Gender Roles In Car Commercials

David K


Gender construction in car commercials can be seen throughout the industry. The roles of men and women are clearly outlined in past and present car advertisements. Whether subtle or obvious, many car companies will use either sex or current, mainstream ideas such as men being rugged and tough and women being nice and docile to sell their cars. From Ford to Chrysler to Dodge, they are all guilty of selling cars through these methods. When car companies do this they automatically put people into labels of who they are and what type of personality they have whether the man/woman wants it or not.
Tiffany Lennon of Swarthmore College compares several off road commercials and how they portray men and women. In the commercials there was just a voiceover following a car overhead, going through rough terrain. The commercials did not show who was driving, but when she polled people who saw the commercials, only one of the people polled said that the driver “might” be a girl. All the other people polled stated, “that the driver was male.”(Lennon 1) One explanation to why they all said that the driver was a male could be that in all the commercials, the noise in the background was always the revving of a V6 engine. The reason that people think of males when they hear a V6 engine is because those type of powerful engines are usually driven by males. This proves that someone does not even need to see a face to figure out what type of gender is most likely driving the car.
Muscle cars have always been sold to mainstream America as a car for a “real man.” It has also always been made to appeal the a younger audience aged 15-29(Stevens 1). At this age men are at their physical peak, so One way to sell cars to this type of audience would be to play on the car being strong and powerful, presumably like the buyer. The muscle car industries assume that the buyers of their cars are going to be athletic young males and don’t take into account really anyone else who would want their car.
Amanda Hess of the, talks about a Dodge commercial that stated that the charger was “man’s last stand.” the commercial depicted men who were staring blankly into the camera while a voice over told us what men have to put up with. Things like watching a vampire show with your girlfriend was just one. It was saying what men more or less don’t like doing all these womanly things. By showing this commercial it reinforces the idea that men should not like these womanly things and that they should enjoy manly things like the Dodge charger. It’s ironic that the car company would do this because 80% of women control or influence car purchases (Cuneo 1). So much for mans last stand. Even though this is true, nonetheless this commercial highly appeals to the American male wants to capture more thrill in his life. By showing that normal day human activities are boring and the only way to escape is to buy this car, it backs up the idea that they that men really do need an escape from everyday life.
Amanda Hess of also states that if they really wanted to be accurate, Dodge should have also have made one called “woman’s last stand.” She also states that some people actually did make some independent commercials in response called “women’s last stand” in which they say things like “I will get up at 6:30 to make your packed lunch, I will take care of the kids”, etc. They made this commercial because they wanted to say that even if a woman does do some of those things it is very hard work and they might just want a car like a dodge charger to blow off some steam.
One car company that really uses gender stereotyping to their advantage is Chrysler. David Welsh of Businessweek explains how they do this. What they did was during a car show, Chrysler stated, “lets make cars that people want to make out in again”(Welch 1) “At one point, a scantily clad model slipped out of a Chrysler, revealing her tattooed thigh”(Welch 1) He explains that for car companies, sex sells. This is why in many car commercials, no matter the company, objectify women and portray them as more objects than people. The reason they do this is because it sells cars. In 2004 Chrysler sponsored the “Lingerie Bowl” in which women in lingerie play football against each other. By airing these commercials it really shows how Chrysler view the social constructs of gender. They want to portray there cars the same why they are showing these women; As sexy objects. By sponsoring this, it’s clear that want to sell their cars to the viewers of these programs, which are mainly male.
In a commercial put forward by ford in 2009 was a great example of how we define gender construction in America today. What this commercial did was, it took a white male who used words like “ain”t” and other words we associate with manly ruggedness. According to Ms. Richards of, this commercial uses four different styles to appeal to males. It uses the working class appeal, the masculinity appeal, American superiority, and way of life appeal. (Richards 1) She says that they portray the ford F-150 to be a very masculine car giving no consideration to female drivers who might want the car. The way they do this is the colors that they show and offer are mainly military colors and all their cars have a fierce American eagle as a logo. They also state in the commercial that to buy a truck you probably are not a “pencil pusher” or a “hand Model” and “your working for every dollar you need for your truck” Rebekah states that this could be a clear indication that they are pushing the assumption that white-collar jobs are not nearly as masculine or as hard as blue collar jobs. The commercial wants to portray masculinity as something you can only obtain through buying their cars and other “manly” products. By showing this commercial on the air, it makes males feel that they need a Ford to prove their mannish worth to the public.

Works Cited:

Lennon, Tiffany. "Car Commercials: Widening the Gender Gap." Welcome to Fubini. 5 July 2000. Web. 17 Nov. 2010. <>

"CHRYSLER TURNS ON THE HEAT." BusinessWeek 23 Nov. 2009: 16-16,1.
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Oser, Kris. "Pontiac taps into sex appeal for Solstice effort." Advertising Age
76.24 (2005): 41-41, 2/3. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Nov. 2010.

Richards, Rebekah. "Gender Constructions in a Ford F-150 Commercial: Violent Masculinity, American Superiority, and Working Class Appeal." Online Magazine and Writers' Network. 7 Nov. 2009. Web. 13 Nov. 2010. <>.

Hess, Amanda. "If The Dodge Charger Made Ads For Oppressed Women - The Sexist - Washington City Paper." Washington City Paper - D.C. Arts, News, Food and Living. 11 Feb. 2010. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. <>.