Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ethos Comparison of Dorothy Gray Salon Anti-Aging Products Advertisement to The Feminine Mystique and "You Don't Own Me"

While the excerpt from Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, and Lesley Gore’s song, “You Don’t Own Me” related to the growing discontentment of American women in order to empower them, the writers of the Dorothy Gray cosmetics advertisement manipulated their audience by establishing a false sense of reliability and misleading women into thinking that they must please men in order to be happy. In terms of extrinsic ethos, Dorothy Gray was one of the three most successful cosmetic companies in the United States at the time. Their success was attributed to extensive advertising that projected an American outlook synonymous with being modern and trustworthy to post-war American consumers. One of their corporate taglines was “Trust Dorothy Gray.” Thus, they seemingly offered an honest solution to women’s insecurities which, unlike Gore’s song and Friedan’s book, placed emphasis on being attractive for their husbands rather than working to create an identity for themselves. In an attempt to boost their credibility, the Dorothy Gray advertisement referenced “noted specialists,” claiming that the specialists "have proved that estrogenic hormones applied to the skin can help women look younger… [and] counteract the effects of the gradual loss of [their] own beautifying hormones.” This statement is next to a photo of a man in a white lab coat. Naive women may have fallen prey to the pseudoscientific jargon and the intelligent appearance of the unknown specialist in the photo, all of which are purposefully and deceitfully used to make the product appear reliable. Similar to how Friedan reassured women that countless others shared the frustration veining through American society, the Dorothy Gray advertisement claimed that "happy results [were] reported by women everywhere” since their cream would seem to be more trustworthy with the assumption that many more people were using it. The difference between this text and the excerpt from The Feminine Mystique (as well as “You Don’t Own Me”) is that the former's intentions expressed genuine concern for women throughout America who were too afraid to break away from the feminine stereotypes. The Dorothy Gray cosmetics advertisement, on the other hand, was manipulative and avaricious when establishing ethos and took advantage of the stereotypes.

- Anjali Ravi


  1. Interesting post! Way to tackle the counter-rhetoric, as your commenters had mentioned in prior posts. Very impressed by this. It's funny, though, how our epistemologies an ideologies guide our understandings of rhetorical texts. We, like you do here, privilege Friedan over Gray. Of course we do--Friedan is groundbreaking, while Gary was "manipulative and avaricious." But I wonder whether a bit of this has to do with our 20/20 hindsight?

    1. Perhaps “avaricious” is too strong a word. I was thinking more along the lines of how, as a company, Dorothy Gray Salon’s main objective would be to make a profit rather than to empower women (as Friedan, on the other hand, is doing).

  2. I think comparing the "Feminine Mystique" and "You don't own me" to a cosmetics advertisement is an excellent way to show the context of the time period that the texts were released. By pointing out the blatant sexism in a major advertisement you're able to show just how normal and socially acceptable sexism was in the 1960s.

    -Chris Burns

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