Uddering the Other: Androcentrism, Ecofeminism and the Dark Side of Anthropomorphic Marketing

Lorna Stevens, Matthew Kearney, Pauline Maclaran

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)


    This is a study of the dark side of anthropomorphism, which explores the depiction of cows in contemporary advertising. The study begins by tracing the cow's representation in culture as an object that is simultaneously revered and profaned, tracing this to its long-standing association with nature and the feminine. It then offers a historical perspective on the representation of cows in advertising, outlining some of the controversies that have raged about how cows are depicted. This leads to a consideration of ecofeminism and related issues around this, such as environmentalism and gender. Its central argument is that an anthropocentric world view has led to cows being positioned in anthropomorphic advertisements as ‘the Other'. Applying an ecofeminist analysis, the authors identify an overarching narrative of ‘benevolent mastery’ in many cow advertisements that adopt anthropomorphic devices. As such, these advertisements serve to delude us about the true nature of cows' lives. The authors conclude by suggesting that an ecofeminist lens enables us to unmask the ‘dark side' of anthropomorphism in marketing, revealing fundamental prejudices in contemporary culture.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)158-174
    JournalJournal of Marketing Management
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 18 Feb 2013

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: 1. Adams, C. J. 2000. The sexual politics of meat: A feminist-vegetarian critical theory, 10th anniversary, New York, NY: Continuum.
    2. Althusser, L. 1970. “Ideology and ideological state apparatuses (notes towards an investigation)”. In Media and cultural studies: Keyworks, Edited by: Durham, G. and Kellner, D. M. 79–88. Oxford: Blackwell.
    3. Bakhtin, M. M. 1981. The dialogic imagination: Four essays, Austin: Texas University Press.
    4. Belk, R. W., Wallendorf, M. and Sherry, J. F. Jr. 1989. The sacred and the profane in consumer behavior: Theodicy on the odyssey. Journal of Consumer Research, 16(1): 1–38. [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®], [CSA]
    5. Brown, S. 2010. Where the wild brands are: Some thoughts on anthropomorphic marketing. Marketing Review, 10(3): 209–224. doi:10.1362/146934710x523078 [CrossRef]
    6. De Beauvoir, S. 1949. Le deuxieme sexe, Paris: Editions Gallimard.
    7. D'Eaubonne, F. 1994. “Le temps de l'ecofeminisme”. In Ecology, Edited by: Merchant, C. and Hottell, R. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities. Trans
    8. Dobscha, S. 1993. Women and the environment: Applying ecofeminism to environmentally-related consumption. Advances in Consumer Research, 20(1): 36–40.
    9. Dobscha, S. and Ozanne, J. L. 2000. “Marketing and the divided self: Healing the nature/woman separation”. In Marketing and feminism: Current issues and research, Edited by: Catterall, M., Maclaran, P. and Stevens, L. 239–254. London: Routledge.
    10. Gaard, G. 1993. “Living interconnections with animals and nature”. In Ecofeminism: Women, animals, nature, 1–12. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
    11. Goldman, R. and Papson, S. 1996. Sign Wars: The Cluttered Landscape of Adverstising, NY: The Guilford Press.
    12. Gruen, L. 1990. “Gendered knowledge? Examining influences on scientific and ethological inquiries”. In Interpretation and explanation in the study of animal behavior, Edited by: Bekoff, M. and Jamieson, D. 56–73. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
    13. Hard, R. 1997. Apollodrus: The library of Greek mythology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    14. Hirschman, E. C. 1993. Ideology in consumer research, 1980–1990: A Marxist and feminist critique. Journal of Consumer Research, 19(4): 537–555. [CrossRef]
    15. Hirschman, E. C. 1998. When expert consumers interpret textual products: Applying reader response theory to television programs. Consumption Markets and Culture, 2(3): 259–309. doi:10.1080/10253866.1998.9670319 [Taylor & Francis Online]
    16. Hirschman, E. C. and Thompson, C. 1997. Why media matter: Toward a richer understanding of consumer's relationships with advertising and mass media. Journal of Advertising, 26(1): 43–60. [Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]
    17. Kates, S. and Shaw-Garlock, G. 1999. The ever entangling web: A study of ideologies and discourses in advertising to women. Journal of Advertising, 28(2): 33–49. [Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]
    18. Kristeva, J. 1982. Powers of horror: An essay on abjection, New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
    19. McDonagh, P. and Prothero, A. 1997. Leap-frog marketing: The contribution of ecofeminist thought to the world of patriarchal marketing. Marketing Intelligence and Planning, 15(7): 361–368. doi:10.1108/02634509710193190 [CrossRef]
    20. Pinch, G. 2004. Egyptian mythology: A guide to gods, goddesses and traditions of ancient Egypt, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    21. Plumwood, V. 1993. Feminism and the mastery of nature, London: Routledge.
    22. Rogers, R. A. 2008. Beasts, burgers, and hummers: Meat and the crisis of masculinity in contemporary television advertisements. Environmental Communication, 2(3): 281–301. doi:10.1080/17524030802390250 [Taylor & Francis Online]
    23. Scott, C. V. 1995. Gender and development: Rethinking modernization and dependency, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
    24. Scott, L. M. 1994. The bridge from text to mind: Adapting reader-response theory to consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research, 21(3): 461–480. [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]
    25. Sherry, J. F. 1987. “Advertising as a cultural system”. In Marketing and semiotics: New directions in the study of signs for sale, Edited by: Umiker-Sebeok, J. 441–462. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyer.
    26. Spears, N. E., Mowen, J. C. and Chakraborty, G. 1996. Symbolic role of animals in print advertising: Content analysis and conceptual development. Journal of Business Research, 37(2): 87–95. doi:10.1016/0148-2963(96)00060-4 [CrossRef]
    27. Staal, F. 1983. Agni, the vedic ritual of the fire altar, Edited by: Somayajipad, C. V., Itti Ravi Nambudiri, M. and De Menil, A. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press.
    28. Stern, B. B. 1993. Feminist literary criticism and the deconstruction of ads: A postmodern view of advertising and consumer responses. Journal of Consumer Research, 19(4): 556–566. [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]
    29. Stern, B. B. 1996. Textual analysis in advertising research: construction and deconstruction of meanings. Journal of Advertising, 25(3): 61–73. [Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [CSA]
    30. Stewart, R. J. 1990. Celtic gods, Celtic goddesses, London: Blandford.
    31. Thompson, C. J. and Hirschman, E.C. 1995. Understanding the socialised body: A poststructuralist analysis of consumers’ self-conceptions, body images, and self-care. Journal of Consumer Research, 22(2): 139–153. [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®], [CSA]
    32. Twine, R. T. 2001. Ma(r)king essence – Ecofeminism and embodiment. Ethics and the Environment, 6(2): 31–58. [CSA]
    33. Ussher, J. M. 2006. Managing the monstrous feminine: Regulating the reproductive body, London: Routledge. [CrossRef]
    34. Warren, K. J. and Cheney, J. 1991. Ecological feminism and ecosystem ecology. Hypatia, 6(1): 179–197. doi:10.1111/J.1527-2001.1991.tb00216.x [CrossRef]
    35. Williamson, J. 1978. Decoding advertisements, London: Marion Boyers.


    Dive into the research topics of 'Uddering the Other: Androcentrism, Ecofeminism and the Dark Side of Anthropomorphic Marketing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this