Victoria’s real secret

A recent photo from the lingerie company Victoria’s Secret has received some negative attention due to it’s tasteless and poor photoshopping. Finally. How nice to see all those comments highlighting one of the problems with such ads: too damn much photoshopping. My heart literally swelled while reading many of the comments cause it tells me that there is still hope. One day we might even be rid of all these flawless, objectifying and unreal portrayals of women altogether. How lovely that would be..

But as of now, we are not quite there, and just for the heck of it I’ll jump in the discussion and review the ad in question:

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Wanna know Victoria’s real secret? Well here it is: Photoshop! The model used in this image was no question already skinny on the verge of anorectic, otherwise they would most likely not even had used her. But still, skinny is not skinny enough. Beautiful is not beautiful enough. Nice skin is not nice enough, not until it looks absolutely flawless and “perfect”, not until all the hairs, cracks, pores, wrinkles and everything else that makes skin, well, skin, is retouched into looking like plastic. As some of the negative comments already suggested, her exposed arm has lost some meat/muscle, and her poor butt cheek has been photoshopped into oblivion. I can’t imagine how a woman that actually had that body (ps. there is no such woman so don’t even try looking for her) would manage to sit down properly, but maybe she doesn’t sit. Maybe she just always stands against a dark mysterious wall with her hands up and her legs spread.
How awful for her.

The problem with this image is not just that it is exaggeratedly photoshopped, it is also the way they portray her: Passive, anonymous, just waiting for someone to grab her from behind. She is sexualized in a very disturbing and suggestively violent way. I would even go so far as to saying that she kind of looks like a soon-to-be-rape-victim. And all this just to sell panties. Really?

It’s time to grow up and smell the cracks, pores, wrinkles and natural “flaws” that all people have Victoria’s secret, time to take some damned responsibility and stop objectifying and distorting women just to sell underwear (!). Trust me that can be done without putting down women and contributing to the sexist male gaze and the objectification of women. If you want women to like your underwear and buy them, how about not first making them feel like shit cause they cannot possibly ever achieve the same kind of unnatural and photoshopped “flawlessness” that you are cramming down their throats? How about not trying to fool them into thinking that your panties are magic and can make them look like this, cause seriously, come on. It’s panties. Just panties. It won’t change you, it won’t make you feel better about who you really are, it won’t erase your “flaws”, or even your butt cheeks. It’s just plain old panties. And photoshop.

So now that your secret is out “Victoria”, how about instead making women feel beautiful for who they are, flaws and all?

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The “Sex Sells” conundrum

Just read this interesting article with Jean Kilbourne, and as always, she continues to inspire me with hope. I know things are looking grim in this field, but it’s a matter of spreading awareness, of voicing your concerns, of saying No when you’ve had enough.

I think there is a paradox surrounding the world of sexist ads: they all seem to stick to the cliché that “sex sells”. However, there is no real way of knowing how true this is. Since advertisers sell “sex”, people buy “sex”. It’s as simple as that. And when they stop selling it, people will stop buying it. This is the conundrum, kind of like the egg and the hen; which came first? Which is the result of what? Just because A: people buy products with sexist ads, does not necessarily mean B: sexist ads increase product sales. I mean, I don’t really believe that people way-back-when started to riot on the streets and demand that the ads be sexier, rather, the ads became sexier, and the people adjusted, more or less, to this kind of imagery. Nevertheless, even the ads that do not use the “sex sells” argument manage to sell their products. How on earth they do that is beyond me, I mean really, no sexual imagery, no objectification, and people still buy things?! Wow.. (I am re-he-heeeally trying to underline my sarcasm here, hope it shows..). So, basically, there is no proof that ads using sex should sell more than those that don’t, however, they might well sell a whole lot nowadays, since this is the imagery we have gotten used to. BUT, just because you are used to something, does not mean it is good. It does not mean that it shouldn’t change. So instead of clinging to the “sex sells” argument, how about trying to prove it wrong instead?

I remember a couple of years ago I was watching television, the Swedish channel 6, when this ridiculously sexist commercial came on. It was about the fact that the channel was now going to show two films each Friday, and for that, they decided to cut in images of half naked women in between the clips of the movies that were airing. Their tagline was something like this: “Do you like double-sandwiches? How about this double-sandwich?” (Cut: half naked lady, clip from movie, half naked lady). Very clever indeed… Needless to say, I was shocked in disbelief for about a minute after seeing the commercial, then the shock dissolved into complete rage and frustration. I immediately sat down by the computer, googled the channel to get hold of their contact info and then I set out to write an e-mail voicing my disgust and anger towards their utterly stupid and degrading commercial.

The next day I got to read an article stating that the channel had stopped airing their commercial due to many people contacting them and accusing them of sexism. I was happy to read that there were more people than me who got upset and took action, cause that is exactly what is needed in situations like these. Just as Kilbourne argues:

“The best bet is to put your money where your values are, and if you don’t support Calvin Klein, tell them you can’t stand the way they advertise.”

Really, it’s as simple as this: When you see sexist and objectifying ads and commercials that upset you, instead of ignoring them and moving on, why not speaking up about it? Explaining why they bother you directly to the source, demanding that they stop using the same tired imagery that degrades and dehumanizes both women and men. If more people did this, I am sure we would eventually see some changes around us. If more people expressed their concerns and frustrations, the advertisers would not be able to get away with the “sex sells” argument anymore. And how nice would that be, for a change?

 

 

The sad cynical guessing game

Small online quizzes seem to be very popular these days, some better than others, some darn right pointless (why would I want to take a quiz to find out what my favorite flavor of ice-cream is, or what mood I am in, I already know that damnit!).

However, this one about sexist ads I found quite interesting. I scored only 6 out of 16, and some of those ads I’d seen before so I already knew the answers. How sad is that? Of course, you can answer in different ways: You can go with the answer that you actually think it is, and due to the fact that you have grown up in a world full of such ads you are fairly cynical regarding these and know that they are not about what they seem to be about, so you would then of course get the right answer probably most of the time. OR: You can answer what you, based on the imagery, really think it should be about. This second way would of course be the most obvious one in a better world, but unfortunately, we live in a world where ads like these are thought up, designed, created and published:

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Now in the quiz I guessed it was for a hair product, even though I did not really get the point of it. I feared that the answer would be the night club and prepared myself to be upset. But not even in my wildest imagination would I have guessed this was an ad for organ donation. When the quiz revealed the text and logo, I think my heart just sunk.
Is this really the best way to make people become organ donors? Also, it seems that they are basically only looking for male donors, seeing as how I, at least as a straight woman, would not like to get anywhere inside that poor girl, so I guess my female kidneys aren’t good enough? Right then! Not only is this pure unadulterated sexism, which marginalizes, degrades and offends women, but it is also making organ donation feel extremely creepy. Who in their right mind would like to become organ donors after seeing this? I have absolutely nothing against organ donation, it’s wonderful that so many are given second chances because of it, but this ad is just making me sick and I cannot understand what the hell they were thinking. How about having some self respect for yourself and the organisation/company you work for, how about not stooping to others low levels and degrading women in this washed out, clichéd and tired way? How about having some faith in humanity and portraying the best we can be, instead of the most creepy, disgusting and objectifying bastards that we seem to be?

Women’s football

Yesterday I received this link from an acquaintance who figured it would interest me, and indeed, I was intrigued. Apparently there is some debate going on in Ireland regarding an advertisement for women’s football, and while I am not all that interested in women’s football, or men’s football, or any sports for that matter, I am very interested in advertisements. Here is the ad in question:

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It features a woman holding a football as if it were her pregnant belly, and it says “The most important nine months of a woman’s life“, referring to the football season January to September.

While some seem to praise the ad for bringing attention to women’s football, others are not that thrilled:

“Complaints suggested that the ad reduces women to “baby-making machines” instead of football players and that it places gender at the centre of its message, instead of sport.”

This kind of sums it up nicely, I think. After seeing and researching so many sexist ads, I’ve found that a very common problem is the fact that they use imagery which places gender, sex, nudity and so forth in the centre, instead of highlighting what they are actually about. And this is what makes so many ads sexist. It is not sexist to make an ad about a pregnant woman, but if you make an ad about women’s football, why not just let it be about women’s bloody football? Of course, one could argue that hey they are trying to be clever! But clever sexism, is still sexism, no matter how you sugar-coat it, it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Just for kicks, how would it be if this ad was about men’s football? Of course, the pregnant belly would be kind of ridiculous so you would have to adjust the ad for it to be relevant for men. So how about this: Same general design as this ad but instead there is a man standing in profile holding two footballs were his “other” balls are, and the caption would read “The most important balls in a man’s life“. Would that be sexist? Well.. yeah, it would. The sad thing is though, while this made-up ad would probably never even be created, the other one is real.

To be, or not to be, a feminist.

Last night I stumbled upon this video:

and it saddened me a bit.

It’s sad that people feel the need to object to feminism, because they believe it means that you basically hate men and don’t care about issues related to them. For me, feminism has always meant one thing: equality. Equality between genders, sexual preferences, heck even between “races” and cultures. Feminism for me is the ism that stands for, fights for, different groups of people that have been, and still are, in some ways, oppressed. I think it’s sad, and kind of ironic, that you (especially as a woman) would not want to be called a feminist, while living in a patriarchal society. I call myself a feminist, but at the same time I care about issues that are related to men as well. I think men should have the same parental rights as women, being able to go on parental leave just like women and stay home with their kids. I think men and boys should not be held to certain types of standards, always being the “strong” one, being asked to “act like a man”, cause really, what the heck is that supposed to mean? I think boys should be encouraged to play with dolls, or dress in pink or whatever else it is that we impose on girls, and they should be allowed to be caring, nurturing and show their emotions if they feel like it, without being called a pussy, or a sissy, or a pansy, or any other stupid word that degrades both genders in some way.

Now, regarding her video, I am pretty uncertain if all the statistics she presented are accurate, and also, where exactly they are accurate (is it only involving the United states or what? Cause I’m sorry all you Americans out there, but the world really does not revolve around you…yeah..). Nevertheless, I felt that some of the men’s issues she spoke about and tried to compare with women’s issues, were rather weird. For instance the rape thing. Hm…ok, so apparently there is a huge issue regarding men being raped in prison. Ok, I understand that it is an issue, and also acknowledge that it is a serious one and something should definitely be done about it. But. How can you even compare this to the amount of women that are being raped every day out in the “real” world? Men being raped in prison is men raping other men, in prison = the majority of all these men are criminals, albeit there are probably many that are innocent but that is a completely different issue that I will not discuss right now.. Anyhow. When talking about female rape, you are not talking about the amount of women being raped in prison by other women, you are talking about the amount of “non-incarcerated” women walking about freely in the world, being raped by men. Ergo, both issues have to do with men raping; men raping men, and men raping women. So hey, why not turn the issue around and make it about (certain) men raping? Why not trying to do something about the rape-culture that we seem to live in?

At the same time, of course, women’s issues do bother me “more” since I am a woman, and also, since the society I live in is still based on patriarchy, and has always been so. I do feel stronger towards women’s issues, since the majority of women have throughout our history, been referred to as the “second” gender, and been more oppressed than men. And sure, you can, as she does, say that men are also being objectified just like women, but really, really… I mean, really? How can you say that and honestly believe that it is true? I would not, nor can I, compare the objectification that is going on between the genders, especially when it comes to my field of research. Advertisements pretty much objectify everything, however, the objectification that is being done to women is not the same as for men. First of all, it is not the same amount of objectification between the genders, second of all women have been the target of objectification for a longer period of time, heck, women have basically started out as “objects”, while men started out as “subjects”, so how are you supposed to even start comparing? Sure, women have during the last century gotten more rights and “equality”, but still, what is a century, compared to the entire history of humans? Therefore, when talking about the objectification that is going on both for men and women, one must always remember the past and the present, one must remember what type of society the objectification is taking place in, one must remember to evaluate exactly how “equal” that society really is. Or as Kilbourne eloquently put it:

“When power is unequal, when one group is oppressed or discriminated against as a group, where there is a context of systematic and historical oppression, stereotypes and prejudice have different weight and meaning.”…”When men objectify women, they do so in a cultural context in which women are constantly objectified and in which there are consequences — from economic discrimination to violence — to that objectification.”

So yeah, is it really that strange that feminism is called feminism, when it all started with the “second” gender being tired of getting in second place? It could just as well have been called humanism, or peopleism or equalitism or whatever else that “represents” both genders, BUT, why does this even matter? It is just a word, after all. And just like all other words, all other isms, all other groups, not to mention religions; people will still interpret it in their own way, putting their own spin on it, reacting towards it in their own manner. So what can you do? Well, you can call yourself a feminist and fight for equality, or you can call yourself something else and fight for the same cause, as long as we are all working our ways, living our lives with equality in mind, it should really not matter what you call yourself. Cause really, we are all in this together.