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 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.

Let’s do this

OK then, so this is my new blog devoted to my PhD studies, most importantly my research of sexism in ads. For all of you who don’t already know, I am pretty passionate about this subject, and relentless when it comes to sexist ads. It all started some four years ago when I stumbled upon a video on Youtube with Jean Kilbourne talking about sexism in advertising, how it has developed over the years, how it has only gotten worse, how it is a real issue that concerns all of us. I knew then and there that this was something I had to get involved in, so I decided to start studying business and marketing, just so I could write a bachelor thesis about this. And well, long story short, two years later I did.

For all of you who are interested, or have nothing better to do, have a go at it why don’t you:

Fuckable:
The objectification of women in advertising through a female perspective

Also, here’s a little video of Jean Kilbourne speaking at TEDx. It’s not the same as the one I saw all those years ago, but it will give you a glimpse of this incredible woman and her journey through this vast field of sexist, offensive and demoralizing imagery we call advertisements: