In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Guest Editor’s Introduction
  • Linda M. Scott

Many women who work in advertising, including several who have reached the top of their organizations, have a long-term commitment to the advancement of women’s causes. Quite a few consider themselves feminists, though their politics may not fit the stringent definitions of academic feminism. It is not uncommon for these women to express their support of the women’s movement through their market activities (e.g., promotions for breast cancer research, changes in the representation of women by their client or agency). However, feminists working in academia and the media often focus on the oppressive aspects of the marketplace in a manner that explicitly excludes women employed in market professions. As a result, the dialogue that began in the 1970s between those who criticize advertising and those who are in a place to positively, actively affect the content of ads, has long since gone quiet.1 Today, women predominate in advertising at nearly every level (including management), and in nearly every aspect (excepting only creative departments). Yet they often feel that their efforts and thoughts are not heard or recognized by others committed to women’s issues—and become discouraged from future attempts. This situation is a tragedy for both the advertising industry and the women’s movement.

On October 18, 2003, the Advertising Educational Foundation hosted How is Advertising Shaping the Image of Women?, a symposium intended to renew dialogue between professional women in advertising and feminists working in universities or the media. The event was held at Northwestern University in Chicago and Gloria Steinem was the keynote speaker. Amy Richards, co-author of Manifesta, came to speak from the perspective of the “Third Wave.” We were joined also by Susan Bordo, author of Unbearable Weight, Linda Smolak, author of several books on eating disorders, and Jennifer Scanlon, author of Inarticulate Longings, a history of the Ladies’ Home Journal—all of them strong, respected academics and feminists.2 The important difference between this event and other symposia on the issue of advertising’s effect on women, however, is that a number of female executives from the advertising industry were also on the program:

  • Dana Anderson, President & Chief Executive Officer; Foote, Cone & Belding/Chicago

  • Cheryl Berman, Chairman & Chief Creative Officer; Leo Burnett Worldwide

  • Anne Dooley, EVP Client Service Director; BBDO/Chicago

  • Fay Ferguson, Managing Director; Burrell Communications

  • Cheryl Greene, Managing Partner, Chief Strategy Officer; Deutsch, Inc.

  • Judy Lotas, Partner; LPNY Ltd.

  • Jan Murley, former Marketing Director; Hallmark Cards

  • Tonise Paul, President & Chief Executive Officer; BBDO/Chicago.

This coming together of advertising professionals with feminist critics was a historical first. It could have been a tense moment. Instead, the entire day was characterized by the pleasant surprise of common ground, shared concerns, and collaborative possibilities. We promised each other to stay in touch, to meet again, to keep working together.

The interviews in this special issue explore the many ways in which, and on multiple fronts, such an effort has been occurring—and might be expanded. The first interview is with Gloria Steinem, who talked with me just before her speech at the symposium. Consistent with her famous article, “ Sex, Lies, and Advertising ,” Ms. Steinem continues to see the influence of advertising over the content of women’s magazines as the largest issue.3 The women’s magazines are primarily staffed by women, as they have been from their beginnings at the turn of the 20th century. Indeed, Jennifer Scanlon’s book, Inarticulate Longings, talks about the proto-feminism behind the Ladies’ Home Journal, as well as the quite vocal feminism among the advertising women at J. Walter Thompson. In the early century, the JWT women had quite a bit of influence over the content of the women’s magazines, because they managed the leading toiletries in nearly every category, and their agency had some exclusive arrangements with the magazines themselves. Importantly, the impetus of their influence frequently was to encourage those magazines to cover the issues central to the women’s movement at that time, including not only suffrage but the many other progressive efforts being undertaken under the aegis of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Except for...

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