Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Girls are Flirty and Boys are Proud? Objectification, Anyone?

Ad for Girls

Ad for Boys

My middle school daughter was shopping today and she came home with these photos from an in-store advertising campaign. Notice the difference between the ads directed at girls versus those directed at boys. The ad for the girls’ clothes says, “Wear it Flirty” and emphasizes the importance of finding the “ultimate fall look.” The ad for the boys, on the other hand says, “Wear it Proud,” and talks about showing school spirit.

When I asked my daughter what it was about these ads that caught her attention, she said,

“I thought it was interesting that the marketers thought they’d get the girls’ attention by focusing on romance, boys, dating with the use of the world ‘Flirty.” With the boys, there wasn’t that same focus; it was more about supporting your school. “

When I asked which word she would respond to more, she said,
“Personally, I like the word proud. Flirty seems to focus on what would impress someone else, while Proud focuses more on what you think of it yourself and your own ideas.”

I thought this was an interesting and insightful comment. At this age, she’s already noticing that marketing directed at her, as a girl, is about promoting the idea that she needs to be impressing someone else, while products marketed to boys are much more about promoting individualism. This campaign sums up the way that marketing campaigns consistently objectify females. When we think about the idea of object-vs-agent, this ad seems to clearly be marketing objectification to girls and agency to boys. Flirty is about impressing others, catching their gaze, getting their attention. Proud is about showing who you are and promoting your own ideas.

The differences in this campaign may seem harmless, but when there is a consistent and persistent message of objectification sold to girls, it does impact them. They begin to see themselves as important because of the attention that they can get from other people, rather than for sharing their own views.  Marketers can keep their objectifying ads,
given the choice, I’d rather girls identify themselves as Proud than Flirty, thank you very much.

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