GWST 1501 Essay 2: Media Analysis

GWST 1501 9.0A 2019 SUMMER
Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies
York University, Keele Campus
Essay 2: Media Analysis (15%)
Due Date: Due Friday June 28 @ 5pm
Format: Your essay should be 3-4 pages double spaced, in a standard 12pt font with 1 inch
margins. Papers must not exceed 4 pages. MLA citation style.
Purpose: The purpose of this assignment is for you to work on the critical thinking skills of
analyzing representations, feminist media literacy, making an effective argument, developing
your voice.
Please answer the following question through an analysis of an advertisement, and by drawing
on Sut Jhally’s “Image-Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture” (M) and two other articles
from anywhere in the textbook.
How does the mainstream media construct, normalize, and commodify identities
through representation? (“identities” means intersections of gender, sexuality, class,
race, age, ability, bodies, nation, ethnicity, etc.)
You may choose either a print magazine ad or short (under 1 minute) video advertisement. For
the purposes of this paper you must attach the ad to the essay either by embedding the image in
your document, or by including a functioning web link. Marks will be deducted if the ad is not
attached or accessible.
To begin the assignment, start with an in-depth “reading” of the advertisement itself. What
argument is it making? Who or what do the people or images represent? If there are celebrities in
the ad, think about who they are, why were they chosen for this ad, what values and ideals do
they bring to the ad and the product? How does this ad sell products? To whom (be specific:
middle aged women? teenage boys? Young girls? Middle aged professional men? Asian women?
Etc.)? What thoughts might go through someone’s mind when they go and purchase the product
that the ad is selling (ex. ‘If I buy this car I will appear to be a wealthy man who is in control of his
business and his women’ or ‘if I buy this perfume I will have the youthful yet sophisticated sex
appeal of Scarlet Johansson’) In other words, first really really really understand the
representations in the ad itself. Then you are ready to analyze these representations using course
Next, do some research. Don’t assume that you already know everything. The best essays are the
ones that make an in depth analysis of the advertisement using the insights and arguments
made by other authors. In order to write an essay in this way it is crucial that you do your
research first before writing the essay. Begin with Jhally’s “Image Based Culture”. Read it several
times and then make note of the key points that he makes that are relevant to helping you to
make a deeper analysis of the ad you have chosen. Then look in the textbook to find articles that
can help you analyze the specific representations in the ad. If racism is relevant to understanding
your ad, then try to find an article that talks about representations of racialized people. If
masculinity is relevant to understanding your ad, find an article that talks about men and the
media. Etc.
Next you should be ready to formulate a thesis (argument) that answers the essay question. This
thesis will form the basis of the overall structure of your essay. Your thesis should be in the form
of an argument, which includes a central claim (the answer to the question), as well as the
reasons to support your claim (premises). Your thesis should use the first person: “I think…” or “I
will argue that…” By using the first person, you indicate that these are your ideas on the issue,
not the objective “truth.”
In formulating your thesis, consider some of the following interrelated and intersectional issues:
Ø What social values are revealed by the images, representations, and voices presented?
Ø Who is the intended audience? Who is the “viewer” and who is the “object” of the gaze?
Ø What are the general ideas being sold? And how are those meanings represented (through
colour? Language? Style? Detail? Action? Gesture? Etc.)?
Ø How does this representation sell products?
In order to prove your thesis and deepen your analysis of the advertisement, you must make
reference to a total of 3 articles: Jhally’s “Image Based Culture” and two other articles from the
Remember that we are evaluating your interpretation and analysis of the ad, and your ability to
support and deepen that analysis by integrating research into your essay.
Avoid description or ungrounded opinion. To do well, you must analyze the meanings and ideas
associated with images and representations in the advertisement you have chosen by drawing
on the academic research of other scholars. Responses that do not have an analysis, indicated
by a strong thesis statement, will be assessed no higher than a C grade.
Ø Analyze: To ask HOW and WHY. To examine something in detail in order to understand it
better – where it comes from and what effects it has in the world; To examine why things
are the way they are; To ask ‘who benefits from this reality or norm?’; To speculate on
why a phenomenon occurs within a historical, political, economic, or cultural context; And
to interpret what alternative meanings or explanations may be made of this reality.
Helpful hint: Do not confuse a topic sentence (“This essay is about the depiction of women in the
media…”) with a good thesis statement (“In this essay I will argue that this advertisement plays
upon women’s anxieties about skin lightness, body size, and wealth, promising that through
conforming to beauty norms a woman will be successful in business and love.”).

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