1. How is the woman represented in the ad? How is her body and/or sexuality used (or not) to sell a particular product?
At first glance, the woman appears to be admiring the man for this amazing rescue. But when you read the caption under the picture, you see that the woman is in fact the hero. Her body and sexuality are not used to recruit people to the coast guard. While she is leaning on the man in a seemingly submissive way, she has her hands on him rather than his arms around her. He is not acting possessively or protective towards her. He does have his arms crossed and appears a little smug, but he is leaning his head slightly towards her, which makes him appear more proud than smug.
2. Do you think this ad is offensive to women? Why or why not? What kind of ideologies of gender and sexuality do you think are contained in this ad? What is the dividing line between "sexy" and sexist?
I think at a glance this ad could be construed as offensive, but upon further study, it is clearly not meant to be offensive. The ad slightly breaks a gender barrier. Typically, men are seen as strong, more the "military type" you could say. Women are seen as delicate and fragile. This ad creates a balance of the two in the woman. She is attractive, but she doesn't look like she puts much effort into her appearance. Even though it's a black and white picture, she doesn't look like she's wearing make-up, and she isn't dressed in typical "woman" clothes. Because of this, I wouldn't necessarily say this is a "sexy" portrayal, nor is it sexist. I think it is a strong, confident portrayal of women, and confidence is sexy. The ideology presented in this ad is that women can be women and heroes and role models. The woman is showing affection to her boyfriend, but not deference. She is in the coast guard, and this is where the cross-over is made.
3. Is this ad feminist or anti-feminist? Justify your answer.
This ad is a feminist ad for many reasons. The woman is not portrayed as a sex object, not submissive to a man in any way. Yet at the same time, she remains feminine. She represents a blend of what feminists want (equality) and what women are more naturally (pretty but not slutty, independent yet devoted and loving).
4. How does advertising affect body image issues for girls and women? Do you believe that the advertising industry has a responsibility to promote more diverse images of women? Why or why not?
Advertising affects body image of girls and women all the time. It is estimated that 1/1000 teenage girls suffer from anorexia, and the majority of them are from middle- and upper-class families (they would have more access to media). The mortality rate of this disease ranges from 5-10%. For bulimic girls, the percentage is higher. The only reason anyone would put themself through such torture is because the person is made to feel inferior. In terms of the media, young girls are made to feel fat and ugly. Every day, we are bombarded with images of tall, thin, "beautiful" women. And the majority of us regular girls don't look like that. But because we are shown that these women are sexy, we feel that this is how we should look too. You see ads where the "beautiful" girl is with an attractive guy, but an ad with a regular girl generally shows how to use make-up to make her look like the "beautiful" girls. The advertising industry needs to realize that cases of anorexia and bumimia have gone up, as has suicide. Some girls become so obsessed with how they look and when they can't make themselves look like a model, they feel like they have nothing to live for. Magazines promise all the time to use a variety of models in a variety of sizes. And they usually do (on one or two pages). Most of the models in these magazines are stick-thin. (magazines that are aimed at women should be trying to either entertain or educate women, not make them feel inadequate.) Almost every magazine for women has at least one article per issue about how to lose weight. How to look better. How to look younger. How to be pretty. If the media were instead telling women that they are beautiful and worthwhile, body image would improve significantly.
5. What kind of activism can people take part in to protest and/or oppose advertising imagery that they find offensive or harmful to women and girls?
Most importantly, people should not buy or use products made by these companies, because by doing so they are supporting the company. By supporting the company, they are supporting the message that the company sends. They should seek out alternative products that either do use a variety of models in a positive manner, or buy products that are off-brand, as they are less likely to advertise at all. Women can put away the curling irons and hair straighteners, the fancy skin-tightening or improving or whatever creams (that don't do anything), and the make-up. At least sometimes. Some women like to do their hair and make-up, and that's fine. But they also need to be able to see their beauty without the make-up. And men need to compliment women (especially their girlfriends or wives) no matter how she looks. Of course, if you're in a relationship and you aren't attracted to her unless she's all dolled up, you probably shouldn't be together. Women also (and this is a hard one) need to stop looking for validation from others. We need to be confident in how we look and who we are, no matter what others think.