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While making some photocopies our group ran into an interesting advertisement posted randomly in the University of Ottawa’s library. This random ad demonstrates how prevalent and commonplace violent advertisements towards women are within our society and our everyday surroundings. We were shocked to randomly find such a pertinent ad to our project. We swear this was a random encounter.

Print ad:

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Chris Brown, a popular music artist who is widely known for beating his long time girlfriend Rihanna, recently addressed his fans with a public apology. In the fit of rage Brown beat Rihanna leaving her severely battered and bruised. Brown was charged with a felony assault and sentenced to six months of community service in his home town. Community service is all he gets as punishment? Give me a break. His public plea is an attempt to improve how society values women. Good Luck with that one Chris.

Here is a picture of what Rihannna looked like before Chris Brown beat her:

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And here is a picture of Rihanna after Chris Brown beat her:

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Reporter Ken Lee from Peoples magazine discusses the brutal incident more clearly. Lee goes into detail and exclaims, “According to the notes taken by Detective De Shon Andrews, blood filled Rihanna’s mouth. Brown, 19, allegedly told her, “I’m going to beat the s— out of you when we get home. You wait and see!” Rihanna called her assistant and left a message saying, “I am on my way home. Make sure the cops are there when I get there.” The police notes say that prompted Brown to reply: “You just did the stupidest thing ever. Now I’m really going to kill you.”

Domestic violence is something that should be taken more seriously. There is no excuse for beating a woman. No matter what the situation, no female should feel threatened by those she believes love her.

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Ads that are indecent, sexist, sexy, exhibit violence to women or treat them as mere objects present a constant and even growing problem in many countries. Jean Boddewyn, author of Controlling Sex and Decency in Advertising Around the World states that “both the law and voluntary guidelines find it difficult to handle such ads because of the heterogeneity and flux of the norms bearing on sex and decency in advertising.”


High-end fashion shoe companies use violence against women to sell their products. The following ad for Loula, a Melbourne shoe company, placed this advertisement in Australia’s Harper’s Bazaar fashion magazine and it caused an up roar. Loula use tragic themes that dehumanize women. The company thinks the idea of women dying is sexy. After a public outcry, Loula decided to pull its advertisement campaign which uses the bodies of a dead females to sell their product.
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This ad by Louis Vuitton, a French fashion designer, emphasizes the fact that sexy shoes are for both men and women. Louis Vuitton is a very popular, very expensive, high-end fashion brand that also uses violence to sell their products. Although not as violent as the Loula image, one can only wonder, what is the point of this ad? Who is the target audience?

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When violence is used to sell a product, it does not just sell the product; it condones violent attitudes and behaviour and contributes to exaggerated fears of violence among those encouraged to see themselves as its potential victims. – Dr. C. Kay Weaver

By using violence to sell high-end fashion products, like shoes, it allows society to devalue women. The idea of murder, rape, or death should not be used to sell consumer goods. What are we trying to promote to young girls who are taught at a very young age the importance of consuming goods that will make them feel better?
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Advertisement and sex go hand in hand. Sex sells. It captures our attention and leaves us almost always wanting more. Even subtle hints about sex will make us curious.

Companies deliberately link their products with sexual information: because of our biology we can’t help but be drawn to it. – Tom Reichert

Advertising also creates impressions to make consumers believe that they need to purchase a certain product to be fully satisfied with life. We often think, “I need to buy this because it will make me happier.” Companies often associate their products with sexual needs and desires. Tom Reichert states “Many people consider sex in advertising, the use of sexy words and images in selling messages.” Once again, sex sells. It is also important to note that there is a great amount of competition to sell a brand name as there are several established high-end competitors and in today’s society. Sex, most often, is the main theme to sell a brand. Examples of sexy brand names include Victoria’s Secret, Gucci and American Apparel.

Sex is used to sell several products that can range from beer to cigarettes to cars to video games. How about house appliances? Ikea recently created a commercial that uses sex and violence to sell their product. A girl dies right before she is about to get some.

Here is another banned “Tidy up” advertisement from Ikea:

The above “Banned Ikea Commercials” posted on YouTube, reinforce the idea that women are often a target of sexual attraction. These video are from Ikea’s popular “Tidy Up” campaign. Commercial producers often use humour and sex to sell their products to potential customers. Laughing ehnances the experience of watching the ad and also creates a specific impression.

Industries have played a role in contributing especially to the normalisation of violence. – Dr. C. Kay Weaver

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Here are a few questions to think about while you view the following image:

* Does the advertisement glamorise violence?
* Does the advertisement legitimise violent behaviour and attitudes?
* While violent imagery might help sell a product, what are the wider social consequences of using that imagery?

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As the active audience theory would suggest, the audience has the power to give meaning to the message conveyed by the picture. – Professor Strangelove

In this scene, the woman is nearly naked, wraped in saran with her breasts completely exposed. This represents a disjoint between reality and the dipiction of women in advertising. As her face cannot be seen, individualism is not represented and as the audience we don’t create a relationship with the victim. Instead, the generalization of the female gender is symbolized through this illustration. Violence, once again is expressed as an accptable societal value.

This ad is an example of advertising that could trigger growing public awareness about violence towards women. This representation has sociological implications towards understanding inequalities regarding gender relations. It speaks to the idea of male dominance and male supremacy. This image is political in nature as its purpose reflects awareness to the treatment of women in society.  It is entirely up to the audience to balance or interpret the ideas emitted from the picture adequately, as this image was created to speak to the audience in a bold manner. A girls is about to be shot and murdered and the only thing that will save her is a purse. This ad is saying that fashion is worth dying for.

Jean Kilbourne, a professionnal advertising theorist, explains that society adopts immoral values after viewing violent ads against women. In reality, violent ads inflict violent behaviour. Kilbourne explains this idea more clearly. She states, “Ad imagery equating gruesome violence against women with beauty and glamour works to dehumanize women, making such acts in real life not only more palatable and less shocking, but even aspirational. Pretty-as-a-picture crime-scene challenge epitomized the worst of an insidious industry trend that, ahem, just won’t die.” It is not alright to ‘normalize woman brutality. Rape and murder should not be glorified to the point where viewers are motivated by the idea. Beating women is not normal and should never be referred to as normal.

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Dr. C. Kay Weaver gives us insight on the topic of violence and gender relations in advertising. Weaver explains,

“Associations with violence provide a key means of targeting audiences along gender lines. Products are promoted to men as enhancing their masculine appeal – with masculinity framed in terms of strength, power, the ability to be forceful, dominant and get what you want. Violent images also play a part in how we make sense of our roles and positions in social culture.”

This advertisement focuses directly on violence towards women and male dominance. There is currently a popular trend on promoting violence within the fashion marketing sectors. In this instance the high-end clothing company duncan quinn is portraying the image of male dominance over this very seductive model. These kind of marketing ploys are degrading towards women and send a skewed message to its recipients. This photo points out how violence against women is glamorized to sell clothing in mainstream fashion.

By society accepting violence in advertisements it promotes the objectification of women. It makes the patriarchal dominance within the industry prevalent. Ideally women are supposed to be seen as equals, but the media consistently promotes ads that undermine the feminist ideology.

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The female body has long been a significant marker of the boundary between life and death. – Annette Burfoot and Susan Lord, editors of Killing Women

Tyra Banks, the host of America’s Next Top Model, made a disturbing episode in which female model contestants posed as “dead corpses” in a so called “glamorous” photo shoot. In this reality television show the models were professionally dressed up and positioned to reflect tragic occurrences of a deadly reality. Each shoot had a different theme in which each contestant was trying to portray that being dead is beautiful. Illustrations from the deadly photo shoot include pictures of women that have been beaten, drowned, poisoned, electrocute, stabbed, shot, strangled and thrown off of a building.

What is even more disturbing are the reactions from the judges when critiquing the photos. The judges include Tyra Banks, Miss J, Twiggy, and Nigel Barker. When critiquing the image of a model that is posed as dead after being pushed off a rooftop, Nigel states, “it’s a great shot. Death becomes you, young lady.” Furthermore, the host Tyra, appraises the young model who poses dead after being shot, saying that she is, “absolutely beautiful.” Finally, the most disturbing response is stated by Twiggy, who claims, “it is the first photograph that I’ve seen of you where you actually look like a fashion model.” Despite the producers attempt to set the scenario as ‘models murdered by models’ the illustrations and what they represent is still very alarming, twisted and dehumanizing. This horrible imagery against the true beauty of women reflects how bold the idea of violence against women is strongly being weaned into todays society.

Millions of viewers were shocked with the deadly theme of this episode including Jean Kilbourne. She is a passionate media critic who expressed her thoughts about this chilling episode. Kilbourne argues that, “ad imagery equating gruesome violence against women with beauty and glamour works to dehumanize women, making such acts in real life not only more palatable and less shocking, but even aspirational.” Young girls are becoming more equated with the idea that battery and violence against women is normal. Not only is violence something that girls will look up to but it will also enable them to be seen by the world as beautiful.

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