The stratification of individuals into socioeconomic tier ranking is commonly based on such factors as education, wealth, income, and occupation. These classes are frequently used to separate individuals from each other. Advertisements are commonly targeted to individuals of different social classes. Social class refers to the group of people who are in a stratified hierarchy based on educational attainment, wealth, and social power, among others (Lumen, 2021). Clothing and social class commonly go hand in hand.
The above photo is a clothing advertisement by Ralph Lauren. The social class that is being depicted here is the upper class. The advertisement shows a group of individuals in an expensive-looking car next to 2 dogs. In most developed and even developing nations, ownership of pets is linked with higher social capital (Wood et al., 2017). This is more common in countries like Australia and the US. Therefore, it can be concluded that in the above photo, the social class that is being targeted is the upper and lower classes. The gender identities that the advertisement appeals to include males and females.
The advertisement highly depicts both social and economic status. The manner in which the advertisement has been displayed seems more appealing to individuals who are wealthy. Ownership of this clothing brand would signify that one is relatively affluent. Generally, most of Ralph Lauren’s products are considered high-end products, which are more appealing to customers who are considered wealthy. Furthermore, the color white is commonly associated with individuals who are wealthy. Lei and Bodenhausen (2017) claim that Caucasians are generally associated with wealth, whereas middle and low-income earners are primarily associated with the African-American community.
The second advertisement is a clothing advertisement by Ann Taylor. The photo is shown below:
The advertisement seems to depict the middle (upper-middle) to upper (lower-upper) classes. Subsequently, the ad appears to be highly appealing to females and members of the LGBTQ. The kind of fashion that is being advertised is highly appealing to individuals who identify as lesbians, bisexuals, or even transgender. Such an outfit is commonly considered masculine. Given that a woman is used to advertise this clothing, the brand becomes appealing even to members of the LGBTQ community. According to apparel resources (2021), there is a need for inclusivity in the fashion industry, and individuals should not be judged based on their clothing.
The advertisement depicts both a social and economic status. As in the first advertisement, the second one features a white female model, and given that being caucasian is linked with wealth, this advertisement can be considered to depict middle to high social and economic class. Ownership of the clothing brand also signifies some amount of wealth among the individuals who wear it. According to Khazan (2019), Ann Taylor is a brand that is linked with white-collar jobs and individuals who belong to the middle or high-income class.
In sum, the manner in which individuals dress is often associated with a specific economic or social class. The first advertisement involves a Ralph Lauren brand which is often considered a luxury or high-end brand. The ad is associated with individuals who belong to the upper class. In the second advertisement, the brand used is Ann Taylor, and the advertisement is highly appealing to individuals who belong to the LGBTQ community. Such an advertisement would be appealing to the group because it is gender-neutral.
Apparel Resources. (2021). Fashion designs for LGBT: Challenging and transforming trends. Retrieved from http://apparelresources.com/fashion-news/trends/fashion-designs-lgbt-challenging-transforming-trends/
Khazan, O. (2019). The Case for Boring Office Clothes. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/06/ann-taylor/591313/
Lei, R. F., & Bodenhausen, G. V. (2017). Racial assumptions color the mental representation of social class. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 519.
Lumen. (2021). Social Class. Boundless Psychology. Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-sociology/chapter/social-class/
Wood, L., Martin, K., Christian, H., Houghton, S., Kawachi, I., Vallesi, S., & McCune, S. (2017). Social capital and pet ownership–a tale of four cities. SSM-population health, 3, 442.
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Select two distinct advertisements that promote or feature a brand of clothing. For instance, you could select an ad for Ann Taylor and one for Ralph Lauren. Closely analyze the details in the different ads. Be sure to focus on the physical traits, body language, and physical appearance of the “characters” or models in the ads. Consider that these features are promoted based on the particular audience each ad is trying to reach.
Please write an ad analysis that addresses the social concepts depicted in the ads. Review the sections from the module about class, gender/LGBTQ+, and social mobility. For each advertisement, address and expand on the following questions:
What social class do you think is being depicted?
What gender aspirations or identities, including LGBTQ+, do you think are being appealed to?
To what extent is a social and/or economic status being depicted?
What does ownership of this clothing brand presumably signify about the potential customers?
Conclude your analysis with a paragraph that summarizes the reviews of the ads and how they demonstrate the social concepts. Attach a screenshot or picture of each advertisement to your submission.
Additional sources for paper
Stratification and Social Class
Stratification is described as inequalities among people in society. This hierarchy or ranking can be based on several categories, including gender, age, race, ethnicity, caste, estate, slavery, and class.
In the first noteworthy study on class and stratification, W. Lloyd Warner and colleagues in the text Social Life of a Modern Community (1941) classified the population into the following classes:
Upper class – the old aristocracy
Lower-upper class – the “new* rich
Upper-middle class – professionals and business executives
Lower-middle class – skilled craftsman, small business owners
Upper-lower class – clerical and semi-skilled production workers
Lower-lower class – unskilled laborers.
The stratification of people into rankings of socioeconomic tiers is based on factors such as wealth, income, education, and occupation. Each is covered in more detail in the following paragraphs.
Wealth is a key factor that determines the status of an individual in society in terms of class. Based on the worth of wealth that could be considered movable and immovable, an individual is placed on the stratification of wealth. Determining a person’s placement on the stratum of wealth involves addressing the net value of money and assets a person has, including estate income, a person’s wages, etc. or. According to Saez and Zucman (2011), when calculating the wealth inequality in the United States since 1913, based on evidence from the capitalized income tax data, the average net worth of the bottom 90 percent of American families is only $84,000, while the average net worth of the top 1 percent has grown to $13.8 million. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent below wealth combined.
Income describes liquid assets in the form of cash flow every month or on a regular basis. This regular income can be in the form of wage, income from investments, or money that an individual or business receives in exchange for providing labor, producing a good or service, or investing capital. Real income is income excluding increases owing to inflation; this provides a fixed standard of comparison from year to year.
Education is an important determinant of social class. Education is one of the strongest predictors of one’s occupation, income, and wealth. The economic benefits of a college education have increased considerably over time. In the United States, in 1977, the gap between the hourly wages of college graduates and high school graduates was only 28 percent; by 2017, the gap had widened to nearly 50 percent (Economic Policy Institute, 2018). A college graduate will earn more than twice as much as a typical high school graduate over his or her working life; this encourages more people to earn a college degree.
Occupation is another determinant of social class and is an important indicator of a person’s social status. Occupation is linked with the educational attainment of most wage earners. The majority of white-collar jobs require higher education and place those jobs in a higher income group.
Social class is a multifaceted concept comprising how much we have gone to school, what we earn, our occupation, and whether we have assets passed on from the previous generations. All the different determinants of social class make it difficult to rely on upper, middle, and lower class categories. In terms of social class, there can be wide differences in lifestyle and how the person carries themselves in day-to-day activity. We must keep in mind that there are no strict boundaries for class distinctions.
Economic Policy Institute. (2018). State of working America: Data library. https://www.epi.org/data/#?subject=wage-coll
Saez, E., & Zucman, G. (2016). Wealth inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from capitalized income tax data. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 131(2), 519-578. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjw004
Two sociologists who have played a major role in class theory are Karl Marx and Max Weber.
According to Karl Marx, class depends solely upon people’s relationship to the means of production: the tools, factories, land, and capital needed to produce wealth. This then creates two classes of people the bourgeoisie (those who own the means of production) and the proletariat (the workers).
Weber argued that property is only part of the issue. According to him, there are three determinants of class that he identified as property, power, and prestige. He defined them as follows:
Property – ownership of material items that influences a person’s social standing.
Power – ability to control others, even over their objection.
Prestige – often derived from property and power as people tend to admire the wealthy and powerful.
Another distinction often made is that of ascribed status versus achieved status. This deals with the difference between obtained class identification and whether social standing is determined at birth or earned over a lifetime. Achieved status is built on accomplishment, proficiencies, and abilities. Some examples of achieved status include being a lawyer or even being a felon, and the status then determines expected behaviors for the individual.
Social mobility generally refers to the movement from one social class to another.
Social mobility can be achieved in the following ways:
Intergenerational mobility refers to movement either up or down the social hierarchy by family members. As an example, a father is a truck driver, and the son becomes a doctor.
Exchange mobility occurs when individuals change places with one another in the stratification system. To illustrate, 100 working-class people move up the ladder, and at the same time, 100 middle-class people experience a downward move on the ladder.
Structural mobility describes when the financial status of people changes as a result of structural changes in the economy. For instance, as the U.S. became industrialized, the occupational structure itself was transformed. Children, therefore, were able to move beyond the same occupational position as their parents.
The four main systems of stratification are important to the study of sociology. The Estate system and its idea of nobility, clergy and commoners, is no longer as prevalent as it may have been in the past. Slavery as a system of stratification is found in the history of many countries, including the United States, while modern day slavery in the form of sex trafficking, human trafficking, and mail order brides still exist in many countries. The Caste system is a unique system of stratification and is a closed system where social mobility is not possible. The Class system, on the other hand, allows for upward and downward mobility and is based on material possessions.
One possible theory explaining the evolution of gender stratification discusses the conditions in early human history. It is believed that with lifetimes being so short, women produced many children, and men handled many duties related to hunting. Women were left at home to do the daily chores and tend to the children, ultimately being looked upon as second class or subservient to the male. Through the centuries and in many societies, this inequality evolved and spread into the areas of education, politics, employment, medicine, rehabilitation, and everyday life.
The following image depicts how gender inequality is applied in the three sociological perspectives, including structural-functional theory, symbolic interaction theory, and conflict theory:
Queer theory is an approach to sexuality studies that identifies society’s rigid classification of gender into male and female roles and questions the way we have been taught to think about sexual orientation. This perspective gives importance to the need for a more flexible and fluid conceptualization of sexuality—one that allows for change, cooperation, and individuality. The concept of queer theory helps overcome oppressive representations in culture, especially those surrounding gender and race (black versus white, male versus female). Sexuality makes up a large share of the self-perceived identity of people. Some people, homo- hetero- and bisexual, experience their sexuality as being deeply embedded in a fluid and flexible view of gender meanings and gender differentials.
In society, we see that people may prefer to hire a cisgender individual compared to someone who identifies as homosexual. This explains how gender stratification exists in terms of sexual identification. It is also seen that in patriarchal cultures, when females come out as lesbians, people take it casually, saying they will outgrow it. However, when a male comes out as homosexual in such cultures, the family and society may shun them.
In this section, we examined the complexities of gender, sex, and sexuality. Differentiating between sex, gender, and sexual orientation is an important first step to a deeper understanding and critical analysis of gender stratification. Understanding the sociology of sex, gender, and sexuality will help to build awareness of the inequalities experienced by different groups.
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