Some time ago, I watched a documentary called The Codes of Gender about the portrayal of women in advertising and popular culture. I know, of course, that women are objectified all the time in commercial imagery, but it was interesting to see some of the underlying tropes that are more subtle. The film is based on the work of sociologist Erving Goffman from the late '70s.
Many examples of this phenomenon can be found. There's an excellent collection at GenderAds.com. Essentially, women are, more often than men, shown:
- in positions that are off-balance or precarious.
- gazing distractedly away from the viewer.
- passively receiving action, rather than taking an active role.
- lying down.
- in jeopardy or threatened in some way.
Once I saw the documentary, I couldn't stop seeing these images: on billboards, magazine covers, and countless other places. What really disturbed me, though, was that I started seeing them on book covers in the YA fiction section of the library.
Here are some examples. I didn't seek these out, by the way. These are just covers that I noticed in the course of my regular work over a period of several weeks.
Take a look at your library shelves. What do you find?