A recent post on Port Houses reflects on the shift in promotion of apartment developments from their interface with the beach to, in the case of Evie, an actual face. Port Melbourne is home to more females than males, but I am suspect that is not the main motivation for the overwhelming dominance of women over men in advertising for residential developments.
Perhaps females are less threatening. Is an image of a street with strange men may be expected to send off different messages? As well as being non-threatening, images of women perhaps also communicate something about the area as offering ‘community’. In my experience, many of those groups associated with ‘community’ are dominated by females. Are females the ‘neutral person’ in real estate advertising while males are noticeable?
An apartment development in another inner suburb of Melbourne I walked past recently features an image of a couple on their hoarding. The couple is rather young, but the slight lines visible around the women’s eyes and the slight hint of grey in the man’s facial hair (or is it just the lighting from behind?) suggest they are old enough to be settled professionals. They look happy, but in different ways. To me, the suggestion is the woman has a sense of control. She is looking at the man and holding his head. The man has his eyes closed. There is a slight shadow visible under his eye, so perhaps he is a little tired, but in that moment he is calm.
When it comes to the development industry building and marketing apartment developments, Ruth Fincher (2004) described a perceived gendered life course as underpinning the industry’s taken-for-granted approach. The home was described by those from the industry as the domain of women. Fincher finds that the anticipated households were ones without children (i.e. young couples or empty nesters). Women, when considered outside of a relationship with a male, were viewed as vulnerable and in need of security.
In 2013, it is easy to argue the development industry was not broad enough in their anticipated market. In my field work, often people would point to the balconies of Port Melbourne apartments to demonstrate that apartment dwelling households do include children.
Are images of females an attempt to sell apartments to females in particular, or are images of females expected to sell apartments in general?
Fincher, R., 2004. Gender and Life Course in the Narratives of Melbourne’s High-rise Housing Developers. Australian Geographical Studies, 42(3), pp.325–338.