Lily Allen’s music video for her single, “Hard Out Here”, is yet another installment of how white artists implicitly add a racial dialogue to deliver and solidify their messages. What is oppression? Oppression is when your culture and bodies become tools to promote white artist’s careers and criticisms of society. It is how musicians’s “anti-consumerist” messages have been embedded in consumerism closely associated with hip-hop and thusly African American culture. In “Hard Out Here”, Allen asserts that you would never hear her talk about her chains. In becoming “anti-consumerist”, Allen only targets one type of consumer: African Americans. Oppression is also having your body become hypersexualized and on display in an effort to critique sexism while reinforcing negative stereotypical representations of your identity. Allen, while fully clothed, is surrounded by mostly women of color who are: twerking in bikini coverage style outfits, provocatively touching themselves, and dowsing themselves in champagne. Although this video is meant to be a parody, Allen’s representation of African American women just reinforces racist tropes about them in music videos. Oppression of this nature between women is nothing new, as bell hooks pointed out that “sexism is perpetuated by institutional and social structures” (127). The institution of racism still permeates our society and divides our women’s movement, as seen in the popular twitter movement over the summer started by Mikki Kendal #solidarityisforwhitewomen. There’s much to do for gender equality, but if we’re getting there through putting other women and cultures down, can we really call it progress?
Hooks, Bell. “SISTERHOOD: Political Solidarity Between Women.” Feminist Review 23 (1986): 125-138. Print.
With Christmas time getting closer, more and more ads with winter/magical atmospheres are released. This is what Marks & Spencer did with their new Christmas TV Advert, “Believe in Magic and Sparkles”, featuring Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, David Gandy and Helena Bonham Carter. This ad re-creates, with the English top model as the main character, several fairytales and famous stories : Alice in Wonderland, the 1001 Arabian Nights, the Wizard of Oz and so on.
Despite the fact that this is really a great ad in terms of aesthetics, something can clearly be criticized when we look at it through a “gender studies” eye. Of course, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is somehow objectify here, she has been selected for her beauty, she is blond and thin, which is how most women are represented in ads. But moreover, twice during the 2-minutes commercial, her clothes disappear and she is presented in her underwear : she is automatically sexualized. At 0:14, when she falls in a hole like Alice, suddenly she becomes almost naked. And the same thing happened at 1:00, when a magic carpet takes her into the sky and as a cloud passes in front of her, her clothes magically go away.
I do not have a problem with ads that display naked girls, but only when there is a goal to it, when the nature of the goods that are sold requires it. Maybe Mark & Spencer is going to justify itself by the facts that they are indeed selling underwear. But to my mind, this is more a way to make it more sensationalist and eye-catching. It does not fit the story of the ad, it happens at random moments, it makes no other sense that seeing Rosie Huntington-Witheley in underwear : the ad would have been perfect without these few seconds.
The “Show Your Joe” commercial featured above is an example of the gender binary that exists within advertising and media in general. This ad, choosing to feature good-looking handsome men and bells on their balls, has caused massive outrage in society; however, the ad isn’t the problem- the problem is that if this were an advertisement featuring women in the places of men, the backlash would be substantially less.
The public has grown accustomed to the sexualization of women’s bodies, the presentation of women in just their underwear, acting sexually by rubbing their bodies or being fragmented by the camera’s gaze. But when the roles are changed, when the camera is turned on a somewhat sexualized man (who is actually more dressed than the majority of women in commercials), it is indecent, in poor taste and an affront to the holiday season. While the advertisement is not especially child friendly during this family oriented season, most advertisements featuring women are not either (See Victoria’s Secret). And these sexualized holiday advertisements are usually successful: Victoria’s Secret sold over 400,000 Miraculous bras during just the 2010 holiday season! (Link)
The intended audience for this advertisement, the men who need some underwear, will probably believe the ad to be funny in nature and not offensive, while their significant others might feel like the ad is inappropriate. But the ad will still be successful and the selling of the product will still be successful as well.
So, why this ad? Why is it this advertisement that has caused an uproar? Maybe people just aren’t ready to accept the comical, sexual man. Or maybe it’s just easier to stick with women.
There is a lovely woman by the name of Jackie who is both an avid feminist, fat activist, and softcore porn model/web model. Her picture was taken without her permission and used in an Ashley Madison ad displayed below:
Aside from this image being used without Jackie’s permission, and the gross concept that is Ashley Madison, this is a horrific example of fat shaming. It is directly implying that because “your wife” is fat, that she is automatically scary and undesirable. The implications of this are that the affair one would be having would be with a thin, desirable, attractive woman. The fact that this ad was placed in such a prominent place, the Wall Street Journal, shows just how pervasive fat shaming is in society and how fat is a body type that is deemed universally undesirable. While Jackie’s mere profession shows this to be directly false, it adds to the stigma around being a woman and being fat. This is analyzed very closely in the Marilyn Wann reading, the Fat Studies Reader in which Wann outlines the stigma around being fat. Fat bodies are both sexualized and desexualized at once. In this advertisement, she is clearly in a sexual pose, but simply for the purposes of being desexualized. Fat bodies are often sexualized as a joke to contrast with the “very obviously” better and more attractive thin bodies.
AXE, a deodorant for men, is notorious for it’s advertisements that consistently cast multitudes of attractive women seduced and fighting for one man’s attention. The company labels this so-called phenomenon “The AXE effect”. Time and time again Axe portrays women as brute desperate women that exist for the sole purpose of pleasing men. This particular Axe ad shows hundreds of thousands of women running animalistically through rainforests or swimming wildly through the ocean in order to reach this one man bathing himself in the deodorant. Furthermore, this Axe add uses various hackneyed techniques found not only in other ads but also other forms of media such as music videos to sell it’s product. These techniques include provocative clothing, camera angles, wet bodies, and fragmentation to objectify and sexualize the women. As noted in the documentary titled “Dreamworlds 3” music videos use these technics to appeal to the pornographic imagination. This “pornographic imagination” offers a very narrow view of women in which women are portrayed as hypersexualized, perpetually aroused and objects of desire. They exist only to be looked at, as if on display. The techniques described earlier all cater to this imagination and thus dehumanize and objectify women. The parallels between this ad and both music videos and pornography demonstrate the extent to which this narrow view of women is embedded in society. To deconstruct these views, these images need to be eliminated or broaden to show women as multifaceted humans not just objects of desire.
American Apparel has long been noted for its racy ads; its website features girls scantily clad—even in see-through clothing with nipples and genitals visible—and often comes across as almost pornographic. Their ad campaigns have a history of receiving backlash from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), many eventually banned for their racy content. This advertisement, in particular, is for bodysuits and thigh highs (though you would not necessarily be able to tell) and utilizes fragmentation of the body in order to sexualize the image. The model—headless, and only comprising of a bottom half—is shown in various sexual positions, including with her legs spread apart, her butt in the air, and kneeling suggestively on a bed. By choosing to show only sexualized parts of the model’s body—legs, genitals, buttocks, some cleavage—American Apparel dehumanizes the model as simply a commodified object for sexual gratification. This is a common technique, according to the documentary Dreamworlds 3, in music videos, advertising, and other media to cater to the straight, male viewer; it conveys to young women that this is what men want to see—and, therefore, that it should be imitated—and only perpetuates among men that this is the standard of female beauty and sexuality to be expected. This type of advertising encourages the notion that women should be valued for their beauty and sexuality, specifically individual body parts that are pleasing to men. Indeed, this ad makes one wonder if they are aiming to sell the clothing or the woman’s commodified body parts featured in the photos.