Sex Roles [sers] pp1075-sers-477811 December 17, 2003 12:3 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 50, Nos. 1/2, January 2004 (
Race and Beauty: A Comparison of Asian and Western
Models in Women’s Magazine Advertisements
Katherine Toland Frith,
and Ping Shaw
Over the past 30 years, the literature on how women are depicted in advertising has been
strongly inﬂuenced by studies conducted in the U.S. and Europe and may not fully describe
the ways in which women are depicted in advertising across cultures. In this study we analyzed
advertisements collected from women’s fashion and beauty magazines in Singapore, Taiwan,
and the United States to compare the ways in which Western and Asian models were portrayed
in print advertisements. We found that although demure dress was used most often for both
races, Western models were shown more frequently than Asian models in seductive dress.
Western models were also posed more often than Asian models as the Seductive beauty type.
Product categories also differed. Asian models were used more frequently in advertisements
for hair and skin beauty products, whereas Western models dominated the clothing category.
The ﬁndings suggest that Western models are used more than Asian models in advertisements
which are “body” oriented, and that Western models are used in advertisements in Asia when
the underlying marketing strategy is that “sex sells.”
KEY WORDS: advertising; women; gender; beauty; Asia.
An extensive literature has evolved over the
past 30 years that describes how gender portrayals
in advertisements mirror gender roles in society. Re-
searchers in communication, marketing, psychology,
and gender studies have addressed this topic and pro-
duced a body of work in this area. Nonetheless, much
of this research has been conducted in the United
States and Europe and thus may not fully describe
the way in which female models are used in adver-
tisements across cultures.
The majority of research in the area of gender
portrayals in international advertising builds on the
three theoretical frameworks: feminist theory, global-
ization theory, and marketing theory. Feminist schol-
arship has been at the forefront of studying how
School of Communication and Information, Nanyang
Technological University, Singapore.
Department of Communication, Bradley University.
Institute of Communications Management, National Sun Yat-Sen
To whom correspondence should be addressed at School
of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological
University, Singapore 637718; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
women are portrayed in advertising in the US, yet
there has been very little research on how Western
women are portrayed in advertising in other cul-
tures. In addition, the assumptions that have guided
Western feminist scholarship are based on Western
liberalism and Western concepts of human rights. For
example, in Western cultures women have acquired
certain rights in relation to their bodies. Among these
are the right to display their bodies in public with-
out fear of retribution or punishment and the right to
take pleasure in their bodies. These are not univer-
sal rights for women in all countries: how women can
display themselves differs from culture to culture. In
the Middle East and in many parts of Asia women
traditionally have been expected to dress modestly
and demurely (Cheng, 1997). Thus, one of the aims of
this research is to examine how Western women are
displayed in Asian advertising as well as to see how
Asian women are displayed in Asia and in the West.
Globalization theory holds that increased trade
and improved communication technologies are bring-
ing about increasing levels of global integration be-
tween cultures (Giddens, 1990; Tomlinson, 1997). As
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation