The Weaker Vessel? a Look Into How Popular Fashion Media Is Portraying Traditional Male Misogynist Values in Its Advertising.
Philosophy and Psychology
Submitted By jamesfrost
The weaker vessel? A look into how popular fashion media is portraying traditional male misogynist values in its advertising.
‘Violence in [the media] demonstrates power. It is portrays victims as well as the victimisers. It intimidates more than it incites. It paralyses than it incites. It defines majority might and minority risk. It shows one’s place in the ‘pecking order’ that runes society’ (Nacy Snow 2001:24)
In a 21st century we believe that gender equality is widely accepted belief in the public conscience however popular fashion media is generally lead by patriarchal agenda to promote violence against women and male dominance in it advertising. The case studies of focus for this essay are the 2010 Calvin Klein and 2007 Dolce and Gabbana advertising campaigns. Both adverts display extreme sexualised violence against women by a group of men. The adverts show a women who is being held down by a oppressive male hand, while four men gaze at her. The same gaze at which English aristocrats would look at the the exotic women of Turkey in oil painting or how 21st century men look at women in internet pornography. The idea of wealth and sexual violence being linked in popular culture is a common place and I will also explore how the idea of wealthy is linked to women and their sexuality. Throughout art history women have been depicted from male perspective as weaker, passive receivers of violence and object of a sexual gaze. This can be seen up to the modern day with the movie such as ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.
The Dolce and Gabbana advert 2010 is a prime example of the power struggles between men and women in modern media. In the advert you have four wealthy looking men in what appears to be a cold, expensive pool side location. The industrial, cool, clean look is a typical of masculinity and is actively oppressive of femininity such as the industrial revolution destroys the environment. As they are alone you can assume that the pool and the large house belongs to one of the men. The whole scene the wealth and industrial precision of the men abs to the environment identifies these men perhaps as the rich psychopaths of business who have been popularised in films like ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘American Psycho’ as well as drawing links to the first prostitutes of the big cities and which was seen as a ’encouraged feature of metropolitan life’ (Taws, 2006). Similar to the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ marketing campaign which also featured clean and industrial. ‘his extravagant life style - his penthouse apartment rising high above Seattle, expensive wardrobe, his slick Audi and his helicopter’ (Taboola, 2015) All the wealth in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ suggests a further link of wealth and female desire as ‘Mr Grey’ exhibits of wealth. The female protagonist becomes more intoxicated and falls deeper into his web. This give justification for violence against women as women are corrupted in the same way that Eve is corrupted by the snake in the garden of eden. The female protagonist falls in original sin of yearning for more power. These two stories in a feminist argument are a tale of women who are seeking to empower themselves and then corrupted and demonised. However they a seduced by the power and as result become powerless to the power and become objects of the power. In ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ the protagonist becomes an object of the money who is brought by ‘Mr Grey’. In contrast to wealth, Calvin Klein have tried a more impecunious and raw scene. The women appear to be in a more public setting as you can suspect by the chain wire fence. The fence goes folds around the scene. Suggesting a further entrapment of women and a physical boundary. Such as a prison will trap its inmates the chain wire fence is trapping this women. The use of public space in this advert is interesting as it show how normal violence against women is in our society. With ‘40 percent of all women experiencing domestic violence’ from a man perhaps are egalitarianism isn't as prominent in our society as one would first like to believe.
One male model in the photoshoot is looking aggressively at the women while he firmly hold her wrists down, the lack of emotion on his face and the clean, cold industrial ground further suggests the hate and lack of respect towards women. The women then has her pelvis raised perhaps in sexual desire or in a struggle. Her face is to one side and she is in the bottom of the photograph below the Dolce and Gabbana. She has been physically placed at the bottom of the photograph with all the men above her and as she raises up she is being held firmly down my the rich men. This could be translated into a metaphor of the how the rich patriarchal society oppresses women. For example Dolce and Gabbana in the same year as the ‘women rape ad’ released a male counter part. Where it shows a similar scene however exclusively with men. Although the advert has less aggression it feature the same gaze and hierarchy of power. The man who is subject to the gaze is (in terms of power) below the gazers. He is also positioned in the bottom of the photograph with everything in the photo above him emphasising his lack of power in the room. As he is also the only one who is fully naked and is subject to the gaze. The man may be a prostitute again this is further the idea that money can buy sex and well as the power over someone. Although the adverts are very current, is it old in it ideals or is it so extreme it falls in the world of art. In the 21st Century we have seen the decline of the macho man and the birth of metro-sexual such as David Beckham. The advert fits a very traditional set of ideals which no longer have place in our modern media. With this contextualisation in mind the images depict a fantasy held by the upper class where the weak are oppressed. It is not just the woman being oppressed the adverts and media. It is femininity that is crushed in these photos and the masculinity that rule as it does in our society. The masculinity of industry, business and in the traditions of fashion.
The Dolce and Gabbana photoshoots both are heavily sexualised as the men have a ‘porn’ shine and the ‘victims’ appears to be moaning with her eyes closed. The shine suggest a hyper realities, a fantasy where these men are glorified and receive un-punished violence toward those who are below them. This can leaver the viewer believing that sexual violence and dominance is moral okay and the photos can easily corrupt those who look at them. Contrastingly the Clavin Klein photoshoot has been edited in black and white with red paint marks along the sides go the photograph. Red is an interesting choice of colour it suggests danger and aggression certainly present in this photograph and also mirrors the blood might be drawn from sexual violence. The marks are very expressive and add a lot energy and movement to the photo exacerbating the sexually charged image and the extremeness of the violence. This draws the focus away from positive sexual attention and feel the onlooker with a sense of urgency and injustice for the woman in the photograph.
This is another important aspect of the photoshoot as previously mentioned through out history men have gazed sexually at women especially in art. The Turkish Bath by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres is a historic example of how women have been sexual objectified in art and become something to be gazed upon. The women are passive as objects. This however causes problem when we examine the homo-erotic Dolce and Gabbana advert where the women is replace with a man. The man or the less powerful is objectified.
In conclusion we can draw that the fashion advertisement are attacks on the power of women held in a modern day society but they are also attack on males power. They can be seen rather a attack on femininity in society. They are exhibit how how wealth can buy power over people and to get that wealth and power you must hold typical masculine behaviour patterns.