Should Women Be Heard, Not Just Seen?

It's a  compelling question.  Must women be seen to be heard?

A new study has found that consumers respond differently to male voices selling things than female voices.  That's probably why 80% of all voice-overs are done by men.

Another interesting fact: any female voice-overs are predominantly embodied by an attractive woman, whereas male voices are often disembodied or represented by both ugly and attractive men.

Think of some recent commercials.  The new one for Samsung phones comes to mind, a beautiful blonde woman who's pregnant (another stereotype) who cries over seeing a cat and dog cuddle, or sits by the pool with a drink (hopefully, non-alcoholic) watching someone doing Pilates on TV.  When her husband comments, she says, "Eyes are muscles, too."

There have been some very interesting commercials on lately, where more and more of the actors are overweight.  Have you seen the one for some pizza chain with an overweight man listening to music while he waits to place an order and his also overweight wife coming to stand in the doorway to tell him he can just go pick up the pizza right now?

Maybe because they were both unattractive to me I don't remember what the commercial was for.

Some marketers claim a male voice to be more authoritative, more knowledgeable. Moreover, male and female voices seem tailored to their role, with men adopting characteristics such as adventure, technical knowledge, and power, and women being heard in relation to domestic settings, relationships, and nurturing roles.

Female competence frequently appears undermined in popular ads. Think of the woman agonizing over spills on her kitchen floor.  Or the one whose mother criticizes her for not using the right detergent on her family's clothes.

We take our cues from commercials.

I remember when I was a kid realizing that what we saw in advertisements was how most people lived, and feeling that I just didn't fit in.  I didn't live in a family where the dad worked and the mom baked cookies and sat at the table listening to the children's laments about school or their friends.  She was always watching soap operas when we came home.

Women in ads in those days were usually sitting beside their husbands in the car (never driving!), or dressed in dainty full-skirted dresses, sometimes even with gloves.  When they appeared in ads, it was always for a cleaning or a cooking product.  I just googled some ads from the '50s and the first to come up was an illustration of a woman practically kissing a square cardboard box of Tide Detergent with the words, "Tide's got what women want" in bright red ink (matching her lipstick).

“When a woman’s voice is present, she is not speaking to the population at large but to dogs, cats, babies, children, and women dieters," the study found.

So, ladies, I guess as far as we've come, we've still got a ways to go.


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