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News — 07 March, 2019

Mapping Sexist Publicity

Guest blog by Ana Paula Figueroa, 15 years old. Student at GAL School, Cusco, Peru.

Just like many other teenagers, over the last few years, the fight for gender equality has made me wake up to the reality our society is still struggling with. Yet, despite this struggle, the publicity we are exposed to every single day seems to ignore all ideas related to equality. A shared concern between classmates around this topic inspired us to create a project, using mobile phones provided to GAL School by a NetHope and HOTOSM device grant, as well as the applications OpenStreetMap, OSM Tracker, and MapHub.

In the past, advertising was referred to as the resources that a brand or business could use to attract possible customers, but living in a consumerist society like ours, it also serves as a reflection of the main characteristics of our society and at the same time, acts as a permanent educator. That’s why whenever we talk about social injustice it is essential to analyze the advertising that surrounds us.

Anadi, Abril and me are all students from GAL School, living as teenagers and women in Cusco, one of the cities with the highest amount of gender violence in Peru. We decided to start mapping all the sexist content that’s reflected in advertising that we are exposed to in our daily lives, and use the information to analyze the sexist ideas that are normalized and accepted by our society.

Our mapping process lasted for about 5 months, from July to October. We used cell phones provided by the Device Grant and the app OSMTracker to register our routes and upload images, text and audio of any sexist advertising or behaviour in Cusco.

After gathering the images, we uploaded the information to MapHub and analyzed the content. We categorised the information collected in MapHub, with the objectification of women in advertising identified as a star, the perpetuation of gender roles identified as droplets and all the advertising that imposes unrealistic expectations of female bodies, identified with the flame.


The objectification of women is a brutally exploited resource. In Peru, it’s completely normal to see a naked woman used simply to draw attention to something. We are forced to separate the female physical form from her emotional or intellectual characteristics, categorizing it as an object with the exclusive function of satisfying the needs of the viewer.

In this case, the woman is bending over in an unnatural position, showing her body in an explicit way. She is also covering her face, which is one of the easiest ways of identifying objectification in publicity because it eliminates important aspects of personality that could assign individuality to this body. We can easily think about it as a harmless way of drawing attention, but perceiving women as objects leads to the normalization of violence, just as seeing anyone as an object has consequences, which can even include infringing on their rights as a person.

Gender roles are social constructions that set parameters on the way we live, think and the perception of goals for each gender. They are generally based on stereotypes that become rules for our behaviour.



In this example, we are comparing the difference between the messages in clothing for girls and boys in a large clothing chain in the mall in Cusco. We can see that when it comes to the clothing advertised specifically for girls we find messages like ‘mommy’s helper’, while in the t-shirt we found on the boys section we found messages like ‘big trouble’. These kinds of messages confirm that the natural attitude of boys should be to be naughty and make trouble, while limiting the role of girls to simply help their mothers, meaning being obedient. Besides this, both messages are in clothing of shapes and colors stereotypically assigned for each gender, providing clear evidence of the differences in the way society perceives the expected attitudes of girls and boys from that early age.

Amongst the types of publicity that we saw the most during the mapping process, we found the ones that set unrealistic goals on the female appearance and expresses that there’s just one way of being beautiful to be the most common. This teaches girls that they need to be beautiful to be valid and achieve their optimal development. In simple words, the messages to girls is: If you aren’t pretty (according to the concept defined for you), all of your other intellectual and emotional characteristics will stay in the background.

In these examples, you can see the ideas presented above in a shameless way - the woman with a ‘perfect’ appearance and the word ‘beauty ‘ right next to her. This doesn’t just give the impression that that’s exactly what beauty means but also cancels the idea of recognizing women with different appearances. The publicity that we are surrounded by every day validates women only on their physical potential, which must be perfect in every single area of their lives: whilst eating, exercising, working, and even sleeping.

Thanks to the opportunity to gather and analyse this information provided by HOTOSM and NetHope, we realized how the education we receive, which focuses on equality and a respectful approach, can be seriously questioned when we go outside and are exposed to advertisements that show social injustice in a completely normalized way. That’s why we believe that analyzing the content shown in our environments is a fundamental part of contributing to the eradication of sexist attitudes. The principal problem is not what the advertising represents, but the influence it has over our attitudes to others and even the way we perceive ourselves.

Considering how significant this experience was for us, we thought that the best way to avoid it staying on this little map was to create a Facebook page: Mapeo de Publicidad Sexista, and an Instagram account: @mapeodepublicidadsexista. Our idea is that people can report sexist publicity all around the world. This way anyone can send a direct message with a picture and the location so we can add it to the map. This will let us scale the map and also spread awareness about the influence of publicity and the importance of being a critic when analyzing it.

This article originally appeared in Spanish on the Peruvian website Educacción here.