“I’d let you peak, but I don’t deliver what you’re hungry for.” These are the words of a cartoon woman in a delivery service advertisement. The advertisement is pasted to the ceiling of the bus I take home. The woman’s hair is long and blond, her eyes big and framed with dark lashes, her lips form a plush half smile, and she sports a short red dress that she hikes up to her hip. She stands next to a picture of a pizza and a foot-long sub. I take note, not because this depiction of a woman is unusual, but because of the advertisement’s intrusion into my daily commute. Advertisements such as this have become normative in American media and consequently they often go unnoticed. They compose a repertoire of images depicting half naked women next to the product their sexuality is intended to sell: food.
The fast food chain Carls Jr. markets their burgers with women washing cars simultaneously chomping down on a double cheeseburger, sauce dripping in places that they think deserves a close up. It is said that sex sells, but these food advertisements sell more than a product. They sell ideas. Food becomes a symbol of pleasure when it is placed next a hyper-sexualized woman. Women’s sexuality is depicted on the same plane as a cheap sub or a greasy pizza. The woman appears ready to be consumed and the result is a less than human representation.
To say that mass media’s representations of women speak for the entirety of American culture would overestimate their power, however their reoccurrence shows acceptance of their practices. The scrutiny of contemporary Feminist Theory questions America’s acceptance of practices that sell women’s sexuality next to the five-dollar foot-long. It underscores the advertisements detrimental effects as part of a larger system of inequality. Though the effect of these advertisements is not a causative one, I argue that images depicting women as objects of pleasure, next to food products waiting to be consumed, feeds into a culture of acceptance for gender inequality. This inequality is perpetuated in pay disparities, in the prominence of violence against women in American society, and in every other realm where women are not seen as fully human. They are evidence of the gender hierarchies in American society.
American society (women included) continues this hegemonic cycle while simultaneously challenging it. Anthropological Practice Theory questions how these advertisements have come to be seen as normal in everyday life. Their representations of women are accepted and supported by continued consumer support of their products. They are also challenged. For example people are “cutting the Carl’s” in a counter campaign that argues, “women are more than meat.” Women’s dehumanization in food advertisements continues because of consumer participation and is simultaneously challenged by consumers choosing to boycott their products.
Food advertisements are visual representations of American practices that reinforce gender hierarchies. The normalcy of these practices in daily life shows acceptance of them, their rejection by many members of American society challenges their reinforcement of gender inequalities.
 Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology, 8 October 2014.
 Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Frontiers of Cultural Anthropology, 6 October 2014.