"Although the sexual sell, overt and subliminal, is at a fever pitch throughout all forms of the media, depictions of sex as an important and potentially profound human activity are notably absent. Couples in ads rarely look at each other. Men and women in music videos use each other. It is a cold and oddly passionless sex that surrounds us. A sense of joy is also absent; the people involved often look either hostile or bored. The real obscenity is the reduction of people to objects... Of course, all these sexual images aren't intended to sell our children or us on sex--they are intended to sell us on shopping. This is the intent of the marketers--but an unintended consequence is the effect these images have on real sexual desire and real lives. When sex is a commodity, there is always a better deal."
― Diane Levin & Jean Kilbourne
Advertisements aimed at women are problematic because there is only one standard of beauty. This standard tells women that they have to appear young at any age, and that aging is to be feared. As women, we're also told that being sexual is our only way of gaining self-worth. Advertisements (whether they mean to or not) turn women into objects as if to say that women are to be used and desired. The Ad and the Ego did a good job at introducing this concept, but Jean Kilbourne digs even deeper in her films Killing Us Softly and Still Killing Us Softly which I would recommend to anyone interested in this topic.
As a feminist, I don't think there's anything anti-feminist about wearing makeup or being interested in fashion or even wanting to feel sexy, but women need to be conscious about the companies they are supporting and how the advertisements objectify women and why they are choosing to buy into the ads. There are countless advertisements for "age-defying make up" or "anti-aging serum". There's even make-up for that is supposed to make a woman feel like she's not wearing make-up (which makes me roll my eyes). But, the majority of these products are used to help women hide their aging and to appear youthful and desirable to men. There's an obsession in our society with making us women fear aging and appearing "old." It's funny that women have this single standard of beauty when aging for men isn't portrayed to be nearly as horrifying as it is for women. In fact, when men age it's more like they transform into one type of handsomeness to another. Susan Sontag writes about this in in her essay "The Double Standard of Aging." She says,
"The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man. The beauty of a boy resembles the beauty of a girl. In both sexes it is a fragile kind of beauty and flourishes naturally only in the early part of the life-cycle. Happily, men are able to accept themselves under another standard of good looks -- heavier, rougher, more thickly built. A man does not grieve when he loses the smooth, unlined, hairless skin of a boy. For he has only exchanged one form of attractiveness for another: the darker skin of a man's face, roughened by daily shaving, showing the marks of emotion and the normal lines of age."
I don't think I've seen any advertisements in mainstream media that make women feel good about aging or that tell women that aging can be a beautiful thing. The standards of how women's bodies are depicted in the media are even more upsetting. While the Dove campaign tried to dismantle this image, I believe it was short-lived due to the majority of ads that were saying the opposite. Women are exposed to the same type of model-like body in almost every advertisement they see, leaving out about 99% of the population. These images are causing women to hate their bodies, and they are setting up women for failure as they try to achieve these standards. I think women need to be exposed to alternative sources of media at a young age that talk about these unachievable standards because these advertisements have substantially negative effects on young women that lead to health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Women need to know they can be beautiful at any age inside and out.
http://www.dove.us/Social-Mission/campaign-for-real-beauty.aspx (Dove Campaign for Real Beauty)