Comment Three: on Editorialing


Richard F. Taflinger, PhD

Although you may be correct, you've actually written an editorial, indulging in misinformation, exaggeration, and hyperbole. For example, you start your arguments with an extreme position, positing someone who never saw a woman except on television. This is obviously unrealistic -- perhaps a new-born boy left on the steps of a contemplative monastery would never see a real woman, but then they don't watch television, anyway. Your description is obviously misleading: Roseanne, Brett Bulter, June Allyson, Martha Raye, news anchors, talk show hosts, etc. don't fit the description that "all women [are] tall, thin, beautiful, and [have] big breasts."

You do refer to commercials. it is true that beautiful women appear in commercials. However, in that case another piece of your evidence is misleading, that people watch TV an average 6 hours a day. Although that fact is true, it is not 6 hours of commercials. Commercials comprise less than 25% of the time -- for six hours that's less than 1 1/2 hours of commercials. And not every, or even most commercials have beautiful models. Let us assume that 20% of commercials use beautiful women as models: that would be 18 minutes of the six hours. I did a content analysis of several shows with varying target audiences and saw an average of six ads per hour with beautiful woman appearing (12.5% of the total possible ads), but let's say there were 10 ads per hours. A third of the ads (7% of the total) is for beauty products -- it would be illogical to use men or unattractive women to sell such products. The remaining ads promoted such products as baby goods, hygiene products, cleaing products, PSAs, program previews, clothing, and alcoholic beverages (beer and wine). In which of these categories is it degrading for a woman to appear? Surely appearing as a mother, a biological being, a housekeeper, a spokesperson, or an actor isn't degrading. Of the seven, clothing and alcoholic beverages would seem to be the categories that must be degrading. But note how few such commercials, statistically speaking, there are. The only thing I can assume is that you believe it is degrading for a beautiful woman simply to appear in a commercial, that only unattractive women, or no women at all, should be in commercials.

Why the impression that there are so many commercials with beautiful women? Obviously, since in sheer numbers they are such a minority, it must be because there is something about them to get, hold and retain attention. That something must be the beautiful women. Since half the job of advertising is to do just that -- get, hold and retain attention (the other half is to sell the product one the first half is achieved) -- then it is only sensible to use beautiful women in ads.

Obviously, you need to clarify just which ads you are referring to and present logical, reasoned arguments supported by evidence to make your case. You provide no evidence, citations, statistics, content analyses, etc. (all of which are easily obtained, as illustrated above) in support of your contentions, only a gut feeling that something might be true. In terms of providing evidence, what appears above far outweighs what you contend (since it is something compared to nothing), and thus what you say is, reasonably, false.

You also need to watch out for what could be considered sexist language, such as using the word "people" when discussing how "people" regard women, as though "people" are separate from women. That would mean you believe that women are not people, that only men are people, a sexist concept (unless, of course, you use the word to include everything but women, like men, dolphins, whales, dogs, sequoias, etc.).

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