Gender’s Purpose: Marketing as Political Texts

If you’re struggling for something fun on a day that you’ve set aside to do critiques of power, try these two bits of jaw-dropping oogle-fests.

Eastern Airlines

Artifacts like these thrown into a pool of students are as brilliantly accessible as they are fascinating. The first is a poster from Eastern Airlines. This is an advertisement that was accompanied by a whole series of commercials in which young beauties paraded across the screen declaring their flight routes and finishing with the words “Fly me.”

Have your students read the text on the poster. The artifact in play clearly posits a role for women as object and tacitly suggests who the passengers on the flight should be. The language is open and reasonably clear that students should be able to unpack the assumptions and roles that are in the piece. Now that we have them sufficiently irked…


The second artifact is clearly a war propaganda piece. This is Howard Chandler Christy’s work from WWI. For students in their first years of thinking critically, this appears as a poster that puts women in the weak position. But the text here is more complex. Just as in the first artifact, the roles and audience can be unpacked reasonably easily…. but there is now a new layer of manipulation. Gender isn’t simply encouraging male behavior…. it is, in fact, harmful to both genders by emasculation.

Artifacts like this force the students to recognize gender, and social construction as powerful and real components to theories of politics. And they’re just plain fun.