It’s a woman thing

"It’s a woman thing." This phrase can bring many other quotes to mind but most likely "SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING" is not one of them. In one of their magazine advertisements the Virginia Slims company tries to change that. The advertisement catches the eye with its depiction of a playful scene. The bright vibrant colors draw the reader in to take a look. The humorous image gets a grin or perhaps even a laugh before the reader moves on. It seems harmless, however, upon closer inspection the true nature of the advertisement comes out. By playing on American social standards the Virginia Slims company targets middle class women and preys on their desires to be the stereotypical All-American woman as well as a modern woman all in an attempt to get them to buy Virginia Slims brand cigarettes.

The advertisement targets middle class women through its use of the actors and props. The center of the advertisement is a woman who has pushed a man into a pool. Both the man and woman appear to be in their 20’s thus indicating this to be the target age group. The situation along with the quote, "it’s a woman thing," clearly sets up women as the target gender. The clothing the actors are wearing suggests wealth. The man in a suit and tie and the woman in a classy dress points to an upper middle class couple. However, neither the man nor the woman are wearing any precious medals. In fact they are not wearing any adornments at all, no rings, no bracelets, no necklace, no earrings, no watches, and not even cufflinks for the suit. This lack of accessories brings in a less wealthy target audience. It could be a cheap suit and a Wal-Mart dress after all. Looking beyond the actors, the rooftop pool with an incredible view encourages the original view of a wealthy couple. The setting clinches the target audience as the entire middle class. The upper bounds of the class relate to the penthouse view while the lower bounds represent the people who are striving to gain enough wealth to live in such a place.

Virginia Slims attempts to persuade the targeted middle class women to conform to the social standards of beauty and sexuality by presenting a picturesque All-American model with in the advertisement. Blond hair, blue eyes, she is the personification of Barbie. Playful yet respectable dress, perfect tan, and in good shape too, this image is what so many American women aspire to look like. She is there to remind the reader of the "ideal woman." And of course to go along with the perfect woman is the wealthy man. The suit suggests that he is the one providing the money in the relationship, that he is the one responsible for the rooftop setting. This image fits in perfectly with that of the perfect woman; she has landed a rich boyfriend so she does not have to work, keeping in shape is her job. This shallow stereotype of women is the view of the perfect woman the media has given to the viewing public for years. This image is what has been determined as how women should want to be; they should look like Barbie and have rich men by their sides.

The advertisement does not stop at this view of the perfect woman but rather takes it one step further in an attempt to make this woman truly someone to idolize, they put her in a position of power. The quote sets up the situation for the reader: "When we ask what you love most about us, answer carefully. And quickly." The images make perfect sense is the context of the quote, the mischievous smirk on the woman’s face, the man flying into the water… She was not satisfied with the speed at which he answered her question, and so, because she is a powerful yet playful woman, she has pushed the man into the pool. The quote uses "we" to set up the actress as a stand in for all women, she is there to represent them as a gender. By pushing the man into the water she is asserting her dominance in the situation if not the relationship as a whole. The rooftop view suggests the thought that she is on top of the world. Through the implied wealth this couple has, they are able to control their surroundings and be able to live carefree. With money comes power. She is not only the All-American girl in appearance but also in life; she is living the American dream. She is the modern woman, strong and in charge yet still attractive and sexy.

The images in the advertisement are the embodiment of the American dream. Wealth, beauty, humor, sex appeal, these are the traits the actress conveys. The advertisement was designed to seduce the reader into seeing this actress as perfect. Through setting and props she attempts to identify with several different but closely related groups of readers. The media has trained the middle class women that are the target audience that they want to be like this woman. Through her appearance she is set up as the All-American girl, Barbie. Then she is shown as the perfect modern woman through attitude and situation. Once the reader has been sucked in by the scene and identified this actress as the "perfect" woman, it is reveled to them that the woman is a smoker of Virginia Slims by a small logo in the lower right hand corner. The message is, this woman, this model of perfection, smokes our cigarettes; you know you want to be like her and so you should smoke our cigarettes too. After all "it’s a woman thing."