This thesis aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the portrayal of body diversity in underwear advertisements, through the research question: How is body diversity portrayed in Dutch underwear advertisements for men and women? With this research, this thesis aimed to fill an academic gap, as valuable insights on the inclusion of body diversity in underwear advertisements were missing. Furthermore, this thesis was socially relevant as it provided a better understanding of how body diversity is perceived by Dutch society and how this is reflected in the media. The analysis considered age, body size, and ethnicity as diversity traits. By applying a visual critical discourse analysis and an intersectional approach to 50 underwear video advertisements from the Netherlands published between 2017 and 2022, various findings emerged that can be divided into four categories. These categories are: portrayals that reinforced or challenged stereotypes, personal and impersonal portrayals, group portrayals, and sexual portrayals. This thesis found that body diversity is mainly portrayed through portrayals that either reinforce or challenge stereotypes, through a personal emphasis on the model, and through an application of humour in male advertisements. Additionally, the exclusion of models with diversity traits in certain portrayals further reinforced stereotypes. The inclusion of diverse models in the advertisements overall did not appear to bring more diversity in terms of portrayals, as gender stereotypes were still present. Additionally, ethnic stereotypes were often present in advertisements for men. Models with a larger body size were found to be mainly depicted in a personal manner, and only rarely in a sexy or sexual manner. Additionally, men with diversity traits were often included in humorous advertisements. With the exclusion of larger-sized models from active and relationship portrayals, the advertisements appeared to reinforce the idea that larger-bodied people are less active and that attractiveness is associated with body size. These findings did not only have academic relevance but also found their significance in societal implications, as this thesis aimed to raise awareness on the presence and use of stereotypical and sexual portrayals in underwear advertisements, and thereby affect the way society perceives these portrayals and the people that are portrayed.

, , , , , ,
Dr. Hester Hockin-Boyers
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Emma Mientjes. (2022, June 27). Challenging or Reinforcing Stereotypes? How Body Diversity is Portrayed in Dutch Underwear Advertisements. Media & Business. Retrieved from