Pop Culture: Images of Women in Advertising

Pop Culture: Images of Women in Advertising
Betty Ford: Sports and Popular Culture

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Two to three class periods


One of the causes that Betty Ford was most interested in was the cause of equality for women.  Although her campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment did not result in its passage, she nevertheless championed the rights of women to run for high office, encouraged President Ford to nominate a woman to the Cabinet, the Foreign Service, and the Supreme Court, and in many ways lent her support to efforts to change the image of women in popular culture.


This lesson is intended to give students an opportunity to compare images of women in historical advertisements with those of today.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; copies of contemporary newspapers and magazines; video: Killing Us Softly 3 (or 1, or 2)—optional.


1.  Begin the lesson by showing either the video, Killing Us Softly 3, or the preview (listed below). 
2.  Then, working in small groups, assign students to research images of women in advertising, both historically and currently.  Each group should attend to the following questions:

  • What roles do woman playing in the ads?
  • What can one conclude about the daily lives of woman in the ads?
  • What can one conclude about the state of mind of women in the ads?
  • What can one conclude about society’s views of women from the ads?
  • What can one conclude about the value placed on women from the ads?
  • Have society’s values and views about women changed much over the years?
  • What other questions can be raised about the images of women in advertising?

Have students keep careful notes of their observations and discussions.
3.  When the research is complete, bring the groups back together to discuss their findings.
What conclusions can they draw from their research?  What does contemporary pop culture, as expressed in advertisements, have to say about women?  What other examples can students give? (e.g., from music, movies, television, etc.)

Extending the Lesson:

It is especially important to include male students in a discussion of the images of women in advertising.  However, men are also portrayed in various ways in ads.  This lesson probably should be extended by following the same procedures for images of men in advertisements.

Sources & Resources:

Preview of Killing Us Softly 3 

Killing Us Softly (the video) 

Beauty and Cosmetics Newspaper Ads (historical)

Beauty…and the Beast of Advertising 
This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.