Feminist Fashion #1 NWS

NWS = not work safe [read, not work safe. in this case, it’s sexuality]

I am going to attempt something perhaps paradoxical. It’s called feminist fashion. Jezebel markets itself as a pop culture, fashion savvy, pro-sex feminist blog, but they sometimes miss the big picture, in my opinion. (I do love Jezebel, though.)

At any rate, I was inspired by the bruhaha over Victoria Spice and Marc Jacobs’ Spring/Summer 08 ad campaign that NYTimes brought to attention.

Here is the Tom Ford ad that just got banned in Italy (too bad it’s already been run in 3 magazines):

Here is the last Tom Ford fragrance campaign (covered here, also):

Images via Radar here and here

And some more:

Images via the Fashion Spot

Now, consider these:

Tom Ford makes clothes only for men. He makes fragrances only for men. Why do his ads feature women? (Check out his website for more ads.) That was a rhetorical question.

First ad: the woman is biting the fuck you finger. Blowjob, much? Other than the sunglasses, what in hell’s name does this have to do with men’s clothes? Oh wait. This isn’t selling clothes. It’s selling a culture.

Second ad (fragrance): the woman has a completely shaved body. This is not anywhere near a natural body. The bottle is placed between the legs. The hand leads to the bottle. The hand is an invitation. The bottle is the gift. Conveniently, it also stands in the place of the cunt and the vagina. Message of the ad: if you buy this cologne, you also buy vagina. The woman has no head. She is not a real person.

Third ad: Actually has some men’s suits. Anyway, men can remain clothed. Women must be naked and available. Buy Tom Ford, buy a naked woman who will grab your crotch.

Fourth ad: Buy Tom Ford, buy the opportunity to stare at the naked shaved crotch of a woman.

In case you were wondering, the answer to the rhetorical question is that objectifying women is very profitable in the fashion industry. It’s an entire industry built on the assumption that people will pay, a lot, to be objectified (the clothes make you, man, not you your clothes). Clothes = identity.

Tom Ford’s response to criticism that his ads are sexist?

He shrugs off critics who claim he objectifies women by pointing out that he’s an equal opportunity objectifier; he’d be the first to run more penises in his ads if he could get away with it. (Out)

Just because you objectify both genders does not excuse you from objectifying. It’s horrible when done to women. It’s horrible when done to men. Penis, vagina, asshole, and breasts are not inherently bad objects. It’s in the delivery, and Tom Ford fails.

I’m going to end this post with some positives.

Diesel, from S/S 07, I believe:

via the Fashion Spot

The menswear ad actually has a man wearing clothes in it. The parrot colors are startling vibrant and alive. The back lighting is gorgeous. The number of buttons left unbuttoned is just enough to be rakish but still classy. Basically, the contrast between the muted but still flashy clothes and the birds guarantee a second glance. And no disgust.

[edit April 23] Thanks to a commenter, I’ve now learned about fish-hooking. This is for the banned ad (finger in mouth). This makes the ad more despicable, because now it’s also glamorizing violence. In this case, it’s violence against women. That is not funny, folks. It hurts people who have really, truly been hurt by violence. (This is also why rape jokes aren’t “funny.” It’s not fun to make light of other people’s pain, especially when it’s a serious issue in society.)



Filed under feminism

11 responses to “Feminist Fashion #1 NWS

  1. keepingittpg

    I’m actually a fan of these ads, cause they’re a lil.. saucy/naughty. I don’t think too much into them, though, I just take them how they are.

  2. dude

    the finger one isn’t just about blow jobs. it’s about fish hook-ing… ain’t that simple, more derogatory than you think.

  3. Thanks, dude. I get it now – more violence against women.

    Just like the good ol’ days (not like, there’s any violence against women today or anything. They’re all asking for it).

  4. dosta

    Despite your extreme caricaturing of the ads intent, it’s important to consider the chief role of advertising: capture interest. An ad, no matter how well placed and ingeniously informative, is essentially meaningless unless it grabs attention.

    In fact, adverising has a long history of not discussing a product. Apple’s oft-lauded 1984 television spot didn’t even mention the word computer. Why is it an effective and important ad? Because it piqued viewers curiosity like no other Superbowl ad since.

    All four of the advertisements you showed are deliberately provocative. As such, they meet criteria #1 of good advertising.

    The bigger question at hand is should these ads be banned? You submit that they are sexist and applaud their banishment. However, if advertisements, in order to be effective, must be provocative, wouldn’t banning all potentially controversial advertisements be not just counterproductive, but plain stupid?

    Banning ads for their sexism establishes a dangerous precedent in advertising. Imagine banning controversial statements in public places, for fear of the potential damage they cause! (and if you call this reductio ad absurdum, what about your little caricatures in your own article…) This IS a slippery slope, and we CAN do comparative harms.

    Situation one:
    1) They remain unbanned, some are offended for their portrayal of women.
    2) They are banned, establishing a dangerous precedent and severe restriction of freedoms enjoyed by ALL of us.

    Well, to quote dear old Spock: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

    Sorry whining minority, but these ads shouldn’t be banned.

    • Meg

      Clearly you are not educated about the role of effective marketing persuasion. Branding and advertising in the post modern era have come to symbolize much more than the companies desire to create awareness. Branding and advertising is often representational of a lifestyle that the company’s desired target clientel seeks. These Tom Ford advertisments represent a lifestyle in which women are disposable objects which exsist only to be subject to male gaze and violence.

      On their own they are relatively harmless, but the profussion of imagery that we are subject to on a daily basis that allows us to shrug off these maschonistic themes is quite harmful to women and their place in the world. These ads just typify those themes. By desensitising us to the objectification of women, acts of violence or discrimination against women in the real world become natural course of action.

      If this is truly a commentary about freedom of speech then consider this. Should a maid service depict the white housewife using an ethnic person as a foot stool? Hey! It’s controversial, it will get the company attention. It is ok to be racist if it means the company will turn a profit! Maybe we can put the maid in chains and get on dateline!

      And for the record not all controversial advertising sells. American Apparel ads are extremely sexual and the company is near bankruptcy.

  5. I never said I thought they should be banned, just that they’re sexist. 🙂

  6. faz

    “It’s not fun to make light of other people’s pain”

    maybe not for you, but for many of us, it is fun. relax, realize that some other people like to play with concepts that you hold sacred.

  7. fuckpoliteness

    Dosta, I believe what you set up there was a little false dichotomy: as in EITHER we ban the ads, which would certainly lead to the destruction of freedom and all we hold, OR we let them be and say “tough shit chickies”.

    It’s funny that you set it up like the article called for banning when all it did was point out some of the subtext.

    I also don’t know whose “needs” get met by this kind of advertising but nevertheless…you contend that ads are “meaningless” unless they grab attention. Well they did just that, and now this post analysed the meaning.

    I can see you have a problem with this, I just think you kind of invented the problem yourself since you adress the issue of censorship which this post did not, and then create a pick-a-terror-scenario-false-dichotomy.

  8. It’s a slippery slope that I am still trying to figure out myself. If we shame the ads we are also shaming (one version of) the female body, however the ads are CLEARLY selling nothing but sex in an extremely sexist tone. Ultra-unattainable sex nonetheless.

    And the debate continues….

  9. Hi Jenn! The way I think about these ads is that shaming the female body is like shaming consensual sex, whereas shaming the misogynistic treatment of women portrayed within the ads is like shaming rape. And the way I draw the distinction is not by calling for bans of the ad, but to try to help people understand why and where the misogyny in the ads come from (and the fact that it is sexist, obviously). (Although I’m not sure how many people walk away convinced – I just wanted there to be at least one voice on the Internet that was not crying ‘omg! Tom Ford is awesome. I love these ads.’ )

    You’re right, however, that the line becomes really shaky when you get to subversive ads which could skate either way on the sexist scale…

  10. Pingback: Feminist Fashion #3 NWS « Let’s call it a night

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