We can’t talk about how girls and women’s bodies are used sell products without considering the marketing strategy known as “objectification.” This word describes the process of turning someone into an object. Because objects are not alive, the association of a person with an object dehumanizes her. In other words, when a girl or woman is reduced to object-status, she becomes non-human; i.e., she becomes undeserving of the rights typically given to people in our society. Once we stop seeing certain people as human, we may not feel compelled to treat them with the kindness, respect, or justice they deserve.
When you look at this week's ad (from People magazine, 10/19/09), try to identify how the ad objectifies the model. Hint: think about how the ad turns her into the product for sale. Here are some questions to help you:
• What is being advertised?
• What do you notice about the model’s appearance?
• What do the various components of the ad—the model’s appearance, the forest, the butterflies, etc.—make you think of?
• How, specifically, does the ad make the model seem less human?
• Does the overall theme help sell the product? If so, how?
Each time I look at this ad, I think what, exactly, is “Cherry Mischief”? I still have no idea, but according to the ad, Cherry Mischief is some sort of imaginary creature—part-playful elf and part-sexy fairy, both of which aren’t really human. Score one for objectification! Plus, look at the vines coming up from the forest floor to root the elf-fairy to her spot. Aren’t mischievous creatures supposed to flit about the forest? How can she do that without any legs? What might this image of the hybrid elf-fairy-magical tree say about societal expectations of femininity (i.e. how girls and women are supposed to behave, act, and look)? And what does it mean for the girls who wear this deodorant?
Here’s my sign-off question: what do you think of the ad’s copy “When you’re strong, you sparkle”? What does it mean? What do you make of the pairing of strength and “sparkle”? And how might “sparkle” refer to a kind of objectification? In between now and next time, when we continue with objectification, don’t forget to check out this week’s addition to “Girl Strong Ads”!