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Problematizing Femininity in Slimming Advertisements

Lau, K. L.

Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, Volume 24, Issue 4, December 2016

Keywords: Advertisements, body, critical discourse analysis, femininity, ideology, slimming, visual social semiotics

Published on: 22 Nov 2016

The portrayal of women in contemporary advertisements is varied. All advertisements seem to prescribe assumptions of what it means to be a woman. In isolation, each group of ads depicts a very narrow aspect of gender definition. Together, however, they reflect the complexity of contemporary womanhood. Along product and service weight-loss ads, slimming becomes a means of defining femininity, reconstituting it and disseminating it as direct knowledge of the social world as representations of reality. The images of femininity, as they appear in slimming advertisements, have the power to narrowly define and construct the 'feminine.' Advertisements, therefore, can be understood as carriers of a dominant ideology of femininity. Advertisements define what forms of femininity are acceptable and desirable. Experiences that contradict prevailing values of those given are either excluded or denied, reinforcing existing limited meanings of femininity. This paper examines the ideological construction of femininity through a close analysis of slimming advertisements found in Malaysia's leading English daily, The Star. Using the framework of Fairclough's (1995) critical discourse analysis and Jewitt's (1999) visual social semiotics, the paper aims at discovering how language and visual means are exploited to define what forms of femininity are acceptable and desirable. Through this, the paper seeks to clarify some of the discursive mechanisms used in disseminating an ideological construct of femininity that spurs women's relentless pursuit of slimming.

ISSN 1511-3701

e-ISSN 2231-8542

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