Representation of women in advertising

Clearinghouse Connector – March 2016

Links to online resources available from the Women’s Health Victoria Clearinghouse collection.

To access these resources follow the title hyperlink. The display includes a link to the external website where the full text is available.

We value your feedback. Please tell us what you think of this resource. Click here to take a brief online survey

Need information on a different topic? Check out our Clearinghouse Connector archive.


This Connector presents a selection of freely-available current research on the impact of advertising on women’s health and wellbeing. We present case studies where individuals and campaigns have taken action against ads, current examples of promising practice from around the globe, and the importance of women in the control and creation of advertising. We then cover the current policy landscape in Australia, and provide links to related websites for further exploration.

Advertising that represents women as commodities – and which objectifies and sexualises women – perpetuates and normalises degrading and disrespectful beliefs about the role and value of women, and undermines gender equity measures. This representation of women has negative impacts on the mental and physical health of women, and how women are perceived by society.

The research presented in this Connector explores the gap between standards that advertisers have have set for themselves and the advertisements that appear. Promising practice from other developed countries demonstrates that there are various ways for governments at the state and national level to introduce regulation of advertising.

The Connector also presents research on the rise of online campaigns against sexist, misogynistic and objectifying ads that have appeared within the gap between industry guidelines, self-regulation and government oversight.

In gathering the research for this Connector, we have found limited publicly available academic resources. The majority of academic resources freely available to the public were produced prior to 2010, and have not been included in this Connector. However, there has been growth in practice-based reports and opinion pieces on the current state of advertising and strategies being used to end sexist advertising.

WHV thanks Dr. Lauren Rosewarne, of the University of Melbourne, for providing feedback for this Connector.

Portrayal of women

Gender and advertising : how gender shapes meaning In: Controversies in contemporary advertising. 2nd ed. Sage, 2014

The dangerous ways ads see women TEDx Innovations, 2015

Clearinghouse Connector : Sexualisation of women and girls Women’s Health Victoria, 2014

Equal opportunity or objectification? : the sexualization of men and women on the cover of Rolling Stone Sexuality and Culture, 2011

Offensive marketing can work : but not if it vilifies women The Conversation, 2015

Health impact on women

Sexualised girls are seen as less intelligent and less worthy of help than their peers The Conversation, 2015

The effects on women from advertisements Destructive Advertisements, 2010

Perpetuating gendered identities : the ‘tween’ magazine Griffith Working Papers in Pragmatics and Intercultural Communication, 2012

The media’s effect : media representation of the female body The Sydney Feminists, 2014

Sex and sexism in Australian alcohol advertising : why are women more offended than men? Contemporary Management Research, 2011

Self- and partner- objectification in romantic relationships : associations with media consumption and relationship satisfaction Sex Roles, 2014

Case studies

Ad watchdog in Australia a dismal failure Collective Shout, 2014

Community perceptions of exploitative and degrading images in advertising Advertising Standards Bureau, 2013

Ultra Tune discontinues ‘sexist’ advertisement following Advertising Standards Bureau review ABC Online, 2016

Bauer Media axes controversial Zoo Weekly lads magazine blaming tough retail conditions, 2015

Rise of the feminist killjoy : why Paddy Power had to pull its misogynist advertising The Conversation, 2014

Promising international practice

Advertising [Chapter] In: Making change : Nordic examples of working towards gender equality in the media NORDICOM. University of Gothenburg, 2014 – pp. 97-118

Women and girls as subjects of media’s attention and advertisement campaigns : the situation in Europe : best practices and legislations European Parliament, 2013

Gender-sensitive indicators for media : framework of indicators to gauge gender sensitivity in media operations and content UNESCO, 2012

Ad agency swears off crafting ads that objectify women Wall Street Journal, 2016

Social media campaigns that make a difference : what can public health learn from the corporate sector and other social change marketers? Public Health Research and Practice, 2015

Putting women behind the content

Women in creative : why it matters [Opinion] Ad News, 2015

Gender matters : women in the Australian screen industry Screen Australia, 2015

60% of female marketers have experienced sexism in the workplace according to The Drum’s Women in Marketing research The Drum, 2015

This conference wants to reward advertising agencies that promote gender equality Girl Talk HQ, 2015

Australian guidelines

AANA code of ethics Australian Association of National Advertisers, 2012

AANA code of ethics practice note Australian Association of National Advertisers, 2015

Exploitative and degrading : key concepts Advertising Standards Bureau, 2015

Gender [advertising standards] Advertising Standards Bureau, 2015

Gender portrayal guidelines Victoria. Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2012

Policy development

Submission to the Australian Association of National Advertisers' review of code of ethics Women’s Health Victoria, 2010

Inquiry into sexually explicit outdoor advertising Queensland. Parliament. Health and Community Services Committee, 2014

Submission to Australian Communications and Media Authority Contemporary Community Safeguards Inquiry issues paper Australian Association of National Advertisers, 2013

Reclaiming public space : Inquiry into the regulation of billboard and outdoor advertising Australia. Parliament. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, 2011

Related websites

Australian Association of National Advertisers Advertising regulation guide

Collective Shout

Advertising Standards Bureau Social media advertising

Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

How our Clearinghouse can help you

Women’s Health Victoria’s Clearinghouse has a wealth of information on gender in health in various forms. Our experienced health and information professionals can assist you to access this information.

Feedback and subscription

We value your feedback. Please tell us what you think of this resource. Click here to take a brief online survey

Please Contact Us with any feedback including suggestions for future Clearinghouse Connector topics.

Has a colleague forwarded this e-bulletin to you?
For your own subscription, complete an online Subscribe Request.

GPO Box 1160 Melbourne, Victoria 3001 - Phone: +61 3 9664 9300
Email: - Website:

Women's Health Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government

For problems accessing this site email