Clothes to die for: violence against women in fashion advertising.
July 1, 2013
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?
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?