The Portrayal of Women in the Media

By  Amy Smith

Amy is from the UK.  She works for a project by Sheffield YWCA in the UK called “Peile Court and Tulips” and her role there  is to support teenage parents to learn the skills they need to live independently and be successful parents to their children

She is a participant at the European Study Session taking place in Strasbourg and shares her views on the objectification of ‘women’ in advertising and media today.

Amy Smith

Amy Smith


I am lucky enough to be here in Strasbourg, representing YWCA GB at the European study session with a focus on young women’s leadership, gender equality and human rights.  Parts of ta session that I attended left me feeling extremely disconcerted. The session looked at the portrayal of women in advertising, and while I was aware women can be portrayed in a negative way, I was left shocked by the advertising campaigns that some very high profile brands have used. There were some common themes that we looked at which I will now explain here.


Gender stereotyping is a key theme in many adverts, portraying women as typically young and physically attractive and filling the stereotypical ‘good housewife” role. Many adverts display women in these roles that are derogatory to women.


Another common theme in advertising is the presentation of women as subordinate to men.  They are often presented as though their worth is determined by their appeal to men.  Women are also positioned in inferior ways or in sexually related positions.  Women are referred to in a sexually derogatory manner, suggesting they their role is to fulfil a man’s sexual desires.

Sexual Violence

Something about the session that particularly troubled me was the disturbing use of images showing sexual violence against women. I was appalled, for example,  to see the Dolce & Gabanna advert that depicts a woman being pinned down by a man while other men stand over her looking nonchalantly. Dolce & Gabanna is a brand many women buy yet they are using scenes alluding to gang rape to advertise their brand!

The Objectification of Women

I felt both saddened and shocked at how widespread this kind of imagery is in the advertising world, especially in such well known and high profile branded products! I will certainly be paying closer attention in the future to the portrayal of women in adverts to inform my product choices. I will certainly boycotting those brands that depict women in a derogatory manner. A stronger stand needs to be made against this type of advertising and we need to challenge the way women are viewed in our societies.  I hope this article encourages others to join me in boycotting brands that portray women in such degrading ways!

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