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Mariah Wood

Professor Corri Ditch
English 113 A 8 AM
19 October 2014
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
The image I have chosen to analyze is an ad for Alcoa's Aluminum Bottle Caps. In this visual
text, you see a picture of a young glamorous looking woman with an astonished face holding a ketchup
bottle hesitating to open it. Below the picture, there is a caption that says, “You mean a woman can
open it?” The word woman is underlined, as if to emphasize how amazing it is that women are
competent enough to complete a simple and mindless task. The ad is devaluing women, and is arguing
that woman are incapable of doing any kind of physically strong job without the aid of a man. The ad
also mocks and trivializes their competence, and argues that a woman's self worth is based solely on
her appearance, and makes it seem like their only role as a woman is to be attractive and appealing to
gaze at. This leads to self esteem issues in women, but also allows men to judge a woman based on
everything but her intelligence.
Beneath the caption in the image, it states that Alcoa's Aluminum bottle caps open “without a
knife blade, a bottle opener, or even a husband.” This statement mocks women's intelligence and puts
emphasis on the idea that women are always reliant on men for physically demanding jobs. Insulting
messages like these are what ultimately ravage one's self esteem, resulting in women doubting their
capabilities according to their gender. Whether the media throws out a message that is subtle or
extremely bold and self assertive, that message will stick in the back of the viewers mind, potentially
influencing the way they view themselves. The media reinforces belittling messages towards women,
and for that very reason society has low expectations in regards to women's strength.
Though it is believed that women are naturally weaker due to biology, science is not the direct
cause of any lack of female gender performance. In fact, in the article, “Rethinking Women's Biology”,

Ruth Hubbard states that “women's biology is a social construct, and a political concept, not a scientific
one ”(Hubbard 46). In other words, outside sources such as media has an equally as powerful influence
on society's expectations of women, possibly even more-so than biology related studies. Women's
biology has been described by male physicians and scientists who wish to make women fulfill roles
that are exclusive for their well being, which is why these descriptions are inaccurate and leave women
so misunderstood by men. One of the most common, but false characterizations of women is that they
are weak and hyper emotional due to their hormones and reproductive organs. Due to this constant
stream of false generalizations put out by so-called experts, it is expected by society that women are
physically weaker, and incapable of taking on physically demanding jobs in every day life. Another
reason these stereotypes are forced upon women is because “in general, male/female comparisons are
made between physically more highly trained men and less trained women so that the so-called sex
differences at least in part reflect this difference in activity levels”(49). Though this is an unfair and
unrealistic comparison between genders, people come to believe that the vast majority of men and
women posses these physical characteristics, and as as result it twists one's perception of what is truly
“natural”. It is almost seen as attractive for women to be weak, because a man's role in society is to be
the powerful and dominant one. Feeling power boosts mens' masculinity, and makes them feel like they
are carrying out an important role by taking control of a woman.
Looking back at the picture, the woman in the image also appears shocked at the caption stating
“You mean a woman can open it?” The fact that the woman is so surprised by this displays the affect
that prescribed gender roles has on not only men's view of women, but women's view of themselves.
Doubt has been instilled in women because they are constantly surrounded by messages discouraging
them from empowering themselves. Success stories involving women are not brought up nearly as
much as shallow stories about the “prettiest” or “sexiest” actress or singer. Sexualized images and
videos of women can be seen everywhere, whether it be in ads, television shows, or magazines, and the
constant presence of this is applauding a woman's physical qualities, and nothing else. Due to the

media's lack of coverage in women in politics, sports, etc, it is assumed that men naturally fill out these
jobs, while women take the “natural” role of a stay-at-home mom who is unemployed. There are so
many bright and talented women in the US, but the media recognizes very few, so it conveys the
message that though this person may have talent, it doesn't matter solely because of their gender. In the
article “Are Women in the Media Only Portrayed As Sex Icons? Statistics Show a Massive Gender
Imbalance Across Industries”, Sifat Azad mentions that “only 26% of its news sources were women.
This show's that men are not only largely in charge of the government and news in all aspects of
society, but they also dominate the voices and news exposed to the broader world”(Azad). Women are
hardly ever applauded for being intelligent or successful, but only for being physically attractive. Our
concepts of ourselves are socially constructed most of all, because society's expectation of what is
normal influences our own behavior.
The way the woman is dressed, and even the way she holds her posture puts higher emphasis on
her physical appearance, arguing that a women's self worth is purely based upon her exterior
appearance. As seen in the image, the woman is dressed in extravagant clothing with red painted lips
and nails. The way she places her hand above the cap is in a very dainty and feminine manner. This
itself is highlighting her exterior image more than the important qualities. It is images like these that
negatively influences people's views on gender roles. The image conveys how women are apparently
supposed to look, thus influencing how women hold themselves, and how men look at them. Taking a
look at ads on tv, in magazines, or just in the media in general, one can almost immediately notice how
much women are sexualized and objectified. It is a rare sight to see ads that actually put a strong focus
on the product they are advertising. What is normally seen is a sexual image of a woman scantily clad
holding the product and posing in a provocative manner. Women are often put on display like
commodities, or merchandise, because the media knows well that sex sells. However, girls who are
exposed to the media at a young age do not recognize this at the time, and begin idolizing female icons
that lack more important qualities like intelligence.

Women develop self esteem issues at a very young age because they grow up around the media,
and they begin to believe what they see in the media is the standard set for real life. Women not only
suffer from self esteem problems due to steep beauty standards, but it also restricts women from taking
on more intelligent jobs in society, and makes them question whether or not their self worth is based
upon beauty. Women are extremely critical of themselves when it relates to beauty because society
implies that looking a certain way is one of the most important qualities. According to the article “Sex
and Relationships in the Media”, “The pressure to put on women through ads, television, film, and new
media to be sexually attractive-and sexually active is profound...research has found that women's
representation in popular media has steadily become more and more sexualized over the last forty
years”(Mary Trautner).Young girls begin to believe that being beautiful is their top priority, and
something they should strive to be as they mature. Beauty becomes the central focus for women, which
also leads men to believe that beauty is the only important quality to seek out in a woman, while every
other personality trait is miniscule in comparison.
The ad for Alcoa's Aluminum Bottle Caps is communicating an unhealthy message because it
convinces women that they are unintelligent and incapable of doing anything physical without the aid
of a man, and while doing so it encourages gender stereotypes, lowers women's self esteem and
encourages men to devalue and objectify women. Not even women have confidence in themselves
because society tells them that their beauty and sexuality is their only hope of being successful, and no
matter what they accomplish in life, they will always be less skillful or qualified than a man. Unless
society somehow manages to stop the sexual objectification through the media and eliminate the many
harmful stereotypes about women, we will continue to drift farther from gender equality and preserve
patriarchy.