|Sex sells but does rape?|
I'm working on two similar blog posts at once. The content overlaps some, even though one post is about objectification and the other is about shock art.
Yeah, I'm going to go there...again. And yes, I will encourage people to watch Killing Us Softly once more. I should probably change the title to The Objectification of People, but because women are traditionally put on display more, I'll leave it as is. I know I have addressed this issue in the past, but it's one that keeps popping up and staring me in the face.
First let me say that I have a very open mind when it comes to the expression of sexuality. Also, I have no problem with women showing skin if they like. I believe it's possible to present sensual, even sexy images without completely objectifying the model. Oddly, in a strange twist of what inherently seems wrong, some women will even objectify themselves in order to have a sense of empowerment. While I get that on some level, it also makes me cringe. Really, there is a line, and while we may not always be able to define or or describe it, we know when that line has been crossed. To objectify means that the person is discounted and the focus is on removing the human aspect. She becomes a sexual object (nothing more than something to provide sexual arousal or pleasure), not a beautiful or capable woman. It can be a very subtle difference between that and merely presenting an arousing image of a beautiful woman. There are extremists who believe that any attraction based on physical attributes is a problem. I don't see it that way. We are visual creatures and take pleasure in visual stimulation. The problem is where to draw that line, and it will be different for each of us.
Part of the problem in advertising is that we are so bombarded with these kinds of images that we are less aware of what objectification even is. I always bring up the Killing Us Softly series mentioned above when these kinds of discussions arise, simply because it raises awareness around how much we become accustomed to and accept in the advertising world, even when something doesn't sit quite right with us. Enter American Apparel...
|Keep in mind that many American Apparel customers are in the 13 to 18-year-old age range. This ad is currently on their website as of January 2012.|
|What, exactly, is being sold here?|
|Kiddie porn or print campaign genius?|
Where do I even begin?
The severity of objectification is so incredibly blatant in these ads that it's impossible to ignore. It's true that several ads from both Calvin Klein and Abercrombie and Fitch did stir up controversy when they came out years ago, and now the bar has been raised (or lowered) yet again. Congratulations American Apparel! It's incredibly upsetting that in addition to models looking far too young to be posing in these kinds of provocative positions, the ads also contain suggestions to check out porn star sites. Keep in mind that the target audience is young girls, not adults.
|Calvin Klein ad|
I realize that men are objectified too. It just happens more with women. Take the recent picture on the cover of Outside magazine of Lolo Jones. How would a male hurdler be portrayed? It's not that I feel her posing in a weird 5th Element-esque swimsuit is necessairly wrong; it's more that I see her as being a product of our culture.
|Lolo Jones- no doubt the lady is incredibly beautiful!|
It's odd to say, but there are degrees of objectification. On a scale of 1 being a Sears model and 10 being, well, an American Apparel model, these sports stars in swimwear types of images fall somewhere in between. In this case, Lolo's image could be easily considered one that celebrates the strength and beauty of a female athlete, yet something about it tends to rub people the wrong way. The image below seems to convey that sentiment without the objectification.
|Lolo Jones on the track|
I see nothing wrong with showcasing a beautiful woman. I do see something dreadfully wrong when ads like the ones below are presented to the public:
|Is the one on the right supposed to be better?|
|More disturbing images from American Apparel|