TOM FORD FOR MEN: an advertisement that utilizes words and image to immediately proclaims its target audience in a triumphant proclamation of masculinity. This ad reeks of imposed masculinity and compulsory heterosexuality, a state where heterosexuality is enforced as normal to be anything other than heterosexual is seen as deviant (Rich 20). As Adrienne Rich puts forth, men force male sexuality upon women with the “idealization of heterosexual romance in art, literature, the medical advertising…” (18).The very fact that this specifically says “for men” and uses a woman as a prop for sales gives a clear indication of whom this ad is for: straight men. This as is clearly not interesting in queer and gender non-bindery people. The series of ads used in this campaign depicts the Tom Ford cologne juxtaposed in precarious positions with the female body, specifically female genitalia. A woman’s genitals are used as a backdrop to the cologne as if it was any other background. However, this backdrop for the product is not some inanimate object, it is a woman. A woman who is reduced to her body parts. The degradation of women’s bodies has gone too far in the name of consumerism.
The main issue with this advertisement is the company’s blatant use of the female body as a commodity to both invoke shock value and to appeal to their straight male audience. Seeing this image creates a visceral reaction, positive or negative depending on a person’s personal values. Regardless of whether you despise the image or think it is great, the reaction is there. Any press is good press, right? Wrong. Shock value should only go so far, this crosses the line by outrightly sexualizing both women and this cologne, treating both as objects available for purchase my the customer. As if the cologne and the woman are a packaged deal. This advertisement is trying to convince the customer think that if they buy this cologne they will immediately gain ‘sex appeal’ and attract women. The extreme sexualization of women in male targeted ads further perpetuates the ingrained patriarchal hyper masculine society we have today by reinforcing gender stereotypes and gender roles: putting both men and women into strict boxes of what is “appropriate” sexually and socially.
Above is my jammed version of the Tom Ford advertisement I decided to focus on the elements of the cologne itself because in the end that is what is being sold. I surrounded the bottle with different notes and ingredients found in the cologne: cedar wood, Italian bergamot, and mandarin. The perfume also has notes of pepper but I decided to not include it because it made the image look too dark and I wanted the only black element to be the logo (or lack thereof) on the bottle as a representation that female objectification in ads is not exclusive to one brand. I wanted to solely emphasize the scents of the cologne and take away the unnecessary female objectification which has nothing to do with the cologne itself. When the original ad and my jammed imaged are viewed side by side, it is evident how ridiculous the original Tom Ford ad actually looks. The original does not tell the customer anything about the product whatsoever. What does it smell like? Will the customer even like the scent? The original image does not answer either of these questions. It is apparent that this company is more inclined to sell sex and put out inappropriate objectifying ads rather than promoting their actual product. This is not just a critique of this particular brand. It is common for cologne brands to engage in similar advertisements, however I think Tom Ford is the most outrageous with their unnecessary sexualized images. The bottom line is sex sells, particularly when it portrays a woman in sexy settlings. It is a product of our highly unequal, discriminatory society, and consumer capitalist society. With my culture jam I intend to make people think deeper about how companies throw sex and the objectification of women around like its nothing. This jammed image is supposed to make people realize how pointless and inappropriate it is to have such a sexual image as an ad campaign when it does not involve the product whatsoever. Consumers must become aware of the sexism that is imbedded in the media and everyday images because their prevalence has desensitized society to seeing such advertisements.
Rich, A. C. (2003). Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence (1980). Journal of Women’s History, 15(3), 11-48.