For this five-hour project you will compare the various ways that women have been portrayed in print advertising during the 1920s – 1950s and today. First, you will go to Ad*Access at Duke University where you can browse the archives of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. This link will bring you to an index of ads that focus on “Beauty and Hygiene” during the period 1920 – 1950. Choose one of the categories – i.e., cosmetics, feminine hygiene, hair preparations – and then randomly choose ten ads from each decade (40 ads total) and examine how the women in these ads were portrayed,
To do so, you will construct your own “categories” – i.e., sex object, housewife, ‘modern woman,’ etc. – and then indicate the percentage of women that fall into each category by decade. I suggest that before you choose the specific ads that you will examine and the categories that you will use, first browse through the ads to get “some sense” of what went on and see whether any patterns stand out.
Next, choose three recent popular women’s magazines – InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, Elle, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Shape, SELF, Vogue, Vanity Fair – and examine all of the ads that focused on the same category of product – i.e., cosmetics, feminine hygiene, hair preparations – that you analyzed for the earlier time period.
Present your results in a table and interpret your results.
Have these portrayals remained constant or have they changed over time? If so, how? What effects, if any, do you think the portrayals of women have on their self-image and the way that they are perceived by others? What factors - i.e., age, sex, social class, cultural background - might mediate (amplify and/or dampen) the perception and impact of these messages?