7 stereotypes about women ads keep repeating  

In recent years, advertising may have served as an amendment and social movements – like the fourth wave of feminism – may have had enough impact to change things. Advertising campaigns like Dove or Pantene have become the recurring examples of how advertisers have been changing their speech to avoid sexism and gender stereotypes.

It’s still not perfect, and studies show advertising continues, despite how far it’s come, to perpetuate stereotypes about what women are like and what they can do. Recent research on this question comes from Australia, where shEqual analyzed ads launched between 2016 and 2021. Despite being so recent, the study found stereotypes about women are still very prevalent, to the point that ads even repeat seven cliché profiles.

Darren Woolley, CEO of a marketing consultancy (and not the company that did the study, but a voice from outside) says “The seven stereotypes are central characters that you usually see, and this study makes people think about their laziness.”

As a result, the conclusions show how stereotypes persist, but also warn the industry about how it ends up falling into them out of laziness. It’s not even remotely surprising what makes them up. The same ideas and concepts can be found decades ago. Advertising keeps using them because it doesn’t want to reinvent them.

Cliches that keep coming up

What are those gender stereotypes that keep popping up in commercials? In a study of ads from the last five years, researchers identified seven female models who are still featured in the ads, even though many of them have been criticized repeatedly. You might recognize these clichés as:

  • Women of the home or model mothers: women are the only ones in these ads doing the housework or being the childminders, betting that in advertising women are the only ones who take care of (and that’s been dismantled for years by the pull of the father figure in ads).

  • It’s all dolls and toy appliances for the passive little girl. Girls can only play house in this kind of advertising.

  • Women appear in images, but they’re silent. He’s a male narrator. This stereotype often appears along with the sexualized woman stereotype, as they point out in the conclusion.

  • Women in these ads are only relevant because of their sex appeal. They’re just seductresses.

  • Pretty face: it’s not the same as the previous one. She’s a vase in these ads. It’s only for aesthetics.

  • Magical grandmother: she’s not the main character, more of a supporting one. The ad usually shows a woman older than the rest of the characters giving love to the younger ones. The ad shows that “lovely granny” making a delicious dish on the stove.

  • A woman is simply in the ad so that she can be checked on a list of things to include, according to the study. Although he doesn’t speak, he doesn’t have a story, and he doesn’t contribute much, the announcement can say that he was there. Basically, it’s the brand trying to be diverse without actually being one.