Samuel E Evans

“Gendered Environments: Gender and the Natural World in the Rhetoric of Advertising” by Hope

Progym: Confirmation

Advertising nearly always utilizes the attributes and mentality of the viewer, using common cultural queues to portray their product in a certain light. Diane Hope writes about this in her essay on “Gendered Environments,” in which she discusses the use of gendered imagery within natural environments to sell commercial goods. This is a common and clear trope, as seen in the Jeep advertisement above. Her description of this helps show how abundant it is in the ads we see day to day, in everything from the color palettes to the use of certain actors, and of course natural landscapes.

She writes that advertising capitalizes on our affinity towards our gender identity, using this to “cloak the impact of consumption on the environment” and portray their product as a part of that environment, or embodying its nature or gendered attributes in some way (156). She uses examples such as a 1915 ad portraying the Niagara Falls as a young and slender woman, in which

“depicted as a voluptuous woman, the waterfall is a sign of natures unending fertility,” (157).

The falls, ever-flowing, are like the youth and luxuriance of this woman, or so the ad implies. Advertisements such as these, she says, are not only capitalizing on our identities but also reinforcing old perspectives on gender, as well as destructive consumerist views of the environment. In another example, Hope discusses a Marlboro ad showing “the attractiveness of the mystical west for ‘real’ men,” implying a very rigid and traditional view of the role of men (160). In this way, gendered environments are a powerful rhetorical strategy for advertising, though also a potentially damaging one.

Outside of the essay, we can see examples of this imagery in advertisements all around us. Returning to my Jeep example, we see dark, rustic imagery, both in the natural background and the chosen color for the Jeep itself and the clothes of the man who sits atop it. The man is fit, bearded, and wearing blue jeans and a leather jacket. The image oozes outdoorsman ethos, and this is what Jeep is trying to sell, as they try to use traditionally masculine and environmental visual rhetoric in this ad. They are trying to sell Jeeps, in a not-so-concealed manner, using the tactics that Hope describes in a very overt way. This is why Hope’s argument is so accurate, it can be seen everywhere and is often abundantly clear when you notice it. It is also something worth being concerned about, as it is potentially harmful in multiple ways. First, it can be damaging to our natural spaces as the environments used to sell these products are destroyed in said good’s production and use. Second, these ads enforce old gender norms and exploit consumers’ identities for financial gain. This makes Hope’s observations particularly pertinent and useful.

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