A Semiotic Analysis of Conflation of Beauty and Feminism in Pakistani Advertisements

Saira Rubab, Sikender Ali, Zarmina Anwaar, Afshan Sheraz, Nayyar Hassan


This study aims at exploring how the concepts of feminism and beauty are consolidated in Pakistani beauty and cosmetic advertisements to construct a certain kind of femininity and set an unattainable ideal of beauty. A qualitative approach has been adopted for semiotics, which illustrates the significance of using multiple signs in various social contexts while at the same time widening the concept to develop a multimodal social semiotic theory. In order to gain an insight into how advertising can shape certain ideologies, this study aims to investigate how TV commercials construct an arbitrary relationship between beauty and feminism. This study includes a semiotic analysis of verbal and visual modes, being based on Morris's theory of signs and multimodal discourse analysis. It applies Morris's tripartite theory of signs to four television commercials: 1) ‘Clinic Plus Shampoo ‘by Hindustan Lever Limited 2) ‘L’Oréal Revitalift’ by L’Oréal 3) ‘Capri’ by ZIL Limited 4) ‘Nisa Lovely Gold Plus Beauty' by Trend International. The findings are discussed in terms of feminist discourse theories and beauty practices in everyday life and their development over a considerable period. It is discussed in detail how the beauty-feminism consolidation is repeatedly produced and reproduced by society and its members. The results of this research suggest that in beauty product advertisements, there are hegemonic intentions and interests in the advertising beauty products selling anti-feminist ideologies under the guise of feminist discourse, which is also co-occurring with ideologies of the unnatural and unattainable beauty ideal resulting in a newly emerged consolidation between the two concepts of beauty and feminism. In addition, the findings also show the importance and need for media literacy and teaching semiotic analysis for such multimodel texts to deconstruct the reality behind them.


Keywords: semiotics, discourse, feminism, commercials.


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