Sex Role Messages in Television Commercials

Television commercials and advertising in general have had a history of misrepresenting accurate gender depictions in society. A 1974 study conducted by Courtney and Whipple reveals an inconsistency with that decade’s advertising viewpoints toward gender and what was actually going on in the country. “In 1974, one-third of married women in the United States were employed, but commercials seldom featured a working wife,” (Lovdal 1988). Lovdal did a content analysis update through Denison University to see if gender role depictions were given a more accurate depiction in the 1980s television commercial media culture. Three hundred and fifty three commercials were viewed and coded for this study.

The results discovered in the content analysis did not vary too much from previous studies documenting such advertising for the previous decade. There were no significant differences judging upon the T-scale findings. On the contrary, there were less inaccurate depictions, i.e. the percentage of women representing domestic products had dropped a little, and less men were being made to represent non-domesticated products like cars. However, one thing that remained the same and in large detail was the reliance on a male narrator in commercials featuring women. This advertising device cast women in a subordinate role and diminished their impact in the advertisement.

Lovdal, L. (1988). Sex role messages in television commercials. Sex Roles, 21(11/12), 715-724. Retrieved from


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