Clothes to die for: violence against women in fashion advertising.

July 1, 2013

“Make me write bad checks!”

On Buzzfeed, the Copyranter recently ran this post depicting “the violent exploitation of women in fashion advertising.” Many examples were provided, from big name fashion brands like Calvin Klein and Vogue magazine. I posted the article on my Facebook and called it fascinating. As expected, the post elicited commentary more scathing than “fascinating.” One Facebook friend deemed the examples “abhorrent,” as did countless others on the original posting.

I don’t dispute that.

But here’s why I find it fascinating. Most, if not all, the brands romanticizing violence against women were, in fact, advertising primarily to women. (I don’t know very many men who read Vogue.) Which begs the obvious question: if these ads are so abhorrent to women then why are these purveyors of women’s fashion doing them? Why is Vogue running them?

What do women want? One would think Vogue knows better than most. Like modern pornography, I wonder if there’s a perverted elephant in the room. Do more than a few women find violent portrayals of bondage, S&M and even rape erotic?

Quincy Jones and a dead hooker?

Before jumping to conclusions bear in mind the massive popularity of E.L. James “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Not only is it a massive best seller all over the world but a film adaptation is in the works. I’ve never read the book (are you kidding me?) but I do know what it’s about. Sex. Very naughty sex. Much of it not unlike the illicit concepts being portrayed in the above-mentioned advertisements.

So, what is the truth? A possible opinion may be that those discounting such fantasies are out of touch or overtly puritanical or just plain frightened. Fair enough. Yet, I have three young daughters. I’m not especially keen on them exploring their sexuality via such extreme measures. For the record I’m not into this stuff either. On the other hand maybe violent fantasies are just as valid as any other fantasies. As George Harrison once wrote, “Whatever gets you through the night… is all right.”

A modern view might suggest that these dark themes are abhorrent regardless of being popular. Like slavery not so long ago. I think the key is whether such topics are appropriate in advertising. To be honest I’m not sure where I net out. What do you think?


2 Responses to “Clothes to die for: violence against women in fashion advertising.”

  1. I do find this kind of advertising “fascinating”, and no, not because I applaud violence against women.

    The style, to me, is a classic “you write your own headline from my cool image”, fair enough, but good creative makes sure the image gets you pretty darn close to a concept related to a product attribute, doesn’t it?

    So let’s examine this concept. What are they trying to say about Jimmy Choo? Dead hookers always wear the best shoes? The desert is fine place to sleep in a trunk? Quincy Jones gets tired fast?

    I try and keep an open mind and love when things get surrealistic or “edgy”, but if the ad isn’t clear (violent or not, clarity is the point of advertising and design, isn’t it?) why spend the money?

    I think this ad would work better for Dasani. Quincy Jones clearly looks like he needs to hydrate and apparently it killed that poor girl.

  2. Lisa said

    Apparently the men are still buying the shoes for women and these women are definitely going to end up dead. So crazy. Great post.

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