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Introduction - SAGE Publications

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Ethics TheoryandBusiness Practice
8.3 Feminine Ethics – Part ThreeBusiness Activity and Notions of Femininity
toconsider how essentialist and constructionist perspectives on the nature of femininity might relate to businessethicsto considerhow consumer marketing might be responsible for sustaining stereotypical images of gender that contribute to the subordination of women
the nature of gender
essentialismgender issomething thatwe arebornwith; anessential part ofour being,whichconfers onus certainways of thinking andacting
socialconstructionismgender isa role thatwe learnto play in response to socialconditioning
Luce Irigaray: an essentialist perspective
there are fundamental differences between men andwomentheuniquecontribution that men and women can make needsto be embraced if the humanspeciesis to realise its fullpotentialforthis to happen,menand women need torespectthe contributions that the other canmakehowever weare far fromthis stateofandmutual respectdue to aself-perpetuating cycle of male dominance and femalesubordination …(Irigaray, 2004/1984)
a self-perpetuating cycle of male dominance and female subordination
in business as in the rest of public life
overcoming this situation of dominance and subordination
requires more respect for the unique contribution that feminine qualities can make to public life and to business leadershipfemininity should be seen as different to masculinity, rather than as better or worse
Judith Butler: asocial constructionist perspective
rejects the notion that gender is a stable, universal essence that necessarily confers upon people fixed behavioural, intellectual, emotional and ethicalcharacteristicsgender is merely away of categorizing people that we have become accustomed to using, but which has no real existence beyondthatwhich isnot to deny the existence of physiological differencesit is just to say that these physiological differences do not necessarily offer a basis for dividing the human race in two(Butler, 2004/1987)
we create stereotypical, idealized notions of genderupon which we basecriteria of desirability and normalitywhich impactsnegatively on the self-esteem and self-identityof the many peoplewho do not conform to those stereotypical depictions
encouraging respect
essentialismcalls for the unique contributions of men and women to berecognizedsocial constructionismcalls for the unique contribution of each individual to be recognized, without categorizing it in terms of masculinity and femininitybothessentialism and socialconstructionismalert us to the harm that might be caused when stereotypical depictions of gender are used to justify people’s allocation to certain arenas and their preclusion from others
consumer marketing and gender stereotyping
gender displaysin advertsrefers to thestances that men and womenadoptin relation to oneanotherwhich normalizethe roles and statusdifferentialsthat theydepictfor example:the feminine touchfunction rankingritualization ofsubordination(Goffman, 1979/1974)
some general tendencies concerning genderrepresentation in television adverts

(FurnhamandMak, 1999)
gender representation in television adverts
theextent that an advertising image presents a person’s face and head, rather than showing their neck, shoulders and lower parts of theirbodythe face and the head are usually regarded as the centre of a person’s intellect, personality, identity andcharacterso byfocussing on someone’s face and head, a photograph emphasizes the intellect, personality, identity and character of thatpersonin advertising images, men’s faces tend to be given more prominence than those ofwomenwhose bodies are more likely to be shown(SchroederandBorgerson, 2005)
what responsibilities do marketers have in this respect?
one response: marketers’ role isto sell stuff
their role is notto judge the ethicality of gender roles that society has established over manycenturiesmarketers are just showing things the way they areif showing things as they are helps them to sell things, then so be it
an alternative response: marketers should not remain ‘morally myopic’
marketers have a significant capacity to shape public attitudesthis capacity comes with a responsibility to remain alert to its ethical implicationsmarketers should therefore pay attention to the broader impact of the images they portray, rather than just thinking about how effectively those images will sell their products(Schroeder andBorgerson, 2005)
key points
both essentialist and social constructionist perspectives highlight problems that might be caused by stereotypical depictions of genderbusiness marketers may be culpable of creating and sustaining unhelpful gender stereotypesthis creates a choice for marketers: whether to remain morally myopic or whether to be sensitive to the ethical implications of the images they portray
Butler, J. (2004/1987) ‘Variations onsexandgender: Beauvoir, Wittig, Foucault’, in S.Salih(ed.),The Judith Butler Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell. pp.22–38.Furnham, A. andMak, T. (1999) ‘Sex-role stereotypingintelevision commercials:a reviewandcomparisonoffourteenstudiesdoneinfivecontinentsover25years’,Sex Roles, 41/5&6:412–37.Goffman, E. (1979/1974)Gender Advertisements. London: Macmillan.Irigaray, L. (2004/1984)An Ethics of Sexual Difference, C. Burke and G.C. Gill (trans.).London: Continuum.Schroeder, J.E. andBorgerson, J.L. (2005) ‘An ethics of representation for international marketing communication’,International Marketing Review, 22/5:578–600.





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Introduction - SAGE Publications