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Gender and Advertising

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C H A P T E R 7

Gender and Advertising

How Gender Shapes Meaning

The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.”

—Shirley Chisholm

Men are dogs and women are cats. Women are from Venus and men are from Mars. Writers, filmmakers, psychologists, and advertisers all have used the idea that men and women are different to develop stories, create conflict, and provide persuasive imagery. Not only do advertisers view men and women differently, but men and women also bring different perspectives to advertising. Thus, we can assume that men and women create dif-ferent meanings from the advertisements they see. Gender roles in our society have changed dramatically since
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Once the meaning from an advertisement has been determined, men and women differ in how that meaning is used. These different decision-making processes are related to whether the process is linear or more nonlinear in nature. Men process messages and make decisions more quickly than women do, perhaps because men focus on the primary mes-sage of a given advertisement and take in little other information during the process. This is due to the observation that men have a linear thinking and reasoning style, and men tend to have a more task-oriented focus than women have. Women, on the other hand, process the information in an advertisement quickly and from many levels and sources, including music, visuals, voice-over, and text. Women also tend to evaluate and weigh the various sources to process the message and determine what steps to take next. Women’s reasoning processes are less task-oriented and more compartmentalized than men’s are. Women’s decision-making processes are characterized as being incremental reasoning processes, where each piece of information builds on the previous information that is taken in. This non-linear approach to reasoning allows women to think in terms of interrelated factors, not straight lines. The observation that women evaluate multiple sources supports this reason-ing style (Fisher, 1999).

Women and men respond to entirely different stimuli when viewing and evaluating advertising messages (Popcorn & Marigold,
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