VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI University of Languages & international Studies




submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of bachelor of arts (TEFL)

Hanoi, May 2011

VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI University of Languages & international Studies



submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of bachelor of arts (TEFL)


Hanoi, May 2011

I hereby state that I: Nguyen Hai Ha, group 07E1, being a candidate for the degree of Bachelor of Arts (TEFL) accept the requirements of the College relating to the retention and use of Bachelor’s Graduation Paper deposited in the library. In terms of these conditions, I agree that the origin of my paper deposited in the library should be accessible for the purposes of study and research, in accordance with the normal conditions established by the librarian for the care, loan or reproduction of the paper. Signature


First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Ms. Phan Thi Van Quyen, my supervisor, for her great encouragement, consultancy and guidance, without which this study could have never been accomplished. Also, I would like to take this chance to thank all the teachers of the Faculty of English Language Teaching Education and the Fast Track Programme who have provided me with the knowledge, experience and conditions for me to pursue my interests and complete this study. Furthermore, I hope to send my best regards to each and every members of the group 07E1, the wonderful companions through the thick and thin of my academic years, especially during the implementation of this study. Last but not least, my heartfelt thanks go to my best friend, Truong Hai Ha and my family, especially my mother and my sister, whose unconditional love and care allow me to get this far.


The co-evolution of mass media and advertising in the 21 st century has allowed the latter to exceed the function of a commercial tool. Advertisements today serve not only as the bridge between producers and consumers but the mirror of different aspects in everyday life, culture included. Gender role as one of the basic concept engraved in every culture, as a result, is of no exception. The interactive relationship between advertisements and culture as well as that between gender role and culture provided a solid foundation for this study on the American and Vietnamese gender role reflection in magazine advertisements. To carry out the investigation, a total of 822 advertisements were collected from 48 issues of Vietnamese and American magazines published in 2010 through random sampling. Familial role, working role, recreational role, user/endorser role, decorative/symbolic role and dominant role were chosen to study the preference for each gender of the two cultures. The advertisements were analyzed systematically, role by role and culture after culture. Based on the statistics acquired, interpretation of the characteristics, similarities and differences of the gender roles in the two cultures were put forward. Last but not least, suggestions to bridge the cultural gap were made for the viewers of the advertisements and advertising agencies. Ways to exploit magazine advertisements as authentic materials were also proposed to improve the effectiveness of ESL classes.


Acknowledgements Abstract Table of contents List of tables, figures, and charts CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1. 1.2. 1.3. 1.4. 1.5. Statement of the problem and rationale for the study Aims of the study and research questions Significance of the study Scope of the study Organisation i ii iii vi 1 1 2 3 4 4 6 6 6 8 10 10 11 12 16 16 18 19 21 21 21 22 25 27 27 29 30 30 31

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1. An overview of culture 2.1.1. Definition of culture 2.1.2. Elements of culture An overview of gender role 2.2.1. Definition of gender 2.2.2. Definition of gender role 2.2.3. Gender roles and culture 2.2.4. Gender roles in American and Vietnamese cultures Traditional and modern gender roles Gender roles in American culture Gender roles in Vietnamese culture An overview of magazine advertisements 2.3.1. An overview of advertisement Definition of advertisement Classification of advertisement Advertisement and culture 2.3.2. An overview of magazine History of magazine Classification of magazine 2.3.3. An overview of magazine advertisements History of magazine advertisements Classification of magazine advertisements



Components of a magazine advertisements Advantages and disadvantages of magazine advertisements

33 35


Previous study on gender role reflection in magazine advertisements


CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY 3.1. Research method 3.2. Selection of subjects 3.2.1. Selection of advertisements 3.2.2. Selection of magazines 3.3. Procedures of data collection 3.4. Procedures of data analysis CHAPTER 4: RESULTS AND DISCUSSION 4.1. Findings about gender roles as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements 4.1.1. Genders’ familial role 4.1.2. Genders’ working role Fields of work Responsibility at work 4.1.3. Genders’ recreational role 4.1.4. Genders’ user/endorser role 4.1.5. Genders’ decorative/symbolic role 4.1.6. Genders’ dominant role 4.2. Implications about gender roles in American and Vietnamese cultures 4.2.1. Genders’ familial role 4.2.2. Genders’ working role Fields of work Responsibility at work 4.2.3. Genders’ recreational role 4.2.4. Genders’ user/endorser role 4.2.5. Genders’ decorative/symbolic role 4.2.6. Genders’ dominant role

41 41 43 43 44 45 46 51 51 51 53 53 55 56 57 59 60 61 61 64 64 65 66 68 69 70


4.3. Application 4.3.1. Suggestions for the advertisement viewers 4.3.2. Suggestions for the advertising agencies 4.3.3. Suggestions for ESL classes CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION 5.1. Summary of findings 5.2. Limitations of the study 5.3. Suggestions for further research REFERENCES APPENDICES Appendix A: Checklist Appendix B: American and Vietnamese advertisements

72 72 73 73 75 75 76 77 78 85 85 87


List of figures Figure 1: The relation between gender roles and culture Figure 2: The social role theory of sex differences and similarities (Eagly, 1999) Figure 3: Components of a magazine advertisement (Ogilvy, 1983) Figure 4: American female model in symbolic role Figure 5: American female model in dominant role Figure 6: Vietnamese model in children-related tasks Figure 7: Vietnamese male model in children-related tasks Figure 8: American male model in household chores Figure 9: Vietnamese male model in household chores Figure 10: Responsibility at work in a Vietnamese advertisement Figure 11: Responsibility at work in an American advertisement Figure 12: Vietnamese female model in recreational role Figure 13: American male models in recreational role Figure 14: Vietnamese female in symbolic role Figure 15: American female in symbolic role Figure 16: Vietnamese male in dominant role Figure 17: American female in dominant role


List of tables Table 1: Magazine advertisement formats (Altstile, 2006) Table 2: Types of gender roles in Skorek & Schreier (2009) Table 3: Selection of magazine titles Table 4: Selection of magazine advertisements Table 5: Ranking of products which advertisements feature more females than males Table 6: Ranking of products which advertisements feature more males than females

List of charts Charts 1&2: Genders’ familial roles as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements Charts 3&4: Genders’ fields of work as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements Charts 5&6: Genders’ responsibility at work as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements Charts 7&8: Genders’ recreational role as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements Chart 9: Genders’ decorative/symbolic role as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements Charts 10&11: Genders’ dominant role as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisement.


1.1. Statement of the problem and rationale for the study

The modern time has been witnessing the expansive popularity of advertisements bridging the gap between commercial products and their consumers. With the assistance of a wide range of mass media forms, among which are magazines and other visually powerful channels, the significance of advertisements have long gone beyond the commercial benefits they bring their creators and targets. Advertisements today do not function merely as a marketing tool generally described by Stephen Leacock as “the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it”. Rather, what concerns people more about advertising nowadays turns out to be whether it reflects reality or reversely, our social beliefs and values are being shaped by advertising itself (Holbrook, 1987; Pollay, 1986) to the point that “you can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements” as Norman Douglas generalised. At the core of almost every culture’s set of beliefs and values finds gender roles, the accepted characteristics and behaviours for the individuals living in that specific culture. Men and women living in the American culture, a well-developed industrialized country might be assigned with a distinguishable role at work and at home compared to their counterparts in Vietnam, a developing country of agricultural base. For no culture can be claimed more civilized than others, it is important to be aware of and pay full respect to the cultural similarities and


differences between countries, which marketers are required to follow strictly in order to persuade their customers. Apparently, it does not take an expert in marketing to realize the fact that the same products, when promoted in different countries, may not be introduced in the same advertisements, using the same illustrations and models. As a result, it is not totally unfounded to conclude that gender roles are of no exception when it comes to the manifestation in advertisements of all forms. Particularly, in magazine advertisements, the inanimate images are obliged to be carefully selected for the successful conveyance of the intended messages. A marketer might be putting the sales of a product at risk if s/he uses and portrays the male and female models in the advertisements at a random or inconsiderate manner. The role that the male and female models play in the advertisements should be aligned with the role that the target culture expects of their members to gain the general customers’ favour. All the aforementioned reasons encouraged the researcher to utilize magazine advertisements for an investigation into the common reflection of gender roles in the United States of America and Vietnam in the hope for more accurate perception regarding the cultural similarities and differences. 1.2. Aims of the study and research questions

As previously mentioned, this study aimed at investigating into the reflection of gender roles in magazine advertisements from the United States and Vietnam for further understandings on the similarities and differences in this aspect of the two cultures.


Firstly, the researcher wished to explore how gender roles are reflected in magazine advertisements of the two countries. Secondly, a comparison and contrast between the roles of the gender within each country as well as across the two countries was drawn from the analysis of the magazine advertisements. Finally, a cross-cultural insight into the gender roles of the United States and Vietnam was attained on the base of the above results. Hence the questions that this study attempted to answer included: 1) How are the gender roles of American culture reflected in American magazine advertisements? 2) How are the gender roles of Vietnamese culture reflected in Vietnamese magazine advertisements? 3) What are the differences and similarities in gender roles in American and Vietnamese culture as reflected in magazine advertisements? 1.3. Significance of the study

Upon its completion, the research could bring about some noticeable benefits. First and foremost, it offered an insight into the concept of gender roles in the cultures of the United States and Vietnam by putting forward the similarities and differences between them two regarding the matter. The mutual understanding between the two cultures as well as their gender roles and magazine advertisements, therefore, would be improved. Moreover, the research would serve as a helpful reference for researchers who took an interest in the same field or related


matters. Lastly, marketers or advertisers may find the research supportive as a source of suggestions for more effective culture-specific works. 1.4. Scope of the study

This study focused on the roles of the genders in Vietnam and the United States as reflected in magazine advertisements. The reason for this concentration was the researcher’s interest and desire for more knowledge about the popular beliefs and values towards the role of the genders in Vietnamese and American culture. The magazine advertisements chosen, therefore, will be those published in Vietnam and the United States only. In addition, because of the limit of time and budget, the concentration of the research was confined to the gender role reflection in magazine advertisements in the current situation of the year 2010. More importantly, because the research adapted a cross-cultural approach, only the cultural aspect of the magazine advertisements was taken into consideration. Other aspects, for example, aesthetic, creativity or commercial effectiveness were placed out of the discussion. 1.5. Organisation

Chapter 1: Introduction - the description of the research’s rationale, aims, research questions, significance and scope Chapter 2: Literature Review - the theoretical foundation of the research, offering readers the overview of 1) gender role 2) magazine advertisement 3) gender role reflection in advertisements in the context of American and Vietnamese culture

Chapter 3: Methodology - the details of the methods and procedures applied and implemented by the researcher Chapter 4: Results and Discussion - the presentation of the researcher’s findings and further discussion on the similarities and differences of gender roles as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements Chapter 5: Conclusion - the summary of the main points, the limitations of the research as well as the suggestion for further studies At the end of the paper is the inclusion of the references and appendices.


CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1. An overview of culture

2.1.1. Definition of culture It is a matter of fact that the definition of “culture” has been formulated by a great number of scholars in the history of research, central to a variety of fields including anthropology, cultural studies, organizational psychology as well as management studies. In 1952, a total of 164 definitions were enumerated by Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn in their book titled “Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions” which testified to the various approaches people have taken toward the meaning of “culture”. Among the numerous definitions, from an anthropological perspective wrote Edward B. Tyler (1871) about culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other compatibilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”. Cited by Haviland, Prins & Walrat (2007, p. 26) as one of the earliest, this definition placed the emphasis on the elements of culture as a product of human’s developmental history as well as the scope of one culture’s value - among members of a society. On the other hand, Edgar H. Schein (2010), widely respected as the most preeminent figure in organizational culture study, came up with the following definition about “culture”. The culture of a group can now be defined as a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of


external adaptation and internal integration, which as worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. (p. 18). Schein’s definition differs from that of Tyler in its stress on (1) the scale of one culture, (2) the functions of culture and (3) the authority it has on each member. According to Schein, culture does not only form among members of the society but even among members of a particular group of people who need culture for its functions to operate. Furthermore, from this definition, culture can be understood as certain unwritten rules that a group of people unanimously abide and maintain. Last but not least, the sociologist Hofstede (2003) considered culture “the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another”. Unlike the abovementioned, this definition attached the importance to not only the collectivity within one culture but also the distinction on further scale. According to Hofstede, between cultures, besides basic similarities, there should also be the differences that set one apart from another. In general, this study submits to the definition of culture as a exclusively human concept containing beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviours, habits, customs, etc. that a group of people consider appropriate and commonly followed to separate them from similar counterparts.


2.1.2. Elements of culture To understand one culture, it is of great importance to comprehend the variations of the same elements that exist in every culture. Researchers have listed numerous elements that constitute cultures, explicit and implicit, tangible and intangible, abstract and concrete. Among them, the most significant and relevant to the subject of this study were beliefs, values and attitudes. Beliefs are “shared ideas held collectively by people within a given culture about what is true” (Andersen & Taylor, 2010, p. 36). Accordingly, people within one culture are bound together by the common beliefs. Strongly held beliefs may even lead to conflict between cultures with opposite viewpoints. For example, those who believe in Gods may find it difficult to tolerate atheists; people who choose to rely on scientific knowledge and evidence may constantly argue with those believing in superstitious phenomena. In the world there exist cultures who believe women are born to be submissive whereas others hold a more egalitarian view on the genders. Values are defined by Misra and Yadav (2009, p. 30) as the “basic convictions that people hold on to regarding to what is right or wrong, good or bad, important or unimportant, desirable or undesirable.” Abstract as they seem, values provide people with the ideal principles and a general outline for behaviours. Freedom and individualism are the two values most highly appreciated and preserved in American culture which affects not only the people’s choices of lifestyle but also the nation’s political and economic system. In Japanese culture, however, it is the responsibility that is attached with the greatest value. That is the reason

why in this culture, since the early times, homosexuals have never been faced with harsh criticism. As West & Green (1997, p. 81) stated, “for a Japanese man to enjoy the physical attractions of another man is one thing, to turn his back on family - including ancestors, extant relatives and future descendants - by failing to reproduce - is another”. As long as they prioritize and fulfill their duties towards their families, communities and societies, homosexuality is tolerated in Japanese culture to some extent. Attitudes, according to Aswathappa (2000, p. 166), are “positive or negative evaluations, feelings and tendencies which make an individual behave in a particular way towards people and objects.” Therefore, attitudes may include opinions about different issues in one’s life such as love, marriage, truth and honesty, justice, the roles of the genders, individual freedom, etc. The common attitudes of people on the same subject may vary among dissimilar cultures. People’s attitudes towards time, for example, depend greatly on cultures. Most Westerners pay close attention to punctuality and share a common belief that “time is money” whereas in some other cultures, for instance, Vietnam’s, people tend to take it not as seriously. For them, being late is neither rude nor offensive and what is left off today can be finished tomorrow. The aforementioned elements of culture are deeply intertwined; each results in and from the other, holding the equal significance in the composition of culture. With a cross-cultural approach, this study was carried out to find the similarities and differences of American and Vietnamese cultures in these elements, especially the attitudes, toward the chosen subject, gender roles.



An overview of gender role

2.2.1. Definition of gender Etymologically, according to Harper (2001) the word “gender” is derived from the Old French “gendre”, which, in turn, came from “genus” in Latin. Although the meaning of both the original words are confined to “kind”, “type” or “sort”, the world is used in the contemporary English as “the fact of being male or female, especially when considered with reference to social and cultural differences, not differences in biology” according to the Oxford Advanced Leaner’s Dictionary. Because of their similar referents, the word “gender” and “sex” may seem interchangeable. The terminological difference was first

introduced by Money (1973) yet with little importance attached until the development of feminism in the 1970s. The former word since then has proved more favourable in academic works as the euphemism for the latter resulting from the “desires to signal sympathy with feminist goals, to use a more academic term, or to avoid the connotation of copulation” (Haig, 2004). The subtle distinction has been drawn by the World Health Organization as “gender”, which includes “masculine” (male) and “feminine” (female) as the two main categories, emphasizes on the “socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women” whereas “sex” refers to the biological and physiological features that distinguish between men and women. For the same reason, as pointed out by WHO,


unlike the aspects of sex which vary little among different human societies and cultures, aspects of gender tend to vary dramatically. 2.2.2. Definition of gender role Coined by the sexologist Money in 1955, the term “gender role” is originally “used to signify all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman, respectively” (Money, 1973). This definition of “gender role” viewed the gender as a “status” that an individual can choose to gain for himself or herself by certain manifestation. However, it made “gender role” appear to be self-assigned whereas, in fact, other factors, culture included, contribute to the allocation of the roles for the genders as well. As a result, when greater emphasis is placed on the cultural aspects of the term “gender” as aforementioned, “gender role” can be alternatively interpreted as what specific cultures expect their male and female individuals to perform to define themselves according to their biological sex (Bland, 2005). Or in other word, “gender role” refers to the set of characteristics, behaviours, attitudes, values and beliefs that a certain group of people consider appropriate for males and females within their circle. Studying the “gender role” in a cross-cultural approach, therefore, can be understood as researching on which roles people from each culture prefers or not for each gender. The purpose of such procedure is to point out how people’s expectations or attitudes towards the roles of the genders vary across cultures. That was also the approach that this study


took to investigate into the gender role reflection in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements. 2.2.3. Gender roles and culture It is of great importance to place the emphasis on the relation between gender roles and culture which can be illustrated as follows.

Figure 1: The relation between gender roles and culture First of all, cultural factors in the human society take part in the formation of gender role. This viewpoint is supported by “the social role theory of sex differences and similarities” by Eagly (1999) which holds the belief that social structure, culture included, determines the difference in the appropriate behaviours and attitudes for the gender hence the gender roles. Eagly (1999) proposes that gender roles imposed on and observed by the individuals of the society is the outcome of a sequence involving both the biological and societal factors which can be summarized in the figure below. The process during which each individual learns how to behave in a way that is acceptable by the surrounding culture or society is called “socialization”.


Figure 2: The social role theory of sex differences and similarities (Eagly, 1999) In addition, citing Eagly (1999), Canary & Dindia (2006, p.162) indicated that “because the implications of each sex’s physical attributes depend on the demands of the environment, considerable cross-cultural variability occurs in the particular activities allocated to women and men.” Moreover, Deutsh (2007) argued that parents, peers and the media are not the sole agents in the socialization of the genders’ distinctive roles. People do not merely internalize gender roles as they grow up but they also respond to changing norms in society and modify some themselves. Thus not only the cultural factors in the society but also the cultural background as parts of each person’s identity determine the formation of gender roles.


The Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) further affirms the cultural construction of gender roles as it posits that people learn the appropriate behavior and attitudes from the family and overall culture they grow up with. The acquisition is carried out as children are rewarded for conforming to their parents’ or to be more exact, culture’s expectations and are punished for disapproved behaviors and attitudes which results in the extinguishment of these. Gender roles, in general, are of no exception to these acquired behaviors and attitudes. Reversely, it is undeniably true that gender roles reflect the cultural characteristics of the community that has generated them. By observing the ideal gender roles of communities, one can partially tell the similarities and differences in some aspects of their culture. The variation in some cases can be quite extreme across the cultures. Pakistani culture, for example, is widely known for the unequal treatment towards male and female individuals. Despite the rather nonsexist viewpoint of the Qu’ran which stated “If any do deeds of righteousness - be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them” as translated by Ali (2005), females in this Islamic country are expected to take an extremely submissive role. Consequently, in terms of marriage, Pakistani females have little independence, constantly exposed to the risk of physical abuse, forced and underage marriage, sexual harassment, domestic violence and other severe violation. Among the violent crimes against Pakistani women is the brutal custom of “karo-kari” or “honor killings” which is “done to restore family honor after a woman exhibits


“indecent behavior”: insisting on choosing her own spouse, flirting, seeking a divorce, or being raped” (Assadi, 2011). At the other end is Tchambuli culture where it is the male individuals that seem to receive less favour. Through the observation of Mead (1935), males and females in this New Guinea tribe are assigned with totally reversed roles. The Tchambuli women are in charge of the fishing and manufacturing of the mosquito bags which are the chief sources of their food and income. As a result, they are granted the dominant status within each household and in the community as well. The initiative in courting, sexual relationships and marriage are also made by the women of the tribe. It is the woman who gets to choose her spouse and if she is sexually unsatisfied, she is free to have affairs and leaves her original husband to marry whoever else pleases her. The Tchambuli men, on the other hand, are expected to be financially dependent, relying on their appearance and ability to entertain to seek for women’s attention and affection. Theatrics and arts understandably take up most of the Tchambuli men’s time while flowers, jewelry and clothes are of their deepest concern. A more balanced view on the genders’ roles is taken by the Basque culture. The country is located between France and Spain, to the west of the Pyrenees Mountains on the Atlantic coast. Here women are expected to function as the equal administrator of the domestic finance and bear the same responsibility in the operation of the “basseri” - the Basque farmhouse (Bullen, 2003). In some regions, the first-born child might inherit the farmstead, gender notwithstanding, in others, the heir may be chosen based on his or her ability to operate the “basseri”. Even the local


language expresses the same attitude towards the gender role: there is “no distinction, no orthographic change to reflect male and female in the third person” (Jameson & Armitage, 1997, p. 307). Dialect-specific, the same term “hura” or “bera” is used in Basque language as the pronoun for “he”, “she” and “it”. Direct equivalent for terms like “chairman”, “postman” or “milkman” cannot be found in the language. Instead, for example, “chairman” in Basques is called “mahaiburu”, literally translated into “the head of the table” and remaining unchanged for both males and females in the position. Neither does the grammatical gender was assigned for the nouns like in other Romance language. Apparently, from these examples about the role of the females in Pakistan, Tchambuli and Basque, it does not take too far an inference to recognize the cultural distinction. In Pakistani culture, people believe males should be the one to hold the dominant role; the Tchambuli choose to grant females in their culture with that role whereas the Basque culture attaches the genders’ roles with the same significance. Above all, the association of gender role with culture was the justification for the cross-cultural approach of this study on the gender role reflection in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements. 2.2.4. Gender roles in American and Vietnamese culture Traditional and modern gender roles In both cultures exists a common attitude or certain expectations regarding the appropriate roles for male and female individuals, which largely derived from the physical specialization of the genders earlier mentioned.

The “traditional expectations” or the traditional gender-role attitude, according to Sudha (2000), assign females as a role performer at a lower position compared to male counterparts, limit their freedom and power, demand the sheer obedience in them and direct them to put more effort and attach greater importance to the operation of the household, which include the task of child-bearing and rearing. As a result, women are sometimes viewed as sexual objects encouraged to pay close attention to their appearance and generally judged by that. The role of men, in traditional attitudes, is to be the breadwinner who chiefly work outside the household, the more influential decision-makers in the family who the other members, including and especially the female ones, depend on and submit to. On the contrary, the cultural “modern expectations” towards the genders proposes a more equal status between men and women, “provide more freedom and power and lead to the distribution of household work among all the members of the family” as well as “assign certain new tasks in addition to the existing ones such as earning income to support the family, managing non-domestic affairs and attending to children’s academic requirements” (Sudah, 2000) for both males and females. Ideally, this equal treatment extends beyond the household, applicable to workplace and other aspects of life. As a result, the modern attitude toward gender roles is also usually referred to as the egalitarian genderrole attitude. The difference in the gender-role attitudes, if any, lies in the level of tradition and/or modernity and how much of it is expressed in each


culture. That is also the goal of this study through magazine advertisements. Gender roles in American culture In the past, specifically before World War II, the female role in the American culture, under the influence of European ideology, was confined to the household which included child-bearing and rearing and other routinely chores around the house whereas males are assigned with the important rule of the breadwinner, making the most of the family income. The occurrence of the World War II allowed women to attempt at more tasks outside the households and prove the competency in placement of the men who were required to serve in the army. More importantly, the outburst of the Women’s Liberation Movement during the 1960s and 1970s lent the support to the changing roles of the genders, especially that of females. In addition, the egalitarian treatment between the genders in American culture is supported by the fundamental beliefs and values cherished by the people since the commencement of the country. Among these core beliefs and values are self-reliance, individualism and competition as listed by Vu (2009). Accordingly, people are encouraged to make their attempts at whichever roles they feel suitable for them to express, support and prove themselves. The women in American culture, therefore, are less easily associated with and restricted to the traditional roles such as family devotee or homemaker. Nevertheless, until the most recent time, the equality between the genders has not yet reached the level of absolute. Between the two


genders, men are still less expected to take on the traditional female roles such as family devotee, homemaker, caregiver, nurses or nanny. Women are given the full rights to join supposedly male-dominant areas but prepared about the lower possibility to be as successful and appreciated as their male counterparts. The absence of a female leader in the 200year-long history of the United States along with the public scrutiny on fashion that the female politicians, for instance, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice or Sarah Palin received instead of their political contribution foresee the arduous journey until women are able to escape the public view as a sexual or beauty object. Although a study by the World Bank Group as cited by Gaddis (2007) have reported a number of 46% females at work, women still earn less than men with the same diplomat or degree. In a 2000 cross-cultural survey conducted by the GeNet (Gender Equality Network), the statement, “a man’s job is to earn money and a woman’s job is to look after the home and family”, still earned the endorsement of roughly 50 percent of the respondents from the United States of America, as cited by Scott (2006). Gender roles in Vietnamese culture The deep-rooted influences of feudalism and Confucius philosophy in the history of Vietnam, along with the agriculture-based economy, have given rise to the bias towards the male gender in Vietnamese culture. Despite the exposure to the Western beliefs and values in the modern time, the expected gender roles in Vietnam remain largely unchanged.


An old Vietnamese proverb illustrated this viewpoint which popularity and value preserves despite the flow of time is “Đàn ông xây nhà, đàn bà xây tổ ấm” (Men build houses, women make homes). As a result, a great number of Vietnamese women, from a fairly young age, are taught to put more time and effort to train themselves as the good wife and mother rather than an effective member of the labour force. For females, the ignominious failure, rather, is the incompleteness of the familial duties, especially children-related, because “Con hư tại mẹ, cháu hư tại bà” (The children are spoilt because of their mothers; the grandchildren are spoilt because of their grandmothers), reads another Vietnamese proverb. On the other hand, it is men’s role to earn money, lead the family and function as the social representative of the household so as not to be deemed failures. The importance of the father or husband in the family is commonly compared to the framework or the roof of the house which provides it with strength and shelter (“Con không cha như nhà không nóc”) However, the success of a male individual, unlike female, is hardly measured by the excellence of his familial duties but his financial power or career achievement. Usually, in Vietnam, the property and business of the family is directly transferred to the sons of the family. This is partially because once married, the daughters are expected to leave their families and live with their in-laws, devoting to their husband’s families instead. As a result, women receive less investment and encouragement to pursue education and professional achievement. According to Do (2002), there are fewer women than men have training of any kind, for example, in 1999, just over 3 percent of the total rural women aged 13 and over


have technical qualification. In addition, women who favour academic or career achievement over familial and maternal development, who get married late or prefer to lead a non-marriage life are likely to face criticism and ridicule from the public. Reversely, the same treatment goes to men who fail to be the breadwinner of the family or take an interest in supposedly female-dominant areas such as household chores or fashion and beauty. Therefore, if traditional and modern gender role models are the two extreme ends of the spectrum, there is a high probability that Vietnamese culture leans more towards the traditional end. 2.3. An overview of magazine advertisements

2.3.1. An overview of advertisement Definition of advertisement For a better understanding, it is recommended that the definition of “advertisement” be derived from that of “advertising”, which in turn has been defined by several attempts. Among them, Arens & Bov’ee (1994, p. 6) has proposed that “advertising is non-personal communication of information, usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature, about products (goods and services) or ideas by identified sponsors through various media.” Wells, Brunett & Moriarty (1992, p. 10) reinforced the same sense of the definition in theirs, “advertising is paid non-personal communication from an identified sponsor using mass media to persuade or influence an audience.” A simpler definition has been put forward by Fletcher (2010), according to whom, advertising is “a paid-for communication intended to inform and/or persuade one or more people”.


Although the wording may vary, the same key points were emphasized across the definitions. First is the fact that advertising is “paid-for”, which highlights the economic impact of advertising by its nature. As businesses pay for advertising, they have full control regarding the form, content or placement of the advertisements. Secondly, advertising is “communication” as it bridges the gap between the sender of the message, producers and advertisers, and the receiver, the consumers. Whether by verbal or non-verbal means, advertising must be able to convey a certain message from the people who create it to the people who are exposed to it. Last but not least is the goal of advertising either to inform and/or to persuade people, aiming at a certain response towards what is advertised. Failing to serve this purpose, an

advertisement can hardly be considered one. As a matter of fact, there is a difference between the term “advertising” and “advertisement”. The former emphasizes on the action, referring to the process whereas the latter directs at the end result of such process. Nevertheless, “the words are used interchangeably”, according to Fletcher (2010, p.1). Therefore, in this study, “advertisements” are understood as those characterized by the three key points aforementioned, similar to “advertising”. Classification of advertisements To classify advertisements, numerous criteria can be applied, resulting in a variety of advertising types. But the most common and allembracing basis, according to Vu (2009), categorises advertisements in accordance to their objectives and the means of mass media utilized.






advertisements into three main groups as follows. (1) Commercial advertisements: include advertisements created for the economic purpose, specifically, to boost the sales of a certain product. Depending on the stage of the product’s life cycle, the advertisements can be pioneering, competitive or retentive only. (2) Non-commercial advertisements: include advertisements

usually made by non-profit organizations aiming at the awareness or seeking certain responses of a community toward a social issue, e.g. AIDS, road traffic safety, national security, etc. (3) Institutional advertisements: include advertisements focusing on the promotion of the brand or the companies rather than a specific product. The purpose of this genre of advertisements is to help brands earn favour, make good impression and build trust in not only consumers but partners and the general public alike. Media-based classification, on the other hand, separates advertisements into four main groups as follows. (1) Print advertisements: are those presented to the viewers in the form of paper and ink, either featured in newspapers and magazines or as separated brochures or fliers. The print media has been exploited for the purpose of advertising since its early stage of development. Newspapers and magazines sell spaces in their issues for advertising agencies and the cost the agencies

have to pay depends on several factors, for instance, the position of the advertisements, the size, the frequency of appearance. (2) Outdoor advertisements: the most common examples of this genre are advertisements placed on billboards, kiosks and through events. For example, to promote the launching of a movie, the posters can be put on several billboards on the street whereas signing events can be organized for fans of the cast. (3) Broadcast advertisements: exploit on-air means such as television, radio and most recently, the Internet to approach consumers. Compared to the other genre, advertisements in this form have the advantage of not only the inanimate visual factors but that of audio and motion as well. (4) Covert advertisements: differs from the other genres for its sense of subtlety. Sometimes referred to as “product placement” or “embedded marketing”, covert advertisements result from the agencies’ attempt to avoid blatant advertisements which may cause consumers’ boredom and refusal. Instead, in covert advertisements, the products are placed in other context, most popularly in movies or TV series. The brand may not be mentioned clearly but the appearance or reference of the product is inserted to a recognizable extent. Overall, the collection of advertisements to serve as the subjects of this study did not exclude any of the three genres of the objective-based advertisements, but limited to those of print media, more specifically, those featured in magazines according to the media-based criterion.

24 Advertisement and culture That culture is shared and can be learnt is considered its characteristics. Understandably the popular utilization of advertisements via mass media outlets such as magazines grants them the role of one of the most important transmitter. By looking at advertisements, one can learn certain features about the culture of the group they target. It is hardly arguable that advertisements, magazines’ included, are controlled by cultural differences. The ultimate goal of advertisements and for which they are created is to persuade their viewer to purchase the products. And to successfully carry out such mission, according to Goffman (1979), advertisements need to originate from the target consumers themselves, to express their beliefs, values and attitudes towards the world. Studies on advertising appeals showed that the level of emphasis placed on advertising appeals differ across cultures. For example, more emotional and fewer comparative appeals have been found in Japanese advertisements compared to those in the US, which parallels with the importance the two cultures attach with these values in everyday life (Hong, Muderrisoglu and Zinkhan, 1987). Similarly, where respect towards parents and the elderly are almost compelled like in Vietnamese culture, advertisements displaying signs of inappropriate attitude may result in a negative reception. Non-verbal behaviours such as winking or pointing with fingers may have dissimilar interpretation across culture. As a result, to ensure the effectiveness of advertisements, it is essential that creators of advertisements be aware of such cultural


distinctiveness. They do research into the culture, making sure to show the appreciation as well as submission towards its distinctive features in their works to gain viewers’ favour. Depending on the receptive culture, the same product may be introduced in a totally different advertisement, exploiting a brand new appeal. Thus advertisements somehow turn out to be a mirror reflecting the cultural characteristics of their target consumers. The role of advertisements may even exceed that of a mirror as they are also believed to have the power to “shape or affect the cultural values of its consumers over time” (Pollay, 1986). Rather than simply depicting the reality, advertisements in general and particularly magazine advertisements has become “an integral part of modern culture” (Campbell, 200, p. 352) which “reinforce and strengthen many social values, norms and stereotype of its audience” (McQuail, 1994). For example, before Gerard Lambert came up with his series of print advertisements for Listerine, the prominent mouthwash, unpleasant mouth odour had never been considered so offensive. But the Lambert’s headlines made it the reason for young women to be “Often a Bridesmaid but Never a Bride”, the kind of problem that “Even your friend won’t tell you”, which seemed so worrisome that they started to wonder “Could I be happy with him in spite of that?” The success of Listerine gave rise to that of Odorono the underarm deodorant, Palmolive the perfume for skin and Lifebouy the soap. In the end, the sensitiveness of Americans toward the body odor became somewhat of an obsession. Until 1920s, most American bathed only once a week, rarely washed their hair and soaps were said to smell worse than body odor. In contrast, “Americans today


spend almost $4 billion a year on products whose only purpose is to alter natural body odors, odors unsmelled a generation ago!” (Twitchell, 2000, p.62). People want to smell good and telling another person that he or she has bad breath or unpleasant body odor is considered rude. As a result, it can be concluded that Listerine’s and other deodorants’ partially shaped the attitude of American people, its target consumers, towards body odor thus proving the cultural impact of advertisements. Overall, advertisements including those featured in magazines and culture share a bilateral relation. Some distinctive features of culture are reflected in advertisements whereas others are influenced and even formed by advertisements themselves. Researching on advertisements in different forms of mass media in countries can bring about a better understanding of their unique cultures. This is also the foundation for the researcher to carry out this study on gender role in American and Vietnamese culture as reflected in magazine advertisements. 2.3.2. An overview of magazine History of magazine The development of magazine as a form of print media “published periodically at regular intervals like fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, annually” to “serve the educational, informational and entertainment needs of readers” (Trehan, 2006, p.99) dated back to the early eighteenth century in the history of humankind, before the birth of mass media. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (2011), the world’s first magazine, despite the more book-like appearance, is largely believed to be The Gentleman’s Magazine, which also originally coined the term


“magazine” for its genre. Founded by Edward Cave in England in 1971, The Gentleman’s Magazine was initially introduced to the readers as a storehouse which collected articles and essays from other publications and started to publish works of its own later on in 1738, followed by a number of counterparts all over the world. However, it was not until 1800s that magazine began to extend its appeal to public readers. Before S.S. McClure dropped the price of his general-interest McClure's magazine to only 15 cents, magazines were confined to readers from the upper classes only because of its elite content, expensive price and costly distribution fee. Such “lowestcommon-denominator approach” (Kleiner, 1979) earned the magazine great success and opened up a new era for magazines, bringing them the broader readership of average citizens thus the more remarkable economic benefits. At this point, magazines still looked more like books. According to Kleiner (1979), magazines then were described to have “no headlines or continued stories, and pictures were confined to within columns” and readers consequently formed the habit of starting “at the very first page and read straight through, column by column, until the end. People didn't flick through or skim, and magazine layouts didn't encourage them to.” The turning point for the format of magazines came later with the increasing use of illustrations, initially in the form of sketches and drawings and later progressed onto photographs. In mid 1900s, the invasion of advertisements, the higher demand on the display and the changing attitude towards the quality of magazines assisted by the more


advanced printing technology caused magazines their last transformation into the modern slick looks, spreading from fashion magazines onwards. Classification of magazine Although there are different bases to classify magazines, the simplest way is to base on their frequency of publication. Accordingly, magazines can be divided into daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, annual, etc. However, as far as the content is concerned, according to Trehan (2006), the genres of magazines fall into five main categories as follows: (1) Consumer magazines or general interest magazines include those whose target is the general readers. Magazines of this genre normally focus on a wide range of topics. For example, the Harpers’ Magazine is one of the most popular general interest magazines in the United State which consists of publications on literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts in every issue. (2) Special interest magazines are distinguishable from the previous genre in the way they are devoted to a more particular topic in all issues so as to satisfy a segment of readers in the market only. As a result, they can be sub-divided into (i) those with a specific group of readers targeted e.g. men’s and women’s, kids’, housewives’ magazine and (ii) those differentiated from others based on the topics in focus, e.g. magazines with concentration on fashion, architecture or craft.


(3) Business magazines contain publications that deal with the topic of business and trade hence the favour by traders, dealers, manufacturers and groups of readers who are involved in the field. (4) Regional magazines refer to magazines which have circulation within a particular geographical region. (5) Professional magazines are meant to satisfy the needs of people for specific groups of professionals. The content of the magazines belonging to this genre may require a certain level of academic background knowledge. To best serve the purpose of this study, magazines of general interests and special interests were selected for the large number of viewers they target. More importantly, for special interest magazine, men’s and women’s magazines would show how the genders view the roles of themselves whereas general interests provide the viewpoint of common readers, undivided by gender. 2.3.3. An overview of magazine advertisements History of magazine advertisements Certainly, the invention and progress of magazines played an important role in the history of magazine advertisements. When magazines succeeded in approaching a larger number of readers in the late nineteenth century, advertisers started to take an interest in them as a potential channel to promote products thus the explosion of magazine advertisements. Kleiner (1979) argued that this phenomenon was not solely because of the advantages advertisers saw in magazines but also


owing to the contribution of other external factors, especially the industrial and economic elevation at the time. For instance, the introduction of plate glass windows in the early twentieth century paved the way for the appearance of large department stores which later became the subjects of one of the most expensive early advertisements in the history. Nevertheless, the co-evolution and mutual dependency of advertising and mass media were undeniable, particularly between advertising and magazine. Magazines offered the space for advertisers to promote their products; advertisers boosted the economic benefits of magazine publishers. Thanks to the success of magazine advertisements, advertising agencies were established, carrying out research, turning the business into a real industry. For the advertisements, magazines’ page size was also standardized and to compete with the advertisements for the attention of readers, magazines had to adapt advertising-type graphics as well. If the magazine fails to attract readers, advertisers are exposed to the threat of losing channels to approach their consumers, however, without the advertisements; the chance of survival in the market for some magazines may be easily devastated. The history of magazine advertisements, therefore, does not only involve the history of magazine but also that of advertisements and the special relationship they share. Classification of magazine advertisements The most conventional classification of magazine advertisements is based on its position in the issue. This divides the advertisements into classified advertising and display advertising. The former can be found


when the second half or a particular section of the magazine is dedicated for advertisements only. The advertisements in the classified section are arranged according to the type of products being introduced. Display advertising describes the positioning of advertisements alongside the editorial content of the magazines. The rates, the cost of the magazine advertisement, may depend on such certain display positions. Another way to categorise the advertisements, enumerated by Altstile (2006), provides a more detailed insight into the format of the magazine advertisements which basic unit is the page. Variations in advertisements, therefore, are caused by the amount of page or spaces allowed.
Variations Spreads Half-page spreads Half-page vertical /horizontal Quarter-page/ third-page fractional Island Advertorial Anywhere on the page, surrounded by the editorial content A portion of the advertisement looks like the editorial content but overall contain the message of the advertisers Single page at the front and/or the back Multiple pages in the issue Placements Two facing pages A horizontal format on both sides of two facing pages with editorial above or below the advertisement The outside half of the page if vertical, the bottom half if horizontal The corner or the outer edge of the page


Table 1: Magazine advertisement formats (Altstile, 2006)


For the best view of the visual elements, only advertisements that cover at least half of the page were selected to be the subject of this study, eliminating quarter-page/third-page fractional, island and inserts. For advertorial, if the images were not as large as a quarter of the page, it would be considered of no use as well. Components of a magazine advertisements Despite the variability of magazine advertisements, Ogilvy (1983), one of the most prominent figures in the industry, generalised from his experience and research that they are composed of the five key factors as follows.

Figure 3: Components of a magazine advertisement (Ogilvy, 1983) More importantly, he insisted on the decisiveness of each factor to the success of the advertisements in magazines. Accordingly, in Ogilvy’s opinion, the headline played the most crucial importance because the research that he and his team conducted had showed that “five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that


unless your headline sells your products, you have wasted 90% of your money.” (Ogilvy, 1983, p.71) The significance of the illustration as the main attention grabber of the magazine advertisement hardly needs any explanation, simply because “a picture is worth thousand words”. Another important result of Ogilvy’s research was that “readers look first at the illustration, then at the headline, then at the copy”. Consequently, he strongly recommended advertisement creators to set the layout of their works in that order for the best effectiveness. The proportion of a successful advertisement, according to him, should leave about 65% of the allowed space for the illustration. As for the caption, their research also pointed out that four times as many readers read captions as body copy. The body copy turned out to be the most likely to be ignored as only five percent of readers actually spared time on them, which reasoned Ogilvy’s advice for copywriters to try to keep it brief. As time went by, certain changes have been made to the components of magazine advertisements. What is unlikely to change is the fact that both visual and verbal elements contribute to the success of a magazine advertisement. However, to avoid ambiguity and ensure the objectivity of the findings, this study chose to focus on the visual element of American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements to investigate into the gender role reflection.

34 Advantages and disadvantages of magazine advertisements Both Trehan (2006) and Altstiel (2006) along with many advertisers and researchers of the field have recommended magazine advertisements for their following qualities compared to other forms of media. (1) Selectivity: Most magazines set a clear target reader for them which makes it easier for the advertisers to identify and come up with designs that appeal to each group of customers the best. (2) Printing quality: Compared to newspaper and other forms of print media, magazines are printed on better quality paper and colours, which adds more to the attractiveness of the advertisements. (3) Long life span: Magazines tend to last longer than newspaper and can be re-read for quite some time after the published date. (4) Design flexibility: With varied sizes, colours, pages and placements, magazines offer the designers of advertisements more options. (5) Credibility: Some magazines provide the advertisements with more prestige. Just by placing the advertisements in the issue, the advertisers can earn more of the consumers’ trust. (6) Leisure Readership: Magazine readers normally enjoy the publications at a relaxing manner without any pressure, with greater interest and for a longer time, the chance for the advertisements to deliver the intended message thus is higher.


On the contrary, there are certain limitations to the effectiveness of magazine advertisements, some of which was reported by Trehan (2006) as follows. (1) Limited reach: Magazines are still not the media form that is capable of reaching the largest number of consumers, especially in the modern time of Internet and decreasing reading habit. Moreover, some magazines are only regional, which limits the expansion of the advertisements’ popularity. In addition, magazines are quite costly compared to other print media. (2) Long lead time: Normally it takes months or even years for a magazine to be designed and placed in a magazine. Therefore, it might be challenging to keep the advertisements up-to-date with the consumers’ needs. (3) Excessive amount: The numbers of advertisements included in an issue automatically lessens the chance to be noticed for one. (4) Delayed readership: The leisurely nature of magazines might prevent readers from reading them immediately. Short-term campaigns, as a result, may go to waste. (5) Disadvantages of print media: Similar to other print media, magazines fail to provide audio or animated effects to illustrate the use of the products. In general, as this kind of advertisements were only allowed a certain area of space on the page of the magazine and limited to inanimate effects, the images in magazine advertisements need to be well selected. Along with the excellent printing quality, these features of magazine advertisements made them the ideal subjects for the focus of this study.



Previous study on gender role reflection in magazine advertisements

The messages to the public about gender role embedded in magazine advertisements have been the centre of a large number of studies all over the world, especially in the U.S. The objects of the studies vary from the investigation into the reflected role of one gender in one culture to that of both genders to the extension beyond the geographical boundaries for a cross-cultural insight. One of the earliest studies on the subject is that of Courtney and Lockeretz (1971) who studied the portrayals of the genders in their functional roles (family role, working role, recreational role and decorative role), in their relationship with each other and with the products they are chosen to advertise. The findings were listed as follows by Kang (1997). Women were rarely shown in out-of-home working roles. Not many women were shown as a professional or high-level business person. Women rarely ventured far from home by themselves or with other women. Women were shown as dependent on men's protection. Men were shown regarding women as sex objects or as domestic adjuncts. Females were most often shown in ads for cleaning products, food products, beauty products, drugs, clothing, and home appliances.


Males were most often shown in ads for cars, travel, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, banks, industrial products, entertainment media, and industrial companies (p. 92-95). The most popular analytic framework was constructed by Erving Goffman (1979) on the base of “behavior displays” including the postures, gestures, sizes, positions and placements of the models in print advertisements. Gender role, therefore, was reflected in five categories: (1) Relative Size: refers to the difference in the size of male and female portrayal in advertisements, especially in height. (2) The Feminine: refers to the use of fingers and hands to trace the outlines of an object which is distinguishable from grasping or holding. (3) Function Rank: refers to the rank in occupations of male and female individuals, whether male or female models are portrayed in the executive role. (4) The Ritualization of Subordination: refers to the postures of the models, whether or not they show expressions of submission or superiority. (5) Licensed Withdrawal: refers to portrayal of models which remove them psychologically the social situation e.g. turning one's gaze away from another's or maintaining a telephone conversation The result accordingly was that women were more often depicted in a position lower or beneath men, in subordinate career roles and as emotionally withdrawn and disoriented.

The development of Goffman’s framework has given rise to an explosion in the number of women as well as gender role portrayal in magazine advertisements, for example, Bretl & Cantor (1988); Courtney & Whipple, (1974); Reichert, Lambiase, Morgan, Carstarphen, & Zavoina, (1999). Only a few improvements in the portrayal of women, however, are visible from the findings of these studies, even in those researching on samples chosen over a long period of time, for instance, from 1979 to 1991 in Kang (1999) or 1955-2002 of Lindner (2004). It is a common finding in these studies that compared to the earlier days; women are portrayed with more independence and more diverse roles other than sexual and family-oriented ones. Yet the balance in the roles of the genders is not highly achievable shortly in the future as seen in these studies. Another trend prevailing among the recent studies on gender role portrayals, which possibly resulted from the rising popularity of cultural exchange among countries as well as the mere concentration on the subject in the US previously, is the comparison and contrast between the US and another country. Crossed over the language barriers, these studies managed to point out the relatable and distinguishable features in gender role portrayals in magazine advertisements not only between the US and similar Western cultures like the UK (Lysonski, 1985; Mitchell and Taylor, 1990), Germany (Robbins & Paksoy, 1989; Piron and Young, 1996) or Poland (Skorek & Schreier (2009) but extending to countries of typical Eastern cultures like Japan (Maynard & Taylor, 1999) and Korea (Kang, 1997) as well.


Especially, to compare and contrast the reflection of gender role in magazine advertisements from the US, Germany and Poland, Skorek & Schreier (2009) have developed a typology to investigate into the different roles that the genders are portrayed in. The typology is composed of three types of role that these researchers consider the most important: (1) Working/nonworking role (Courtney and Lockeretz, 1971), (2) Product-related role (3) Dominance role (Goffman, 1976; Klassen et al., 1993) Further explanation on each category can be viewed in the figure 5 below. The advantage of this typology is that it is the synthesis of the framework constructed by previous researchers. However, there seems to be some unclear and overlapping points among the categories, for example between the “decorative role” and the “symbolic role”. The inclusion of “decorative role” in the “working/non-working” category is quite questionable. Moreover, it is unnecessary to divide the “productrelated role” into user, endorser and symbolic roles. If it were only to show which products were conventionally associated with which gender, a checklist of common products would do the task better. In shorts, the researcher of this research would adapt this typology but rearrange the roles into family-oriented role, working role, recreational role, and decorative/symbolic role. More specific roles would also be investigated for the first three categories.


Table 2: Types of gender roles in Skorek & Schreier (2009) The findings of such cross-cultural studies vary across the targeted countries representing the similarities and differences in their diverse cultures. Nonetheless, together they completed the global portrayal of gender role in our time to some extent. As hardly any similar research has been carried out between the US and Vietnam, this study attempted to point out the similarities and differences between the two cultures in terms of gender roles and submit the Vietnamese piece into the jigsaw to provide a broader and more objective view of gender role reflection in magazine advertisements all over the world.


CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY 3.1. Research method To implement the study, the researcher chose to apply the method of quantitative content analysis, briefly defined by Weber (1990, p.9) as “a research method that uses a set of procedures to make valid inferences from text”, which can be “about the sender(s) of the message, the message itself or the audience of the message.” In other words, “content analysis is any research technique for making inferences by

systematically and objectively identifying specified characteristics within text.” (Stone, Dunphy, Smith & Ogilvie, 1966, p.5). The objective of content analysis, according to Lasswell (1951) should be directed towards the questions, “Who says what, to whom, why, to what extent and with what effect?” The method is applied on the basis that “text, images and expressions are created to be seen, read, interpreted and acted on their meanings, and must, therefore, be analyzed with such uses in mind.” (Krippendorff, 2004). The purposes of content analysis, therefore, include: Disclose international differences in communication content Describe trends in communication content Identify the intentions and other characteristics of the communicators Describe attitudinal and behavioral responses to communications Reflect cultural patterns of groups, institutions or societies


Reveal the focus of individual, group, institutional or societal attention. (Weber, 1990, p.9) Content analysis was chosen as the method for this study as the researcher intended to investigate into the gender roles in American and Vietnamese cultures as reflected in the two countries’ magazine advertisements. 3.2. Selection of subjects 3.2.1. Selection of advertisements As earlier defined, the focus of this study was on Vietnamese and American magazine advertisements; it was the advertisements from the two countries’ magazines that were chosen as the subjects for data collection and data analysis. More importantly, although the message of advertisements is conveyed via both visual and verbal elements, as earlier cited, studies showed that the visual elements, specifically the illustrations play the most prominent role; advertisements featuring male and female models would be selected for this study. Besides, the purpose of the study was to investigate the gender role reflection of Vietnam and the United States; therefore, the advertisements must be those created and published in the two countries. Last but not least, the study focused on the situation of 2010, certainly, the advertisements had to be featured in magazines published in the same year.


3.2.2. Selection of magazines For a balanced selection of magazines and advertisements within, three genres were finalized: general interest, men’s and women’s. The former genre would show how the genders view the roles of each other whereas the two latter display how the roles of each gender were presented to themselves. The selection of magazines from these three genres, therefore, would help avoid the bias resulting from single-sex audience. The major titles of each genre from the two countries were chosen according to the 2009/2010 report on World Magazine Trends of IFPP (International Federation of the Periodical Press) to consist of: Genre United States of America General Interest Reader’s Digest The New Yorker Men’s Magazine Women’s Magazine Playboy Maxim Thanh nien tuan san Kien thuc ngay nay The thao van hoa & Dan ong Phong cach & Dan ong Cosmopolitan O, The Oprah Magazine Dep Tiep thi & Gia dinh Vietnam

Table 3: Selection of magazine titles In general, four issues of each title would be selected, resulting in a total of 48 issues. For monthlies, one issue from each quarter of 2010 was chosen. For weeklies, four issues of each title were chosen at random.


3.3. Procedures of data collection After finalizing the selection of magazine titles and issues, the researcher moved on to collect the issues in both Vietnam and the United States. For Vietnamese issues, as the year of the study’s implementation was 2011, the magazines of the previously were available at secondhand book stores in Hanoi. Moreover, the researcher received the support of friends and acquaintances that subscribed to some of the titles and stored up the 2010 issues. Therefore, the researchers met hardly any trouble finding the right Vietnamese titles and gathering the right number of issues. The task was a little more challenging for American magazines. At first, the researcher wanted to apply the same strategy as for Vietnamese issues - purchasing the American titles available both in Vietnam and the United States. However, it did not bring in desired results because of the budget limit and geographical distance. The researcher then decided to turn to the Internet for scanned versions of the issues, mostly from, a recommended website for links to download scanned newspapers and magazines published in different countries including the United States. For some titles, the full collection of all the 2010 issues was offered. Once the issues were gathered, the advertisements were separated and stored according to the magazines’ genre. The procedure of data collection from both Vietnam and the United States thus was a success, providing the researcher with sufficient data to proceed to the next step of the study. The result of the data collection procedure is presented in the following table.


United States of America


General Interest Reader’s Digest (33) The New Yorker (29) Men’s Magazine Playboy (33) Maxim (35)

Thanh nien tuan san (26) Kien thuc ngay nay (17) The thao van hoa & Dan ong (34) Phong cach & Dan ong (25)

Women’s Magazine

Cosmopolitan (202) O, The Oprah Magazine (108)

Dep (85) Tiep thi & Gia dinh (195)




Table 4: Selection of magazine advertisements 3.4. Procedures of data analysis To analyze the data, the researcher decided to make use of the typology of Skorek & Schreier (2009) with some adjustment. As previously elaborated, the studied gender roles would consist of six main categories. The first three roles including familial role, working role and recreational role were based on the context of the advertisements. The user/endorser role and decorative/symbolic role reflects the relationship between the male and female models and the products being advertised. The last one, dominant role, helped the researcher draw the conclusion about the assertive and submissive role of the genders in interaction. (1) Familial role: advertisements portraying male and female models in a family or household context would be placed in this category.


Furthermore, to study the specific work division in the family, the researcher provided the familial roles into three sub-categories as follows. Doing children-related tasks e.g. educating, feeding, caring for the children, Doing household chores e.g. cooking, doing the laundry and Others e.g. decorating the house, fixing household

appliances, or simply posing as a family (2) Working role: advertisements showing models working outside the household, either doing the job or in working attire would be categorised here. Two sub-categories were applied to study the working roles of the genders. Fields of work: This sub-category was partially adopted from that of Skorek & Schreier (2009) to include the most common areas of employment, some of which were conventionally believed to suit one gender better than other e.g. business for males and education for females. Responsibility at work: This category was exploited to survey the ranking at work of the genders. At the same workplace, it is believed that males tend to take the higher position with more responsibility. For example, if the setting of the advertisement was a factory and the boss was featured, there was a high chance that it was a male. The inclusion of this category was to testify such belief, to identify the gender


with higher chance to take the superior rank of responsibility at work. (3) Recreational role: advertisements displaying models doing things for enjoyment when they are not working would be placed in this category. “Sports”, “arts”, “shopping”, “drinking” and “others” (e.g. watching TV, chatting, playing games) were chosen among the typical activities. Through this category, the gender assumed to have a greater tendency of taking the recreational role was expected to be revealed. (4) User/Endorser role: Skorek & Schreier (2009) exploited this category with three subs: “user”, “endorser” and “symbolic” role. However, as explained earlier, the first two sub-categories slightly overlapped and the separation hardly supported the focus of the study. When a model appeared in the role of an endorser, it could be inferred that he or she must have used the product beforehand to qualify the recommendation. As a result, to study this role, the researcher decided to join the first sub-categories and form the user/endorser categories to see which products were more likely to be advertised by which gender. (5) Decorative/Symbolic role: Advertisements in this category depend on the male and female models’ aesthetics or sexual appeal to assure the successful communication of the intended message. Models would be depicted without the implication of the user or endorser role, merely employed for decorative or symbolic purpose. For example, in the following advertisement, the target consumer of the watch was not females, yet there was a female

model making an appearance. The intended message in this advertisement did not take too far an inference: the beautiful features of the watch are comparable to that of a female. This category helped the researcher find out from which gender the aesthetic or sexual appeals were more likely to be exploited.

Figure 4: American female model in symbolic role

Figure 5: American female model in dominant role

(6) Dominant role: Advertisements in which the male and female models acting opposite each other would be studied for this category to identify the one with greater control of the situation. The dominant role was constructed based on the works of Goffman (1976) and Klassen et al (1993). Based on the focus of the illustration, the posture of the models, the hand placement, etc. these advertisements could be classified into traditional (i.e. male dominate), reverse (i.e. female dominate) or equal model of dominance. For example, in the above advertisement, the female


was the focus of the picture, looking straight into the camera, her hand placement and the higher position indicated that she was the one with predominance. This example, therefore, exhibited the reverse model of dominance where females gain control of the situation. The above categories of roles were examined objectively and independently from one another. A checklist (available in Appendix A) was utilized to study the advertisements, role by role and culture after culture. Comparison and contrast were made between the genders within one culture first, followed by that across the cultures of the United States and Vietnam. The results were then counted and presented in charts and tables for explanation and further discussion.


CHAPTER 4: RESULTS AND DISCUSSION 4.1. Findings about gender roles as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements As earlier mentioned in chapter 3, the findings are presented in this chapter centering the roles of the genders in accordance with the context of the advertisements (family role, working role and recreational role), the product being advertised (user/endorser role and decorative/symbolic role) and dominance in case of simultaneous appearance in the advertisements (dominance role). 4.1.1. Genders’ familial role
100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Female Male 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Female Male

Charts 1&2: Genders’ familial roles as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements


The chart above illustrated the domestic role division between the genders in American and Vietnamese cultures as shown in a total of 140 magazine advertisements. Accordingly, in both cultures, it is the female models that are more often depicted in the household context or with family members. The rate of female models’ appearance in the advertisements of both the United States and Vietnam stay as high as 80 percent, dominating their male counterparts by four times in both cultures. The division in specific domestic roles, on the other hand, sees some differences between the two cultures. In the United States, childrenrelated tasks are exclusively performed by female models. Similarly, in Vietnam, that nearly 80 percent of these are taken charge of by females suggests a more active involvement of the males in offspring issues, that they do take part in the provision of the children’s education, nutrition and affection. Regarding household chores, an equal ratio was recorded between American males and females portrayed in the advertisements, indicating the egalitarian share between the two genders. In Vietnam, however, only 10 percent of the male models are depicted involving in the housework. As for the other familial tasks e.g. decorating the house or fixing the appliances, in both cultures, females continued to dominate as only 25 and 30 percent of male models could be found doing these tasks in American and Vietnamese advertisements respectively. Overall, despite the fairly distinctive rate in the division of children-related tasks and household chores, in both cultures, there is a higher chance for a female model to be featured in magazine advertisements set in household and family context.

4.1.2. Genders’ working role Fields of work
5 2

Business Construction Service Health/Medicine Art

9 9 10 12 0

4 13 Male 6 3 0 1 Female

Education Security Others

4 4







Business Construction Service Health/Medicine Art Sport Education Security Others

10 2 3 8 11 10


8 6 12 Male 2 Female









Charts 3&4: Genders’ fields of work as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements


The charts in the previous page displayed the common fields of work preferred for the genders as reflected in 187 advertisements from American and Vietnamese magazines. In the American chart, it can be seen that female workers account for the larger percentage only in educational (100%) and artistic jobs (nearly 60%) compared to their male counterparts. The percentage of workers in other fields of work is led by men, including security (100%), business and health/medicine (70%), followed by sports (60%). A relatively equal ratio between the genders can be found in service jobs. As for the Vietnamese chart, on the other hand, service industry is the only fields of work that female employees take up the higher percentage (70%) compared to male counterparts. In other fields, it is male that account for the greater rate of employment, specifically, construction (100%), sport (80%), business and health/medicine (60%). Art is the only field which sees quite an equal division between the genders. No male or female model is found doing educational jobs or security in Vietnamese advertisements. Overall, in both cultures, it can be concluded that more male than female models are portrayed in working roles. Male workers also take up the higher percentage in a larger number of working fields, i.e. business, health/medicine and sports.

54 Responsibility at work
100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Hig her Low er Female Male 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% High er Low er Female Male

Female Male



Female Male



Charts 5&6: Genders’ responsibility at work as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements The above charts describe the responsibility at work of the genders according to the portrayal of magazine advertisements. The Vietnamese chart sees the percentage of male workers with higher responsibility at work is 8.5 times as high as that of the female counterparts. Reversely, the chance of female workers assigned with lower responsibility doubles that of male. A more moderate ratio, on the other hand, is visible in the American chart. Regarding the higher responsibility at work, there is a relative equivalence of possibility between the genders. As for the lower positions, a slightly higher percentage of 60 percent were recorded among males.


4.1.3. Genders’ recreational role

100% 90% 80%


60% 50% 33




Female Male

30% 20% 8 11 0 Shopping 0 2






100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Others Sports Arts 3 21 7 1 4 45 14


13 Female Male

2 Drinking Shopping

Charts 7&8: Genders’ recreational role as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements


The charts in the previous page illustrated the recreational role of the genders in American and Vietnamese culture reflected in their magazine advertisements. The American chart showed female individuals as the one with more recreational roles featuring in 53 over 76 advertisements. Except for drinking, the recreational activity enjoyed exclusively by males, more females models have been found involved in arts (60%) and sports (65%). No advertisements depicting male and female models shopping can be collected from the chosen American magazine issues. A rather striking resemblance can be viewed in Vietnamese statistics as 76 out of 110 advertisements choose females to portray in recreational role. Drinking is also portrayed as the recreational restricted for male. Furthermore, there is a similar dominance in the percentage of female models enjoying arts and sports. Shopping is the additional recreational activities of Vietnamese females and males and yet another one involving 70 percent more of the former compared to the latter. 4.1.4. Genders’ user/endorser role In the following page firstly is the table displaying the products (ranked in descending order) in which advertisements female models tend to appear at a higher percentage than their male counterparts. Evidently, though at different rate, the products which advertisements feature more females than males in both cultures are very similar. The second table ranking the products which use more male models in their advertisements also sees such resemblance, except for cigarettes as advertisements for this product are banned in Vietnam. Another similarity, understandably,


is the relatively equal rate of females’ and males’ appearance in advertisements for vehicles and sport equipments and services. Rank 1 2 3 4 5 United States Educational products & services 100% Beauty products & services 90% Clothing & accessories 88% Food 85% Non-alcoholic drinks 76% Medical products & services 76% Household facilities 60% Media & Entertainment 56% 8 Media & Entertainment 65% Table 5: Ranking of products which advertisements feature more females than males Rank United States Financial services 1 58% 2 Alcoholic drinks 57% Cigarettes 57% Table 6: Ranking of products which advertisements feature more males than females Financial services 56% Vietnam Alcoholic drinks 67% Vietnam Educational products & services 100% Beauty products & services 92% Clothing & accessories 79% Food 73% Household facilities 72%


Non-alcoholic drinks 68% Medical products & services 66%



4.1.5. Genders’ decorative/symbolic role
100% 24 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% US Vietnam 4 2 Female Male 14

Chart 9: Genders’ decorative/symbolic role as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements The chart above illustrated the comparison and contrast of the genders’ decorative/symbolic role as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements. From the chart, it can be said that there is a remarkable resemblance in the rate of the genders featured in the two cultures’ advertisements for the purpose of decoration or symbolism. More importantly, in both cultures, it is the females that take up the higher rate of decorative/ symbolic appearance as 85 percent of the advertisements depicted female models in this role.


4.1.6. Genders’ dominant role


Male dominate Female dominate Equal 28%


Male dominate Female dominate Equal



Charts 10&11: Genders’ dominant role as reflected in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements The above charts demonstrated the rate of the dominant role of the two genders as shown in magazine advertisements of the US and Vietnam. The dominant role of the genders was found in advertisements where male and females model acting opposite each other and determined by several factors such as the focus of the photos, the postures of the models, hand placement, etc. Accordingly, because the percentage of male dominance in the advertisements almost doubles that of female dominance and is six times higher than the equal portrayals, it can be pointed out from the Vietnamese chart that males are more likely to be the dominant one if both genders are featured. On the other hand, in the American chart, there is quite a balanced ratio between male and female dominance. Additionally, the percentage of equal role between the genders in American advertisements doubles that of Vietnamese counterparts.


4.2. Implications about gender roles in American and Vietnamese cultures The statistics above carry certain implications about the gender role in American and Vietnamese culture, which is elaborated with some illustrative examples from the collected advertisements in this part of the paper. Full view of the advertisements is available in Appendix B. 4.2.1. Genders’ familial role Firstly, that in both cultures, the magazine advertisements show a higher tendency for the female models to appear in the domestic setting indicates the strong association of females with their traditional roles mothers or housewives. It means that for the people, it is more common for a woman rather than a man to be in charge of the household’s functioning. Furthermore, when comparing the number of advertisements set in familial context with that in workplace, the researcher has found that 70 percent Vietnamese females are portrayed in familial role instead of working role. This rate in the American advertisements, on the other hand, is only about 40 percent. The implication, therefore, is the stronger preference of Vietnamese people for the traditional role of females as the familial devotee. The division in the specific roles, however, shows some slight differences between the two cultures. Firstly, children-related tasks, including the provision of education, affection and nutrition, are traditionally believed to be females’ responsibilities owing to their maternal nature as illustrated in the following Vietnamese advertisement

in Figure 5 (full view available in Appendix). In this example, all of the three tasks as listed above are implied to be solely implemented by a female - the mother of the child. The significant role of female has been further affirmed in the American magazine advertisements as no sample featuring male models as the father figure can be found among the selected subjects.

Figure 6: Vietnamese model in child-related tasks

Figure 7: Vietnamese male model in children-related tasks

In Vietnam, on the other hand, the rate does indicate a more active involvement of the male gender in children related tasks. However, while a number of advertisements show female models carrying out the tasks with children individually, most Vietnamese males appear alongside their spouses and play a rather more indirect or subordinate role compared to the latter. In figure 2, for example, the mother is the one who actually sits down with the child and directly takes her hand to teach her how to write


whereas the role of the father is limited at standing further to the back and watches them from above. The composition of the models in this advertisement also implies that although the father in Vietnamese family is not the main task-doer at home, he is the one with the higher rank of status, monitoring the household’s functioning. Regarding the household chores, mostly doing the laundry or cooking, the statistics proves a reverse trend in which American males appear more active as they share half of the work with females. To Vietnamese, on the other hand, doing household chores still seems to affect negatively the image of the male individuals in the family. As the result, the portrayal of male models taking care of the housework in Vietnamese advertisements is at the lower percentage and tends to be more of an implication.

Figure 8: American male model in household chores

Figure 9: Vietnamese male model in household chores


For example, in figure 5, the male model featured in an American cookware advertisement is portrayed in the kitchen, actually preparing the meals for the guests. In figure 6, however, the Vietnamese model who is supposed to take the similar role only takes as far as wearing the apron. Generally, it can be concluded that, although domestic tasks are still strongly believed to be the responsibility of chiefly the females, as suggested in the advertisements, in both American and Vietnamese cultures, it is of a more and more common trend for males to help their partners ease the burden. On a side note, the fact that among 140 advertisements featuring male and female in familial roles, 75 percent are taken from Vietnamese advertisements shows the great value the Vietnamese people attach to familial, regardless of gender. 4.2.2. Genders’ working role Fields of work That in advertisements from both cultures, more males are featured in working role than females shows the preference of both American and Vietnamese people for males to join the labour force and thus support the family financially. In both cultures, parts of the traditional division are still favoured as business, health/medicine and sports - some of the conventionally male-dominant areas - experience only a few changes. Although in the United States, the traditional preference remains in educational and artistic jobs - those preferred for females, the equal ratio in service jobs suggests the increasing participation of females in the


working force. The similar implication can be drawn out from the dominance of female employees in the service sector and the equal proportion of males and females in the fields of arts in Vietnamese culture. Responsibility at work Regarding the responsibility at work, there is a noticeable difference between the two cultures. In Vietnamese culture, male workers tend to be the one more entrusted with higher responsibility at work whereas female workers are more likely to play the subordinate working role. This gender-specific ranking occurs most frequently in the fields of business or health and medicine - the traditionally male-dominant jobs. In the United States, however, such contrast is not as sharp. For instance, in the Vietnamese advertisement below, a photo of an operation in progress is used as the main illustration for a beauty product. The photo shows a total of six people involving in the act. Regardless of the dominating number of male, while the males are portrayed performing the tasks, which implies their primary responsibility for the success of the operation; the only female is put at the far right corner of the photo, merely observing the performance of the male surgeons. Furthermore, the advertisement also contains a smaller photo of the head of the hospital’s cosmetic surgery department - a male as well, affirming the higher responsibility of the males. The other advertisement is an American one promoting a TV series. The characters of the series who are supposed to be party organizers are presented in the identical working attire indicating their equal share of responsibility in the job. These are


two fairly clear examples of the rank in terms of responsibility at work between the genders in American and Vietnamese cultures.

Figure 10: Responsibility at work in a Vietnamese advertisement 4.2.3. Genders’ recreational role

Figure 11: Responsibility at work in an American advertisement

In both cultures, the portrayal of females in recreational role at a higher frequency denotes the people’s impression that females are involved in more leisure activities. Moreover, the preference in the specific roles speaks volume about the people’s beliefs and attitudes about the gender role. For examples, it appears to both Vietnamese and American people that drinking remains more preferable for males. The reason for this possibly is the negative effect it might have on the family-friendly image of females in general.


On the other hand, sports activities seem to attract more females in their free time. This might seem to conflict with the dominance of males in sports as a working role earlier. The participation of more females in sports as a recreational role emphasizes the association of females in the two cultures and their appearance as most of the activities are advertised to help the user lose weight and keep fit. It means that people find it more common for females to play sports as a recreational activity to maintain their health and physical appearance than taking it as a job which is believed to suit males better. This function of sports is also more applicable to males in the United States than the Vietnamese counterparts, showing that their awareness of the importance of physical appearance, though probably not so keen as females, is encouraged.

Figure 12: Vietnamese female model in recreational role

Figure 13: American male models in recreational role


For instance, in the above advertisements, while the females are depicted exercising and thus hinted as the target of a fitness and spa service in the Vietnamese advertisement, the American advertisement focuses on male users by showing two males playing basketball, the fitter one at advantage. The implication regarding their visual appeal is conveyed in the headline “Shirts or Skins?” which indicates that males with a nicer body can show it off with more confidence and have some advantages over the pot-bellied counterparts. 4.2.4. Genders’ user/endorser role The user/endorser role of the genders in American and Vietnamese cultures reflected in the advertisements further affirms the strong belief of the people in the association of the genders and certain roles in their everyday lives. Regarding this matter, a striking resemblance can be seen in the two cultures through their magazine advertisements. In more details, the advertisements collected from the US and Vietnam sees a larger number of beauty products and services as well as clothing and accessories featuring females than that with males. This implies the greater concern over the external appearance of females in the two cultures, that no matter how different their cultural backgrounds are, they all are supposed to care about their skin, figure, dresses, make-up, etc. for the same purpose of looking as young, beautiful and fit as possible. Similarly, the fact that females appear in a dominant frequency compared to males in educational products and services, food, non-


alcoholic drinks, household facilities and medical products and services indicates the insistent link between them and their familial duties. As for males, their dominance in working role is confirmed as they appear more often as the users and endorsers of financial services compared to females. Furthermore, as they are less restricted by the familial role, their consumption of alcoholic drinks and especially cigarettes in the United States are found at a higher frequency. 4.2.5. Genders’ decorative/symbolic role As suggested in the statistics, the decorative/symbolic role of females is exploited at a higher rate compared to males in both Vietnamese and American cultures. This implies the popularity of the view towards females as representative of beauty or sexuality, which is the foundation for the implementation of their roles as decorators or symbols in the advertisements. For instance, in the two following advertisements, the symbolic role of females are utilized. In the Vietnamese example, as the headline indicates, the external appeal of the car is compared with that of a female whose revealed legs are the focus of the illustration. Similarly, the American beer advertisement centers a female model in bikini probably to hint at the pleasure the beverage offer its consumer. Such exploitation of females’ decorative or symbolic roles also affirms the submissive role of females as they are viewed as males’ possession and entertainer.


Figure 14: Vietnamese female in symbolic role 4.2.6. Genders’ dominant role

Figure 15: American female in symbolic role

The reflection of the genders’ dominant role in American and Vietnamese advertisements shows a considerable difference in the two cultures. In Vietnamese advertisements, the male dominance - the traditional mode in which males tend to take the lead - occupies the highest percentage, outnumbering that of the reverse mode (the female dominance) and that of the equal mode. The American advertisements, however, see more equality in the dominant role of males and females as the percentage of the reverse mode almost catch up with that of the traditional mode. The percentage and number of equal division of dominant power in American advertisements also surpasses that of


Vietnamese ones. This indicates the more egalitarian view of American cultures towards the role of the genders. Such distinction is most obviously seen in advertisements depicting the sexual initiation or affection demonstration. For example, in the

following Vietnamese advertisement, the male model is the one taking control of the intimate interaction based on the placement of his hands. The American example, however, shows a reverse mode as the female model is the one who initiates the contact. This also implies the situation in real-life as Vietnamese culture, male is expected to take the lead in courtship and sex whereas in American culture, either gender is free to make the first move.

Figure 16: Vietnamese male in dominant role

Figure 17: American female in dominant role


4.3. Application 4.3.1. Suggestions for the advertisement viewers Although more similarities than differences have been pointed out about the expectation or the attitude of American and Vietnamese cultures toward the gender roles, possibility of misunderstandings still needs much consideration when people of the two cultures view each other’s advertisements. This might lead to serious problem, limiting the effectiveness of their cross-cultural communication. Therefore, to reduce the chance of culture shock from the advertisements or any other cultural reflector, it is suggested that the viewers be aware of the similarities and differences in the two cultures regarding the gender role. The awareness, of course, comes from the endless progress of knowledge acquisition about the other culture, which can be achieved in various means, especially in the current era of technology and mass media. Furthermore, it is crucial for the viewers to maintain an open mind and receptive attitude towards the distinction between the two cultures reflected in the advertisements. Culture should never be judged as “right” or “wrong”, civilized or not for there is no cultural standard, only similarities and differences. The emergence of differences ought to be considered a chance for the viewers to broaden their knowledge and enhance the awareness of their own cultural identity. And as J. William Fulbright once said, “The rapprochement of peoples is only possible when differences of culture and outlook are respected and appreciated rather than feared and condemned”, only with a tolerating and friendly


perspective can success and harmony be achieved in communication across cultures. 4.3.2. Suggestions for the advertising agencies As earlier mentioned, the significant influence of cultural factors have on advertisements in different markets is undeniable. Therefore, for the advertising agencies, awareness and thorough understanding of the cultural differences is the prerequisite to the formation and success of advertisements. The similarities and differences of Vietnamese and American culture in terms of gender role in this research is expected to assist advertising agencies come up with culture-appropriate strategies for their products when approaching Vietnamese and American markets. 4.3.3. Suggestions for ESL classes As the achievement of the foreign language learner should not be confined to the command of the language but include the understanding of its culture as well, authentic materials have been utilized in the classroom to support the activity of teaching and learning English. Among the various sources, magazine advertisements can be exploited as effective authentic materials too. Advertisements in ESL classes has long been proved to bring about benefits owing to their availability, authenticity, diversity and visual attractiveness which captivates students, motivates and enhances the effectiveness of the lesson. Furthermore, unlike other forms of advertisements, using magazine advertisements in the classroom requires hardly any special equipment, which fits the bad condition of some Vietnamese educational institutions. The advertisements can be scanned

from magazines or printed from scanned version available on the Internet and included in hand-outs for students. Even simpler, the advertisements can be cut out from the magazines and presented to students. There are many ways in which the magazine advertisements can be utilized for educational purpose. Depending on the objective of the lesson, whether it targets the linguistic, cultural or logical aspect, as well as the level of students, the teacher can design appropriate activities and collect suitable advertisements to achieve this goal. For example, if the lesson focuses on the linguistic issues only, students at lower level can be guided to work on the vocabulary and structure used in advertisements, students at higher level can learn to write the body copy for an advertisement. For lesson targeting the cultural understanding, the advertisements can be used as the intriguing lead-in to further discussion of certain topics or illustrative evidence of the cultural differences. As for the logical aspect, the message of the advertisements can be analyzed to help students improve their critical thinking.


CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION 5.1. Summary of findings In sum, the study has led to a number of important findings in response to the research question about the gender role reflection in American and Vietnamese magazine advertisements. Regarding the reflection of gender role in Vietnamese

advertisements, it can be concluded that females are more associated with their familial role and recreational role whereas males are likely to be assigned with working role as well as positions with higher responsibility at work. In addition, females are expected to be more concerned about their external appearance and sexual attractiveness as shown in their frequency in the decorative and symbolic role. The traditional mode of male dominance also proved more common in situations involving the physical contact between the genders. As for American culture, several similarities can be pointed out concerning the gender role reflection in the advertisements. The familial role, the recreational role and the concern over external appearance and sexual attractiveness are also found more common among females. However, the more balanced rate in working role and responsibility ranking as well the dominant role suggests a higher degree of egalitarianism in American culture compared to that of Vietnam. In general, it can be pointed out that neither of the cultures expresses extreme viewpoints about the gender role, strictly confining one gender to respective functions. Instead, both show a gradual


transition from the traditional attitude towards the modern or the egalitarian outlook with the American leaning further forward. 5.2. Limitations of the study Despite the effort of the researcher to preserve the validity and reliability of the study, certain limitations related to the collection of the data and the scope of the study remain inevitable. First of all, concerning the data collection, the random sampling has been applied to ensure the objectivity of the findings. However, this leads to another problem as the number of advertisements collected is quite large yet certain categories find no sample, making it difficult to draw any conclusion about them, especially for the purpose of comparison and contrast. Moreover, as some elements of culture changes over the time, the findings of the research may only be applicable to the current situation and certain adjustments might be unnoticed. In the era of increasing cross-cultural communication and globalism like today, there is a possibility that the researcher has missed out some important knowledge on the subject by limiting the scope to the year 2010 only. Last but not least, though the cultural reflection of magazine advertisements is undeniable, it is also important to be aware of the social factors, e.g. class, ethnicity, intellectual level, which might affect the accuracy of the generalization in the study.


5.3. Suggestions for further research Since the number of cross-cultural studies on advertisements is still limited, the future researchers can continue to investigate further into this area. What remain the limitations of this study can also be considered suggestions for new studies along the line. For example, other strategies may be applied to collect and analyze the advertisements to elaborate more on the role of one gender or one specific role of the gender. Another suggestion is to study the role of the genders and observe their changes over a longer period of time. The adjustment of the same brand or products when transiting into a new market to fit the cultural distinction, e.g. from American to Vietnamese is also a highly valuable and relevant research question. Last but not least, the investigation into the gender role in American and Vietnamese cultures can be approached from other cultural perspectives as well, e.g. songs, novels, folklore or even the language itself.


Ali, A. Y. et al. (2005). Three Translations of the Koran (Al-Qu’ran) Side by Side. Retrieved February 16, 2011 from Altstile, T, & Grow, J. (2006). Advertising strategy: Creative tactics from outside/in. US: Sage Publications, Inc. Andersen, M. L., & Taylor, H. F. (2010) Sociology: The essentials (6th ed.). US: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. Arens, W. F., & Bov’ee, C. L. (1994). Contemporary advertising (5th ed.) US: Irwin. Assadi, M. Z. (2011). Violence Against Women Remains High in Pakistan. The New American. Retrieved February 17, 2011 from Aswathappa, K. (2008). International Business (3rd ed.). India: Tata McGrawHill Publishing Company Limited. Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. US: General Learning Press. Bland, J. (2005). About Gender: Definitions. Retrieved February 19, 2011 from Bretl, D. J., & Cantor, J. (1988), “The portrayal of men and women in U.S. television commercials: A recent content analysis and trends over 15 years,” Sex Roles,18(9/10), 595-609.


Bullen, M. (2003). Basque Gender Studies. US: University of Nevada Press. Campbell, R. (2000). Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication (4th ed.). New York: Bedford. Courtney, A. and Lockeretz, S. (1971). A woman’s place: An analysis of the roles portrayed by women in magazine advertisements. Journal of Marketing Research, 8(1):92–95. Deutsch, F. M. (2007). Undoing gender. Gender and Society, 21, 106-127. Dindia, K., & Canary, D. J. (2006) Sex differences and Similarities in Communications. New Jersey, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers. Do, T.B.L. (2002). Gender Issues in Education in Vietnam. Viet Nam: National Institute for Education and Development. Douglas, A. & Strumf, M. (1989) Best Book of Aphorisms. US: Webster’s New World. Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (1999). The origins of sex differences in human behavior: Evolved dispositions versus social roles. American Psychologists, 54, 408-423. Fletcher, W. (2010). Advertising: A very short introduction. UK: Oxford University Press. Gaddiss, R. (2007). Gender Equality in the United States. Retrieved February 20, 2011 from _united_states.html?cat=7

Goffman, E. (1976). Gender advertisements. US: Harvard University Press. Haig, D. (2004). The Inexorable Rise of Gender and the Decline of Sex: Social Change in Academic Titles, 1945–2001. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33 (2), 87–96. Harper, D. (2001). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved February 15, 2011 from Haviland, W. A. et al. (2007). Cultural anthropology: The human challenge (12th ed.). US: Thomson Learning, Inc. Hofstede, G. H. (2003). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). US: Sage Publication, Inc. Holbrook, M. B. (1987), “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, What’s unfair in the reflections on advertising?” Journal of Marketing, 51(3), 95-103. Jameson, E., & Armitage, S. (1997). Writing the range: race, class, and culture in the women's West. US: University of Oklahoma Press. Kang, M. (1997), “The portrayal of women’s images in magazine advertisements: Goffman’s gender analysis revisited,” Sex Roles, 37(11/12), 979-996. Kavilu, S. (2010). Kenya’s Smallest Indigenous Tribe Faces Extinction. Retrieved February 19, 2011, from


Kleiner, A. (1979). The history of magazines on a timeline. Coevolution Quarterly. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from Klassen, M. L., Jasper, C. R., and Schwartz, A. M. (1993). Men and women: Images of their relationships in magazine advertisements. Journal of Advertising Research, 33(2):30–39. Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology. US: Sage Publications, Inc. Lindner, K (2004). Images of women in general interest and fashion magazine advertisements from1955 to 2002. Sex Roles, 51, 409- 422. Lasswell, H. (1951). The analysis of political behaviour: An empirical approach. UK: Routledge. Luther, C. A., McMahan, C. and Shoop, T. , 2008-05-22 "Depictions of Women and Men in Advertisements Featured in Japanese Fashion Magazines" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Online. Retrieved 2010-11-12 from Lysonski, S. (1983). Female and male portrayals in magazine advertisements: A re-examination. Akron Business and Economic Review, 14(2):45–50. Maynard, M. L., & Taylor, C. R. (1999), “Girlish images across cultures: Analyzing Japanese versus U.S. seventeen magazine ads,” Journal of Advertising, 28(1), 39-48.


Mead, M. (1935). Sex and temperament in three primitive societies. US: William Morrow. McQuail, D. (1994). Mass communication theory: An Introduction. US: Sage Publications, Inc. Michell, P. C. N. and Taylor, W. (1990). Polarising trends in female role portrayals in UK advertising. European Journal of Marketing, 24(5):41– 49. Misra, S., & Yadav , P.K. (2009). International Business: Text and cases. India: PHI Leaning Private Limited. Money, J. (1973). Gender Role, Gender Identity, Core Gender Identity: Usage and Definition of Terms. Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 1, 397-402. Nam, K. , Lee, G. and Hwang, J. , 2007-05-23 "Gender Role Stereotypes Depicted by Western and Korean Advertising Models in Korean Adolescent Girls’ Magazines" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, San Francisco, CA Online. Retrieved 2010-0604 from Ogilvy, D. (1983). Ogilvy on advertising. US: Crown Publishers, Inc. Piron, S. and Young, M. (1996). Consumer advertising in Germany and the United States: A study of sexual explicitness and cross-gender contact. Journal of international consumer marketing, 8(3/4):211–288.


Pollay, R.W. (1986). The distorted mirror: Reflections of the unintended consequences of advertising. Journal of Marketing, 50, 18-36. Reichert, T., Lambiase, J., Morgan, S., Carstarphen, M., & Zavoina, S. (1999). “Cheesecake and beefcake: No matter how you slice it, sexual explicitness in advertising continues to increase,” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 76(1), 7-20. Robbins, S. and Paksoy, C. (1989). A comparative study of German and US maga zine advertisements. Proceedings of the Southern Marketing Association Annual Conference, Charleston, SC, 1989. Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational Culture and Leadership (4th ed.). CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Scott, J. (2006). Family and Gender Roles: How Attitudes Are Changing. Retrieved February 20, 2011 from Skorek, M. and Schreier, M. (2009) "A Comparison of Gender Role Portrayals in Magazine Advertisements From Germany, Poland, and the United States" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott, Chicago, IL Online. Retrieved 2010-11-11 from Sexton, D. and Haberman, P. (1974). Women in magazine advertisements. Journal of Advertising Research, 14(4), 41–46. Stone, P.J., Dunphy, D.C., Smith, M.S., & Ogilvie, D. M. (1966). The general inquirer: A computer approach to content analysis.UK: MIT Press.


Sudha, D. K. (2000). Gender roles. India: A.P.H. Publishing. The Gentleman’s Magazine. (2011). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved February 28, 2011, from Trehan, M., & Trehan, R. (2006). Advertising and sales management. India: V.K. (India) Enterprises. Vu, T.T.H. (2009). A Vietnamese-American cross-cultural study on cultural reflection of television advertisements. (Unpublished B.A’s thesis). University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam. Wagner, L. and Banos, J. (1973). A woman’s place: A follow-up analysis of the roles portrayed by women in magazine advertisements. Journal of Marketing Research, 10(5), 213–214. Weber, R.P. (1990). Basic content analysis. US: Sage Publications, Inc. Wells, W., Burnett, J., Moriarty, S. E., (1992). Advertising: Principles and Practice. US: Prentice Hall. West, D. J. & Green, R. (1997). Socio-legal Control of Homosexuality: A Multination Comparison. US: Plenum Press. World Health Organization. What do we mean by "sex" and "gender"? Retrieved February 15, 2011 from


Gender role reflection in Vietnamese / American magazine advertisement advertisements
Magazine title: Issue number: Published date:

Female 1. Familial role a) Doing children-related tasks Male

b) Doing household chores c) 2. Others

Working role 2.1. Fields of work a) Business

b) Construction c) Service

d) Health & Medicine e) f) Art Sport

g) Education h) Security i) Others

2.2. Responsibility at work a) Higher

b) Lower 3. Recreational role a) Sports

b) Media & Entertainment c) Shopping

d) Drinking e) Others


Female 1. a) User/Endorser Male

Beauty products & services

b) Clothing & accessories c) Vehicles

d) Sports equipments & services e) f) Financial services Travel services

g) Media & entertainment h) Household facilities i) j) Food Non-alcoholic drinks

k) Alcoholic drinks l) Cigarettes

m) Medical products & services n) Educational products & services o) Others 2. Decorative/Symbolic role

1. 2. 3. Male dominate Female dominate Equal



Cosmopolitan (5/2010, p.41)

Cosmopolitan (10/2010, p.270)


Tiep thi & Gia dinh (14/6/2010, p. 87)


Tiep thi & Gia dinh (146/2010, p. 59)


The New Yorker (11/2010, p. 53)


Tiep thi & Gia dinh (1/11/2010, p. 83)


Tiep thi & Gia dinh (1/11/2010, p. 149)


Playboy (5/2010, p. 7)


Dep (11/2010, p.149)


Maxim (4/2010, 2010, p.81)


Tiep thi & Gia dinh (1/11/2010, p.95)


Maxim (1/2010, p. 5)


Tiep thi & Gia dinh (14/6/2010, p. 38)


Cosmopolitan (10/2010, p. 35)



Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful