The advertising industry has an illustrious history of commodity feminism, which entails the utilisation of feminist ideology in advertisements in order to increase sales to female consumers. Various scholars have specifically criticised the cosmetics industry for exploiting feminist ideology by arguing that they depict a paradoxical reflection of feminist ideology as they utilise an amalgamation of remodelled feminist ideologies to promote their products whilst continuing to portray traditional, patriarchal beauty ideals for women and female stereotypes. In recent years, however, a new form of commodity feminism has developed, namely femvertising. This type of advertising has received particularly positive attention from scholars as they argue that femvertising is different from previous types of commodity feminism as it focuses on challenging these stereotypes and beauty ideals, empowering women to be self-confident, focussing on their power instead of their appearances, and in general exploiting feminist ideology less. Existing literature extensively discusses the concept of femvertising in relation to the cosmetics industry and how this might change the promotion of traditional beauty ideals and female stereotypes, however, one specific market which remains understudied is the luxury fragrance industry. Therefore, this study aimed to fill this gap by answering the following research question: How is feminist ideology incorporated in luxury fragrance advertising in the periods of the 1990s to 2000s and the 2010s to 2020s? To answer this research question, this study conducted a Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis (MCDA) to analyse sixteen luxury fragrance advertisements that are collected from eight luxury brands from which one advertisement originates from the 1990s to 2000s and one ad from the 2010s to 2020s period. The results show that luxury fragrance advertising from the 1990s to 2000s incorporated feminist ideology in a rather contradictory manner as it both advocated for postfeminist and third-wave feminist ideals such as embracing femininity and women’s sexual agency whilst additionally communicating non-feminist beliefs by for instance sexualising women and reinforcing negative traditional female stereotypes. In addition, the analysis revealed that luxury fragrance advertising from the 2010s and 2020s incorporated third-wave, fourth-wave, and general feminist ideology by primarily focussing on female empowerment, women’s freedom, and the inclusion of a wide variety of women. This study concluded that the incorporation of feminist ideology in luxury fragrance advertising did change with regard to the shift from primarily incorporating postfeminist ideology to incorporating third- and fourth-wave feminist ideology, however, that the incorporation of feminist ideology did not change considering that the majority of the 2010s and 2020s luxury fragrance advertisements continued promoting stereotypical beauty ideals for women.

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

Julia Greijdanus. (2023, February 24). The incorporation of feminist ideology in luxury fragrance advertising from the 1990s to the 2020s.. Media & Business. Retrieved from