One day, a perfume ad will show a man in a languid leopard thong on a bed, with doe-like eyes fluttering about, and that will be great progress for humanity. Our next male will finally experience something that has been part of women’s daily lives since the appearance of advertising. Take this spot for Paco Rabanne perfumes: “Amid triumphant music, a man races a horned motorbike, shirtless with tattoos, in a conquering posture, against other vehicles in the desert. It blows up all of the competing vehicles. At the end, a woman is installed behind him, side-saddle. She’s wearing a sequined skirt and she’s lasciviously caressing his chest.”. We are not making this up, it is the Public Authority for the Regulation of Audiovisual and Digital Communication (Arcom) which describes this cheap caricature of madmax, in a very interesting “study on the representation of women in television commercials” published on March 6.
Arcom (ex-CSA) examined 2,310 spots broadcast between October 2021 and May 2022, and compared the results to those of a similar study carried out in 2017. It shows in particular that the sexualization of women continues, although greater than that of men, with this specificity: “When men are sexualized, it is in the context of a relationship of seduction towards a woman (23 advertisements represent men and women in a relationship of seduction compared to a single advertisement where a man is sexualized alone), whereas women are more often depicted in lascivious attitudes outside of any explicit romantic relationship with a partner (this is the case in 70% of advertisements featuring a sexualization of the characters).» The object woman versus the conquering man, as usual.
“Body care” for women, “adventure” for men
It can also be noted that in television advertising, “88% of the characters who carry out a DIY, work or mechanical activity are men, and delivery, gambling and adventure activities, positions of responsibility and outdoor work are occupied by at least less than 70% male characters” when, on the side of semantics, “If we look at the distribution of the most pronounced words in the ads in the sample, we see that the words related to appearance and body care (“skin”, “perfume” and “smooth”) are more pronounced by women, while terms such as ‘adventure’ and ‘vehicle’, or even words related to money (‘bank’, ‘bettor’) are pronounced more by men”. We also savor this spicy fact, on the food side: in pubs, “Men are clearly in the majority among chefs (86%) and women are more numerous among domestic cooks (53%). […] Moreover, particularly in the “food” category, several advertisements still present scenarios where women are busy with household chores while men eat or have fun..
Well, the Arcom still points to “significant progress”: “On the one hand, […] while in 2017, only 46% of the characters were women, their representation is now closer to social reality since they embody 51% of the characters against 49% for men. However, according to INSEE, women constitute 52% of the French population.. On the other hand, in the roles assigned to them, women are all the same less passive, decorative – “18% of women in 2022 against 50% in 2017” – And “they are more experts (7% of women in 2022 against 1% in 2017) even if this proportion is significantly lower than that of expert men (15% of men)”. Advertising being what it is, women as well as men are mostly reduced to the role of consumers.