Sexism in Advertising: Gabriella Achadinha’s New Concept Shoot ‘Reverse’ Reveals What’s Always Been There

Sometimes we need to look a different way before we can see something that’s been there all along. That’s what Gabriella Achadinha gives us with her concept photoshoot ‘Reverse’, which reveals the sexism that’s built in to the advertising of the 50’s-70’s. Check out the series here!

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Photo: @gabriella_achadinha

When’s the last time you looked – like, really looked – at a piece of classic advertising? The tropes and the aesthetics are so familiar that we hardly think about them (or hey, notice the sexism); a man leans against a shiny muscle car, shoulders assertively squared to the camera, while a beautiful woman in a state of somewhat undress luxuriates in the background’s softer focus, appearing to swoon across the trunk. The relationship between the two is unclear; are they together? Does she… come with the car? What happened to What are we doing here…

But all these speculations to the side: the tableau is so familiar that we might miss it if we’re not paying critical attention. Because what we’re not seeing – in the ads, and often in real life – is the very present sexism that portrays men as empowered and women as decoration, as objects.

That’s why our incredible photographer, writer and designer pal Gabriella Achadinha decided to flip the gender role script in her recent concept shoot, Reverse, which captures the mood and style of auto advertising in the 50’s – 70’s. It’s an aesthetic where the woman was constantly featured – but as a trophy or accessory that accompanied the car’s purchase, never as its potential purchaser:

“The concept behind the shoot was to actively challenge the gendered and sexist play behind motor vehicle advertising, specifically referring to the style and mood of 50s – 70s advertisements,” Gabriella told us. “The feminine was continuously visualised, not as potential customer, but as material possession to be trophied alongside potential ownership of the car. Decked on cars in bikinis or in the nude, one cannot miss the misogyny deeply ingrained in these campaigns.”

By simply switching the gender roles, the subliminal messaging of this power dynamic (and sexism!) becomes so over-the-top clear, we can never unsee it!! “I had been wanting to photograph these shots for ages but found it near impossible to find a man willing to pose for them,” Gabriella continued. “It’s usually relatively easy to book a female model to shoot bikini, lingerie or nude shoots – this lack of traditional cis male options was, at first, puzzling. Advertising has cemented these foundations of appearance-presenting with the conservatively gendered – men shown as beacons of respectability and power, women as objects of desire.”

It’s way past time to take a serious look at images like these – and the ideas and systems behind them! – and become more cognizant of what we’re looking at. Gabriella’s series ‘Reverse’ spells it out clear as day. Check out selections from the series here:

All photos: Gabriella Achadinha

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‘Reverse’ Credits:
Models: @thandi_love_love and @catsxfoodxselfies
Art Direction / Photography: @gabriella_achadinha 
Shoot Location: Cape Town

Want to see more from Gabriella and check out her other projects? We get it! Grab a cup of something and spend some time clicking around her website here, and make sure you’re following the stunning universe she’s curated on her Instagram.

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