Sex Roles

, Volume 65, Issue 5–6, pp 356–370 | Cite as

Representation of Gender in South African Television Advertising: A Content Analysis

Original Article


This paper examines how gender is represented in South African television advertising. It provides a foundation upon which changes in representation over time may be mapped; contributes toward a cross-national literature that considers differences in representation; and tentatively examines how representations intersect with other key social categories. A sample of 5,803 advertisements was collected during 2003 that included 1,633 primary visual actors and 2,350 narrators. These were analysed by means of content analysis. A coding scheme was developed that was partly based on existing research, including McArthur and Resko’s (1975) influential study, but also research within non-Western contexts. Content categories included attributes of the primary visual actor (i.e., age; portrayal; race; and social class) as well as advertisement attributes (i.e., actors; primary narrator; products; and setting). Hypotheses predicted that males and females would be represented differently in television advertisements and that these differences would reflect traditional hierarchical relations in society. Findings largely supported these hypotheses. Males were represented as dominant. They were of primary focus; appeared most frequently within the socially valued public-work arena; and were represented as occupying positions of greater social authority. Females were represented as subordinate. They were of secondary focus; appeared most frequently within the socially undervalued private-domestic arena; and were most often represented as occupying positions of social subordination. This subordination was reinforced through findings that imply their sexualisation. Interesting patterns also emerged in findings indicating possible change in representations of gender. The implications of findings are discussed and suggestions for future research are made.


Gender representation Gender role portrayal South Africa Television advertising 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WinchesterWinchesterUK

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