Special issue :From Socialist Amazons to Bodies on Full Display: Gender Stereotypes in Bulgarian Advertising during Socialism and the Post-Socialist Transition

This essay offers a critical analysis of the changing images of women in Bulgarian advertising during socialism and in the process of the post-socialist transition. During socialism, images of women, dressed in white lab coats, wearing construction hats, and lacking any sense of sexuality were on prominent display, created the most visually recognizable and ubiquitous symbols of communism—the frumpy babushka. Today, the babushka is an image of the past as Eastern European women have adopted a new highly sexualized identity. Advertising, which boomed during the transition, has become the primary cultural arena for the social engineering of a new, highly sexualized identity, quickly becoming a “normalized” trend in Eastern Europe with potentially dangerous consequences.

Elza Ibroscheva

Elza Ibroscheva

Elza Ibroscheva is the Associate Provost and Professor of Mass Communications at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Originally from Bulgaria, her research interests focus on media developments in Eastern Europe, include media stereotypes, international and political communication, gender representations in the media as well as the role of the media in fueling nationalism. Ibroscheva is the author of Advertising, Sex and Post Socialism: Women, Media and Femininity in the Balkans and an editor (with Dr. Maria Raicheva-Stover) of the volume Women in Politics and Media: Perspectives from Nations in Transition.

1. Why does advertising present such powerful force that can influence gender norms and relationships between the sexes?
2. How did advertising change after the fall of the communist regime?
3. How did the use of women’s bodies transform during the post-socialist transition?
4. What is the potential impact of the sexualization of women’s body in advertising?
5. How could these sexualized images and their impact on women’s identity be countered in the media?


Southeastern Europe