The Seven Ages of Woman: A View From American Magazine Advertisements

  • Jean Umiker-Sebeok
Part of the Springer Series in Social Psychology book series (SSSOC)


More than 20 years have passed since Roland Barthes first argued that advertisements should be studied as forms of mythical discourse. He noted that like all myths, advertisements, profoundly political yet, it seems, intentionally “depoliti-cized,” take the sign vehicles of everyday life, such as gestures, clothing, facial expressions, utterances, postures, objects, and settings, and quietly replace the simple validity of these fragments of openly conventional semiotic systems with a pseudotruth that predisposes the viewer/reader to accept bits of cultural ideology—concepts of motherhood, love, marriage, sex, family, age, social class, and the like—as immutable aspects of the real world (Barthes, 1973). Advertisements, as myths, “naturalize” symbols by removing from them all historical context, thus making these arbitrary signs appear to be eternal essences rather than constructed social devices, or artifacts. In so doing, they “sell” the prevailing ideology of the dominant segments of American society.


Young Woman Facial Expression Nonverbal Behavior Family Home High Social Status 
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© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1981

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  • Jean Umiker-Sebeok

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