The men’s gallery: Outdoor advertising and public space: Gender, fear, and feminism

Rosewarne, L.

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Rosewarne, L. (2005). The men’s gallery: Outdoor advertising and public space: Gender, fear, and feminism. Women’s Studies International Forum, 28(1), 67–78.

Outdoor advertising presents a unique case in that, unlike advertising in other media, an individual’s capacity to avoid exposure is inhibited. Unlike the private world of magazine and television advertising, outdoor advertising is displayed throughout public space, thus making regulation of the medium a pertinent public policy concern. The inescapable nature of outdoor advertising, compounded with the increasingly sexualised display of women within, demands that an active public policy response occurs. This paper draws from the disciplines of criminology, architecture, and feminist geography to argue that the continued sexualised portrayal of women in outdoor advertising works to illustrate and contribute to the social inclusion of men and the social exclusion of women in public space. I argue that these portrayals fuel women’s perceptions of fear and offence, and force them to limit their movements. I further suggest that such portrayals function to amplify masculine control of city spaces and reinforce women’s exclusion.

Main finding
Highly sexualized imagery and advertisements of women in public spaces ruin the experience of public spaces for women. The article argues that the sexualization of advertisements in public spaces has gotten worse despite policies and calls discouraging the use of highly sexualized images of women in ads. The sexualized and objectifying ads in public spaces remind women of their sexual vulnerability and perpetuate a sense of fear when navigating public spaces, thus leading to their exclusion. Public spaces become a gallery for men decorated with highly sexualized and objectified images of women, ultimately reinforcing women’s exclusion.

Description of method used in the article
This paper's arguments are based on a collection of over 100 examples of outdoor advertising photographed in Melbourne in 2003.

Policy implications

Organising categories

Crime and Aggression Walking or Rolling
Photo / Video / Sensor
Political science
Physical types
Other Streets
Geographic locations