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Men and masculinities in a changing world: (de)legitimizing gender ideals in advertising

Linda Tuncay Zayer (Quinlan School of Business, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Mary Ann McGrath (Quinlan School of Business, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Pilar Castro-González (Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Córdoba, Spain)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 29 November 2019

Issue publication date: 7 January 2020



Conversations surrounding gender are sweeping the globe as the voices and lived experiences of people are being heard and shared at unprecedented rates. Discourses about gender in advertising are embedded in cultural narratives and legitimatized by a broad system of institutional structures and actors, at both macro and micro/consumer levels. This study aims to explore how consumers (one type of institutional actor) engage in legitimizing/delegitimizing messages of gender in the marketplace.


This research draws on a qualitative approach, specifically the use of in-depth interviews with men across three global contexts.


This research identifies the ways in which men engage in (de)legitimizing messages of masculinity in advertising such as reiteration, reframing, ascribing to alternate logics and prioritizing personal norms.

Research limitations/implications

Across three contexts, this research theorizes the (de)legitimization of gender ideals in advertising and situates consumer narratives within broader institutional forces, providing a holistic understanding of the phenomenon.

Practical implications

Understanding the ways in which individuals either accept or reject gendered ideals in media aids advertising and marketing professionals in tailoring messages that resonate with audiences.

Social implications

Understanding how individuals negotiate their gender and the messages they deem as legitimate are crucial to understanding gender issues related to consumer welfare and public policy.


While research has examined advertising practitioners’ views regarding gender from an institutional perspective, research on how consumers construct and maintain the legitimacy of gendered messages in the marketplace is scarce. This research theorizes and illustrates the (de)legitimization of gender ideals across three contexts.



The authors would like to thank Professor Catherine Coleman at Texas Christian University for her helpful feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.


Zayer, L.T., McGrath, M.A. and Castro-González, P. (2020), "Men and masculinities in a changing world: (de)legitimizing gender ideals in advertising", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54 No. 1, pp. 238-260.



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