Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kim Golombisky

Keywords

Advertising, Communication, Gender, Visual rhetoric, Women

Abstract

This study examines sexualized portrayals of women in fashion advertising found in metro-sexual men's magazines as visual rhetoric. Historically, studies on sexual images of women in advertising have focused on content analyses of these images and how they affect women. This study asks how sexualized imagery of women functions rhetorically as part of a branding message designed to sell products. The exemplar advertisements were chosen specifically for their sexual imagery from an earlier study by the researcher on sexual images of women in fashion advertisements found in men's magazines. The messages interpreted within the visuals of this study reveal a current slice of history in terms of gender and sexuality. In the case of this study the constructed "ideal" heteronormative view of gender, masculinity, femininity, and sexuality are what are for sale; they are the merchandise to be purchased. Women are present in the exemplar ads as an accessory to prove and support heterosexual masculinity through sex, as if to ward off any ideas that metro-sexual men may be anything but heterosexual. Though we cannot generalize beyond these five magazine ads, we can think of the exemplar ads as a small sample of contemporary culture. The narratives of these ads suggest that man continues to be the prevailing figure in terms of importance and power relative to woman, who is subordinate to man. This thesis supports prior research on women in advertising where men are more important than women, and the ads in this thesis continue to define masculinity and femininity in classic patriarchal and heterosexual terms. However, this thesis adds important critical-interpretative work through visual rhetorical analysis on advertising in men's metro-sexual magazines to a body of research that includes very little of such work.

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