Representations of gender in advertising: an examination of support for Jean Kilbourne's hypotheses in advertisements of magazines targeting mainstream versus lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender audiences




Boyd-Bowman, Kimberly

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The purpose of this study is to compare gender representations in magazine advertisements targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) audiences and in magazine advertisements targeting mainstream audiences utilizing the hypotheses proposed by Jean Kilbourne in the Killing Us Softly video series. Kilbourne has put forth various hypotheses about gender representation in print advertising based on a collection of advertisements she has accumulated. Previous work by Conley and Ramsey found limited support for Kilbourne’s hypotheses. LGBT individuals are exposed to mainstream gender norms but also appear to hold some gender norms that are different from the mainstream community. The present study posits that the degree of support for Kilbourne’s hypotheses will be different in magazine advertisements targeting LGBT versus mainstream audiences. Images from magazines targeting both LGBT and mainstream audiences were coded for the presence or absence of Kilbourne’s hypotheses. It was believed that there would be more support for Kilbourne’s hypotheses in mainstream magazines than in LGBT-targeted magazines, in magazines targeting specific genders than in lifestyle or general interest magazines, and in lifestyle magazines than in general interest magazines. Additionally, it was believed that certain of Kilbourne’s hypotheses would also apply more to representations of men in LGBT-targeted magazines compared to mainstream magazines. These hypotheses were tested using chi square analyses. Results and discussion of data collected are provided. Although most of Kilbourne’s hypotheses were not supported for any magazine genre, support was found for female models being more likely to be posed passively, less likely to be portrayed as active, and more likely than male models to be visibly photoshopped. Further, the only difference between LGBT-targeted and mainstream advertisements was a higher likelihood for female models in mainstream advertisements to be photoshopped. Female models in gender-targeted magazine advertisements were more likely to be posed in passive positions and to be visibly photoshopped than female models in non-gender-targeted magazine advertisements. Implications of the findings of the present study for theory, research, practice, and training are discussed.



Social sciences, Psychology, Advertising, Gender norms, Kilbourne, Jean