Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 11/12, December 2005 (
Gender Role Portrayals in American
and Korean Advertisements
and Juran Kim
This article reports on an examination of gender role portrayals in American and Korean
magazine advertisements that is based on the work of Erving Goffman (1979). Through
a study of advertising images, we explored implied gender roles within and between cul-
tures. Results of an analysis of a random sample of American advertisements are compared
to results for comparable Korean magazines and to previous researchers’ applications of
Goffman’s approach to American advertisements. Results indicate that sexism in American
magazine advertisements has decreased but not disappeared. Evidence of sexism in Korean
magazine advertisements was found as well. We also compared gender depictions in adver-
tisements directed to magazine audiences of relatively different ages. Observations are made
about differences in gender role portrayals in American advertisements over time, between
cultures, and for different aged magazine readers.
KEY WORDS: gender roles; American and Korean magazine advertisements; Erving Goffman.
The way women are depicted in advertisements
in the United States has long been a source of con-
cern and the focus of study among social science and
communication scholars (e.g., Kang, 1997; Lindner,
2004; Signorelli, 1989). Some researchers (e.g., Cho,
Kwon, Gentry, Jun, & Kropp, 1999; Maynard &
Taylor, 1999; Sengupta, 1995) have also examined
the portrayals of women in advertising in other
countries. On one hand, these images provide insight
into the social and sexual values of the societies
that they are intended to represent. The number
and types of depictions within a given culture’s
advertising can be indicative of the roles and relative
power of women in that culture. On the other hand,
College of Communication and Information, University of
Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.
Department of Communication, University of North Florida.
Department of Communication Art, Sejong University,
Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, Korea.
College of Political Science and Economics, Chung-Ang Univer-
sity, Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul, Korea.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at 476 Commu-
nications and Information Building, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-
0343; e-mail: email@example.com.
advertisements are believed to shape the status
and roles of their target audiences, as they also
inﬂuence the values and attitudes of the society as a
Cross-cultural comparisons of gender role por-
trayals are an especially interesting way to learn
more about the dynamics of two or more cultures.
For instance, as East Asian cultures grow increas-
ingly Westernized, the depictions of both genders are
likely to be inﬂuenced by Western values. Analyses
of advertisers’ representations of men or women in a
culture can offer insight into the evolution of a soci-
ety’s attitudes and values.
The present study was based on the assumption
that media portrayals affect how people (i.e., audi-
ences or readers) think, feel, and behave with re-
gard to the subject matter portrayed. There are many
research traditions that deal with this phenomenon.
In particular, social learning theory (Bandura, 1977)
and framing analysis (Goffman, 1974) have been
used to garner empirical evidence about whether
and how media portrayals affect an individual’s con-
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.