly and indirectly sends. Those messages are noted in many different ways, but specifically by advertising in the media. Women are constantly pressured to look a certain way and if they are outside the ‘norm,’ then they are often looked down at or even ‘dismissed’ from the public attention. Of course those somewhat computer generated images put out by the media does not represent anywhere close to how the average woman appear today.

A PBS special was broadcasted a couple years ago that examines the increase of life threatening eating disorders in America. The pressure is even more intense in Hollywood. Recently, one of the well-known ‘Olsen twins,’ Mary-Kate has entered treatment for eating disorder and has been out for a few weeks. This seems to be a recurring theme with many of the actresses in the show business. The things people do in Hollywood in order to ‘fit in’ to the whole glamour is alarming. The idea of being thin and accepted needs to be dismantled so that people no longer need to feel the stress in their outer appearance.




Television and Sexual Exploitation

Website making plastic surgery fun!



            The sexual exploitation of women happens everywhere in our society.  It has especially taken a turn for the worst with regard to TV programs.  There is a new trend in TV shows, plastic surgery.  Some of the shows include The Swan, Extreme Makeover and I Want a Famous Face.  Each of these shows are a little different but have the same premise; plastic surgery will fix your problems in your life and make you happy.  This premise is completely wrong and it is wrong to portray that your physical image is what makes you happy. 



The swan is a show based on turning “ugly ducklings” into swans to win a beauty pageant.  Wow, where do you start?  Just calling these women “ugly ducklings” (this is the terminology the TV show used) is oppressing.  Not only are they giving them plastic surgery to feel better about themselves but then they make them compete against each other.  These women do not only go through plastic surgery, they have cosmetic dentistry, a professional stylist, makeup artist and trainer. 

            The show starts with 16 women and each week they pit two women against each other to see which one looks the best after their makeover and that woman gets to continue onto the pageant.  Then the 8 women who make it to the pageant compete in events such as swimsuit, revealing photo shoot and of course lingerie. But to make the competition even worse the women’s kids are sitting in the audience watching their moms being sexually exploited.  I really wonder how the judges can determine a woman’s inner beauty and intelligence by having them wear lingerie. 

            Teen girls are the ones who are watching these shows and this is the age where they are building their self-esteem and finding out who they really are.  Seeing this sexual exploitation of women on TV and having the message that you have to be perfect physically has a very negative impact on how these girls see themselves and feel about themselves.  This trend towards plastic surgery shows on TV is horrendous and affects not only teenage girls but all women.   

            Here is an astonishing statistic: According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 11,326 18 year old women underwent breast augmentation surgery last year, up from 3,872 in 2002.