Visual rhetoric is the study of how images convey meaning. What is an image trying to say? Advertisements make particularly good subjects of study because they are so carefully arranged by marketers to communicate to viewers. The message is always “buy this product,” but smart advertisers communicate that message to us by appealing to us in may different ways. They use our desire for money, power, status, sex, romance, food, etc. to sell us products. Advertisements often use powerful gendered images to sell products to us.
Visit criticalmediaproject.org, and click on “Gender.” Find one video or still image advertisement that seems revealing about how people view gender, or how we are supposed to think about gender. You may also find a video on YouTube or an image on Google Images or elsewhere, as long as it is an advertisement that represents gender in a way that’s interesting to you.
First, paste the URL to this image or video at the start of your post.
- Describe what this commercial wants to say about gender. Use some detail to justify your answer, writing a healthy paragraph (at least 5 sentences). In this portion of your answer, use your summary skills to stay neutral, not yet inserting your response.
- Critique this portrayal with another healthy paragraph. You might consider some of these questions (you’re not required to answer them all):
- Whose point of view is represented in the commercial?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Are there notable power dynamics?
- Is anyone in danger?
- Is it humorous? What’s funny?
- Does this confirm expected gender norms?
- Is anything surprising or out of the norm?
- Why do you think the advertisers are using gendered imagery to sell this product?