«Probably, we are consumers, more than anything else. More than just students, professors, managers, milkmen or greengrocers» (Dalli, Romani, 2003: 5). We are consumers because everything we do involves the use of goods and services and because the purchasing choices and the consumption practices play an important role in the lives of the modern western societies.
We are all consumers, but we consume in a different way in relation to the contexts, the moments, the moods, the economic opportunities, and our different social identities. In fact, when we buy or use any product, we refer to cultural patterns that derive from our place in the society and reproduce our class and ...view middle of the document...
In the Italy of the Fifties, for example, the need to market food, ways of living and new appliances helped to popularize a certain image of woman, distinct and independent, but also tied to the traditional role of housekeeper, mother and wife (Passerini 1992). In the same years, advertising showed less virile male images, proposing the purchase of specific goods as necessary to acquire the status of modern man (Bellassai 2003). In the last three decades, the visual codes of fashion communication spread a different male identity (Bovone Ruggerone 2006) more feminine in appearance, manners and role (Sassatelli 2010). Thus, advertising seems a useful and interesting field of observation of the media discourse about the gender dimension of social life. Given its attention to social change, the study of its representations allows not only to take a snapshot of the gender current portrayals, but also to identify new trends in the mutual constitution of masculinity and femininity.
2. Women and advertising
In the gender studies, the focus of attention is often unbalanced towards one of the poles of the male-female dichotomy, the women, probably because gender is used as a criterion for the development of measures of equal opportunities. This happens also in the study on gender and advertising. However, in this case, the female protagonism does not depend only on a lack of attention for the men and a surplus of protection for the women, but also on the special relationship between female characters and commercial communication. In fact, commercials, posters and print ads have hosted different women since the beginning of advertising, articulating several figures, polarized on two prevailing models. The first is the housewife or mom, a figure with a discreet beauty and a loving attitude, devoted to the care of the family and of the house (such as in the Barilla or Ferrero commercials). The other icon is the sensual woman, associated with various products and often "objectified", (as in the classic Peroni Beer commercial, whose claim was Call me Peroni. I’ll Be your beer), used as a communicative bait, a decorative element designed to attract the attention and turn on the desires
The figures of the mom/wife/housewife and the sensual woman/object are both examples of a partial representation of femininity, stiffened and viewed from a male perspective, according to a classical western tradition in which men act and women appear, men look at women and women watch themselves being looked at (Berger, 1972). These figures are the product of a process that over thirty years ago Erving Goffman (1977) defined hyper-ritualization, an exaggeration sometimes ironic sometimes serious of the ritual forms of difference that constitute our daily experience
«I modelli proposti dai media e dalla pubblicità contribuiscono a definire il significato dell’appartenenza di genere, imponendosi con forza per il fatto di essere pubblicamente diffusi» (Goffman, 1976: 76).