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A Brief Survey of Recent Advertising Misogyny

You don't have to look far to turn up a shocking amount of truly disturbing misogyny in advertising.

A friend of ours recently sent us an email noting that of all the posts we’ve written about design and advertising ethics, we haven’t ever touched on an important and prevalent unethical advertising phenomenon — the degrading use of women in advertising.

A cursory glance at the landscape revealed everything from campaigns that feature women who appear to be dead to those that use gross sexual imagery to sell totally non-sexy products.

Misogynist Duncan Quinn advertisement
Duncan Quinn advertises suits with an image of a man who appears to have strangled an underwear-clad woman on the hood of a car.

Of course, these are only examples of a much wider-scope and longer-lasting problem. Seth puts it aptly: “As Hugh Hefner demonstrated with Playboy fifty years ago, objectifying women was a shortcut to cash.” But his prognosis, that misogyny is on the way out, feels optimistic to me.

Advertising shapes our attitudes as much or more than our attitudes shape it, which means that if misogyny in advertising is on the way out, advertisers themselves will have to be the ones doing the ushering. Worse, they’ll have to do so at least partially in spite of its "shortcut to cash" status. If you know DLB, though, you know that we believe strongly that ethical strategies like this one are the only sustainable ones for the profession in the long run. Advertisers have to fake it ’til we make it.

Misogynist Burger King advertisement
Seriously, how is this supposed to be appropriate?

Why? Because ads like these clearly aren’t good. (In fact, they’re a primo example of Rushkoffian corporatism!)

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PaulJul 6, 2009

Comments on this post


I realize that I didn’t initially look at the second ad and consider it in a sexist light.

What really bothered me about it is the level of wit it demonstrates. I might find it very clever at age 16, or perhaps in a frat house.

Other than that, I’m a little surprised at how blatantly sexual it is as advertising for a major fast food chain.

Ian at 12:40pm on Mon, Jul 6th.


Ian: Totally — the “super seven incher”! The mind reels.

Paul at 1:37pm on Mon, Jul 6th.


I am glad that BlogLess has pointed out that the Duncan Quinn ad is degrading. These ads leave the image of violence, and make it seem normal. The man is appearing to be strong and confident, like a manly man. He is even using his own tie to strangle her in her underwear on the hood of his car. I don’t like this ad because it it normalizing violent behavior for the male gender.

Kayla at 11:53am on Mon, Jan 31st.


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