Flamingos and Gender Ideology in Advertising

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Images of flamingos have had a role in American popular culture for nearly 200 years. This chapter explores the symbolic work such images accomplish in American advertising, particularly in reproducing gender ideologies, or individuals’ attitudes about appropriate roles for men and women. We trace the popularity of plastic flamingos in the yard as the foundation for subsequent use of this bird in advertisements. Then, we analyze representations of flamingos in advertising, showing that the flamingo’s polysemy allows their image to send a wide range of messages. Through a critical reading of selected advertisements, we examine how representations of flamingos reveal ideologies of gender. In analyzing the iconography of the flamingo, this chapter emphasizes the significant influence animals have on social practices and arrangements we consider uniquely human.