Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Objectification and Victimization of Women in Modern Advertising

I had to write an English paper on this, and figured I'd share it with you all. Hope you like it!

            Women are nothing more than victims and objects. That’s a pretty surprising statement for 2012. Sure, women can vote and get jobs now. However, open up a magazine and you will be bombarded with lifeless, nude bodies advertising anything from clothes to cheeseburgers.
            Women are rarely afforded the luxury of clothing in advertising. In a Michael Kors advertisement, a man and woman are walking hand-in-hand down the street. The man is in a three-piece suit. The woman? In a swimsuit that looks like little more than a ribbon wrapped around her torso. This is atrocious enough, until you realize that Kors is famous for watches and apparel. The man gets less that 1/4th of the advertisement, and his watch is half-covered.
            Carl’s Jr. has a commercial advertising their barbecue burger. The ad lasts for thirty-one seconds, but the majority is overtly sexual images of two young women. Eight seconds are fully food, but most of it is close-up shots of the young women’s bodies. They don’t speak at all. If it weren’t for the last six seconds telling what the advertisement is about, one would leave with the impression that it was an ad for an adult film.
            The popular clothing store American Apparel titles their advertisements as “risqué.” However, mostly nude women in either skin tights jeans or underwear with double entendres emblazoned above them leaps over the line of “verging on impropriety.” Not to mention, it’s hard to advertise clothing when your models don’t wear clothing.
            All three of these examples just highlight the fact that women are little more than sexual objects. It makes sense for Victoria’s Secret to have models in lingerie, because they advertise lingerie. Neither a barbecue burger nor a watch designer have anything to do with lingerie, so why use them in advertising?
            It’s well-known that Photoshop is used in all advertisements. It has been documented in many, many, many Photoshop disasters. Nevertheless, it is used without fail. White-washing, pore-erasing, cellulite-obliterating, “flaw”-removing, and buffing women into plastic-looking dolls is one of their specialties.
Rihanna, Beyoncé, Queen Latifah, Sofia Vergara, and Aishwarya Rai have all been victims of white-washing. (White-washing is the over-retouching of a non-Western European woman until she looks white.) Freckles and moles are rare occurrences in advertisements, even though many people have them. Tina Fey and Lana Parilla have distinguishing facial scars, but most pictures of them will Photoshop their “imperfections” out. A quick Google search of “Photoshop before and after” will turn up multiple photos of beautiful people. And their heavily retouched published personas.
Finally, the positioning of the models bodies suggests a recent violent encounter. A Calvin Klein ad features a young woman on the ground. It looks like she has just been pushed out of a car, which is evident by the man’s legs standing over her. Her face is contorted in pain, and her body language suggests fear or pain. Calvin Klein makes clothes, but the main theme here is the suggestion of violence.
An ad for Marc Jacobs features a young model looking timid, and trying to hide. Her face is a mask of fear and timidity. Marc Jacobs is also a clothing designer, but her clothes are barely visible.
Calvin Klein, yet again, has two more advertisements for jeans. One involves a young woman on a beach. She looks like she’s drowned, and been washed up on the shore. Her jeans are mostly cut out of the advertisement. Her lifeless body takes up more of the ad than what the ad is advertising. In the second ad, the young woman isn’t even wearing jeans. Instead, she is fallen in a field. Again, her unresponsive body is contorted in a way that doesn’t show off her clothing.
Why is violence against women an effective way of advertising? How is objectifying them an effective way to sell to them? Women need to stand up for their rights. They need to stop purchasing things from sexist advertisers that only advertise the victimization and objectification of women. We are not objects. And we certainly are not victims. And, in 2012, we certainly do not have to stand for this.

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