Ideology and Communication:

Symbolic Reflections of Intellectual Designs

by Zeynep Gültekin Akcay (Volume editor) Mahmut AKGÜL (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 142 Pages

Table Of Content

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List of Contributors

Emine Şahin

Associate Prof. Dr., at Gaziantep University Advertising Department, emines@gantep.edu.tr, Orcid ID: 0000-0002-7269-0923.

Zülfiye Acar Şentürk

Associate Prof. Dr., at Uşak University Advertisement and Public Relations Department, zulfiye. acar@usak.edu.tr, Orcid ID: 0000-0003-2606-3547.

Zeynep Gültekin Akçay

Assist.Prof. Dr., at Sivas Cumhuriyet University Radio-Television and Cinema Department zga@cumhuriyet.edu.tr, Orcid ID: 0000-0003-3050-3090.

Kadriye Töre Özsel

Research Assist, at Munzur University Radio-Television and Cinema Department, ktoreozsel@munzur.edu.tr, Orcid ID: 0000-0002-6039-6057.

Çilem Tuğba KOÇ

Assist. Prof. Dr., at Erciyes University Radio-Television and Cinema Department, e-mail: takdag@erciyes.edu.tr. Orcid ID: 0000-0002-3479-4035.

Mahmut Akgül

Assist. Prof. Dr., at Erciyes University Department of Public Relations and Advertisement., e-mail: mahmutakgul@erciyes.edu.tr. Orcid ID: 0000-0002- 3479-4035.

Onur Önürmen

Assist. Prof. Dr., at Erciyes University Radio-Television and Cinema Department, onurmen@erciyes.edu.tr. Orcid ID: 0000-0001-7500-2869.

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This book can now be published after a long journey. As the editors, we have experienced several traumatic situations, similar to COVID-19 which caused humanity to question itself again, for the last three years in our personal and academic lives.

From the day we revealed that we should discuss the relationship between communication and ideology with the framework of the Turkish media that has changed over the last twenty years, we had troubled and striking days until the book was published; intercity movings and the difficulties of new lives… Immediately after the loss of a mother-like sister – Özden Köse – shook us profoundly. During this period, some of our academician friends, who would support us, withdrew their works from this book for a number of justified reasons. Another unexpected illness while entering a restructuring period and the loss of another beautiful person – Sabiş – caused the printing period to be delayed again. Even though COVID-19 in 2020 shaked and doubted us as we started off with the motto that everything will be fine in late 2019, we did not give up this time.

However, we would not be able to embody this work without the very valuable people who did not let us give up. First of all, we are eternally grateful to Kadriye Töre Özsel and Onur Önürmen who gave us their articles when we intend to create this book and then waited for three years without asking anything. We would like to thank Emine Şahin, Zülfiye Acar Şentürk and Çilem Tuğba Koç, who enabled our book to be published as new authors. Lastly, thanks for the outspoken editor of Peter Lang Turkey, Esra Bahşi for her understanding and support so far in this process.

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Reviews that discuss ideology and are used as one of the basic concepts in communication studies compose pretty comprehensive literature. Related literature has, directly and indirectly, analyzed ideology concept. The same literature also scrutinized the issues such as ideological role and functions; the foundation of various ideologies in media or by the media; ideologies of media on different topics and ideologies about the media itself.

This book aims to indicate several problems related to apparent ideology understandings that are accepted in communication studies. To this end, we endeavored to touch on produced meanings and power of ideology within media that has transformed in Turkey as from 2000. Samples from different channels of Turkish media rather than theoretical discussion were chosen to trace ideological structurings within Turkish media. It was also cared for studies in the book to complete each other; by this means, we also wanted to provide convenience for the reader to comprehend the ideological structuring of transformation in Turkish media after 2000.

Emine Şahin and Zülfiye Acar Şentürk, in the first review of the book that consists six articles, analyzed the traces of gender and ideological structuring in advertisements sample. Zeynep Gültekin Akçay discussed another point of the structuring of gender codes through children channels. It is emphasized in child channels that there is an unequal weight of men compared to women in the construction of gender codes. Kadriye Töre Özsel who displayed democratic and hierarchical values, religious and worldly values, and other dichotomies emphasized that cultural texts for children significantly include ideology. Çilem Tuğba Koç who reviewed the discussion of popular music and ideology by the sample of hip-hop music and arabesque in Turkey underlined the relationship between neo-liberal policies and those kinds of music which have been on the rise periodically. Mahmut Akgül approached struggles through Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts by looking at that media is an ideological arena. Finally, Onur Önürmen revealed the reproduction style of the dominant ideology by humor.

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Emine Şahin & Zülfiye Acar Şentürk

Seek for Ideology in Advertising
Messages: Presentation of Feminism and
Gender in Advertising

Abstract Gender becomes more obvious with social structures and shapes the family and business life of men and women. It determines the expectations of society from individuals, the work they do in house and professional environment, their characteristics as men and women and again their behavior patterns as men and women. Products of mass communication; films, series, and commercials are attentive to depict women in line with the desires of the dominant ideology. Content is produced in order to support and maintain the gender stereotypes that are widely accepted by the society. However the presentation of women in advertising in historical process has experienced a change in the recent years. Even though in some advertisements women are still used as sex objects, confined to the house and placed behind men in terms of skills, strength and intelligence, there are advertising works that criticize this dominant opinion. This kind of advertising has increased in parallel with campaigns regarding women joining the workforce and girls being educated and they are supported with social responsibility campaigns like self-confidence education, thus it is aimed to reach the changing gender perception to more people. In this chapter the topic fem-advertising, which approaches gender with a critical view in terms of Feminist ideology and tries to tear down social stereotypes is discussed, and Nike’s commercial is examined.

Keywords: feminist ideology, gender, advertising, fem-advertising


In communication research it is declared that media not only transforms the common ideology into media messages but also presents it as reality or reinforces and propagates the existing ideology. Stuart Hill, who is an important agent of English Cultural Studies defines ideology as “the tangible process that produces ideas, beliefs and values in communal living” and employs the concept similar to “culture” (Hall as cited Dağdaş, 2003: 33). Judith Williamson (2000: 11) defines ideology as “communal conditions and meanings that these conditions obligated while providing continuity”. In this context, it is necessary to state that media is the basic device in spreading communal and cultural values. The content of media, be it real or fiction are transformed into symbolic form and thus the cultural meanings ←13 | 14→carried by indicators are seen as a discursive phenomenon. In discourse analysis of meanings, structuralists and post-structuralists like Ferdinand de Saussure, C.S. Pierce, Claude Levi-Strauss, Roland Barthes made crucial contributions to semiotics intellectual interpreting level. Barthes interpreted cultural indicators with legend analysis and created the semiotics terminology for ideology to be understood (Barthes, 1998, 2018) and today in modern linguistics studies non-verbal language is explained within indicators system (Dağdaş, 2003: 96). In advertisement analysis it is a pathfinder for examination of many researches. In advertising studies, qualitative researchers propound meanings that are produced with discourse and visual level analysis and the ideology transferred with these meanings.

It is remarked that the indicators used in advertising create meaning structures, in order to understand what advertisements mean, one needs to comprehend how it was meant and analyze how it works (Williamson 2000: 11). The differentiation in analysis of indicator Williamson (2000) uses in making sense of magazine advertising is an important guide that explains meaning transfer through indicators to the target population in advertisements with finished connection, as indicated, as an indicator, as a producer, as money. Moreover, in advertising field, the researches Banu Dağdaş (2003), Rengin Küçükerdoğan (2009), Uğur Batı (2010) conducted in revealing the discursive and semiotic analysis of advertisements and the meanings carried by the indicators add great contributions to the field.

In advertising analysis, when the text and the visual elements are analyzed within indicator system, the ideology of the advertising, thus the aim of the advertiser is revealed. Essentially is the aim of the advertising to give information about the product or the producer, is the aim to conduct a communication act or to persuade the buyer to purchase the product? Here, it shouldn’t be ignored that the advertising that the advertiser creates in order to be used as a tool for the relationship between the company and the target population are a process of creating meaning (Batı, 2010: 21). In the advertising the buyers are convinced that they are purchasing values as well as a product, in this process the automobile is not an automobile anymore (Wernick, 1996: 51, 112), it becomes a lifestyle indicator that that takes them to different worlds. Through advertising an emotional connection is established between the meanings created by the brands and the consumer, this way consumers own abstract values such as social status, respectability as well as tangible values like quality, ease of use, economic profit. Spiritual values add to the consumer’s ego and make them realize themselves as an individual (Batı, 2010: 21). In this regard, it is claimed that the basic ideologies in advertising are consumption and hedonism and they are criticized for this aspect by modern culture and consumption culture theoreticians like Andrew Wernick (1996), Mike Fatherstone (2005), Jean Baudrillard (2010). Baudrillard ←14 | 15→(2010) declares that aesthetical pleasure or fascination restrain one from seeing the real truth and an illusion, aesthetic based created by hyper reality is lived. The concept of consumption spread to daily life is no longer a rational exchange and now a concept carrying symbolical meanings (Fatherstone, 2005: 145). For instance, the reason why luxury brands are purchased is because through commercials these brands are added value and a perception of symbolical consumption is created. Thus, for consumers economic profit is replaced by symbolical profits (like status) created by a social process.

On the other hand, advertising transfer not only ideologies like consumption and hedonism but also meanings regarding gender and sexism as a social value bearer. Under the circumstances the fundamental ideology of the advertising can become meaningful with the values of the society. How the concept of gender is interpreted socially, how the female and male genders are placed in society, the accepted norms and basic roles for gender; and what are the differences based on genders in language can be revealed through advertising. Besides, based on the idea that the content shared on mass communication devices are created are nourished by the dominant ideology, the basic topic of this study is the sentiment that the advertisement content of social values related to gender are shaped by the dominant ideology-culture and transferred to society. Within this scope, the content of this study is, in order, feminism, gender, gender emphasizing stereotypes, sexist approaches in Ads, use of sexuality, and the advertising of Nike sports products created with the effect of the latest feminist wave.

On Feminism

The years in which the women were confined to home as a wife and mother and the idea that the women belong to their home was dominant weren’t only 17th and 18th centuries, they years before and after these times were also the same. Started during the mid-18th century, and especially during the start of 19th century, this idea clearly separated houses and workplaces as environments by isolating women with a special space with historical transformations like the Industrial Revolution (Donovan, 2005: 19). In the 19th century the features of female characters created by woman teachers of literature, and especially woman writers such as Charlotte, Emily, Anne Bronte sisters, and Jane Austen were formed with the effort of proving that women can also have desires and talents and they shouldn’t be considered as less dignified or lower level than men. Some resources point that the first wave of feminism movement started in the 19th century. The effects of feminist movement lasted until the World War I. This period was declared as the first wave feminism and it was also defined as the ←15 | 16→liberal feminism era because of liberal philosophers like Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Standon, Hannah More, Florance Nightingale, Harriet Taylor and John S. Mill (Gül, 2003: 126–127). The fundamental aim of philosophers who claimed that women are regarded as home-based and their places in society is limited to homes is to ensure women gain their political, financial, and social rights and women not being refrained from public spaces. Women should be educated like men, get their share of inheritance, purchase premises and have employment. The statements of these ideas’ defenders became louder and clearer at the end of the century and they reached more people by raising their voices.

The time when the feminist movement gained momentum is the 20th century. In this era, which was defined as the 2nd wave of feminism, there were three different trends; socialist- Marxist, radical and post-modern (Gül, 2003: 133–135; Taş, 2016: 169). Especially Judith Brown, Nancy Chodorow, Grace Atkinson, Martha Shelly, Virginia Wolf, Mariana Hirsch, Simone de Beauvoir, Shulamith Firestone are radical feminist philosophers who marked the era (Gül, 2003: 131). In this period the 60s were a time where the role of women was questioned and 70s were where the studies based on the problems women experience in social life, alienation, the unfair distribution of economic rights among genders. 60s and 70s also include politics of difference as well as feminist statements (Gül, 2003: 129). The fact that the number of women in the financial life increased after the World War II led to women claim this power on other levels of society. While their political and social struggle continued with radical statements, the domination of women on their own bodies was also argued. The 1990s are years where the feminist movement regained momentum. The 3rd wave of feminism was born as a reaction to the 2nd wave feminism (Taş, 2016: 171–172). The transformation of women’s duties at home to production and statements like women as a house organizer “laborer” leaves its place to more informed expressions. It is emphasized that women also have the right to live their lives as humans, they shouldn’t be seen as second-class they should be equal to men. With the increase of the effect of mass communication devices especially with social media, and with civilization and social movements being more heard the supporters of feminist actions have multiplied.

On a broader frame, while radical and psychoanalytical feminist approach explain gender as the biological differences between men and women, they defend that biological features like giving birth, reproductive organ, hormones differentiate the two gender. Moreover, Marxist and socialist feminist approaches which deal with the topic in a more social way, is the approach which claims that in societies based on culture and social relationships are the main source of the fundamental difference between gender definitions (Donovan, 2005; Scott, 2007; Çetinel and Yılmaz, 2016). According to post-modern feminists, in the historical process, when women ←16 | 17→were pushed into the background they were left behind of the philosophical and scientific discussions. More importantly, from their point of view, since there is no one type of woman figure, women’s problems should not be approached from only one perspective, the relationships between different social and ethnic groups as well as the relationship between women and men, which forms the basics of body and gender definitions, should be examined and also the sexism in the language should be analyzed (Donovan, 2005; Demir, 2006; Çetinel ve Yılmaz, 2016). It is argued that with the effect of post-structuralists, by using masculine/feminine phrases in language and discourse, the discrimination is reinforced by continuing the current ideology (Irigaray, 2006). Besides, apart from ecofeminism which associates women with nature and links the alienation of women to the fact that humankind controls the nature, there are different feminist trends like Islamic feminism, spiritual feminism, liberal, humanist, cultural feminism (Donovan, 2005). The classical feminist manifests that determines the manifest they defend with firm lines and questions the women in financial, law and social aspects, leave its place to a different understanding that removes the women from center and focuses on rights and liberty. Now, a humanist feminist understanding in which not only the women’s but also the place of men, children is questioned and many topics like race, identity, sexual preferences, class discrimination, ethnic and cultural differences are discussed.

The role and gender definitions of media which leads individuals acquire social behavior with the representation of women, men and children – practices that ensures the continuity of the dominant ideology- are a topic of feminist criticism. On the other hand, in communication researches, how do the mass communication devices transfer gender roles as a tool of reflecting the society and carrying the fundamental values of the society, how the men and women are fictionalized in society, how the accepted norms for gender and main roles are reflected, the sexist orientation in language use (Demir, 2006; Sabuncuoğlu, 2006; Yılmaz, 2007; Karaca and Papatya, 2011; Şahin and Acar-Şentürk, 2019) or sexuality being used as an appeal for advertisements (Batı, 2010; Elden and Bakır, 2010), are preferred as base research topics.

The Presentation of Women and Men in Advertising in Context of Gender

Among the topics that are discussed by the feminist theory, gender is the most discussed topic. Feminist theoreticians working in the gender field claim that western societies systematically suppress feminism and in media, especially in advertisements, women are presented as sexual objects with unrealistic and limited depictions, women are labeled as happy housewives, women who work less ←17 | 18→than enough and women who are depended on men (Lazar, 2006; Zotos and Tsichla 2014). In this sense, feminists criticize the depiction of women, especially in ads within gender context.

According to Judith Butler (2014: 50) gender emerged as a social category forced to a body regarding its sex. Starting from this point of view, feminist theoreticians claim that the term “gender” which legitimates all the kinds of problems women face by alleging that it is related to biology and which offers women body to service and interpretation of masculine power, is the cultural approach of sex or structured by the culture. Women and men are two social groups whose roles are determined and who are in interaction with each other. As in other social relationships they execute their roles and work share within their sex-related roles. As part of these roles, men primarily defined in the production field and the place of women is defined as home, where they make re-production real. In this work share in addition to their primary roles men also manifest themselves in fields that have social value like political, religious, military fields (Hirata et al. 2009: 94–95). In every stage of social life, the view that women and men sex categories are constructed socially creates the base of gender studies. Many factors such as the place of women in social life, the way women and men dress, their profession preferences and the place they earn in business life, the behavior patterns in and outside of the house and their place in decision making mechanism are originated from the fact that biological differences shape social and cultural norms. While the roles assigned to men contribute to their dignity and status, the roles given to women make them crushed and passive.

The separation and strengthen of dominant gender roles are provided with family, which has an important place in the process of individuals becoming social, and social groups. The pattern of attitude and behavior which is developed by the distribution of roles in the family structure has a crucial place in the personality development starting from childhood. With formal education sometimes, the existing values are reinforced, and the behavior is encouraged, and sometimes new perspectives are formed. Moreover, the mass communication devices which surround the individual in every stage of life as much as the social environment, hold an important role in exhibiting and enhancing gender roles. In the media the roles of women and men are presented with obvious differences shaped by the gender models.

Identity Definitions of Women and Men in Society

For identity definitions of women and men in society sexist stereotypes are used, thus the differences between genders become clearer. Deaux and Lewis ←18 | 19→(994–999), explain gender patterns in four different levels in their study they conducted in 1984. According to the researchers, the fundamental categories of gender stereotypes consist of widely accepted factors such as character defining, being masculine or feminine (based on being independent), active, competitive, proving oneself, avoiding easy, being emotional, feeling anxious for others), physical features, being masculine or feminine (such as length of hair, muscular shape, wide shoulders, high pitch voice, behaving polite and gentle), role behaviors (bring masculine, feminine or mix based on who makes the decisions at home, who takes care of the repairs or children’s education) and occupation (being masculine or feminine based on being a truck driver, teacher, secretary, office worker). When creating and enhancing gender is discussed the patterns – stereotypes – and features are designed by giving men superiority and pushing women into the background. For example, in business life missions requiring expertise are accredited to men thus forcing women who joined to workforce with modernization, to carry professional life and house life together (Kandiyoti, 2015: 26–52). While women represent the myth of appear provocative and beautiful, men represent “power” (Reynaud, 2009: 138). When the roles are determined this way, women are forced to fit into the beauty standards in order to be liked by fellows and men (Uğurlu, 2015: 235).

Another research on gender definition was conducted by Lobel, Gur and Yerushalmi (1989) in Israel with 159 participants (74 girls, 85 boys) aged 10 to 12 by using Bem’s Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI, Bem, 1974). The inventory Bem developed masculine and feminine character structures are defined and sex-related features are explained. 50 % of participants state that sexes have characteristic features and they limit these features as being 7 male, 7 female and 10 neutral features. Male features include aggressive, strong, masculine, leader, confident, competitive, athletic, assertive and keen on risk taking. Female features are classified as speaking softly, feminine, shy, gentle and loving. Neutral features are friendly, happy, joyful, honest, loyal, understanding, analytic, adaptive, traditional and jealous. Men avoid seeming emotional and they are defined with masculine norms as a nature of their sex as being emotional is accepted as an indicator of weakness.

In intercultural studies shared social stereotypes are classified in many countries. According to this being feminine is being someone who is soft, crying easily, don’t uses harsh words, considerate, religious, takes care of her appearance, aware of others’ feelings, and needs protection, women are talkative, organized in their habits and dependent; and being masculine means being assertive, hard, men like mathematic and natural sciences, worldly, ambitious, objective, competitive, confident, logical, men lead and they are independent (Taylor et al. 2015: 347). Men ←19 | 20→have to keep food on the table -their primary and most important duty-, they are defined with their performance in workplace, they are more active and venturous than women, they are experts and leaders (Sawyer, 2009: 26; Stoltenberg, 2009: 41; Taylor et al. 2015: 345). These standards take place in mass communication devices and they are spread by media content. These standards are accepted by the ideology and people and groups who rule the advertising and fashion industry.

Women and Men in Advertising

In the first half of 20th century, sexual themes are used for tobacco products as well as soap, lotion, perfume and hygienic women products (Reichert, 2004: 32; Rutherford, 2000: 43). When the advertising images of that period are examined it is seen that mostly women models are employed, and the message of the advertising is to give information about the product. In the following years similar themes and images take place in newspaper and magazine ads. In the advertising of 1950s, the women seen on the advertisement photos are beautiful but inefficient in using technology, and trying to be diligent in housework, with the effects of the Second World War they are pictured as happy housewives (Image 1).

Image 1: Alcoa Advertisement Visual in 1953. With the slogan “So you are saying even a woman can open this bottle?” in this visual it is implied that women are inefficient in fields that require technology, power and intelligence, ant expressing using women that the bottle can be opened easily can be associated with social gender. This bottle cap, which can be opened even by women indicates that women’s physical features are weak. (Kurt, 2016).

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Wild cowboys (Wild West icon that is not yet aware of the city culture) which made its mark to the 1960s and a Marlboro Country are result of a marketing experiment conducted in 1962 (Rutherford 2000: 43). On the other hand, in this period as a follow up to 1950s, women are still used in order to grasp attention to the product with their sexual attractiveness. They are placed as a decorative accessorizes lying on an automobile or as being clumsy out of house but diligent in the house (Image 2). The adverts moved to TV in mid 1960s and it became more fun to watch them during 1970s. In 70 % of the adverts aired in this period men were shown as experts and 86 % of women were product users (Taylor, et al. 2015: 345). The main aim here is to include women in consumption. Especially brands that completed their branding journey such as Chanel, Coca Cola, Marlboro promote their differentiation efforts with various approaches in order to create awareness.

Image 2: Mini Brand Automatic Shift Automobile Aired Advertisement Visual in 1971 with the slogan “Automatic shift for simple driving” and the confusion and horror in the woman’s eyes, it is pointed out that women’s intelligence is not enough for using complicated mechanical vehicle. (Kurt, 2016)

In this period, Goffman, in his book “Gender Advertisements” he published in 1976 evaluated womanhood and manhood with more than 500 different advertisement photographs more and studied how women and men are placed in the advertisements by analyzing clothing, body and posture. According to the research:

Women are portrayed taller than men only when they are socially at a lower category than men.

Women’s hands rarely touch, hold or lift things. They never grasp, direct or shape.

When women and men are on the scene together women are always shown shorter and even among children males are always giving direction to females.

When someone needs to lie down/sit down to somewhere or a bed, it is always a woman or a child. Men are hardly ever preferred for this.

When a man looks at one direction it is always associated to a social, political or intellectual topic. However, when a woman looks at one direction it is related to a subject that includes a man and a woman pictured together.

When women are intimate with men, they are portrayed as mentally dull like they are in a dream.

Women are pictured as physiologically weaker than men and socially isolated. For example, when something terrible happens, a woman puts her hands to her mouth and her eyes look for help, terrified (Goffman, 1987: viii).

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The effect of feminism that got into motion in 70s shouldn’t be ignored. During and after the 2nd World War with the increasing need for production, women left their houses and started working in factories. 1970s is a period when women demanded their rights as workers and this well-known advert visual is accepted as the icon of the feminist idea of the period (Image 3).

Image 3: Westinghouse Electric Company Advertisement Visual in 1942. The advertisement visual of Westinghouse Electric with the slogan “We Can Do It!”. The visual have the iconic image of a strong muscular woman at work. Blue shirt, bandanna and the editing of the advertisement has iconic features. However, the poster was originally intended to give morale to woman workers of Westinghouse factories who took place of the males during the Second World War. (Dünyayı Değiştiren 13 İkonik Reklam Kampanyası, 2019).

In 1980 and 1990s advertisements dominated by the traditional understanding in which women and men were used as sex objects attracted the attention ←22 | 23→(Sexton and Haberman, 1974; Albers-Miller and Gelb, 1996; Kilbourne, 1999). This period is a phase where the exaggerative level of nudity, temptation, attractiveness, and sexuality strong enough to affect the subconscious with implication and secret messages and men appear in advertisements as much as women do. In 1980s it is observed that employment of men models for advertising increased. This is because women consumers’ likes reflected on advertising strategies. Tom Reichert (2004: 203), explained the transformation of sexuality use in advertising compared to previous years over the characters of the novel Irving and states “If Winkle had fallen asleep in 1976 and woken up in the 1990s, he would have had a heart attack”.

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In the advertisements of that period, apart from sexuality, the woman is limited to house and domestic issues just like the previous stereotypes and she takes part in the advertising as a subsidiary to the male character. Gary Sullivan and P. J. O’ Connor, (1988), emphasize that presenting women as a “housewife” or as a sexual attraction in advertising gender inequality is supported and sexist stereotypes are reinforced as of the period. In the advertisements employing male models are determined by the preferences of the product consumers and men are portrayed as sexy, dominant and aggressive (Image 4). Male models are hypermasculine especially in the last 20 years (Elliot and Elliot, 2005: 5–7). However, this changed when in the beginning of 90s metro sexual, new generation man, who takes care of himself, and at the end of the 90s gay man style that aims for the homosexual market take place in advertising as alternatives (Milestone and Meyer cited as. Tosun and Ülker, 2016: 229–230). For the brands the likes and preferences of the target population determines the model to be the face of the brand and sexuality is the only thing irreplaceable.

Image 4: Calvin Klein Brand Advertisement Visual in 1992

Advertisements including sexuality are attention grabbing. As a matter of fact, it is considered that using a beautiful woman and an attractive man affects the viewer in the persuading the consumer process (Elden and Bakır, 2010: 51). Reid ←24 | 25→and Soley (1983), state that especially in tobacco and alcohol advertising the sex of the model depends on the sex of the target population, Steadman (1969), Richmond and Hartman (1982), Severn et al. (1990), Reichert and Ramirez (2000), state that using sexuality in line with the product in the advertising increases the association and the usage is correct. The occasions where the sexuality use is mostly profited are the cases where the sexual attractiveness and the product comply with each other. If it is not the case, the message is irritating to the audience. It is argued that when the advertising irritates the audience or the positive attitude towards the advertising affects the shopping intentions (Severn et al. 1990:16). For example, perfume, cosmetics or fashion ads the aim is to draw attention to the promised beautification. For this reason, the model, be it a man or a woman should arouse interest of the viewer with their beauty and attractiveness.

Some researchers state that use of sexuality in advertising differentiates according to the product. Between the years 1989 and 2003, the use of sexuality increased from 15 % to 27 % and it is determined that, 38 % hygiene, 36 % beauty, 29 % medicine and 27 % clothing sectors use sexuality (Reichert, Childers and Reid, 2012: 1). In a different research (Peak and Nelson, 2007: 155) identified that especially nudity is used in fashion, alcohol and personal care products. Particularly clothing and cosmetics brands employ beautiful models for their advertisements (Elden and Bakır, 2010: 51). Sometimes women can be seen as a decoration that promotes an automobile brand, attracts with their sexuality and draw attention to the product (Sexton and Haberman, 1974: 43).

Meanwhile, when advertising studies are examined, the screening conducted by Yılmaz (2007) on 409 advertisement visuals between 1960 and 1980 and published on Milliyet Newspaper is remarkable. In this study it is pointed out that there are images reflecting gender patterns that portrays the work women do nothing more than cleaning, cooking and laundry inside of the house. Moreover, in this research it is established that besides this image, the most common advertisements of the period are the ones represent women limited to gender roles as a sexual object or a décor that helps make the advertising more attractive. Tosun and Ülker (2016), in their study revealed that when male models are used in advertising, women viewer like the brand and get interested in the product more.

In their research Karaca and Papatya (2011) analyzed rewarded advertisements between the years 1990 and 2009 that are about the woman image and stated that the first number of advertisements including women are food, candy, gums and chocolate categories (17.4 %), second number is household items and appliances (12.4 %), third is house banking, insurance and other financial services (11 %), ←25 | 26→fourth number is cosmetics and personal care products (10.1 %). It is found out that in advertising the most emphasized concept is family bond, women are mostly casted as housewives, mothers and wives, in 15.6 % of advertisements women are portrayed as beautiful and attractive, in 30 % of them with a nightdress, and in 5 % of them naked, and for 36.2 % of advertisements, women are pictured at home (Karaca and Papatya 2011: 496). Just like in the advertisements abroad, in Turkey, advertising limits woman to feminine professions such as nurse, secretary apart from using them for sexuality (Demir, 2006). In furtherance with gender, women are housewives, mothers and helpers (Sabuncuoğlu, 2006). The gender stereotypes that dominate the society are presented and reinforced in advertising.

Feminism in Advertising: Fem-Advertising

When the researches conducted in the 2000s based on woman and men presentation in advertising are examined it is seen that on one hand there are fashion and cosmetics sector products advertisements in which include attractive woman and man who represent esthetical stand like previous years, on the other hand there are furniture and white appliances advertisements created with a traditional and sexist understanding. In this period advertising women are seen as continuing traditional understanding or as mothers or wives who complete the product, draws attention for the product, such as next to the dishwasher in kitchen or in front of the ironing board (Lazar, 2006; Levy: 2006; Zotos and Tsichla 2014; Yüksel 2006). However, after the year 2010, the increase1 of feminist movement in social life affected the marketing world and companies started social studies for topics based on feminism, moreover traditional sexist understanding left its place to“Fem-advertising” or fem-vertising) in which Feminism based advertising messages are represented (Fem-Advertising, 2017; She Knows Media Hosts Fem-vertising, 2014).

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In the “10-year Report of Gender Inequality Research of Effie Awarded TV Commercials in Turkey” conducted by Association of Advertisers and Bahçeşehir University Advertising Department cooperation 489 TV commercials aired between 2007–2017 and received awards at the Effie Awards were analyzed. According to this the main characters in the advertisements are 65 % men and 35 % women; the percentage of married women characters is 44 % married men are 23 %; 43 % of women main characters are pictured in the house environment while only 10 % are presented in the workplace (Televizyon Reklamlarının 10 Yılık …, 2018).

The feminism understanding today, while taking over basic ideas of the past, approaches issues in a more humanist, cultural way, accepts and appreciates differences thus choses to live in a world where it is possible to live with different identities. Advertisements that support acceptance of differences of class, race, ethnicity, religious nationalism as well as gender, resist traditional sexist perspectives with humanist feminist advertising messages, breaks taboos, plays a great part in re-creating gender roles, reflect the fundamentals of today’s feminist idea. While in 1996 advertisement visual of American brand Guess that evokes homosexuality gained a lot of attention (Reichert, 2004: 257–259), in 2011, advertisement visual of Italian brand Benetton with the same concept was very liked but drew a rebuff at the same time (Image 5).

Image 5: Benetton’s Advertisement Visual in 2011

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Nowadays, the topic gender gained more importance compared to the past, now both businesses and advertisers organize advertising campaigns that touch on gender issue. Moreover, these advertising campaigns are supported with social researches. For instance, brands like P&G, Unilever start civic involvement projects to support advertising campaigns of gender, and they create awareness against gender and gender inequality by sharing their research results with the media. In 2016 Unilever started the “Unstereotype” project. The rationale of the marketing campaign was stated by the company is: “a marketing approach that designed by looking out for not only women but also men and foresees conducting of researches that pay regard to gender balance in order to keep their advertising out of portraits that includes stereotypes against gender equality and present brand-new campaigns that can meet the changing expectations of today’s consumer” (Türkiye’de Toplumsal Cinsiyet Eşitliği, 2018). Apart from the research, the company started the advertisement campaign “My Beauty is Beyond Numbers” (#beyondnumbers) for the brand Dove, as a reaction to stereotypes imposed by society as the definition of beauty (Kadınlar Benim Güzelliğim #Reklamların Tersine, 2018). With the advertising campaign “Kız Gibi” (#Like Girl) P&G started for it’s personal care product Orkid in 2014 (Orkid’den, yeni “Kız Gibi…”, 2015) the pressure society put on girls is targeted and it is emphasized that women/girls can be successful like boys and they can do it by being girls.

Apart from eliminating the gender oppression, the advertisements including messages that challenges the social taboos which redefines men and woman’s places in the family can be considered as image making efforts of personal care product brands like Dove and Orkid or white goods brands like Bosch, Vestel with innovative strategies to connect to the target population. However, none of them drew as much as attention as the advertising videos the global brand Nike, which questions the women’s place in sports that is defined as a masculine occupation or just a hobby, started internationally, created with local cultural messages.

Advertising Analyze of the Brand Nike

In this part of the chapter the commercial video of the Nike brand, which is based on gender, the fundamental discussion topic of feminist theories. In the analysis, Saussure, Levi-Strauss and Barthes’ approaches and methods of semiotics were used. For an adventure of structuralist linguistics cultural meaning with Levi-Strauss anthropological expositions are required (Parsa, 1999:19). Levi-Strauss defines the mythos as analysis objects of text semiotics and emphasizes that they are a form of meaning production of binary opposition. Commercial film scene frames were examined with the indicator system consisting of literal and ←28 | 29→symbolic meaning Saussure and Barthes’ use in their semiotics analysis. The mythos in the commercials are determined and interpreted. Thus, it is shown how the women are presented in gender definition and basic sex stereotypes are determined.

The global brand Nike that manufactures in sports field, which is categorized masculine as it requires strength and strife, started an international campaign in 2017 in different languages and with creative strategies (in countries like Iran and Russia where there is social pressure); commercial videos were prepared and aired in mass communication devices such as internet and television. The commercial aired in Turkey is 1 minute, 20 seconds and consists of 17 film frames. The video has reached a view number of 5 million 344 thousand 261 as of 14th February 2020 on the Nike Women official YouTube channel2.

In the commercial aired in Turkey of Nike sports products “This is Us” Fem-vertising commercial video the brand fictionalized professional and amateur different woman sportspeople as main characters in their own different stories. The sounding of the commercial was performed by famous actress Ezgi Mola and the commercial has a high tempo music playing. The sound effects of sportswomen expressing struggle present the effort reached with challenges, using extreme power and by resisting. The first story of the commercial starts with the scene Kickboxer Funda Diken Alkayış plays (Image 6).

Image 6: This is Us Commercial Film 1st Story

Literal Meaning: The first scene in which a family photo is taken represents a home environment. Serious looking father points the camera out for his wife and son, for them to look at it. When Alkayış, who seems like the quiet and matronly girl of the house, smiles a green boxer mouthguard is seen in her ←29 | 30→mouth and the second part of the story starts. The voice-over says “This is us. We’re beautiful”. Alkayış gets up from the chair, pushes the camera with a tough effort, and returns to her expertise. Starts punching a sandbag that is hanging over the platform.

Symbolic Meaning: Here the conception of beautiful women, which laid on women by the society is criticized. The fact that socially, women need to be beautiful and calm is emphasized, and it is pointed out that women are seen as creatures that came down to only having appearance. In the second part of the story, the emphasis is; behind the phenomenon that women should always try to be beautiful and matronly and be an object to be looked at, she can be successful at a sports field like boxing that requires power and motion.

Image 7: This is Us Commercial Film 2nd Story

Literal Meaning: The second story of the commercial starts with an image where a woman kneading dough is filmed from above. Kitchen apron wearing woman hits her hands to each other while kneading the dough. Suddenly, the director makes a change in the space and now a woman preparing to lifting weight is filmed above. The same woman starts lifting the barbell. While she does that the voice over says; “Our hands are fine and delicate like this.”

Symbolic Meaning: The expectations of society from women are explained with being delicate audial and visual with the dough myth. On one hand the dough is associated with production, on the other hand it has a connotation with kitchen and one of the major duties of women; cooking. Here the statement is that the woman is perceived as delicate and fragile and an individual who is limited to kitchen. However, at the second part of the story, there is a resistant and ambitious and woman with strong hands and a firm stance who can lift weights heavier than even herself. The language (paralanguage) she uses while weightlifting is an indicator of her ambitions.

Image 8: This is Us Commercial Film 3rd Story

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Literal Meaning: The other story National Triatlet Esra Gökçek is looking at gold and she suddenly opens the door, when the door is closed, she gets into a different space. Now she is in front of the prizes she won at the competitions and she wears the gold medal that was on her hand and poses proudly for the media. The voice-over says: “Did I mention? We love gold. And it looks good on us.”

Symbolic Meaning: The myth ‘gold’ is used. The women who love to decorate themselves with jewelry, especially with gold which is accepted as the standard of vanity being in the first place is referred. The women are presented as being wild about jewelry; however, in the second part of the story the gold is a prize the women won with her efforts. There is a statement of the pride the woman feels with her gold medals and the fame that comes with success. Woman wears the gold as a reward of her success and her hard work, not to decorate herself and as a showing off wealth.

Image 9: This is Us Commercial Film 4th Story

Literal Meaning: In the next story the setting is at a café, there is a short-haired, authoritarian looking (based on the stereotype that short hair reflect masculinity) old woman is constantly telling something using her gestures and mimics, to her daughter or daughter in law (she is a mother or a mother in law) ←31 | 32→to National Tennis Player İpek Soylu sitting next to her. After a while Soylu stops listening, leaves her seat and goes to the tennis court. With the tennis racket in her hand she receives the service or she was fictionalized as the referee. The voice over says: “On a corner, we sit silently by ourselves.”

Symbolic Meaning: In the beginning the perception of a woman who always listens to others in society and oppressed by the society is created, in the second part of the commercial an opposite situation is pictured. The woman is not a stable listener anymore, she is a moving, dynamic, makes decisions, and manages if needed to (tennis referee) individual. There is a comparison between the behavior pattern imposed to sportsperson by the society and an opposite character that is successful at the profession she chooses.

Image 10: This is Us Commercial Film 5th Story

Literal Meaning: In this scene, Turkish National Basketball Player Işıl Alben who has a different appearance with her blonde short hair organizes her bookshelf at her house. Suddenly the place is changed spatially, it gets horizontal and turns into a basketball court. Alben starts climbing and other players pass near her. Meanwhile the voice over says: “We look after the environment.”

Symbolic Meaning: Within the context of gender and within the stereotypes attributed to women the main duties of women are look after the environment, cleaning and cooking. While she does that her space is limited to her house. This restrains women to move freely and behave decisively. However, as stated in the second part of the story Alben does what she does best and she is a good playmaker and she coordinates the players in her team. When women are freed of their boundaries, they can lead with their effective decision features.

Image 11: This is Us Commercial Film 6th Story

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Literal Meaning: In the commercial there is a photo frame. In the picture a group of uniform wearing girls are standing in a line. Then the frame drops, and a shattering voice is heard. On the other scene Dans Fabrika (Dance Factory) dancers lead by Çisil Sıkı start dancing with music and through end of the scene voice over is heard saying: “We don’t dare laugh in public. Now, do we?”

Symbolic Meaning: In this story, apart from collaborating, the woman who argues impositions by leading her team and distinguished laughter myth is stated. The uniformed one type girls lined in the photo at the first scene expresses the monotype perspective. The frame being dropped and shattered expresses that people can change the breaking points in their lives. Moreover, the criticism3 made by a previous bureaucrat, Bülent Arınç, about women laughing in public is shown in this scene.

Image 12: This is Us Commercial Film 7th Story

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Literal Meaning: At the last story, there is a nursery prepared for a girl, covered in pink is seen. Suddenly a running shoe and a leg enters from the roof of the room. There is a woman crashing this elaborately decorated room. Camera moves backward and shows actress and amateur sportsperson Dilan Çiçek Deniz. The actress looks at the camera showing her shyness caused by the situation, waits for a couple of seconds, and goes on running. Meanwhile the voice over says: “You know us, right?” At the end of the story many woman joins Deniz and run out of the film set place.

Symbolic Meaning: The fiction is with the Nike logo on the Deniz’s running shoes, she steps on the cute girl room and she smashes gender perceptions and stereotyped ideas. Later on the women come together and run toward light from darkness, to their freedom from boundaries drawn for them and roles determined for them.


The usage of women in advertising has experienced a change in recent years. Even though there are women who still work in every side of the house, there are many advertisements in which women are cross boundaries, address oppression, and show their strength. The woman is seen as an individual and the idea of her being a sex object is overthrown. This kind of advertising, increasing parallel with the campaigns regarding girls being educated, these campaigns are aimed to reach more people by being supported with other responsibility campaigns like self-confidence education. The commercial analyzed in this study consists of 7 different stories of successful Turkish sportswomen fictionalized as main characters in their own story. In these stories, dichotomies are used in order to create meanings to shatter gender stereotypes and taboos. Levi-Strauss defines creating dichotomies as the process of basic universal interpretation. The fact that it is universal is because the mechanism of how human brain works is shared (Dağdaş, 2003: 62). The firs dichotomy is Kickboxer Funda Diken Altay’s serious appearance and her green mouthguard. The other dichotomy is between delicate hands & dough and strong hands that lift barbell. The third story there is a comparison between gold bracelets and gold medals. In the fourth story the contrast between being silent and an individual who makes decisions and manages is seen. In the fifth story there is a contrast between organizing a bookshelf and organizing players. There is a contrast between women who are lined up calmly in a picture and women who dance, move and laugh, and in the last story there is a dichotomy between femininity, the color pink and a girl; and masculinity that runs and struggles.

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The important thing is in these advertisements the meaning will be conveyed with the shared codes of the receivers’ cultural past, so well-known myths are preferred. Boxing mouthguard, dough and hands covered in flour, gold, pink room, uniformed girls are scenes that we encounter mostly in our daily life. The myths are chosen from daily life. They have validity enough that the viewers can comprehend without considering about it much.

In general, the advertisement, there is an understanding that destroys stereotypes. The represented idea is “You consider us like this, but we are like that”. The features like beauty, dignity, being thin and delicate are global gender stereotypes that are also accepted by our society. Even course books used to define woman as meek and easygoing (Gümüşoğlu, 2008: 44). Destroying these stereotypes requires a long, difficult process.

When women and men are compared men are defined with their biological superiorities and women are defined with their weaknesses. Some radical feminists accept the biological differences between genders based on the discrimination between biological and gender, but some refuse this by defending that biological differences create the basis for cultural definitions. In the commercial women are performing sports that require physical endurance and strength and that are considered to be for men, boxing, weightlifting, basketball, running. The perception created here is that women are equal to men in terms of endurance and strength.

At the very first beginning of socializing, children are informed of how their body works, thus cultural values regarding body are transported (İnceoğlu, 2010: 137). Parallel to this, in the advertising women are prisoned behind the beauty phenomenon, so the women are forced to show herself, make herself liked, and hold every consuming opportunity for this purpose. Women are expected to accessorize, put on makeup, preserve her beauty and youth. However, the commercial paints a different woman figure. The created image is a woman who likes struggle, a good leader, and an independent woman who can stand on her own feet.

Nike spokesperson Zeynep Ongun, in the hearing she did on the advertising campaign stated that “ this new campaign is inspired by Turkish sportswomen, how they challenge assumptions thanks to their passion for sport and they wanted to show that this is possible” (Kadınlardan mesaj var: Bizi böyle bilin, 2017). Within this context, they drew attention to the fact that the women are not defined with physical features and they overcome stereotypes between men and women and gender patterns, they can make rational choices like being a mother or wife as well as occupations free of traditionally attained roles. In this sense it is a successful advertising aimed at destroying gender.

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ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2020 (October)
Ideology communication Turkish media post 2000 media reflections
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 142 pp., 17 fig. b/w, 13 tables.

Biographical notes

Zeynep Gültekin Akcay (Volume editor) Mahmut AKGÜL (Volume editor)

Zeynep GULTEKIN AKCAY is an Assistant Professor at the Sivas Cumhuriyet University, Department of Radio Television and Cinema, in Turkey since 2014. She is interested in television studies, popular culture, and media and children. Fairy Tale and Ideology, Cartoon Music and Ideology, Hybridized Children’s Plays Through Screens, Gender in Cartoons are recent topics of her study. Mahmut Akgul graduated from Communication Faculty of Selçuk University in 2006. He has completed his doctoral study in Department of Public Relations Faculty of Communication Erciyes University in 2016. He has been working at Communication Faculty of Erciyes University since 2017. He lectures the courses on media history mass communication theories and sociology of communication at Public Relations and Advertisement Department.


Title: Ideology and Communication: