The Catch-22 of Advertising Practice (and Other Deflections): Perceived Challenges to Creating Less Sexist Content

  • Aileen O’Driscoll


In addition to analysing the gendered worldviews and opinions concerning representations of the sexes in adverts, student attitudes that also relate to advertising practice were explored; specifically of interest were positions taken by students that amount to assertions that the nature of the medium militates against representations that offer greater diversity and less gender stereotyping. The inferred support expressed by students for gender equality, for challenging and tackling issues facing women and girls both in society, and in advertising texts, as well as problematic portrayals of men in adverts, comes under scrutiny in this chapter and is shown to rest on shaky ground. When moving from the level of ‘surface’ or abstract avowal of the continued need to strive for genuine equality between the sexes, to concrete discussions of bringing that reality about, attitudes counter-productive to that struggle emerge. For instance, while there is certainly a strong awareness of the social responsibility of advertisers to accurately and fairly portray people, as well as a consciousness connected to the need to avoid stereotyping, possible steps towards active efforts to ensure that happens is largely met with one of three reactions: shrugged shoulders, suggesting there is little that can be done; scepticism that any action, regulatory or otherwise, would make a difference; or hostility to such measures, which is accompanied by recommendations that a sense of humour dilutes any perceived negative social impact of problematic gendered imagery in advertising texts. However, several students do demonstrate a ‘moral imagination’ in their musings on how they might avoid sexist and stereotypical representations of the sexes.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aileen O’Driscoll
    • 1
  1. 1.Dublin City UniversityDublinIreland

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