Through The Looking Glass Of Multimodality Cultural Studies Essay


This essay sets out to explore the construction of gender identities and roles in two advertisements for hair removal products on addressed to women and the other to men. This is done through the study of how two semiotic modes (written and visual) interact in the texts to signify the bodies of the women and men being represented and their femininity and masculinity. I begin by taking a discourse-oriented approach for elucidating what it means to understand gender as a social construction. Following this, I offer a review of research undertaken in gender and the language of advertisements and continue to present some key concepts to understand the dimensions of the analysis that follows. In the analysis proper, I apply Kress and Van Leeuwen's (2006) parameters for the study of visual images and multimodality to explicate the discursive construction of the women and men of the adverts and of the target audiences. When focusing on the written input, I also occasionally recur to Halliday & Matthiessen's (2004) typology of transitivity. Finally, I provide a summary of the results and suggest future lines of research at the interface of gender, advertising texts and discourse.


1.1 Social Constructions: Gender Identity and the Body

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This paper is inscribed within the 'discourse approach' (Litosseliti & Sunderland, 2002) to the study of gender and language. Work along this line of enquiry seeks to shed light on how language use within and across different contexts shapes and is shaped by social expectations and beliefs about gender. A fundamental premise is that gender is a social construction. This means that conceptions about what the notions "man", "woman", "hijra" or "nadle" mean (see below), and how the people under these labels are expected to look like, speak, behave and sexually relate to each other are culturally and historically contingent and not universal.

Post-modern and critical theories about gender identity and discourse are at the root of this approach (see e.g. Butler, 1990; Fairclough, 1992 and Bucholtz & Hall, 2005). Discourse is considered a form of social action as well as the expression through language of systems of beliefs and knowledge (van Dijk, 2003). As such, discourse bears on how gender roles and ideologies are understood, enacted or challenged in society. Moreover, gender is conceived as a fluid and labile dimension of identity and not an unchangeable closed set of attributes predetermined by biological traits. This builds on the premise that gender is constituted in a network of 'performances'. These are acts which people carry out in the course of their lives as members of social collectives and which construct them as belonging to a gender category or other (Butler, 1990). Quite importantly, the meaning conveyed by these acts can vary across cultures and across different historical periods (Wodak, 1997).

In most cultures, some of these enactments result in (and are a consequence of) people being grouped in terms of a closed binary classification of "women" and "men". In others, gender categories and roles outside the masculine and feminine binary are recognized and sometimes respected. For instance, Hall and O' Donovan (1996) study the discursive construction of gender among the 'hijras', gender ambiguous communities in India, and Bing and Bergvall (1996) mention the existence of the Pima tribe, which acknowledged as many as four genders (male, female, males who act like females and females who act like males -p. 10). Even more interestingly, the Navajo saw in the intersexed "nadle" a third sex, and considered them a blessing to families (Martin & Voorhies, 1975) and not a group of medically treatable or dysfunctional beings.

Evidence such as this permits the discourse approach to work towards refuting essentialist views about gender and sex (see Hausman, 2001). It is normally assumed, even in gender and language research (see Bergvall, 1996, p.195), that gender is part of a social phenomenon while sex is strictly confined to the realm of biology (Mathieu, 1996). Yet, it has been convincingly argued that some aspects of sex, such as the sexed body (normally regarded as the object of biology and natural sciences) and the female/male dichotomy are also culturally constructed and 'policed' (see Salamon, 2010; McElhinny, 1996; Butler, 1990; Bem, 1993 and Foucault, 1995). As Stryker (1994, pp. 249-250) notes from a clearly Marxist-critical point of view:

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"Bodies are rendered meaningful only through some culturally and historically specific mode of grasping their physicality that transforms the flesh into a useful artifact…Gendering is the initial step in this transformation, inseparable from the process of forming an identity by means of which we're fitted to a system of exchange in a heterosexual economy."

Thus, in most cultures, only masculinities and femininities (as the ways to perform gender in a binarist society), males and females (as the sexes) and heterosexuality are recognized as the legitimate dimensions from where to perform and structure gendered relations. In these societies, the very modes of production are largely catered for the people who stand inside these orders.

1.2 Gender Roles and Identities in the Media - Femininities and Masculinities in Advertisements of the Beauty Industry

The construal of gender identities in media outlets such as magazines and advertisements has been a source of great interest in the field of gender and language. The wide outreach and privileged position of the media within societies with market economies invests them with great power in shaping and reflecting social attitudes (Hart, 2010). As a social construction, gender (and especially the masculine/feminine binary), is not exempt from the media's signifying power.

Work on the construction of gender roles in advertisements dates as far back as the 1970s, most notably in Goffman's "Gender Advertisements" (1976). This study was largely a content-based analysis of pictures of body postures and gestures of men and women in adverts. Goffman's findings suggested that men were very often portrayed as active agents, performing executive roles and physically exerting themselves, while women figured as passive observants (p. 32). Many studies have since revisited these findings, taking a deep interest on gender stereotyping and sexism (see, e.g. Massé & Rosenblum, 1988, Furnham & Skae, 1997 and Kang, 1997), and have tried to include more context-based explanations for gender portrayals in their analyses (see Bell & Milic, 2010).

Linguistically-oriented research on gender roles in the genre of magazines and advertisements has largely focused on the construction of women and femininities, and has particularly devoted great efforts in deconstructing the commodification of gender identities (see Talbot, 1992). Talbot (2010) states that magazines and advertisements often shape women's gender identities by making femininity a matter of cultivating characteristics that foster a woman's desirability to others, and especially men (p. 137). In line with this aspiration, advertisements and magazines very often position women as perpetually in need of maintaining or improving their physical appearance (Talbot, 2010). They often do so also by ironing out differences (of class, race, etc.) among women and constructing an idealized version of femininity regarded as the ultimate model their target audiences should and do aspire to be. Eggins and Iedema (1997), in their study of the linguistic construction of a 'feminine solidarity' in magazines, point out that such ideal is usually personified in a white, heterosexual and successful woman who is very concerned with her appearance and that of others. In advertising, achieving the ideal femininity is represented as an onerous task (Litosseliti, 2006, p. 98), and companies constantly place themselves (and their products) as partners and enablers of this mission. Women are encouraged to work on their bodies as their sites of identity construction (Schroeder & Zwick, 2002), where the gaze of society impinges on how that identity gets evaluated in terms of gender norms. And not only is beauty work construed as desirable for self-esteem and a laudable endeavor, it is also sanctioned as necessary. As we will see in our analysis, companies also promote this idea by deploying intimidation tactics to create a sense of urgency and shame when women are perceived as not worried enough about their appearance.

On the other hand, accounts of gender constructions in advertisements explicitly targeted at men are quite recent (see e.g. Crewe, 2003; MacKinnon, 2003). To a great extent, this is due to the relative dearth of texts of this nature, since only in the past few decades have men been placed within society in the role of individual consumers (Litosseliti, 2006). Relevant to what has been said about consumer femininity, Coupland (2007) illustrates how advertisements of skin care products for men also present men's bodies as imperfect and subject to improvements and puts them under women's scrutiny (something that also happens in magazines and films -see Cafri and Thompson, 2004). Grooming products usually place men in a conflicted position (see Benwell & Stokoe, 2006), given that using these goods is perceived as feminine. This anxiety can be related to the 'dreaded spectre of homosexuality' (Cameron, 1997, p. 51), and is bypassed by advertising companies by, for instance, marketing their products with linguistic expressions, images and metaphors related to war and defiant behavior (see Talbot, 2010, p. 156-157) and strengthening the presumption of heterosexuality. The 'compulsory heterosexuality' (Rich, 2004) at work in these ads helps distance the target audiences from perceived homosexuality and functions simultaneously with discourses of gender differences to distance men from femininity (see below). In the coming analysis we will see how the removal of secondary sexual characteristics such as chest hair in men is normalized and legitimized but is done so by locating the act within a discourse of male heterosexual prowess.

1.3 Multimodality and The Making of Meaning

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Advertisements are, very frequently, multimodal texts. This means that they combine more than one mode (written text, images, sounds, etc.) to form a composite whole of meaning (Stenglin & Iedema, 2010, p. 194). The study of multimodality is based on the tenet that communication is an inherently social process and that we achieve it by making use of different systems of symbols (i.e semiotic systems). Modes, according to Jewitt (2009) give semiotic systems a 'material' dimension through which the users of those systems can express meaningful messages in society.

The main exponents of multimodality have been Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen, who draw on Hallidayan Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004; Martin, 1992). SFL conceives of language as a social semiotic (Halliday, 1978), structured in three metafunctions -ideational, interpersonal and textual. Simply put, this means that in social action, language is used to fulfill three basic purposes (functions). One is to talk about events, objects and people in the world (ideational metafunction). The second is to establish interpersonal relations with others, including power relations, and degrees of affect and social distance (interpersonal metafunction). Finally, the third is often termed the "enabling metafunction" (Eggins, 2004, p. 29), as it permits speakers to organize their message and establish cohesive and coherent ties with what they and others say (textual metafunction). In order to communicate meaningfully, speakers have the grammatical systems of transitivity (with lexicogrammatical participants, action processes and circumstances -see appendix 2), mood and modality, and thematic development. As members of a speech community, language users have a set of "interrelated [but not always fully conscious] choices" in these systems (Martin, 2010, p. 65) from which to construct a message.

Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) argue that the three metafunctions are in fact common to most other semiotic systems and not just language (e.g. images and sound). Under this idea, they propose a methodology for analyzing images and visual design based on these three bundles of meaning. In correspondence to the metafunctions, three areas of representation are combined in images.

The first concerns the spatial structure of the visual image in terms of four elements: the placement of elements along a horizontal axis (left to right) and a vertical axis (top to bottom); the prominence (salience) given to the elements in the image; and the framing of the image. In languages such as English, the left/right distribution is analogous to the Given/New distribution of information in grammar, where 'older' information is placed on the left and newsworthy information appears on the right. Moreover, the top/bottom arrangement corresponds to what is "ideal" and what is more "real" in the image, as idealized actors tend to be placed higher in pictures (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2006). This area of visual representation matches more closely with the textual metafunction.

The second area of representation marks the events being pictured and the people participating in those happenings, pointing to how active they are, to whether they are part of a static portrait of a landscape or a snapshot of motion. This level is analogous with the ideational metafunction and with the system of transitivity in linguistic expressions.

Finally, the third area concerns the interrelationships being set up between the participants in the picture and with the viewers. This includes elements such as the shot type (whether it is a close or a long shot, for example); the degree and direction of eye contact between the participants and the viewers; the angle of the shot; and the colour and focus. These factors contribute to how vivid and real the image appears (this depends on culturally and cognitively bound conceptions of what "realness" entails) and to how power relations and social distance is managed.

For reasons of space, the more detailed definitions of some of the concepts mentioned above are only provided in the analysis section when relevant to the points being made. It is also important to remember that when 'reading' and producing a multimodal text, we map the anchorage between images and text to each other largely by means of cultural hypotheses we make of the background knowledge of those who produced or will read such texts.


2.1 Context of the Texts

The two advertisements analysed below appeared in women and men's lifestyle magazines in the UK. They are both marketing Veet® hair removal creams. Veet is a trademark owned by Rekitt Benckiser, usually promoted as a quicker and less painful hair removal solution than shaving or waxing. Though the brand exists since 1922, they and have only just began to be manufactured for male populations. Conceivably, Veet is sold in contexts where women are normally expected to keep several parts of their body such as their legs, their armpits, the region above their upper lip and pubic area waxed and hairless. Conversely, men are only expected (if at all) to trim only some areas of their facial hair (e.g. around the jaw). However, given the widespread images of celebrities, sports stars and porn actors modelling with hairless legs and torsos, and the emergence of the metrosexual man (hip, urban and very fashion-conscious male -Pompper, 2010), men are also more and more lining up as likely consumers of hair removal products. As we will see, all of the latter is of key importance to how the body and gender identities are signified in culture.

With the aim of introducing some order into my analysis, I being by looking at what is signified about gender through the visual mode and go on to elaborate on what the linguistic information of the advertisement contributes to the global meanings and communicative function of the text as a whole (for the texts, see appendix 1). I also extend the dislcaimer that the analysis below is based on my own interpretations as a member of the (Western) culture which these ads are part of.

2.2 Femininity Through the Looking Glass - Veet Cream for Women

The first text is what Kress and van Leeuwen (2006) call a "conceptual image". These are static portraits, representations of objects or people in terms of their generalized and more or less stable attributes (p. 59), as opposed to action shots where a dynamic action, i.e. a narrative of events is represented. In this case, the ad presents an extreme close-up image of a woman with what appears to be a moustache followed by the headline "The world sees your barely visible hair differently". This ad works as a kind of mirror image, designed to offer the woman looking at it a rendition of how her facial hair looks like to the eyes of the world, i.e. how it really looks as opposed to how she herself sees it (see below). It builds on the cultural assumption that one of the markers of femininity is the almost complete absence of facial hair (since having a moustache is associated with men) and that women are very much concerned (or should be) about the gaze of the others upon their bodies. It also conveys the idea that beauty work is necessary if one wants to look like a 'real' woman and that the price for not undertaking it is the world seeing one like she was more similar to a man, with the corresponding embarrassment that such an idea is presumed to bring upon the women who the text addresses.

2.2.1 Visual Representation of The Imperfect Woman

In terms of the way in which the woman in the picture is represented as a participant, rather than her undertaking any action or being a subject, she is an object of scrutiny. Kress and Van Leeuwen state that conceptual images are frequently used to portray social actors "as though they were specimens in a display case" (2006, p. 119). In this case, the image centres on the attributes she possesses (most noticeably her moustache), rather than on any kind of agency in an event. In other words, she is portrayed as what she is or has and as per her (deficient) looks, instead of what she does.

The fact that the image in question is presented as an extreme facial close-up helps establish a proximate relation between the viewer and the woman in the image (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 1996), something that is reinforced in the written text through the personal possessive pronoun "your" (see below). The viewer (if a woman) is also being constructed as the person in the image. Hence, she is both the seer and the 'seen', as it happens when one looks at herself in the mirror (an action which may also be culturally associated with a marked concern with physical appearance). In a way, this kind of shot helps pull the women who come across this ad towards a greater degree of involvement and closeness with the woman in the image, which can lead them to identify themselves with her more promptly.

It is also interesting to note the angle in which the shot is taken, which is from a frontal and horizontal, levelled position. Similarly to extreme close-ups, frontal angles can be employed, according to Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006), to increase involvement with what one is seeing. As they put it "the frontal angle is the angle of maximum involvement and says, 'What you see here is part of our/your world, something we/you are involved with." (p. 136), and, in this case "something you are" (ibid.). This strengthens even more the level at which the viewer is allowed and expected to identify with the hairy woman in the picture, construed as a specimen of imperfect femininity. On the other hand, frontal angles are also used to give an impression of levelled objectivity (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2006, p.79). In this case, this seems to be used to enhance the degree of epistemic certainty of the information provided by the image (that the viewer really has a masculine moustache) and reinforces the gazing power of the outside world (the world is the trustworthy judge of how "you" really look like). This works, as we will see, in quite close connection with the degree of epistemic modality in the linguistic information within the ad.

The fact that the woman's gaze is averted from the viewer's vantage point conveys the idea that information is being "offered" rather than demanded. In this case, the image and (the producer of the ad) is offering the woman who looks at it information of how she looks like to outsiders. Moreover, the fact that the woman is portrayed as looking away seems to hint at a sense of shame that comes from neglecting her appearance -she does not face the camera up front. It also helps make the salience of the moustache more prominent, since a part of it comes in contrast with the clear background and, with this, its volume and realness is enhanced.

The moustache becomes the most salient element in the picture also by means of its centrality in the spatial arrangement of the ad and by the deployment of colour and focus. Color and focus are arrayed in images as markers of visual modality, i.e. what in an image is portrayed as "more or less real, more or less credible" (Stenglin & Iedema, p. 202). The clear complexion of the woman, her rosy hue and her shiny pink lips (pink being a stereotypically 'feminine' colour in the West -Koller, 2008), in short, the pastel colour palette employed make the lip hair figure even more sharply focused. In this way, it makes the moustache´s power in threatening the woman's femininity appear more certain and forceful. It should be noted that, even if she has a moustache, the woman used as model is still the Western ideal standard of femininity -caucasian, with delicate features, thinly lined eyebrows, made-up eyes and glossy lips, and who frequently figures in fashion magazines.

2.2.2 Linguistic Representation of the Imperfect Woman

The ad's headline "The world sees your barely visible hair differently" is positioned on the "real" and "new" quadrant of the image. This arrangement increases the epistemic certainty of what is being communicated simultaneously with the visuals and presents the information (that the world can see "your" hair and that it is more noticeable than "you" think) as something that the reader probably did not know or realize before. In this clause, "the world" is the main participant (it is in subject position) and is the senser of the mental process of perception (see appendix 2) "sees", while the other participant is "your barely visible hair" (i.e. the hairline of the woman who reads the text) which is being detected by "the world". Grammatically speaking, the woman does not figure centrally in the clause; the focus is on the world and the facial hairline as the physical attribute she happens to possess, which the world sees as much more "real" and prominent than she thinks it is. It is interesting to note that the clause in question is an example of free indirect thought reporting (Semino & Short, 2004). This is because the voice communicating the linguistic message to the woman is ascribing a thought to her (i.e. that she is under the idea that her hair is "barely visible") without any explicit quotation markers. The adverb "differently" puts these thoughts in opposition with the world's visual perception. In other words, what the woman thinks (or what the text authors attribute to her) is contradicted by what the world sees (the verb "see" being factive). "She" may think that her hair is "barely visible", but the world sees otherwise and has the visual evidence to prove it (i.e. the image in the ad). This constructs the women audiences as unreliable judges of their own appearance, and they are made to rely on the outsider's gaze, which is positioned as more objective and much more powerfully discerning.

2.3 A New Body for Men, For Girls - Veet Cream for Men

The second advertisement also presents a conceptual image, this time featuring the faceless, shirtless and noticeably sculptural torso of a man. At the bottom there is a headline reading "This'll put hands on your chest", and a stretch of text over a strip of dark blue at the lowermost end. In this advert, it is interesting to note that several visual and linguistic strategies are simultaneously in play in an attempt to legitimize the removal of men's chest hair, a biological trait which is very tightly associated with maleness (it is a secondary sexual characteristic). There seems to be awareness in the producers of this ad that a marker of masculinity is being undercut, and this lack gets compensated via the safeguarding and stressing of other stereotypically masculine values in the cultural context where the ad figures. Inter alia, these are: the praise of sexual achievement, the stressing of heterosexuality, difference from the 'other' gender and the colour blue. Additionally, men's participation in the activity of depilating themselves and in taking too active an involvement in tending to their appearance is defaced (both visually and linguistically -see below).

2.3.1 Threatening but Safeguarding Masculinity through The Visual Mode

Firstly, it is interesting to note that the only participant in the image is just a body part (a chest), and that the face of the man who owns it is cut off and absent from the frame. In this case, hiding the man's face from view contributes to the deletion of agency, since we cannot identify the person who used Veet cream for the removal of his body hair. This contributes to reducing the involvement of the social actor on the picture in such a purportedly "effeminate" act, thus reducing the threat to his masculinity.

The fact that there is no possibility of eye contact means that information is being offered to the viewer rather than demanded. Clearly, the image of the glossy torso provides a visual rendition of how the viewer might (ideally) look after using the product, and the text below vouchsafes for the sexual success that looking in such a way will bring (see below). Similarly to what Goffman (1976) found in his data about the size of men's bodies in ads, the size of the man's torso in this image is quite considerable, and takes up almost all of the visual space in the frame. Also, the lines of his physique and the tanned colour of his skin are sharply defined against a clear blue background. This helps to create a more focused and sharper sense of vividness (the body looks like something we can actually put some 'hands' on), working to neutralize the more realistic fact that this kind of body is something not many men to whom the advert is addressed probably have. In addition, it sets a standard of comparison which, as Coupland (2007) points out, is likely to aid in presenting men as having an imperfect body in need of work to boost its attractiveness.

Unlike with the previous ad, the product is visually present this time-not only once but twice (as the box and the bottle of cream). Its position is on the "real" and "new" quadrants of the image (bottom right), and crossing the dark blue and the light blue backgrounds. Such a spatial distribution makes sense if we consider that the product is not associated with men, so the advertisers must make it figure more frequently if they want to build such association. Finally, the headline "This'll put hands on your chest" is quite conveniently located over the groin of the man, hinting at the (hetero)sexual undertone of the phrase.

2.3.1 Threatening but Safeguarding Masculinity through The Linguistic Mode

This leads us to look at the linguistic strategies for constructing and protecting masculinity in this advert. It is interesting to note that the headline makes an intertextual link to the popular expression "This will put hair on your chest", which is used when referring to something that has the supposed potential to increase 'toughness' in a person (e.g. drinking a strong alcoholic drink or undertaking a physically dangerous task). As Sexton (1969) notes, the concept "toughness" is in some contexts commonly associated with masculine behaviour, and, as I have mentioned, chest hair traditionally figures in these contexts as a symbol of masculinity. Replacing the word "hair" with "hands" allows to present Veet as an even better alternative than having chest hair, since it yields the promise of sexual achievement (note the use of the high-probability modal "will"). In this case, sexual achievement is being placed as an ultimate goal and a higher priority, as it is a value which is appealed to as a perfectly valid justification for altering one of the other traditional markers of masculinity.

In the text at the bottom, in contrast to Kress and Van Leeuwen's (2006, p. 67-68 -see also Goffman, 1976) claims about how men are normally represented in advertising texts, the men to whom this text is addressed are not constructed as active agents, but in fact are quite passive. The main participants and undertakers of actions are "Veet" (e.g. "Veet have come up with", "Veet have made them for use at home"), "women" (who are the ones who enjoy the rewards of the body hair removal products, e.g. "They're formulated for men, but enjoyed by women"), and abstract concepts such as "sense of humour" and "smoothness". Men are only part of circumstantial adjuncts (e.g. in the clause "They're formulated for men") or part of an embedded clause (i.e. in the projected mental clause "Veet know that no man should ever have to see the inside of a salon"). This means that they are portrayed in their role of receivers of actions, e.g. of women's attention, enjoyment and "hands", or as objects of cognition, e.g. of Veet's presumed knowledge that they should not "ever" be engaged in activities which are implied as being typically feminine, such as going to the salon. This last expression is an example of the 'gender differences' discourse, in that men's masculinity is safeguarded also by distancing it from what appear to be woman's concerns -Veet help them keep away from salons. Moreover, even when the use of the cream comes to the fore, where participation would be most expected, men are strategically omitted, e.g. "Veet have made them for use at home", not "for you to use them at home" or "so that you can use them at home"; men are nowhere to be found in this clause. Further, the product's slogan "Veet for men, for girls" further contributes to disguising agency and to reinforcing the presumption of heterosexuality pervasive in this text, legitimizing the use of Veet for men, as, 'really', it is all "for [the] girls". All of the latter helps to disguise men's involvement in tending to their appearance. However, it should be noted that, at the same time, the text is implicitly encouraging such a practice -for instance, through the claim "A sense of humour will only get you so far". Here there is the implication that personality is not sufficient and, considering the ad's purpose and the co-text surrounding such a phrase, that physical appearance should be given more attention and concern.


Through this analysis I have hoped to show the different strategies whereby women and men are discursively constructed in texts designed to promote a grooming product. We have seen how not only women, but also men's bodies in these texts are constructed as imperfect. We have also seen how in both cases their bodies are constructed as objects. In the case of the women this is done by making them an object of scrutiny, under the searching eye of the outside world, while in the case of men, this is done by making them a sex object and assuming that they will be willing to play this part (of course, provided it is under women's hands). Moreover, whereas it is normal to see texts which position women as passive, we have seen how this is also the case with men in my data. This helps to support the argument that gender roles are culture and context-specific and that their construction figures in complex ways in communication. In this case, one traditional configuration of the 'division of labor' of action in ads, i.e. portraying men as action-oriented, is left aside, yet it must be remembered that this is done to help preserve another stereotypical gender trait, viz. that men are not supposed to be too involved in, nor to admit minding, their appearance too much.

We have also seen how the first ad depends much more on visual information compared to linguistic information, while the second text seems to draw much more on the written channel. This may be due to the fact that beauty products for women are perceived as a standard commodity and thus not demanding much explicit elaboration about them, whereas in the other case, men consumption of beauty products is perceived as a relatively new phenomenon in the advertising world.

Finally, we have also observed how the first ad appeals to women's sense of shame and works through intimidation when the social expectation that women must be very conscious of their appearance is presumed to be under threat of neglect. In this case, the sense of "sisterhood" through which magazines and ads strive to establish a common knowledge with their audiences and promote their ideologies of gender roles (Litosseliti, 2006) is destabilised. In the case of the man's ad, the threat to one masculine trait is compensated for and neutralized by the accentuation of stereotypically masculine behaviours and of heteronormativity as well as by the obscuring of men's direct 'responsibility' in threatening that trait.

Future research in this area could try to explore, for instance, the reception that these ads have on their target audiences as well as the interpretations that the 'lay' readers might make of the multimodal ensemble of the texts and the social attitudes about gender being promoted. In particular, the construction of gender roles in ads of beauty products for men still seems to be a relatively underexplored area which can yield interesting information about the performativity of gender.

Appendix 1

Text: The world sees your barely visible hair differently

C:\Users\Maka\Desktop\GENDER AND LANGUAGE\Veet for Men.jpg

Text: A sense of humour will only get you so far. That's why Veet have come up with a new range of body hair removal products. They're formulated for men but enjoyed by women. The smoothness lasts a lot longer than shaving and won't leave irritating stubble. And, because Veet know that no man should ever have to see the inside of a salon, they've made them for use at home. VEET FOR MEN, FOR GIRLS.

Appendix 2

Typology of the Processes and Participants in the System of Transitivity

Process type

Associated participant(s)




Actor, Goal (Beneficiary)

Veet have made the creams for use at home

This will put hands on your chest


Circumstantial adjuncts


Behaver, Behavior

You will cry

Mental: perceptive,

cognitive, affective, desiderative

Senser, Phenomenon

The world sees your barely visible hair differently

Veet know that no man should see the inside of a salon

Women enjoy the smoothness of your chest

Women will want you


Sayer, Verbiage (Receiver)

The world says you look awful

Relational: intensive (identifying and attributive), circumstantial & possessive

Identifier, Identified 

Token, Value

Carrier, Attribute

Possessor, Possessed

You are quite hairy

Your hair should be elsewhere

You have no hair on your chest.



There are a million hands on your chest

Adapted from the website of Dr. Hilde Hasselgard's at the Department of Literature, and European Languages - University of Oslo