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murder is glamorous

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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Dolce and Gabanna is a well known high-end fashion company that uses violence against women to sell their product. Tom Reichert, author of The Erotic History of Advertising , explains the meaning behind their ads in a more clear fashion. Reichert states, “The provocative image stimulates thoughts that influence the meaning of unrelated information.” In other words, it is quite unlikely that a Dolce and Gabanna product has annything to do with sexual practices. Although aesthetic perfection does not exist and is fictional characteristic, it becomes the primary message in Dolce and Gabanna’s advertising. Clothing, or the absence of it, is symbolic of the message being communicated. Or perhaps it is rape?

Thie rape ad is quite narcissistic. First of all, it is implied that the men are going to take advantage and rape a beautiful women. Secondly, we feel sorry for the model because she looks utterly powerless. Finally, this ad is a good example of what Dolce and Gabbanna perceives their product can do for you -have sex with you. in. Dolce and Gabanna are basically selling the idea “Buy our product and you will have sex or perhaps a gang rape.”

Dr. C. Kay Weaver, an associate professor in the Department of Management Communication at the University of Waikato, talks about violence and advertising and how it has become a mainstream phenomena. Violence in advertisement is everywhere from main stream fashion to magazines. Weaver explains,

Violence has always played a key role in marketing newspapers, films, television programmes and computer games. Violent imagery is now increasingly also used to advertise and market a diverse range of goods from sports apparel to cologne and perfume, computer games, cars, watches, jeans and even credit cards. The effect of this violent imagery is to make violent behaviour appear normal and even acceptable rather than unusual.

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Consumer reactions and opinions are forcefully generated through the use of advertisement. Whether the reaction causes a reaction of shock, disgust or remorse is dependent on the viewer.

The following ad reflects how our dominant male society degrades women who are promiscuous and enjoy sexual relations with men. It clearly states “Loose women may be loaded with disease. Venereal disease is not victory.” This bold statement is meant to deter men from engaging in sexual relations with women who are considered ‘loose’. It also suggests that women with this disease are repulsive and sickening and therefore should not engage in sex with any worthy man. Finally, women who engage in regular sex could have venereal disease and imposes the idea that men should stay away. It does not give any insight or advice towards practicing safe sex, rather it degrades women.

loaded with disease

Advertising reflects growing public awareness of underground sexual practices. – Professor Strangelove

Knowledge and awareness are not always equally distributed to the consumer. Advertisements can be confusing when there are dual purposes. This ad uses both beautiful women and violence to get the main message across. Placing a large gun on this ad enhances the visual effect to attract the attention of males. The gun also represents the alogy that, if you have sex with an infected woman, just like a cocked bullet in a gun, you can possibly die. Leaving no information as to if there is a cure or if it is a cronic disease. The visual of a weapon influences the idea of violence and dominance. The use of violence against women through advertisement is an ongoing issue and is something that should be taken seriously.

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Typically, when men engage in sexual relations with more than one person, or several, they are chanted and praised by their peers. Why aren’t these men categorised as having revolting penises that ‘might’ be infected because they engage in ‘loose’ sex?

Women are taught to think as men, to identify with a male point of view and to accept as normal and legitimate a male system of values.  – Judith Fetterly

You've come a long way baby

As the long-standing underclass, women are forced to adopt the values that are fed to them by a system created by and for the white male. Perhaps in decades prior to current day, where women did not have a voice or a purpose outside of the home, the acceptance of these chauvinistic values could have been better understood. But why in a culture where women are their own beings and femininity is strong, even outside the stereotypical idea of feminism, do women still accept archaic societal values? When advertising depicts women poised in subservient positions to males; pieces of female bodies are used erotically to sell consumer goods; or violence against women is portrayed, particularly within media that is primarily consumed by the female gender, there is a clear indication that women still accept the depiction of their gender as being dominated. Does this acceptation of female depiction in media reflect a lack of belief that females have truly become equals with males? Or rather, does it send a clear message that despite societal acceptance of females in the workplace, there are very few women with positions of power within mass media and particularly no female owners of mass media? The later is in fact true. Since the fact remains that the media (in all its various forms) feeds the information to the masses, whoever owns the media owns the message. And so, the message still rings loud and clear:

Women, you are creatures characterized only by the success of your home and family. You are subservient to your male counterparts and the male gender in general. You are to be seen and not heard. And despite all that you have gained, you will not ever be equal to a man.

Thank you for visiting Media Dissemination – the blog broadcasting academic insights into corporate advertising’s societal manipulations.

Come back soon for our first official insight posting.

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