media

Bad Ads (2)

Despite the title, these aren’t exactly advertisements, so much as photo spreads in magazines. however, I’m pretty sure they are selling something too.

There have been a spate of glossy photos published in magazines lately that (on the face of it) seem to be challenging existing norms, or at least shocking us all into a conversation. But, delving deeper we might find that they are still cogs in a well oiled market driven machine that’s predicated on the objectification of women’s bodies.

the most obvious place to begin would be with Kim Kardashian’s notorious ‘breaking the internet‘ photo, but i refuse to give her space on my blog so won’t be posting this photo here. However, feel free to follow the link and then come back as I would like to draw some parallels with her father’s recent cover on Vanity Fair.

Caitlyn Jenner

Both photos seem like brave departures from established norms. The shock factor of Kim’s nudity is compounded by the sleek oiled look and emphasis the photo places on her generous backside. some hailed the photo as a feminist statement flouting conventional ideals of beauty and celebrating female power. however, as Naomi Wolf wrote many moons ago in ‘The Beauty Myth’ – power which derives from the gaze of another, is no power at all. I agree with Feminist Current who claim that women are sick of their bodies being used as ‘a disposable object for enterprise’. Much like paid commercials, Kim’s body is used (with her consent) to bolster a consumerist market, selling an unattainable, photo-shopped and cosmetically enhanced spectacle of female sexuality that almost boarders on the absurd.

Caitlyn Jenner seems to have made a similar choice in sharing her semi-nude body on the front pages of an important publication, creating a global collective intake of breath. so far reactions have been overwhelmingly positive and this photo is being haled as a breakthrough for transgender rights. however, as Laverne Cox wrote on her Tumblr, no one person can ever represent all trans people. I would also add, that so far both Laverne’s public identity and that of Caitlyn Jenner, have made a conscious effort to conform to standard beauty ideals, offering an unoffensive image of femininity.

I don’t expect trans people to carry the torch for the entire feminist movement and battle all gender stereotypes in addition to the discrimination they face already because of their trans identity. however, this photo just isn’t as subversive as it seems. Jenner has made a choice to look (through surgery) and dress in a way that glamorizes a very narrow kind of feminine beauty, and is also decked out in designer clothes – so we can all go out and buy her look. And this image also creates an apparent dichotomy between masculine and feminine representations that seem to be on complete opposite sides – an issue which should bother trans people as much as it bothers us, as it’s holding them to the same narrow normative beauty standards.

at the end of the day, there is nothing truly revolutionary about the image of femininity offered here or of the role of the female body in any of these images.

the final photo I would like to share is one that has cropped up quite a bit on my feed lately supposedly celebrating motherhood and challenging norms which call on women to cover up while breastfeeding.

ell mag

however, a closer look at this photo will reveal that the model is holding her 4 month old naked child like a casual handbag, and that this entire photo aesthetic calls to mind the use of a baby as a glamorous accessory. the designer clothing on the model and the nudity of the child, juxtaposed with her face which seems to be experiencing pleasure or release, which could be interpreted as sexual, is all incredibly disturbing. Once again, an image of supposedly female power is co-opted into the market driven consumerist world of glossy magazines, and the good intentions (maybe) of the storyteller are lost.

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gender, media, stereotyping, violence against women, Women's rights

Bad Ads

It seems like lately there are more and more incidences of advertisements ‘going wrong’ in objectifying ways. Take a look at these two recent examples —

Bud Light thought this was a good advertising catchphrase:

bud light

‘the perfect beer for removing “no” from your vocabulary for the night’ #upforwhatever

And recently a public transport authority in Wales came out with this winner:

ride me

‘Ride me all day long for 3 pounds’

You have to wonder at the approval process for these ads, and why didn’t anyone say at some point ‘hold on, this might be a horrible thing to say’.

Although these adverts are awful, the negative reaction it drew from audiences who were quick to mobilize against these brands are a reason to celebrate. From the flood of emails and tweets aimed at NAT, which prompted them to remove this ad from all their buses, to the John Oliver segment on Last Week Tonight literally ‘taking the piss’ out of Bud Light.

This leaves me optimistic. The general public knows objectification and sexual violence innuendo when it sees it, and we’re not afraid to call people out on this. Advertising executives are being a held to a higher standard, and brands are now acutely aware of the cost of these sorts of faux pas.

Let’s hope they learn from each other’s mistakes.

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16 days, body image, gender, media, violence, Women's rights

How the media failed women

The media has never been kind towards women. They are ultimately trying to sell us something and as agents of the beauty industry have good reason to keep us dissatisfied with ourselves and obsessed with images of airbrushed women. We are stereotyped in movies, advertisements and glossy magazines, and are made to believe we can only digest the evening news if it’s presented by a very pretty woman.

We are aware of this. Men and women who find these images appalling and oppressive, speak out where possible. Yet the industry remains undisturbed; and every once in a while they come up with things like this:

20131209-175842.jpg

Let’s break down this image shall we? A woman is held down by force by a man while thrusting her pelvise suggestively at another three men who are standing around awaiting their turn and watching. Four men and one woman? Where have i heard this story before?

oh, that’s right. Delhi, India, December 2012. A young woman is gang raped by six men and subsequently dies from the assault. This sort of violence seems completely at odds with this glossy shot, and yet the imagery obviously suggests that dominating women en mass is cool, sexy and acceptable.

Violence against women isn’t created in a vacuum. It’s cultivated, sustained, sanctioned and disseminated in subtle ways, online and offline, through images and words.

In a video by Dove’s “campaign for real beauty” (which is just another consumer ploy, let’s be honest, from the same company which produces racist products such as Fair and Lovely. puke.) a girl is bombarded with images reminiscent of the famous scene from ‘Clockwork Orange’ and finally the words flashing across the screen advise mothers to educate their daughters before the beauty industry does.

In this instance, the self-hate propagated by these images can lead to self-harm, another form of violence, which girls inflict upon themselves in despair once they realize (at the age of 10) that they will never look like any of the young women they see on screen and in magazines. and apparently it’s your fault, mother, for not shielding your daughter from such images. hello? maybe Unilever would like to step up and take responsibility for the stick-figure, scantily clad women they use in their ads?

pot noodle unilever

Comparing a woman to pot noodle? Really Unilever?

how about this:

kate1

Turning women into objects is the first step towards justifying violence against women. In other words – they’re not really people, so it’s okay to beat the crap out of them. Kate Moss is simply a prop, much like a tripod in fact, for holding up a desirable camera.

whatever sells, right?

How else has media failed women in 2013? a short recap in this video by Miss Representation.

Just when you thought it was safe to be a conscious feminist, the media does it again. and again. and again.

Tomorrow is the last day of the 16 days of activism to end violence against women. it’s important to talk about these issues, and write about them, and nag about them, all year round. Because they are here all the time, and they are not confined to news reports of rape in third world countries. Violence is spoon fed to us all the time by those who would keep us powerless, occupied with thinking about our looks, instead of thinking about equality.

Don’t let them win.

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