Posted by: chloecivin | December 16, 2011

On Consuming Angels…

Caring for your home and children were fundamental concerns for Victorian women. Companies idealized this perception of women through their advertisements, in the hopes that women alike would feel compelled to buy their products.  In a way the advertisements  suggested that if women didn’t buy their products, they were either bad caretakers of their home, and therefore bad wives, or inadequate caretakers of their children, and thus, bad mothers.  This rationale inspired Loeb’s Consuming Angels: Advertising and Victorian Women.  The perception of women as “angels” of their household is misleading, especially with the advertisements depiction of them as being rather masculine and self-sufficient.  This text also puts a spotlight on the middle-class and the growing impact consumerism attained.

My favorite advertisement within this reading continues to be the Grecian woman for Matchless Metal Polish because of its feminist qualities.  Portraying women as Greek goddesses served as a motif for advertisements alike.  This Matchless woman is depicted as especially strong, and is not subjected to any levels of subordination.  She appears to have slain other people, or products, in a public area.  The shield she grasps is the top to the polish which is both a) indulgent and b) highly unrealistic.

Regardless, this ad is genius.  It makes consumers feel like they cannot live without this product, while recognizing women in a public sphere. It is important to note that women were very much targets in the eyes of the companies.  In addition, the middle-class as a whole became targets as well:

” The buyers of the world are the great MIDDLE CLASS PEOPLE- the man and woman in good or fairly well-to-do circumstances.  These people are the backbone of every city and every country.  These are the men who have built the houses and the shops, the women and men who fill the churches and make life worth living and upon whose children rest the future of every nation under the sun” (Consuming Angels).

After reading this segment of the book, I realized how nothing really has changed regarding the ways in which companies sought out to sell their products.  Consumers become entranced with the products, i.e. informercials, and feel compelled to buy the products.

Consumerism seems to want mothers to compete over their levels of maternity to their children.  Without certain products, it seems, companies suggest her incompetency in being a mother.  Here is an example of an ad made in 1993:




  1. Chloe, I could not agree more with this post! (Probably because it has a lot to do with my topic for the final paper). Through my research, I came to the conclusion that advertisers of this time period (as well as advertisers these days) targeted three different types of women: the single, unmarried woman, hoping to win a man’s affection; the married woman, who is in charge of taking care of the household and keeping her husband interested; and, of course, the mother, who is in charge of all aspects of her child’s upbringing. The woman is made to consume every type of advertisement. I also found the research done in “Conumsing Angels” to be really fascinating. I was especially interested in the quote that Loeb used from an advertiser at the time who noted that the average woman “reads more thoroughly than the average man; also she takes a far greater interest in advertisements than most men. Her function as chancelloress of the family exchequer makes them of practical importance to her.” While this quote is complimentary toward women, it also makes me a little angry, given the state of women and advertisements TODAY. Because women are better at paying attention to words and images in advertisements than men are, (and apparently always have been), women are the ones who have been, and continue to be, negative targets in advertising. Why do women have to be punished for paying attention?

  2. The advertising industry is just so bizarre. If women read more thoroughly than men and pay more attention to advertising, why not be a little kinder to women in advertisements? Creating three different types of women alienates potential consumers. And yet, we still buy so many of these products. Granted, with many of them, it is almost unavoidable, as there is either a limited selection of brands, or they are all poorly advertised, but the whole set up is nonsensical. I went to the screening of “Miss Representation” a couple of weeks ago, and one of the statistics from the movie really struck me. 86% of the purchasing power in the United States is in the hands of women. That means, that not only do women process most of the advertisements, we also do most of the buying. The movie challenged women to refuse to buy products that are advertised with negative or stereotypical depictions of women. If this were to become widespread, advertising would have to change completely. I’m not placing the blame for the current advertising situation on women, because, of course we need to buy certain products, and especially in this economy, for many women, products are chosen based on price, not on how well the advertisements portray women. I do think, however, that women have the power to completely change the unfair representation we receive in advertising.

  3. It seems as though you’re right. In doing research for my paper, I was reading an old periodical from the Women’s Bureau that was written in 1957. It said that as of 1956, women made up one third of the advertising workforce (something like 39,000 workers out of 118,000 overall). This was shocking to me, not only because I had no idea that there were so many women working in this type of field during this period of time, but because the advertisements seemed so anti-female I could not believe that women were behind so much of it. Of course, there are a lot of things to consider here; the general belief-system in place in the United States in the fifties typically revolved around women being married and taking care of their homes and quitting their jobs as soon as they had children or got married, but even so, I found it surprising. It does make you wonder about the types of women who work in advertising now and what sort of influence they have on advertising or attempt to have on advertising.

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