Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Adverts 'reflects society's contempt for older women'

The absence of older women in UK advertising signifies a ‘cultural obsession’ with youth and beauty and reflects a societal contempt for older women, according to research from the University of Melbourne.Analysis of 177 outdoor advertisements by psychologist Dr Lauren Rosewarne from the University of Melbourne revealed that less than four percent of the female characters that appeared were portrayed as being over 30 years old, and none were portrayed as being over 66 years of age. It was also noted that when older women are portrayed in advertising, their presentation is vastly different from that of younger women, with older women often being cast in stereotypical and negative roles such as the nagging mother-in-law, or brothel madam. The research suggests that instead of being due to aspirational marketing strategies that don’t deem the older woman a figure of ambition, the absence is actually demonstrating the function of advertising as a mirror to society. While the mirror fails to be reflective of real age distribution in society, it is successful at reflecting contemporary societal contempt for older women more broadly.Dr Rosewarne said: “Given the overwhelming absence of older characters from outdoor advertising, the message implied is that advertisers expect older women to devote time and money to looking younger rather than embracing their ageing appearance. By rendering these women invisible, the inference is not only are they not attractive enough for billboards, but that they are not attractive at all which becomes synonymous with failing to contribute to society. “Aside from the obvious self-esteem issues that plague some older women, there are innumerable broader consequences of their invisibility, therefore highlighting an area for further research exploring the impact of older women’s absence from advertising on equality issues such as women’s access to the labour market.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

Explore these topics

Enjoy the read? Get Bdaily delivered.

Sign up to receive our popular morning National email for free.

* Occasional offers & updates from selected Bdaily partners

Our Partners

Top Ten Most Read