It is here that we move away from subtle patriarchal sexism to outright misogyny. Women's bodies have long been exploited for the purposes of appealing to the male gaze and thus selling products to the male consumer. The approach is common—scantily clad women have been pictured holding everything from soap to painkillers to football jerseys. Automakers and, more commonly, aftermarket parts vendors, have also attempted to attract men with attractive images of women. These advertisements strip their women of any real identity. Rather, these images of women exist only for sex appeal.
Elsewhere in this exhibit, we have seen advertisers credit women with some purchasing power. Automakers may attempt to sell a car to young women by constructing it as fashionable, or they may try to sell a car to an older women with children because it will be a practical part of her everyday family lifestyle. The images of women you will see below, however, make absolutely no attempt to appeal to women. These are images of women intended to be consumed by men. The woman becomes as much an object as the car that is being sold. She is not a driver, she is not a passenger, she does not interact with the car in any meaningful way. Rather, she is an image to observe, an item to consume. In two similar but subtly distinct tropes, women as objects fall into the tropes of The Seductress and The Body.
The Seductress is an extremely common image of womanhood used in advertising across all industries. Here, this trope consists of an attractive woman posing on or near a vehicle in order to draw the male gaze into the advertisement. The woman is young and beautiful, variously clothed or unclothed. She is only part of the advertisement in order to capture male attention, making powerful eye contact with the male viewer through the page. Otherwise, she has no agency in the scene, and no real identity, because she is neither passenger nor driver. She is part of a setting more than she is a participant in any action.
The Body is a type of image that even further strips personhood away from a woman. In this trope, women are reduced to mere body parts, either visually or through textual rhetoric. They are not even people to be looked at—they are abstract pieces of a body used to set a scene. The woman becomes like the car she is being used to sell. She is just a collection of parts without any semblance of humanity.