Our media landscape is populated with endless streams of images and messages glorifying, eroticizing and diminishing the serious nature of violence against women, an issue that some have called a hidden pandemic and others have labeled an epidemic of global proportions.
Lohan and the photographer have angrily responded that the images are just art and people shouldn’t get so upset. That, of course, isn’t the point. The bigger question is why photographers, artists, fashion editors, and others continue to find images of sexualized violence toward women compelling.
What is important to remember when photographs like these are released is that they are part of a spectrum. They do not stand alone as just one photograph or just one photo shoot. These images are part of a larger trend of images that feature domination, aggression, violence against women, and “dead” women (or as Jennifer Pozner dubs them, “beautiful corpses“). Through the use of body language, make-up and clothing victimization is implied and violence becomes commonplace. This gory stream of images, featuring mangled women with mouths agape and eyes glazed, is practically unremarkable in the pop culture landscape, especially in advertising. These 3 sets of images follow close on the heels of my recentposts critically examining the rampant misogyny and striking resemblance between Marc Jacobs ad campaigns and images of actual crime scenes of murdered women.
I was first introduced to Kilbourne’s work in 2001 with the 3rd and most recent installment (at the time) of her legendary lecture on images of women in advertising, Killing Us Softly 3. Coupling wit and sass with an eye-opening examination of taken-for-granted themes in advertising, Kilbourne helped me develop a more critical and analytical eye. I was truly changed and continued to show that film every semester for the next 9 years.
After nearly a decade, I can recite every line from her film and am less surprised (but no less outraged by) by the disturbing, and often horrificimages created by ad execs and other media makers. But the film is no less relevant or important and, sadly, the images she deconstructs have remained fairly unchanged. Every semester, my new crop of students continue to be shocked awake by her film, the blinder peeled away. Her words and the images she discusses continue to be important and meaningful despite the 4 decades that she has spent discussing this topic. After all, not much has changed. This is why I am so happy that Kilbourne and the Media Education Foundation have released an updated version, Killing Us Softly 4.
Check out Jennifer Pozner‘s 2001 article and interview with Kilbourne, You’re soaking in it, an examination of “advertising’s increasing encroachment into every niche of mass media impact our culture in general, and women in particular.”
Check out her article on women on reality TV. Why do they all have to be “hot, desperate and dumb?”
Seriously, check out some of the one dimensional representations of women on Rock of Love or The Tool Academy. I just cringe. The cultural messages about what it means to be a woman is enough to make me scream.