Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Robin Street

Relational Format



This thesis will examine how the way women are portrayed in advertising creates an unattainable ideal standard of beauty and negatively affects the self- image of women. The first chapter will look back on the history of advertising to women. It will examine where this ideal standard of beauty originated from and how it was spread throughout American society. The next chapter explores how advertisers use specific psychological techniques to sell not only a product to consumers, but also sell an ideal, attitude or lifestyle. The third chapter examines trends in advertisements, such as objectifying and sexualizing women, stereotyping women and focusing on a specific and limited body type. This impossible ideal standard of beauty has negative effects on women. These effects will be explored in depth in chapter four. It has created a skewed and limited definition of beauty, which has only been intensified through Photoshop and other photo editing tools. This phenomenon has had a direct negative impact on how women view themselves. It has led to an increasing amount of eating disorders and has even caused some women to turn to plastic surgery. Women are not the only ones negatively impacted by beauty in advertising; it has influenced the way men think 
 v. about women. The final chapter concludes with how advertising and the media can be tools for change. It will examine what is currently being done to widen the ideal standard of beauty and what else needs to change. In addition to secondary research, primary research was conducted to learn about the relationship between women, advertising and beauty at a local level by surveying and conducting face-to-face interviews with women students at the University of Mississippi. Both of these research methods were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Mississippi. Conclusions from the research revealed that advertising does influence the way women feel about themselves and how beauty is defined.

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