Fashion-ing the Notion of “Women in their Place”
Tapping into the subconscious and unconscious of the masses is a technique used by countless corporations to not only sell products, but also ideas. One of the most damaging ideas permeating modern society is the notion that female-bodied people are imperfect, and the cosmetics, clothing, weight-loss pills and surgeries marketed to us left, right, and centre seek to solidify this idea in our collective consciousness. The issue I will be deconstructing in this particular advertisement is a similar subconscious message to the one highlighted above: the notion that women are less-than men, and belong beneath them.
The facelessness of the man in this advertisement is interesting, as usually it is the Othered figure in these images that is stripped of their face. In this image though, this gives the masculine figure even more power, allowing him to represent the overwhelming figure of patriarchal domination: masculine traits, masculine energy, and a perfect masculine body. The man is not wearing a shirt, an outward sign of physical prowess and, given his positioning in the image, it could hint to further undertones of sexual violence.
The woman is placed in a position of extreme vulnerability, as we view her through the lens of the male gaze. She is on her knees in front of the male figure, clutching the hem of her obviously too-short dress, trying to keep herself covered. Her left hand is placed on the foot of the male figure, an obvious symbol of subservience and servitude. The outline of the masculine figures penis hints at the beginnings sexual arousal, and this, paired with the female figure on her knees, brings Rape Culture to the forefront. However the look on the female model’s face is alluring, tempting us to think that this sexualization is healthy, is good. This image is titillating to both men and women alike, and as her gaze invites us to participate in these elements of sexual violence, pairing an image of female subservience to sexual arousal socializes us into responding to female subservience with sexual arousal. This image reaches into our subconscious and tells us: this is good, this is right. Through elements of sex, fashion and marketing, this image demonstrates quite clearly: the only way a woman is useful is if she is on her knees.
“You must be a pretty picture”, he said, “you dropping to your knees”. This now infamous Donald Trump quotation is what immediately sprung to mind when I scrolled past this Gucci ad. My alterations, or “jamming” aimed to expose the elements of rape culture and misogyny, and tie it to real-world examples of well-known misogyny. Although I am not a photoshop wizard, I aimed to make the ad reminiscent of a gratified movie-poster. “LIFE”, with a film-board style warning of the extreme bigotry and hatred that lies buried underneath the veils of socialization and normalization.
I decided to paint the red line across the eyes of the woman for several reasons. Firstly, because in removing her sexualize gaze, it makes the disturbing nature of the positioning of the two figures more apparent in this image. It removes the sexualization, it breaks the trance, and we are snapped back to reality. Secondly, removing her identity places her on a perversely equal level with the male figure in the image. Now they are both faceless, so they can both be used as metaphors, stand-ins, and representations of collective social issues. Finally, I removed her face because it allows those of us who feel vulnerable to put ourselves in her position. Instead of her gaze inviting us to perpetuate this misognyny, we are forced to realize our own experiences with it, and understand with true discomfort that this is a systemic issue.
My aim for this photo was to invoke a sense of anger, or passion, or thought, or rage. I want to invoke an active emotion that provokes thought and inspires some sort of action, to look and think critically at these commercials, ads and broadcasts worming their way into our ears and eyes at every opportunity. Hopefully I’ve succeeded in jamming the signal a little bit.