Michael Kors : trying to avoid the ideal of whiteness, but still promoting traditional representations of women.

This Michael Kors ad, released in the American version of Elle magazine, is enhancing the traditional representations of women in advertising. First, we can here find what Susan Bordo meant when she talked about the slender body : there is indeed an ideal of thinness here, the four women being relatively skinny. Moreover, Sut Jhally’s vision was originally related to music videos, but can be applied to any kind of image. Women are often represented as partying, as it is the case here, they are well-dressed and drinking what seems to be some champagne; but above all, they are represented as linked to male desire. Indeed, they are close to men, one of the girl is leaning on a man’s shoulder, while another man is looking at her. And finally, Jean Kilbourne’s point can be seen in this ad, as she presented it in “Killing Us Softly 4”. There is an ideal of whiteness for women in our societies. And even if Michael Kors tries to go beyond this in this ad, by choosing a black and an asian models, they are still very close to the general type of women presented in advertising : the black woman, for instance, has a relatively light skin, in comparison to the man behind her. This ad is thus symptomatic of the norms of advertising and representations in our societies.

Jean Kilbourne – “Killing Us Softly 4” (2010)
Sut Jhally – “Dreamworlds 3” (2007)
Susan Bordo – “Reading the Slender Body” (1993)

(Sorry about the image quality, I wasn’t able to find it on the Internet !)

Photo du 14718870-10- à 04.05


One thought on “Michael Kors : trying to avoid the ideal of whiteness, but still promoting traditional representations of women.

  1. kcars94

    I agree with everything you’re saying and think you had a lot of good insight into the fact that the “ethnic” women are indeed white-washed. However, I would go farther to say that the maker of this ad wasn’t even trying to stray from the ideal of whiteness. All Kors did was include some “diverse” background characters.

    The problem of ideal whiteness lies in the definition of “diverse” here meaning white-washed women of color and one man of color. The black woman’s hair is relaxed and honestly if the picture was a little more clear I might be accusing this ad of exoticization for putting her in a print that appears to be animal print. Also the way she is posed makes her waist, hips, and butt the most distinctive features about her, no doubt validating the gaze of the black man behind her, ready to hunt the booty. I realize that I am perhaps reading far too far into the racial dynamics behind this ad, but I think it’s worth at least bringing to the table for discussion.

    Anyway, I think this post was a great critique! I just want to bring a deeper discussion to this because the notion of white-washed diversity is interesting to me and I think worthy of further conversation.


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