Undressing, Cross-dressing & Androgyny

Explored: Who is The Feminine Ideal ?

Undressing, Cross-dressing & Androgyny
Photo by Hanna Postova on Unsplash

Take a deep dive and explore the reasons of how and why female gender stereotypes are constructed. The area of study I am interested in is how advertising solidifies female gender stereotypes.

The reason for my choice of exploration is that I think it would be an effective way of combining the methods and theories I have learnt in the previous two contextual units; Communication and Media Theory, Gender and Identity. I also intend to conduct research into how female gender stereotypes are used from a psychological perspective. I intend to explain why certain images and text are used to influence the reader and how they accomplish this. With the understanding of the psychological perspective of how female gender stereotypes are constructed, this will be a useful contribution to my practical work of representation as a Graphic Designer.

The major theorists I use are Roland Barthes’ (1977) theory on semiotics to aid my initial deconstruction of the language of female gender stereotypes in advertisement. This will be the first level analysis, the second level of analysis will involve Lacan’s psychological theory of otherness; that we search for the realness to fill the Lack, feeding the appetite of desire for the unified self, a sense of feeling complete. I will explain how the otherness contributes to the construction of female gender stereotypes in advertisement.

To accomplish this aim I will research three portrayals concerning female gender stereotypes. Each case study suggests that in the advertisement a suggestion is made about how the reader can attain the “realness”. The first case study that I will look at is the J’adore commercial, which involves a female gender stereotype suggesting a perfume that fills the Lack creating realness. The second case study, the Ma Dame advertisement, I will explore the realness attained by fetishism and the desire for the product, suggested by the female gender stereotype. The third case study, the Bounty commercial, I will explore shows how a different type of realness is offered by a female gender stereotype that challenges the theory of Lacan’s realness, through the crisis or subversion of a the female gender stereotype.

My hypothesis from deconstructing the advertisements is that I believe that female gender stereotypes will appear to offer a chance for the reader to attain a sense of the realness(reaching perfection). So as to feed the desire of being unified with the self through buying the products that appear to attain the level of perfection seen within female gender stereotypes in adverts.

Methodology

The first level of analysis uses Roland Barthes’ semiotic theory and Jacobs’s function of language. Bathes (1977 :33) believed that “in advertising the signification of the image is undoubtedly intentional”. Explaining why this would be an effective media to analyse as it would provide vital clues about how female gender stereotypes are intentionally constructed. Semiotic terminology works to deconstruct the signs into; the signifiers, signified, denotation and connotation. The signifier is anything material, denotation is the most basic or literal meaning of the sign, connotation is the cultural meanings of signs. Connotation can be perceived differently depending on the experience of the viewer.

The second level analysis will demonstrate how semiotics belonging to female gender stereotypes in advertisements works on a psychological level of the reader using Jacques Lacan’s theory of The Other. This is created through The Real Order, Lack and Desire. These states contribute to the need of the other which plays an important role in advertisements seen as the image of the female gender stereotype. The psyche can be broken up into three different stages, which can be used to describe how we look to subjects to fill in a gap of the ideal self and The Other that controls our lives and desires. Lacan’s theory explains how “The Other” is created and how this plays a pivotal role in advertising.

The first stage, The Real Order, according to Lacan’s theory is a concept that

“Marks the state of nature from which we have been forever severed by our entrance into language. Only as neo-natal children were we close to this state of nature, a state in which there is nothing but need” (Dino, 2003)

Meaning that as humans are born undifferentiated from the world we are unaffected by language and social expectations. A state of fullness and completeness. However, to return to this state is impossible as Lacan explains “we cannot express it in language because the very entrance into language marks our irrevocable separation from the real”.

The Other is created within the Mirror Stage. Normally the infant would see itself in the mirror and replace the image of the other with a sense of self, which actually exists. However, as the infant develops this mirror image becomes an image outside of the unified self, it is symbolic of ourselves, a representation of ourselves, a symbol known as “the other”. This is the separation from the real. This is the Mirror state where the child becomes both subject and the object and the realization of the Other. This is the point where the wholeness of a person is divided and there is a desire to find “the Other” to return to The Real Order again where we are completely fulfilled. The desire is the need for the unification with the divided self but this is impossible, thus there is always a desire to be whole again (The Real Order). The Other in the mirror stage encourages the Imaginary Stage where “the Other” can become a fantasy imagery for oneself in adult life. It is the gap we desire to fill which is influenced by role models or stereotypes. We depend on this Other to fill the gap of our desires, and to become whole again and becoming unified with the Other.

The Other in the Mirror Stage

The Imaginary Order occurs when human subjects create fantasy images of both oneself and the object of desire. The reason for this occurrence is connected to the mirror stage when the child recognizes that their body is separate from the world and their mother, so the state of nature “The Real” is destroyed. The child feels that something is missing which is the satisfaction from their mother. The demand or desire is now to satisfy the loss of completeness of “The Real”, however this is impossible to realize as soon as we have been aware of language and who we are (The Symbolic Order), where there is no returning to the Real or the unknowing of what is considered as perfect, that we live in a society that decides what we should aspire to. This is the reminder of what Lacan explains as Lack. This Lack throughout our adult life attempts to fill the gap between the self, thus fantasy images are created for both himself and his ideal object of desire to accomplish this. This desire can never be fulfilled as the Real is unattainable and becomes what is known as Lack.

The Lack in the Imaginary Order

The Symbolic Order explains how The Real Order is destroyed by narrative and language. After the Mirror stage, The Symbolic Order, known as the big Other once played by the mother role becomes the language of society. This is the process of the child entering into language, accepting conventions and ideologies of society provided by visual culture to obtain the completeness of the Real. It is explained that this big Other (society) controls “both your desire and rules” (Dino, 2003).

The Symbolic Order the new mother

By ev on Unsplash

The Other in Advertisement

Advertisement is a visual media example of where we look to find The Other that is desired to unify the self. The Other often takes the form of the stereotype or the desire of the product. Advertisement acts as the mirror where “we look to their commodities and images of the Otherness to constitute the self and somehow fill the gap between our fractured identity and the ego- ideal”(Dino, 2003). Through the observation of this visual media we hope to rediscover the Real where we were once completely satisfied. Lacan describes the ego ideal as “the memory of the state before our creation as a subject where the child and the image were the same, where there was no Other “(Dino, 2003). This state is the one that is constantly desired this is known as the gap that we try to fix “the fractured ego”. We look towards this desire of being unified with self so it is important that The Other can both create the self through difference and fill the gap that “Lacks”. This created by our subjectivity as the Other represents the unified self we have lost.

The Lacanian Gaze explains how we look at The Other and “refers to the sense that the object of our own eyes look or glance is looking back at us at its own will”(Dino, 2003). This gaze by the object “ affects us in the same way as castration anxiety (reminding us of the Lack at the heart of the symbolic order)” (Dino, 2003). This means that we become aware that the Symbolic Order destroyed our state of Real. This ensures that we never will become too close to Real, if we did there would no longer be the desire and look for the Other. The look described here is known as scopophilic “the look of loving” which we have no control over power over as “the materiality of existence (Real) always succeeds”. What we see that could take the form as the Other, which complete will always be desired.

Within the next chapter I will analyse the female gender stereotype in Dior’s advertisement for the fragrance J’adore.

Chapter 1: The Real

The previous chapter discusses the methodology that will be used to determine how and why advertisement solidifies female gender stereotypes, to provide the Other. Within this chapter the construction of the female gender stereotype will be explained through analyzing the Dior’s J’adore fragrance television advertisement. This being an example of how the advertisement directly attempts to offer the Other as the Real that is desired in the form of stereotypes and the product. This advertisement is particularly relevant as the actor Charlize Theron states at the end of the advertisement that J’adore is real “Feel what’s real”…”That’s it” (Dior, 2009). The purpose is to find out if the real, provided by the female gender stereotype, is attainable and what the limitations of the Real are.

Advertisement for Christian Dior.

In Face of Fashion, Craik (1993 : 44)suggests, “that gender is learned and acquired as a set of social trainings about how female [males] bodies behave”. Hall (1997:258) describes stereotypes that are constructed by the “characteristics about a person, reduce everything about the person to those traits, exaggerate and simplify them, and fix them without change or development to eternity”. These quotes suggest through construction the female gender stereotype reduces traits to simple characteristics. This shows a reader how to behave according to this gender and how to be perceived as a woman.

In Matter of Images, Richard Dyer states that “stereotypes express particular definitions of reality” this reality is constructed through dress, gesture and how females are presented.

The advertisement begins as Theron enters the scene into a glamorous, art décor room. The clothes themselves are signs. The clothes Theron wears signify a golden corset dress with lace. She wears accessories, gold bangles, and a diamond necklace that denotes wealth. All these are signified connotations that she has just returned from a glamorous party. As Theron moves forward she throws the accessories to the floor, which may signify frustration and anger and denotes the worthlessness of them. In particular, when she throws the diamond necklace to the ground, in close up, her stiletto shoes crushes the gold diamond necklace. The stiletto destroying the diamonds in this instance constructs the female gender stereotype as having the power to destroy the ideology that women do not need to be the “ideal” which is constructed by the gradual removal of dress and accessories in the advert below.

The perfect ‘ideal’ woman has been described as “someone tall, thin, white, and blonde, with a face without pores, asymmetry, or flaws, someone wholly ‘perfect’”(Wolfe, 1991).

The connotation of the couture gown suggests that the actor has been to a glamorous Oscar party thus we relate Theron to having a celebrity status. The corset denotes wealth and luxury of the stereotype. The connotation of the corset is known for the constriction of the female waist mainly used to achieve “a slim body” (Valerie, 2003), which connotes self-discipline that women should have. It was argued that during the Victorian era the corset functioned to control and exploit the sexuality of women. “Women will show contempt for pain...if only they hope for some increase in their beauty” (Valerie, 2003). Theron aggressively removes the corset, which denotes undressing and connotes breaking free from constrictions and expectation of the beauty myth ‘ideal’ which stalls women’s progress (Wolfe,1991). This constructs the female gender stereotype to suggest that women should break free from expectations of perfection and beauty. This action of undressing denotes that she is shedding her image, that she does not need these luxury clothes to be herself. In the writings of Fredrick Almer Manuel explains that “clothes are not vehicles for conveying the sense of a “real” person nor are they elements utilized in the craft of character construction…”(Gaines, 1990). This may suggest why Dior wanted Theron to begin to throw all the items, including clothing worn, to the floor denoting that this is not her true self, reinforcing the dialogue, “feel what’s real…that’s it”. This is the state of the Real, this is her perfect they you can achieve by buying the product connected with the advert.

To understand the second level of analysis is to comprehend that readers look to advertisement as a media example to find the Other, which is desired to unify the self. Advertisement acts as the mirror where “we look to their commodities and images of the otherness to constitute the self and somehow fill the gap between our fractured identity and the ego- ideal”(Dino, 2003).

The Otherness can be represented in two forms exotification or normalization. This advertisement shows the example of normalization being used to construct the Other as it is

“costumed in the context of dominant, white middle class culture…”(American Advertising and the Science of Signs)

Theron, the gender female stereotype acting as the Other is Caucasian, which is seen as the ideal according to Beauty Myth (Wolfe,1991).

This would explain the use of the normalization of the Other, as other brands are also competing in offering products that have the ability to be the ‘ideal’ female gender stereotype as well as the Real. Therefore, advertisements strive to offer the Other as a difference. The Other is a comment on how the female gender stereotype behaves to obtain the Real. The advertisement suggests to the viewer that they should not feel the need to associate themselves with what they have or who they are. This is signified by Theron giving her true opinion on what the luxury items are in basic terms “gold is cold”, a limousine is a car”. This signifies to readers that these items will not satisfy their desire and will not return them to the Real. The message also made by the female gender stereotype to the reader is not to be constricted by what society (Symbolic Order) believes will make one desirable, connoted by the removal of clothing together with the dialogue. The removal of clothes and items in the scene signifies the Other as an empowered woman who doesn’t need desirable objects to dictate who she is. For the Other to be acceptable for the reader it must offer a difference to fill the gap between the self. The difference offered by the Other is the gaze and the taboo of undressing in front of an audience.

“Others are not used to signify a distinct culture, but to illustrate their ability to adapt to another’s through the chosen commodities. Their value lies no longer in their difference from the others in their ad, but from other advertisements ” (American Advertising and the Science of Signs).

which is exaggerated by Theron’s removal of clothing, which highlighted as she walks towards the camera, the scene is edited to close-up cuts of the actor’s leg (see fig. 3 below), then to her undoing her corset. The body has been fragmented, highlighting the female gender. The fragmentation of the body that suggests a male gaze focusing in on what is desirable of a woman.

“the glimpse of décolletage or angle has long been the seductress’s technique, the marketer uses the same, but far more crudely. Dividing parts and focusing on them serves the salesman as much as the lover-or the pervert” (Heller, 2000 :79).

Mulvey (Hall, 2003) describes this as a “ fetishistic scopophilia that builds up the physical beauty of the object, transforming it into something satisfying”. The beauty and body of Theron is objectified and fetishized. The Otherness or female gender stereotype here signifies to a woman what is desirable to be, for men to desire, by being put in the male gaze.

This provides a contradictory message as the female gender stereotype suggests to the reader not to be constricted by the image of ‘ideal’ woman. However, the male gaze of Theron’s body reinstates that this female gender stereotype is seen as a desirable ‘ideal’ for a man. Therefore, a reader would purchase the fragrance making them think this will make them desirable to men as the beauty myth has lead us to believe that “strong men battle for beautiful women” (Wolf, 1991). Therefore, women would buy the product, because a link is being shown between beauty and their product.

Another difference offered by the Other is that the female gender stereotype de-robes, setting her apart as mere nudity is considered taboo. It is out of place as it is unexpected for the actor to de-rob in front of an audience. The nude body is fetishized suggesting the voyeuristic gaze of the reader.

“The object of voyeurism is to observe unsuspecting individuals who are naked, in the process of undressing…. The person being observed is usually a stranger to the observer. The act of looking or peeping is undertaken …”(JRank).

Mulvey (Hall, 2003) describes this as a “pleasure in looking” which has been split between active/male and passive/ female. Voyeuristic looking is “which the look is male and active and the object of the look is female and passive. The voyeuristic look is curious, inquiring, demanding to know”(Hall, 2003). As she de-robes, we have followed her undress her body (see fig.4 above) expecting her to be completely nude by the end of the scene. However, the curiosity of voyeurism is heightened as at the end of the scene as Theron only reveals nudity from the back. This expectation suggests we are put into the male gaze. The gaze we cannot control as the female gender stereotype is constructed to suggest to the reader what is desirable to obtain the Real. This is because the reader must understand what is desirable to men, due to the body being fetishized. This look one cannot control, as it is not realized they are placed into the male gaze. This is that explained by the theory of the Lacanian Gaze stating that

“there will always be a desire to look as any feeling of scopophilic power is always undone by the fact that the materiality of existence (the real) always exceeds and undercuts the meaning structures of the symbolic order”(Dino, 2003)

Meaning if the reader genuinely knew that they had the power to not desire to look when put into the male gaze, then the Real would no longer be desired. However, the materiality of the Symbolic Order, i.e. the edited cuts in the advertisement make us realize that this is not offering realness. Therefore, reminding the reader of their Lack, ensuring that we will always desire the Real. In this case the ‘ideal’ female gender stereotype. In addition, the Lack create limitations of the Other is that he product is merely a scent that has been mass-produced and Theron is constructed as a female gender stereotype that is a celebrity, which is unattainable. In addition, the reader is unaware that they are placed in the position of the male gaze to buy into the discourse of what is desirable to become the ideal to become closer to the Real.

Within the next chapter, the advertisement MA DAME will be deconstructed and will explore further into to how the body of the female gender stereotype is fetishized.

Chapter 3 : The Fetishized female form

The previous chapter discusses the issue of how the female gender stereotype is constructed to offer the Other as a direct comparison to the Real through fetishsizing of the female form. Within this chapter the theory I will explore how the female gender stereotype is fetishistically constructed through the exotification of the Other. This leading the reader to desire of the Real through difference. The magazine advertisement for Jean Paul Gaultier fragrance MA DAME will be discussed below.

Advertisement for Jean Paul Gaultier

The visual signifiers in the advertisement are the woman, the leather collar with a chain attached to a perfume bottle, the leather bangle and shoulder less outfit. The verbal signifiers are the brand Jean Paul Gaultier and the name of the fragrance MA DAME, which are positioned in the top left of the advert. The woman denotes the actor Agness Deny and the masculine signifier, spiky blonde hair in the style of a Mohican. This denotes a hairstyle that normally a woman would not normally wear as it is not considered as feminine, thus the female gender stereotype is masculinized. This signifies the unconventionality offered by the stereotype. The Mohican style hair; leather choker and chain are indexical signs of punk. Punk is a subculture synonymous with unconventionality and rebellion, Urban Dictionary (1999) describes this as…

“A culture popular among young people, especially in the late 1970's, involving opposition to authority expressed through 'shocking' behaviour, clothes and hair, and through loud fast music”. Hair styles within this era were described as “unnatural, dyed, and often spiked, with personal decoration in the form of safety pins, body piercing, and dangling chains… all of which were associated with forms of social ‘deviancy” (Answers.com).

Punk connotes the unconventional of representation of the female gender stereotype. This is reflected by the advertisement masculinizing the female gender stereotype instead of using the ‘ideal’ like in chapter 3. However, the reader will understand that this is a female in this advertisement due to the female signifiers.

One of the verbal signifiers of femininity is in the top left, the name of the fragrance MADAME denotes that the fragrance is French and the word is a feminine signifier. MADAME as a female signifier, ensures that the female in the advertisement cannot be mistaken for the male signifier. In addition, Gaultier comments that in French,

“… ma' 'dame' in two words means 'my dame.' It means she's not like the woman in the bordello or bourgeois. She's his muse”(King, 2009)

A muse is a woman who usually belongs to a male. This female gender stereotype within the advertisement denotes that a woman who wears the fragrance will become his “ma dame”. The female gender stereotype advises that the reader must wear the fragrance to become a muse, becoming desirable to any man. The term muse has Greek connotations in mythology, where the muse is worshipped, men look upon these women for artistic inspiration in poetry, music and art. The woman in the advertisement is chained to the fragrance, which becomes the muse and what the woman desires. The collar, chain and leather themselves denote fetish themed clothes stated in Visual Consumption (Schroeder, 2002) The leather has become a material that has become associated with “sex, fetishism, or being an outlaw (Schroeder, 2002) being closely related to the police, punk rockers, rock ‘n’ rollers and motorcyclists.

“Fetishism means that an object can substitute and be charged with sexual power and attraction. Often an object that we have a helpless desire to have” (Schroeder, 2002).

This constructs the female gender stereotype in the advertisement herself as having a fetish for the fragrance as she is chained to the fragrance signifying she has been enslaved. This denotes the empowerment and desirability of the fragrance that is signified as a muse. This is a contrast to the unruly image of the punk female gender stereotype that would not follow the power of another but somehow is empowered by the desirability of this fragrance. The female’s desire is signified by the facial expression denoting a state of ecstasy and desire for the product. This signifies to the reader that no matter how much you try to resist this image you will develop a fetish or desire for this fragrance and you will become fulfilled.

The fragranced and female gender stereotype is fetishized as Visual Consumption suggests

“Advertising fetishizes goods by offering them as substitutes for human relationships” (Schroeder, 2002).

This explains that the female gender stereotype signifies to the reader her desired relationship is with the fragrance (MA DAME described as the muse), replacing any relationships she has with a male. This is signified by the linking chain denoting the relationship the female has with the fragrance as “Products are worshipped for their ability to complete the self”. (Schroeder, 2002). Suggesting the link back to the name MA DAME becoming a fetishized product, signifying to women that they do not need any other relationships in their life except with this product, to unify them with the self and return to the Real Order. The female gender stereotype in the advertisement has become fetishized by the minimal leather material and choker, questioning the gaze of the reader. Women do not necessarily fetishize about another woman suggesting why the female in the advertisement is masculinized through the hairstyle. This is known as cross-dressing. Bruzzi (1997) states that this is a

“generic term for the set of social and psychological conditions that necessitate the wearing of the clothes of the opposite sex”, or in this case a male hairstyle.

The hairstyle makes the female’s gender questionable, thus the lack of clarity of the female gender stereotype fetishizes the image “the blurring of gender” (Bruzzi, 1997). This is known as androgyny.

Bruzzi (1997) suggests that an “androgyny sexualizes the transvestite by increasing the eroticism of their ambiguous image” .The Erotic Strategies states that the androgyne becomes the centre of erotic attention as the form can be desired by both men and women as the gender is unclear, as seen in the advertisement. This means the male and female signifiers create “the point of multiple erotic identification”, female and male both desire the image. For example, the multiple gazes received by the actor who dresses and acts like a man, Amy Jolly, accounted by Bruzzi (1997), “Amy has become the centre of erotic attention, a threat, an alluring icon, the sensuous focus of the desires of men and women alike… a multiplication of gazes which eroticizes the image of the androgyny” from both female and male. The gaze is fetishized, as it is unclear. John Ellis (2003: 268) explains this gaze is created through

“what is declared to be different, hideous, ‘primitive, deformed, is at the same time being obsessively enjoyed and lingered over because it is strange, ‘different’, exotic”, which is why the female within this advertisement induces interest in both male and female”.

How the exotic difference of the female gender stereotype is desirable can be explained by the difference that the Other offers to the reader. The difference of the Other is represented in the form of the exotic as,

“The exoticism in these ads is dependent on the belief that the Other is inherently different and distinct because if they were not, and if for heavens forbid they were at all like us or a part of the same global systems we were, their value as an Other would be minimized” (American Advertising and the Science of Signs).

The androgyne in this advertisement is considered different as it is not the “ideal” female gender stereotype but is desired through the fetishized gaze. The androgyne and the punk signifiers suggest that this perfume will give you a new image, not necessarily communicating to women that they should look like the gender stereotype suggested. This is because women are unlikely to desire to have a masculinized image. However,

“if there were no value in the image of the exotic Other, than their ads would have no effectiveness”. The value of the Other here is the unconventionality and difference of the female gender stereotype (American Advertising and the Science of Signs).

On the other hand, it is questionable whether the androgyne can take the form of a female gender stereotype as a viable “expression of reality” (Dyer, 1993). This is due to Plato suggesting that the androgyne is seen as the “pre-sexual ideal”, “ an image representative of ‘purity’ or universality and a figure perceived as ‘superior’ to either sex which incarnates totality and hence perfection” (Bruzzi, 1997). This representation of perfection as the stereotype is neither male nor female meaning that androgyny is the Real. This is parallel to the ideology of The Real Order that we look for in the Other to unify the self. The reason for this is the androgyne is seen as a unification of both male and female self. It is a visual metaphor for The Real Order. This is because when we are unaffected by the mirror stage, we are unaware of our gender and social trainings thus we are neither female nor male mentally (unaware of gender). This is why the androgyne is the perfect example of the unified self the female gender stereotype, as to an extent the image has not been affected by the Symbolic Stage.

However, if the Real can be obtained by readers through the advertisement industry offering the Other as an androgyne, the question is to why this form is not used as the “ideal” neutralized gender stereotype. The answer for this is that the Other would become normalized and not as desirable for the difference in form. In addition, if the form was over used it would not have the same impact and not every brand of product would fit with the image, thus losing the value of the exotified Other.

Overall, the Other that is mirrored within this advertisement suggests how the Lack can be fulfilled to return to the Real Order. The Otherness is worship that is demonstrated by the female gender stereotype in a form that obtains the Real. This would involve the desire to have and to wear the fragrance to unify the divided self. This suggests that the Lack that is signified by the female gender stereotype is that the reader is not getting enough satisfaction for her human relationships that are starved of desire. It depicts that the Real should take the form of being desired and desiring a relationship.

Chapter 4 : The Crisis of the Other

Within the previous chapter it was discussed how desire for the real is created through the creation of multiple gazes of androgyny, the form representing realness as a pre-ideal sex, instead of the female gender stereotype. This chapter will discuss why the female gender stereotype is subverted and if it is still suggests a state of realness for the reader through construction.

The advertisement that will be discussed is the Bounty Kitchen Towel television advertisement (Visit4info, 2005). The opening scene signifies a man dressed as a woman in a kitchen, see below. This man is called Audrey, who is suggested by the narrator to have anger due to PMT, denoting femininity. It is discovered that really Audrey is mad at the spillage. PMT changes to TMP (Too Much Paper) as Audrey is using far too much kitchen towel to clean up ordinary spills. The next door neighbour, Brenda, arrives and saves the day by offering the stronger solution; Bounty Kitchen Roll. The tagline states, “Fastest effect for Relief”.

Advertisement for Bounty (the closest I could find to represent advert)

The clothes in the scene signify that both actors wear dresses that denote bold floral patterns connoting femininity. Audrey wears a delicate pick pattern that implies that her character is gentle, whereas Brenda wears a blue and yellow palm tree print. This connotes a different exotic look that is modern compared to Audrey’s dress. The colourful prints connote bubbly, cheerful stereotypical housewives.

These are all indexical signs of femininity, together with the mise- en- scene of the kitchen connoting stereotypical housewives who look after the home. The connotations of these characters are similar to that of the homemaker Hyacinth Bucket in the television series Keeping Up Appearances. This program was launched on BBC1 in the 1990s (Wikipedia, 2010). The clothes worn by Hyacinth are very similar to the style of what the characters wear in the Bounty advertisement. Hyacinth is described as being an “eccentric, social-climbing snob” (Wikipedia, 2010) attempting to host the perfect dinner parties. She is immaculately clean and insists on her house being perfect. This is evident in Series 3 episode 21, below, she makes her neighbour Emily nervous about spilling the tea. This runs in parallel with the Bounty advertisement as it sends the message of how important it is to keep your kitchen clean to by using Bounty. This is an example of how the constructions of stereotypes rely on previous constructions for the reader to understand the connotative meaning behind the Bounty advert.

Keeping Up Appearances episode

However, the limitations of this female gender stereotype offered by Bounty are that males play the female characters. Therefore subverting the female gender stereotype. This is made evident by the indexical signs of masculinity that denotes facial hair, connoting a male gender stereotype that is too lazy to shave, are rough and common in character. The men wear wigs and dresses, are female signifiers, the combination of these accessories on the men denotes cross-dressing. Cross-dressing is described as the “donning of opposite sex clothes” that “does not undermine but rather reinforces prescriptive gender codes, that a person’s core gender identity shines through” (Bruzzi, 1997: 148). This would indicate that this advertisement is reinforcing the male gender stereotype rather than the female. The indexical sign of masculinity within cross -dressing here is important as it is “a reminder of the continued existence of the “real” person under the complicated make- up”(Bruzzi, 1997 :157). This is reassuring for both the audience and also generates laughter. However, Lippmann (1993) states that stereotypes are short cut points” that are constructed to be “very simple, striking, easily-grasped form of representation”. Meaning that the representation of the characteristics of the housewife stereotype would have had to have been emphasized, as the reader would not recognize that the men are attempting to recreate the female gender stereotype. Therefore, this would indicate that the female gender stereotype is reinforced. The question here is what gender stereotype is representing the reality as Dyer (1993) suggests that “stereotypes express particular definitions of reality”.

The cross-dressing in this advertisement is identified as the term drag, “cross dressing as a theatrical performance….”(Bruzzi, 1997). There is no desire for these men to be dressed in this way. As there is no “intention is not to create, in either case, a credible illusion of femininity, but to reflectively allude back to masculinity via an ill-composed caricature created from a few thrown- together signifiers”(Bruzzi, 1997: 151). This being the wig and the dresses (Bruzzi, 1997:151). Another reason why the men are dressed in shapeless crude dresses as “ it has been positioned that the reason for so many male transvestites looking drab and old fashioned is that their notion of femininity is fixed by their early memories of their mothers”(Bruzzi1997: 161). Meaning the female gender stereotype is construction in the view of the males. All these contribute to the comedy of the cross dressers as this “is used to desexualize the transvestite and deflect the potential subversiveness of the image through laughs “(Dyer, 2003). The comical aspect is that these men are truly unsuccessful at creating the perfect gender stereotype of a woman, due to the exposure of their masculinity. Even though Brenda signifies the better stereotypical housewife due to providing a better solution to clean up a spillage in the kitchen, Brenda fails to create the female gender stereotype as the facial hair still connotes laziness and roughness of a common male.

In this advertisement, the other is represented as exotic. The reason for this is the audience would not necessarily desire or something we would normally consider as normal even though real to be like the cross dressing stereotypes as they are considered different. It is suggested, “ads are dependant of the belief that the Other is inherently different and distinct” to hold value. The Other is different, as the expected representation of the female gender stereotype of a housewife (such as the example of the character Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances) becomes an exotic image through the use of cross-dressing. The Other here is used “to illustrate their ability to adapt to another’s through the chosen commodities”. This difference or exotification of the Other is created through the use of inter-textuality of the imagery “where the image depends for its meaning on being read in relation to a number of other” (Hall:233). To understand the stereotype the reader must recognize that these men are cross dressers from other images. At first glance, the scene suggests two housewives but the meaning is changeable. Bounty is a company known for offering “absorbency for spills, splatters, chores, and more”(Bounty), producing kitchen towels for any problem in the kitchen. This advertisement promotes that this kitchen towel is strong and does not break. The signification of this is the use of strong rough men who dress up as women acting as indexical sign of femininity. This denotes the strength of the kitchen roll, which is still feminine and gentle in the kitchen. The conventional identification of the femininity of the stereotypical housewife is disturbed and undercut by the invocation of masculinity. This is signified by the rough men that create the characters through cross-dressing, which requires the reader to read the image “against the grain”(Hall:233). This demonstrates how tough Bounty’s kitchen towel is. However, this does not give the reality of a female gender stereotypes as males play them. This prevents the reader being completely satisfied by the message of the Other and obtaining the Real, as we would no longer desire the Real Order.

Using males acting as the female gender stereotype demonstrates how the Otherness is used “to illustrate their ability to adapt to another’s through the chosen commodities” (American Advertising and the Science of Signs). The Other is created through the cross dressing of the transvestites as “it is during this exchange that a ‘third’, independent identity is created through the cross dresser’s narcissism for dressing up”(Bruzzi, 1997). In Undressing Cinema, Bruzzi (1997) states, “what characterizes the majority of transvestite case histories is an acute sense of the pleasure of dressing up”. The passion of clothing suggests that there is a desire “towards the contemplation of their own cross-dressed image in the mirror ” (Bruzzi, 1997). This desire for creating a new mirror image identity also denotes the same passion that a female gender stereotype would have for dressing up. Therefore, the cross-dressers in the advertisement suggest a realness to the reader, this can be achieved through having the desire of dressing up in different clothing or even purchasing a different type of kitchen roll. This will create a third identity or new image for the reader allowing them to obtain the Real. This could suggest to readers that changing an aspect of themselves could offer them the real, which is experienced by the cross dresser by being satisfied by the mirror image. An example of realness.

Within this advertisement the Other functions for the audience to fill the desire for the Real. It advises readers a way of finding the real through changing what they wear to solidify a state of realness through difference. The advert focuses on promoting from changing from one type of kitchen role to another. The advert is not necessarily advising audiences to become cross-dressing transvestites but to have the desire to change what they have always done, the conventional rules they have followed. It is an extreme example that they can create their own third kind through doing something differently. Gaber states that cross-dressing can be seen as a “third term”(Bruzzi, 1997). It is evident from the last chapter that creating a third identity could be seen as a visual form of the Real Order.

The next chapter will conclude on the findings of this dissertation and whether the hypothesis was correct.

Conclusion

My hypothesis for this dissertation is that female gender stereotypes would offer the reader the chance to attain a sense of realness. This would be answered by how and why the Other is formed and constructed. According to the three case studies I have deconstructed, this is indicated by how the female gender stereotype is formed through the use of dress and gaze within the advertisement.

In Chapter 1: The Real, the female gender stereotype offers otherness through the “ideal”, by fetishizing the body. However, this stereotype does not appear to offer a sense of realness, as the ‘ideal’ is unattainable. In Chapter 2: The Fetishized female form, the gender stereotype offers otherness through the form of an unconventional image, androgyny. It is unlikely that the stereotype is attainable, as a female does not look upon a stereotype to masculinize herself. In Chapter 3: The Crisis of the Other, it is debatable whether the image of the female gender stereotype offers the Real. On one hand the female gender stereotype is emphasized due to the men having to act out the stereotypes. However, if men are constructing the female characters what reality can females take away from observing the other gender.

Within all chapters, I discovered that fetishism plays apart in constructing the female gender stereotype making it desirable as the Other. This is created through the absence of clothing or donning of the unexpected, which is discovered in chapters 3 and 4. The gaze in each of the advertisements suggests a male, indicating to a female reader what is and what is not desirable to a man to obtain the ‘ideal’ relationship. This would fill the gap between the fractured ego and self, returning the reader to the Real Order, according to the Lacan theory of the Other.

Lacan’s theory explains that the female gender stereotype as the form of Other will never give the reader the Real and unify the self. This because the materiality of the Real undercuts this and reminds use of Lack. This includes the edges of the billboard and magazines, the edited cuts in advertisement, reminding the reader that it is not the Real. This leads to the realization that these female gender stereotypes are unattainable as they are perfectly constructed characteristics of reality, and are only promoting a product and lifestyle. This ensures that we will always desire the Real.

On the other hand Dyer (1993) suggests that stereotypes “express a particular reality”, which questions why the female gender stereotype cannot offer the reader a reality. For the female gender stereotype the satisfy the reader and return them to the Real, the designer, who constructs the form would need to return to the Real Order. This suggests that the Symbolic Order would not need to effect the designer, which is not possible as there is no return to the Real. Therefore, the designer would not be able to have been influenced by the Symbolic images of previous stereotypes for this form to truly represent the Real. However, it is argued that stereotypes are constructed in “reference to the world” (Dyer, 1993), the Symbolic Order relies us on understanding previous images of stereotypes to understand and construct the form.

This has led me to believe that there may be two different types of real. The expressive or material real offered by the gender stereotype and the Real, a psychological state, which we are unable to grasp. This is because we are unsure of what it is to be without being changed by the Symbolic Order, which constructs these stereotypes that destroyed our state of Real.

Bibliography

Books

Barthes, Roland. (1977). Image , Music, Text: London, Harper Collins.

Bruzzi, Stella. (1997). Undressing Cinema: Clothing and Identity in the Movies. London: Routledge.

Craik, Jennifer. (1994). The Face Of Fashion, Cultural Studies in Fashion. London: Routledge.

Dyer, Richard. (1993). The Matter of Images. London: Routledge.

Gaines, Jaine & Herzog eds. (1990). Fabrications: Costumes and the Female Body. London: Routledge.

Hall, Stuart ed. (2003). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage.

Heller, Steven. (2000). Sex Appeal. Canada: Allworth Press.

Schroeder, Jonathan E. (2002). Visual Consumption. London: Routledge.

Steele, Valerie. (2003) The Corset: A Cultural History. Yale University Press.

Wolf, Naomi. (1991). The Beauty Myth . London : Vintage, London.

Electronic Sources

American Advertising and the Science of Signs. Advertising and the Exotic/Normal Other.

http://legacy.lclark.edu/370/othernessbigtime.html (Accessed 19 January)

American Advertising and the Science of Signs. Advertising as a Mirror: SELF/OTHER.

http://legacy.lclark.edu/~soan370/lacan.html (Accessed 20 January)

Answers.com. Punk Subculture.

http://www.answers.com/topic/punk-subculture (Accessed 19 January)

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Carly Woodhouse

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