Entry 5: Sexism in the media

“What’s the worst possible thing you can call a woman? Don’t hold back, now. You’re probably thinking of words like slut, whore, bitch, cunt (I told you not to hold back!), skank. Okay, now, what are the worst things you can call a guy? Fag, girl, bitch, pussy. I’ve even heard the term “mangina.” Notice anything? The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl. The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that’s not royally f*cked up.” ― Jessica Valenti, Full Frontal Feminism We have seen the uses of sexism in the media increase over the past several decades. And even in our developed age of today, we are still constantly being bombarded by these sexist strategies in advertising. Recently, I have found a post on Tumblr about Volkswagen’s sexist ad placed in both men’s and women’s bathroom mirror to promote its new Passat. But rather than to stick with the same content for both bathrooms, the company decided to make their ads gender-specific, and eventually supported sexism in a very insidious way.

For the men’s bathroom, it states “If you look like a million bucks in the mirror, imagine what you’d look like in one of these.” However, in the women’s bathroom, there is a subtle difference:

The ad in the women’s bathroom states: “Even if you’re having a bad hair day, you can still look like a million bucks.” See the difference? While both ads are trying to sell the same idea, the one in the male’s bathroom clearly reassures men that they already look like a million bucks, but they would look EVEN BETTER with the car. However in the women’s bathroom, the ad plays with their insecurities and then tells them to fix it by getting the car. The sneakiest part of this is that it was only noticeable when both genders documented it. Ads like these are constantly promoting the idea that women should feel insecure, and in order to improve themselves, they will have to get the product they’re selling. And this is not the first time Volkswagen has created a sexist advertisement like that, below is an old print ad by the company from 1964:

The ad states “Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things. If your wife hits something in a Volkswagen, it doesn’t hurt you very much…” Although this ad was created in a time where sexism had not yet been discussed or focused on, it still doesn’t seem like the company had done much justice for women over the years. Besides Volkswagen, there are countless sexist ads around the world that objectify women. Below are just some of the examples:

1. Print ads from the 1950s

50s-ads-1 Kenwood Chef

50s-ads-3 Dacron Leggs

2. Estrella Insurance shows consumers how they drop prices, and women’s pants.
3. Jewelry ad by Natan illustrates that women can be bought by jewelry.
4. Bareface subtly shows who is in control when it comes to money.
5. Hunky Dorys selling chips with an unnecessary ad of a women dressed provocatively.
These ads just come to show how sexism is always floating around in the media, and that they do have an awfully long way to go.
1. Business Pundit. (2012). 10 Most Sexist Print Ads From The 1950s. Available at: http://www.businesspundit.com/10-most-sexist-print-ads-from-the-1950s/?img=21454 [Last Accessed 19th June 2015]
2. GoodReads. (2007). Quotes About Sexism. Available at: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/sexism [Last accessed 19th June 2015]
3. NeatDesigns. (2015). 35 Extremely Sexist Ads That You Should See. Available at: http://neatdesigns.net/35-extremely-sexist-ads-that-you-should-see/ [Last accessed 19th June 2015]
4. nick goes here (2014) Here’s an example of sexism in the media. Tumblr.com. Available at: http://nickgoeshere.tumblr.com/post/87122286454/heres-an-example-of-sexism-in-the-media-its [Last accessed 19th June 2015]
5. Scoop Whoop. (2015). 20 Highly Sexist Print Ads That Objectify Women. Available at: http://www.scoopwhoop.com/inothernews/sexist-advertisements/ [Last accessed: 19th June 2015]

Entry 4: The beauty (booty) trend

Mass media easily reflect on beliefs, attitudes and values towards females. It can also frame the ideal of beauty. Framing refers to the ability of media outlets to shape the opinions, beliefs, and attitudes of media consumers through the selection and emphasis of particular attributes of media messages (Claes H. deVreese, 2005). The ideal face/body is based on what you’re exposed to, and throughout the years, we’ve seen countless beauty trends come and go. As Tina Fey wrote in her book, Bossypants, “Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.”

And now, we are living in the era of “the big booty”. Yes, it’s the massive trend that has taken over the world by storm and personally, there’s not a single day that I can go about without bumping into twitter posts, vines, songs on the radio, magazine trends that’s not about big butts. This trend has caused many issues among women, because apparently, having a large butt makes you more attractive. Celebrities like Nicki Minaj was more than happy to embrace in this trend, with the release of her song “Anaconda” which is purely about butts. Reality star Kim Kardashian has also joined the big booty trend with her attempt to “break the internet”.

The problem with our pop cultural fixation on female body parts isn’t which body part is being focused on — it’s the fixation itself. (N, Gloudeman, 2014). These songs which were supposed to celebrate the female form, has done a huge injustice and caused women all around the world to feel insecure about their bodies. More than a few celebrities have taken the liberty to speak up about this trend. For example, YouTube sensation Ryan Higa (known as nigahiga on YouTube) talked about how he doesn’t understand why people get so excited over big butts in his video “The Big Booty Trend!?”

In the video, he mentions how the lyrics in these pop songs worship girls with big butts and insult those who don’t.
“I think it’s wrong and unfair in the same way that ten years ago, people used to say that curvy people were unattractive, because you had to be skinny to be beautiful. And I’m all for team ‘be comfortable with how you look’, but this big booty trend is doing the same thing to skinny people what skinny people did to bigger people before – make them feel like crap for not being big enough, or small enough” says Ryan.

The point is, competition is ruling this whole beauty trend. And it has caused so many young girls to look down on themselves because what they see in the mirror doesn’t seem to match up with what they see in the media. All these songs, videos and trends in the media aren’t empowering women, but in fact, are against them.


1. Claes H. deVreese. (2005). “News Framing: Theory and Typology,” 

2. Fey, T. (2011). Bossypants. Little, Brown and Company.

3. N, Gloudeman. (2014) The Big Butt Trend Is Not Empowering For Women [Online]. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nikki-gloudeman/the-big-butt-trend-is-not-empowering_b_5960388.html. [Last accessed 17th June 2015]

4. NickiMinajAtVevo. (2014). Nicki Minaj – Anaconda [Online Video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDZX4ooRsWs [Last accessed 17th June 2015]

5. PAPERMAG. (2014). PAPERMAG: NO FILTER: An Afternoon With Kim Kardashian [Online]. Available at: http://www.papermag.com/2014/11/kim_kardashian.php [Last accessed 17th June 2015]

Entry 3: Chosen topic + observation on extreme photoshop

Chosen topic: Question 3

I’ve decided to choose question 3 because of my strong belief in providing a better influence for young women everywhere. And before anyone roles their eyes, thinking this is just another statement they’ve heard a million times, I would like to make a point that there is a ridiculous amount of misunderstandings in this world when it comes to women empowerment. I will be going deeper into the world of feminism later on. But for now, I would like to analyse the unrealistic standard of beauty in magazines. Women in magazines are always required to look fit. Skinny waist, large chest, long legs are just some of the ridiculous standards that we (real women) are pressured to meet. One of the biggest softwares which contributes to this is Photoshop. I recently came across a website which shows the “before” and “after” of photoshopped women in the media, and the results seem hardly believable. You can see it at: http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshopping-altering-images-and-our-minds/

Below are some screenshots from the website:

1 1

These are just some of the ridiculous manipulation magazines are doing and this is what we see as “beautiful”. But these pictures are fake, they are no where near natural beauty and yet, this is what young girls look up to. Photoshop has taken these unreal ideals to a scary new level. (F. Henry, 2014) The more magazines do this, the higher the standard goes. It’s terrible how people are looking at something that has been so manipulated in the most unrealistic way and yet take at it as something beautiful/idealistic.


1. BR. (2014). Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds. Available: http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshopping-altering-images-and-our-minds/. [Last accessed 3rd June 2015.]

2. Zoe. (2013). PHOTOSHOP: CREATING UNREALISTIC STANDARDS FOR THE UNATTAINABLE BEAUTY. Available: https://zoeereed.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/photoshop-creating-unrealistic-standards-for-the-unattainable-beauty/. [Last accessed 3rd June 2015.]

Entry 2: Comparison between two chosen topics

After doing some research, I’ve narrowed my choices down to question 3 and 6.

For question 3, I would like to focus on how the idealized women in magazines have contributed to body image concerns in society, and the huge impact it has on young women, especially women battling with eating disorders. Even those who are not struggling with mental health issues will somehow compare themselves to what they see in the magazines. I definitely want to discuss about how can we manage this issue and gain empowerment as women without drowning under the unrealistic expectations of high fashion magazines.

Question 6 is about the popular usage of digital cameras, Photoshop, or Instagram, and its impact on professionals in the creative industry. This is a rising topic nowadays as Instagram is widely used and becoming a creative platform for up and coming photographers to display their work. However, this brings some controversy about Instagram ruining the art of photography and that photographers are losing appreciation due to Instagram.

Further research will be done on these two topics. However, in my personal opinion, question 3 has a higher appeal to me because as a women in today’s society, I feel like these fashion magazines are causing girls everywhere to chase an unrealistic visualization of beauty. It’s something we see everyday and it’s a real problem that needs to be solved.

Entry 1: Introduction

This is a blog created for our class Media Cultures. The main purpose of this blog is to record our research on the essay topics given to us before making a start on the essay.

For my first blog entry, I will be reviewing each of the essay questions briefly. Following with my preferred question for the essay in the upcoming entries.

The questions given in the brief are listed below:

1. Compare the advertisement of a local brand in different language editions and demonstrate how semiotics can reveal the differences and similarities between them.

This question, in my opinion, is likely focused on the miscommunication in media, and how semiotics can bring the message across clearer to give viewers a better understanding of the advertisement. The topic could possibly lead to some great research, but I will have to understand this, and the other topics, further before choosing any of them.

2. Explore the ideas of modernism and postmodernism in action films made in the last thirty years. By textually analysing your chosen films, discuss how the ideas are presented and understood by the audience.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of action films so if I were to choose this question for my research blog, it would be a little tedious for me. But on the bright side, I would have to chance to explore these modernism/postmodernism films that I usually wouldn’t.

3. Examine the role of women in local or regional fashion-based traditional mass media. How are women represented? Do they relate to everyday ideas and attitudes of women?

The role of women in fashion-based ads usually varies depending on the style of fashion they’re portraying. But how are women represented? Well, they usually have an unrealistic expectation of women in general. There’s a lot of controversy going on nowadays about women being photoshoped in magazines. This is definitely a question that I need to research more on.

4. Compare and contrast a series produced locally/regionally to a thematically similar one produced in the West (America/Europe). What values and attitudes are being portrayed? How are they being portrayed and do they reflect reality?

So far the television series (that I know of) produced locally are usually quite traditional or at least portraying something related to the typical Malaysian lifestyle. While series produced in the West have a broader genre. The values and attitudes shown definitely carry a wide range of contrasts. Thinking about this question doesn’t seem to spark any fascination inside me either, but I might consider giving it a chance if something eventually clicks in my head. Who knows.

5. Trace the career of an icon in the industry related to your major. Analyse the significant phases, work, and personal qualities that propelled this individual to his or her acclaimed status. Did any institutions contribute to his success or failures as well?

This question might require me to personally contact the inspiring individual in the industry, which is exciting and difficult at the same time. It might not be easy trying to get a hold of them or even researching their work in detail. I’m sure most of these admirable icons have a great sense of appreciation for their past institutions. I’m not too sure how this essay will eventually turn out to be, but if I were to pick this particular one, I have a feeling it will be along the lines of a full-on interview.

6. Critically examine the popular usage of digital cameras, Photoshop, or Instagram, and its impact on professionals in the creative industry.

When I first saw this question, the first thing that caught my attention was Instagram. Because there are a lot of arguments about how Instagram is “ruining” photography. Maybe because it seems like everyone with a smart phone can be considered as a photographer nowadays, but I disagree. There are a lot of things that goes into photography that most people don’t usually see. It doesn’t just happen with a click of a button. Right now, Instagram has a huge impact on society, including professional photographers. So this is an interesting topic to explore, mainly because it relates to our daily lives.