The Gender Ads Project

Unrelated to the topics that have been discussed previously on this blog, I would now like to discuss an initiative that begin in 2002. This initiative, the Gender Ads Project, is an online project that “gives educators and students resources for analyzing the advertising images that relate to gender.” The website began when its founder decided to create a web site to host images and interpretations for students in his gender studies courses. The site became quite popular and now has over 4,000 advertising-related images. Dr. Scott A. Lukas, the founder of the Gender Ads Project, has done a good job of organizing the images into different categories and subcategories. For example, one main category Roles/Types has 16 subcategories that include things like mothersstrippersexotics, etc. Overall, the site has seven main categories (roles/types, objectsmalestogetherviolencepolitics, and other). Under each subcategory, there is background information, a short description of the ads, and discussion questions. This website is good to discuss because of the way it bridges the internet, gender, and learning.

Although there is a lot of material in each subcategory, I thought it would be interesting to examine the ads under one of the categories and answer the questions presented on the website based on my own opinions and thoughts. The category I have chosen to analyze for this post is the Roles/Types subcategory Normalized. In order for you, the readers of this post, to understand the answers to these questions, it is important for you to view the advertisements and information presented on this page. The link can be found here:


(1) In what specific ways are women placed into categories of the “normal” and the “abnormal”—what are the themes that are evident in the ads?

Women are placed into these categories when these industries constantly present images of woman that are so contrasting. Because there really is no in-between, these categories have emerged. From analyzing these advertisements, it would seem as though women are placed in the “normal” category when they are skinny, have symmetrical faces and bodies, and body proportions that are difficult to achieve without plastic surgery. The most obvious way that women are placed in the “abnormal” category is when they are overweight. Also, it seems to be “abnormal” when women don’t want to change their bodies so this would likely place them in this category. Lastly, no other ethnicities or races were shown in these advertisements so it appears that woman of color would also be placed in the “abnormal” category.

There are quite a few common themes. The three that are most obvious to me are:

  1. If you’re not thin, something is wrong with you.
  2. It is important to look perfect (correct proportions, symmetrical face, etc.).
  3. It is possible to change yourself to fit the ‘norm’ if you work hard enough or can afford it.

(2) Are specific parts of the body targeted by the industries of normalization, which ones?

Although the body as a whole is targeted, when examining just the ads that are present on this page, I would say that women’s waists and women’s faces are especially targeted. Surprisingly, breasts are not as emphasized in these ads.

(3) Do images of female normalization compare to those of male normalization, if so how?

I would say that the answer is both yes and no. On the one hand, males and females both have different classifications of “normal” and “abnormal.” For example, males are usually presented with images that make them feel like the norm for men is muscular bodies when woman are presented with images that make them feel like the norm for them is skinny bodies. This is why I think that the images do not necessarily compare with each other. One the other hand, both genders may feel the pressure to make changes within themselves and their bodies to fit what is seen as the “normal body.” So in this way the images of female normalization do compare to those of male normalization. Regardless of comparison, it is important to emphasize that both genders really are presented with normalization images that are difficult for individuals to compete with.

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One Response to The Gender Ads Project

  1. apalmgre says:

    Thank you! This is something that I have totally missed, but will use when teaching the Introductory course to Women Studies next semester.

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