Trigger Warning: Violence against women and men including abuse and rape. Graphic images.
In many conversations and debates about pornography, promotion of violence against women is a common theme. Indeed, this is often the position of those on the anti-porn side of the porn debate such as Catherine MacKinnon, who “pioneered the legal claim for sexual harassment and, with Andrea Dworkin, created ordinances recognizing pornography as a civil rights violation.” However, I’m left wondering: What about the rest of the representations of women, gender in general, sex, and violence in the media at large? Porn is hardly the only thing teaching us about sex, and I’m not talking about sex-ed either. Here, I’m talking about TV ads, magazines, billboards, bottle labels, and the list goes on and on. In advertising, women are often objects in many senses. To sell products, marketers use women. They use sex. Gender. Violence. Take these examples (please note that some of these ads have since been banned):
And in this Dolce & Gobbana ad?
Look at her face. Eyes closed, mouth limp. Is she conscious? Is she even alive? Her body positioning says she’s holding her lower body up. So did he tell her to play dead?
In contrast to this one: She’s not good enough. He’s supposed to say that dress looks good on her. “No, honey, your ass looks great in that dress!” But given his face, he’s struggling because he doesn’t think it does. He thinks she’s too curvy, so he needs some liquid courage:
Note the woman to the left: Her eyes are covered so we can see her gaze. She has fabric around her neck around the same height where the man’s right hand is; has it become a collar? A leash? A noose? And the woman to the right: His hand is on it’s way right up her pants. Search or rape? And we’re supposed to “relish it,” whatever it is. If we’re women, we’re supposed to relish being manhandled and “searched.” And what is it Relish is selling again?
Now, let’s consider our audience. These ads are targeted at adults, right? Well, how about Glee? These kids are supposed to be high schoolers. And what (who?) does this say a high schooler should be doing?
And how about here, where one of the stars of Glee is posing on the cover of… Cosmo?
Please note the placement of the words “Get Naked.” And she’s supposed to be what, 16, 17, 18 at the oldest? And a sex object? What’s for sale, Cosmo or Lea naked?
Here we have exotification, and the woman’s belly button has become a man’s mouth. Her breasts have become two people, possibly women, with fabric over their mouths so they are silenced. Are we buying beer or “Brazilian culture”?
Think it’s just these ads? Or just advertising in general?
Think about song lyrics and music videos:
CAUTION: Strong Language (She’s just an object.): “What’s in the songs we’re listening to? What do we pour our money into on iTunes and in clubs? What do these videos say about women?”
Before getting all up in arms about the violence occurring all around the world, look at the magazine on your coffee table, listen closely to that song on the radio, watch those ads and see what (or who) the product really is. We all do our part in supporting the oppression of women. When women are reduced to mere objects, what do we legitimize? What do we say is okay?
Are women even people? Or just items for sale?