April 17, 2010

Marc Jacobs is a misogynist v 2.0

After posting the latest disturbing images from Marc Jacobs the other day and connecting it to the larger array of images in advertising in the ad-round up, I have found a few of the images from his 2005 ad campaign. The series of images below are not complete. They are the only 3 I have found (so far) in my mammoth private collection of ads over the last decade. The image in the middle is from the January 2005 issue of Vogue. I did not accurately label the other two images but they were also found in mainstream fashion magazines from the same time period.

What’s particularly interesting and disturbing about these images is how much they resemble the work of photographer Melanie Pullen. In 2005, I went to see Pullen’s exhibit High Fashion Crime Scenes at the ACE Gallery in Beverly Hills. Pullen recreated from files obtained from the Los Angeles and New York Police Department’s and various coroner’s offices, crimes that took place at the beginning of the last century. She recreated these crime scenes by outfitting models in high-fashion clothing (Prada and Gucci) and shoes (Jimmy Choos and Marc Jacobs, ironically). Her work is coupled with an artist’s statement that indicates her intention in critically examining the glamorization of violence and the distraction of  that violence through the use of beautiful women in beautiful clothes. The fashion industry barrages us with seemingly normative images of violence against women in mainstream magazines advertising everything from clothing to perfume. These instances are exactly what Pullen is attempting to examine.

The difference between Jacobs and Pullen? Pullen’s work is accompanied with an artist’s statement and takes a critical eye at this rather gruesome trend and asks that we become aware of our tendency to focus on the beauty of the images while ignoring their brutality (they are images of actual crime scenes, after all). Jacobs’ work does not come with an artist’s statement. Instead, he is on the other side of the issue.

February 17, 2010

20 years of beauty ads

Filed under: Gender — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 1:42 pm

Click here for The Illusionists look at 20 years of beauty ads and their changing themes, from the aspiring female professional, assertive and independent, to the narcissistic themes characteristic of the “me-generation.”

Leisure. Indulgence.  Self-entitlement.

It’s unsurprising that young women aspire to do, well, nothing except  pamper themselves. Hey, I am an open and avid fan of the mani/pedi, great shampoo and a massage but, in reality, a life of ceaseless leisure is a goal that is not only dangerously self-absorbed but unrealistic given the economic climate.


February 12, 2010

Culture jammin' ladies take a stand

Filed under: Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Melanie @ 10:08 am

There’s been plenty of discussion on the pervasive Super Bowl sexism this week but a few ladies decided to take action and subvert the message of male oppression and anxiety. The original ad, which appeared in Salon.com’s list of “Best and Worst of Super Bowl Ads,” appears first and is followed by the culture jammin’ response that went viral yesterday.

February 9, 2010

Superbowl Sexism: The Thumb Edition

Filed under: Body Image,Gender,Media,Media Gallery — Tags: , , , , — Lani @ 11:29 pm

Forgoing any of the obvious critiques (e.g. the bathtub, the nudity, the variety of responses she elicits) the fact that the powers that be at Motorola obviously used a thumb double  for Megan Fox’s wide, or clubbed, thumb (apparently, this is called brachydactyly) is one of the more ridiculous offenses of this years Superbowl commercials. Rest assured, ladies in entertainment, if they can’t pick apart your weight, breasts, skin tone, or cellulite….there are always your thumbs. What’s a little more surprising is that this isn’t the first time that Megan’s thumbs have received so much attention. But, how we do wish it would be the last.

April 17, 2009

Again?

Another ad featuring a naked woman and a fully clothed male. This time it’s rapper Kanye West and his model girlfriend, Amber Rose. This is a tired, boring, played out theme in advertising that objectifies women and consistently portrays the female form in a state of undress or near undress.  Rarely, do we see ads in which the men are nude, with or without a dressed female in the picture.  It just doesn’t happen.

What are young girls and women learning about the culture’s view of the female body when all around them images of teen girls and women are scantily clad if dressed at all. Viewing this phenomenon through George Gerbner‘s lens of cultivation, the building and maintenance of a stable set of images that reinforce one another and collectively construct reality, girls grow up  in a  culture in which it is not uncommon and is actually expected that girls and women will be highly sexualized objects.

This doesn’t even take into account the body language in this photo that reinforces stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity.  The strong, active and in-charge male with the passive female.  In fact, Amber Rose doesn’t even appear human.  She’s more of an accessory.

We see these themes in advertising time and time again.  So, it’s not this one ad.  It’s the countless ads that reinforce these themes over and over and over and over….

March 27, 2009

Not like anyone I know

Bonnie Fuller posted an article at the Huffington Post yesterday called, “Cougars and MILFS rule! 40 Year-Old Women are WAY hotter than 20 Year-Olds.” While I appreciate the celebration of more mature women as desirable, intelligent and beautiful beings, I was put off by the title.  Maybe it’s just me but I don’t find the term”cougar” or “MILF” flattering. Second, the article mentions women such as Sandra Bullock, Valerie Bertinelli (giving her props for her latest People Magazine cover in which she dons a bikini and shows off her 48 year-old body), Cindy Crawford and her nude cover for Allure Magazine, Julia Riberts and Nicole Kidman to name a few.

Fuller states that this is evidence that age is no longer an issue:

Need more evidence that Age has gone the way of the dinosaur? It used to be that the standard Hollywood refrain for Hollywood actresses was that there were boohoo, no good roles, for them, moan moan, over the age of 40. As for magazines: cover models used to be doomed once they hit 30.

And if an actress became a mother, it was the kiss of death, instantly zapping their sex appeal. Society was like Elvis, who couldn’t get hot and bothered for Priscilla once she gave birth to Lisa Marie.

Now here’s the new evidence: Julia Roberts mom of three, 41, is the much admired star of the new crime thriller, Duplicity. Meryl Streep, 59, and Nicole Kidman, 41, still can’t keep up with the roles they’re offered. Michelle Pfeiffer, 50, stars as the ultimate cougar courtesan in the soon-to-be released film Cheri. Courtney Cox, 44, is also starring in a new sitcom, appropriately entitled, Cougartown. Salma Hayek, 42, and Sandra Bullock, 44, just rocked on the last two covers of In Style magazine. Oh, and Calista Flockhart, 44, is to be Hollywood’s latest blushing bride after finally bringing Harrison Ford to his knees.

Call them cougars or call them MILFS, just don’t call them over. Let’s discuss Demi Moore, 2009-03-26-demiass.jpg 46, and Madonna, 50. The two Kabbalists are the envy of younger women everywhere. Demi, for her sexy, un-plastic-surgery-looking looks and devoted 15 years-younger, GORGEOUS husband, Ashton Kutcher, 31, who Twittered this shot of her over the weekend, and Madonna for her rock hard body and years younger lovers, A-Rod, 33, and Jesus Luz, 22.

Where do I start?

Well, first of all, Cindy Crawford’s sudsy nude centerfold graces Allure’s anti-aging issue in which Crawford shares her “secrets” on remaining in shape after children and reveals her anti-aging secrets as well.  Surprise! Surprise! Crawford has her own line of anti-aging product that I would imagine fetch quite a price. This reminds me of an ad campaign  Christie Brinkley did several years ago for an anti-aging moisturizer with the caption, “In don’t mind aging…as long as I don’t look like it.” Uh?  Contradiction?  Schizophrenic messages? Not to mention that fact that the caption next to her photograph says,” This is what 43 looks like.”

Uh, not really.  Um, not at all.

I don’t know a lot of 43 year-old women or for that matter 23 year-old women that look like Crawford.  I also don’t now a lot of women that have the time, money or energy to maintain her exercise regimen.  Let’s face it, Cindy Crawford is not like most of us.

Trainer.  Nutritionist. Chef. Nanny, Pilates instructor. Yoga instructor. Boot camp.  Stylist.  MONEY! Oh, and, lets add in photoshop, please.

The other women mentioned in the article don’t reflect the average woman either.  The culture has come to “accept” more mature women (if that’s what you want to call it) and, personally, I enjoy being a 30-something woman a lot more than I enjoyed being a 20-something woman.  But, I don’t feel this article focused on women that represent the average woman nor do I feel this article focused  on what truly makes a woman over 30 sexy: her intellect, her life experience, her charisma or the complexity of her character.  In keeping with the mainstream culture’s obsession with a narrow standard of physical beauty, the article spends too much time discussing the physical appearance of women that don’t actually look their age but appear much younger thanks to products and services their celebrity status can afford them

In the end, the reality is that the culture has come to “accept” women over 30 as long as they still look like they are in their 20s.

January 29, 2009

PETA and the Superbowl

PETA’s sexy veggie ad has been banned from the Superbowl, sparking controversial debate on both sides:

NBC states: “depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards”

Says a PETA rep: “PETA’s veggie ads are locked out, while ads for fried chicken and burgers are allowed, even though these foods make Americans fat, sick and boring in bed.”

Courtney at Feminisng.com:

PETA’s incredibly ridiculous ad trying to convince all those hot wing munchers to convert to vegetarianism during the Super Bowl has been rejected. Shocker. It contains thin white woman prancing around in their underwear rubbing vegetables all over their perfectly toned bodies. I’m not even going to post the video, cause it’s, well, inane. Suffice it to say that, once again, PETA proves it has no notion of intersectional exploitation.

December 14, 2008

Sexist themes in advertising…more of the same

Bondage, rape, sluts, girl on girl, cum shots…women don’t fare well among the stereotypes.

Read full article by Alex Leo here.

October 11, 2008

Book Spotlight: Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler

Co-founder of Bitch Magazine, Andi Zeisler‘s most recent book, Feminism and Pop Culture (Seal Press) continues Zeisler’s focus on the realm of popular culture as an important area of analysis in considering the symbiotic relationship and influence of contemporary feminism and the media industry:

We’ve tried to get people to see that pop culture is a critical locus of feminism. Most young girls are not reading Ms. They’re watching “The OC” or “Veronica Mars.” It makes sense for us to talk about those pop-culture products, because those are the conversations that girls are having among themselves. They’re not talking about how many seats women have in Congress. They’re not talking about public policy.

TV and mass media in general are the conduit by which most people get their information and form their opinions. We are such a mediated society.

October 8, 2008

Women, consumption, the economy and the environment

This recent post at Jezebel on The Real Housewives of Atlanta entitled “The Real Housewives of Atlanta Represent the Crass Consumerism that is Ruining our Country” inspired me to spend some time talking about the larger role of women and consumption.

The Real Housewives of Atlanta — made up mostly of women who are wives of athletes — are the shallowest, bitchiest, and most materialistic we’ve seen in this Bravo series. All of them act like the girls you see on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 — demanding designer labels, extravagant birthday cakes, and fully loaded Escalades — but perhaps the most disgusting is Shereé, who talks about how much “class” she has, which is a sure sign she doesn’t have any.

If you still have’t seen The Story of Stuff, now is the time.  Annie Leonard brilliantly breaks down “our stuff” and details the story of consumption from extraction to disposal.  Within a fairly short period of time, Leonard connects this system and “our stuff” to advertisement messages we receive via the media and the impact that extraction, consumption and disposal has on our environment…and us.

Sut Jhally has been making these connections for years and his concern has guided his work on the media, advertising and consumption. His article, “Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse” was published in 1990 and is worth the time it takes to read.

20th century advertising is the most powerful and sustained system of propaganda in human history and its cumulative cultural effects, unless quickly checked, will be responsible for destroying the world as we know it. As it achieves this it will be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of non-western peoples and will prevent the peoples of the world from achieving true happiness. Simply stated, our survival as a species is dependent upon minimizing the threat from advertising and the commercial culture that has spawned it. I am stating my claims boldly at the outset so there can be no doubt as to what is at stake in our debates about the media and culture as we enter the new millenium…

…It is not enough of course to only produce the “immense collection of commodities” they must also be sold, so that further investment in production is feasible. Once produced commodities must go through the circuit of distribution, exchange and consumption, so that profit can be returned to the owners of capital and value can be “realized” again in a money form. If the circuit is not completed the system would collapse into stagnation and depression. Capitalism therefore has to ensure the sale of commodities on pain of death. In that sense the problem of capitalism is not mass production (which has been solved) but is instead the problem of consumption. That is why from the early years of this century it is more accurate to use the label “the consumer culture” to describe the western industrial market societies.

So central is consumption to its survival and growth that at the end of the 19th century industrial capitalism invented a unique new institution the advertising industry to ensure that the “immense accumulation of commodities” are converted back into a money form. The function of this new industry would be to recruit the best creative talent of the society and to create a culture in which desire and identity would be fused with commodities to make the dead world of things come alive with human and social possibilities (what Marx would prophetically call the “fetishism of commodities”). And indeed there has never been a propaganda effort to match the effort of advertising in the 20th century. More thought, effort, creativity, time, and attention to detail has gone into the selling of the immense collection of commodities that any other campaign in human history to change public consciousness. One indication of this is simple the amount of money that has been exponentially expended on this effort. Today, in the United States alone, over $175 billion a year is spent to sell us things. This concentration of effort is unprecedented.

With industrialization and the harnessing of machine power, factories were able to mass produce commodities in startling numbers.  As Jhally indicates, mass production REQUIRES mass consumption.  How is that possible in a cultural environment that valued thrift?

Advertising.

Advertising was (and still is) the vehicle that sold images, desires and lifestyles and created shifts in terms of the country’s values.  Rarely, can you identify the product that is being sold to the consumer.  That’s because it is not the product that is being sold.  It is the idea of who you could be, what you’ll feel like or how people will respond to you if you wear that perfume, drink that beer, drive that car.

What does this have to do with women?  Everything, as the Jezebel post indicates.

Women have been at the forefront of the shopping frenzy.  At the end of World War II, women returned to the domestic sphere or were demoted in the industrial jobs they held during mens absence in the war effort.  Upon their return, with renewed economic prosperity and the building of the suburban maze, women were targeted as professional homemakers and shoppers.

While advertising does not discriminate and manufacturers break down markets into specific demographics, shopping is still attributed to women.  Rarely, do I hear men proclaiming an afternoon of shopping as “retail therapy.”  Women have been socialized  to identify shopping as a fundamental female pursuit, hobby or, perhaps, even an art.  Shopping is neither of these things and shopping is not encoded into a woman’s biology.  Interestingly enough, while women are not experiencing an earning parity with men, they are shopping more…and falling into debt.

We can choose where we spend our money and how much of it we spend.  In the same way that women were urged to support capitalism post-WW II by shopping and filling their homes with appliances and furniture, we can begin a new revolution by limiting what we buy and where we buy it.

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