Representations of femininity and masculinity in advertisements have been argued to influence society’s understanding of gender. Stereotypically, women appeared submissive and sexualised in adverts, whereas men appeared confident, present and powerful. The combination of appearing submissive while being sexualised, is found to sexually objectify of women. A growing trend in advertising is the use of female empowerment messaging, termed femvertising. Femvertising seeks to challenge female stereotypes through body positive messaging and rejecting traditional gender roles. In this context, lingerie advertising is controversial as lingerie brands are accused of sexually objectifying women in their advertising while also using empowering messaging to promote their products. The main research question guiding this study was ‘How is female empowerment represented in cross-cultural lingerie advertising on Instagram?’ To gain a deeper understanding of this phenomenon, a thematic analysis was conducted on 150 Instagram posts by lingerie brands from China, the Netherlands and the United States. These brands were selected based on female empowerment in their core values, as well as being considered to innovate in their country’s lingerie market. The results showed how American brand Savage X Fenty used sexualisation and a diverse representation of beauty to empower their followers. Chinese brand Neiwai focussed on comfort and encouraging their followers to take time for relaxing, essentially to put themselves first. Dutch brand Marlies Dekkers took an open approach by including personal experiences, explicit conversations about sex and encouragement for women to be bold. The study identified two paradoxes. Firstly, the Chinese brand did not sexualise their female models but its posts were considered the most sexually objectifying. In contrast, the American brand included sexualisation in the majority of its post, but was not considered to sexually objectify the female models. Secondly, many references to consumerism were found in the sample, yet the level of commodity feminism was low. To broaden understanding, future studies are needed to explore women’s perceptions of these different methods of integrating female empowerment in lingerie advertising.

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Dr. Anne-Mette Hermans
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Eveline Harteveld. (2022, June 27). Female empowerment in lingerie advertising A thematic analysis of the representation of female empowerment in cross-cultural lingerie advertising on Instagram. Media & Business. Retrieved from