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THINGS WE THINK ABOUT THIS MONTH: Objectification of women in media and advertising

Written by
Hahna Yoon
Advertising

As a woman, danger is a constant topic of discussion. How dangerous it is to take a taxi late at night. How dangerous it is to travel alone. How dangerous it is to talk to strangers. But rarely does one look at a scantily clad woman advertising a water park and think "danger." How distasteful can it be when Lee Hyori's breasts dangle next to a life-sized soju bottle? How harmful could it possibly be when a (very Photoshopped) pretty, young lady in booty shorts asks you to feel "the never ending climax"? (For those of you who don’t recall, this was a real Ocean World ad from 2011 to 2013.) As summer rolls in, advertisements peel off their winter coats to reveal S-line women in bikinis. We need to stop glancing at these images with indifference and start thinking seriously about the science that proves these images as serious threats. A 2009 study conducted at Princeton University showed “that the part of the brain associated with analyzing another person's thoughts, feelings and intentions [is] inactive while viewing scantily clad women." In 2013, the scientific journal Sex Roles linked sexist advertising to “hyper-masculine” qualities like “toughness, violence, dangerousness and calloused attitudes toward women and sex.” Not to mention the kinds of role models we are setting up for the younger generation or the effect on women’s self esteem. The objectification of women in media and advertising is not a problem unique to Korea, but here there does seem a to be a gaping lack of conversation about the consequences behind these images (not to mention actions). What happens in a society where there are more images of barely-dressed women selling alcohol, anti-aging cream and drum lessons than there are of female doctors? Or engineers? Or lawyers? Perhaps it’s time to think about how the objectification of women in media and advertising contributes to creating dangers for women. Perhaps it’s time to look at these images critically, because awareness is the first step towards change. 

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