To begin, this advertisement is meant to be an announcement that a store (American Apparel) is “now open.” However, out of all the ways this announcement could have been made, it was done by showing a submissive-looking woman with her legs wide open. In this way, the advertisement definitely has a double meaning. Although it’s supposed to let people know that a store is open, something else is definitely being implied here. Simply put, the woman on the cover is being shown as a sex object, as if she’s ‘open for business’ instead of the store itself. In terms of sexual objectification, Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) state that it refers to any “experience of being treated as a body (or collection of body parts) valued predominantly for its use to (or consumption by) others.” This is exactly what this advertisement is doing. This type of sexual objectification of girls in the media is associated with violence against women and girls around the world. When someone is viewed as an object and not a human being, they are less likely to be treated with the respect they deserve. This is especially true if it is constantly reinforced that their purpose is to fulfill sexual desires. Thus, portraying women and girls like this (i.e., with their legs wide open) in the media sends the message that they are only here for sex. This can be problematic for two reasons that are very much intertwined. Firstly, emphasizing that women are sex objects can cause men to believe that women owe them sex. Secondly, when men begin to believe that women owe them sex AND that they are are dealing with objects instead of women, they are more likely to treat them in unjust ways. Thus, when men lack the understanding that a woman is a fully-functioning human who has the right to say ‘no,’ they will only treat her accordingly. In this way, hyper-sexualizing and objectifying women in the media can have a whole bunch of unfortunate consequences.
My altered version of the ad was a response to those at American Apparel who thought it was appropriate to objectify a woman to promote their brand. In the new version of the advertisement, I changed the word “now” to “not” and added “for you” at the end to create the phrase, “not open for you.” This was done to show that we as women are not objects that are available to provide sexual favours at someone’s convenience. Most importantly, I wanted to convey that our bodies are not a location for someone to walk in and out of as they please (as you would a store). I also wanted the voice of women to be heard through my ad. To do this, I used the colour red to emphasize the word ‘NO’ in this ad. This was done to show that we as women have the right to decide what happens with our bodies. We are allowed to decline any sexual advances that are brought upon us. Most importantly, if we do decide to respond with ‘no,’ then our choice should be respected. We should not be afraid of being forced to engage or being physically assaulted for not doing so. Lastly, I added a sign that says, “sorry we’re closed” with the word ‘sorry’ crossed out. There are two things to note about this sign in particular: the ‘sorry’ that’s crossed out and the location of the sign. I crossed out the ‘sorry’ to show that women have nothing to apologize for if they decide not to engage in sexual acts. No one has the right to tell us that our worth is based on what we can and can’t do for men sexually. Location-wise, I put the sign where it covered what the people behind the advertisement were trying to bring attention to. I did this to show that we are MORE than just our bodies and sexuality. I wanted people to view the model as a whole and not specifically pay attention to her genitalia.
Fredrickson, B.L., & Roberts, T.A. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks, Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol. 21, no.2, pp.173-206.