By NICKY CHAMP
Is it a crime scene? Or is it high art?
The latest ad for the Standard hotel chain (which has locations in New York and Los Angeles) features a woman lying face down on concrete, legs and arms splayed typical of a crime scene, with a black suitcase on top of her obscuring her head and neck.
The image was published in DuJour magazine has been criticised for it’s portrayal of violence against women.
The Standard posted the following response to a Change.org petition that :
“The Standard advertisement utilized an image series created by the contemporary artist, Erwin Wurm. We apologize to anyone who views this image as insensitive or promoting violence. No offense or harm was intended. The Standard has discontinued usage of this image.”
Makemeasammich has taken them to task on their apology:
“The Standard advertisement utilized an image series created by the contemporary artist, Erwin Wurm.”
Translation: This is art, dummies. Blame the artist, not us.
“We apologize to anyone who views this image as insensitive or promoting violence.”
Translation: We don’t see it that way, but we’re sorry you do, and if you do, it’s not really our fault.
“No offense or harm was intended.”
Translation: We didn’t mean to do anything wrong, ergo, we didn’t and/or you should let us off the hook because our intentions were not evil.
“The Standard has discontinued usage of this image.”
Translation: We were done with this campaign anyway, so here’s a bone.
Quick question: is the model in the photograph below a) injured b) a victim of physical assault or c) sniffing lines of cocaine off the carpet?
If you answered a, b or c I’m afraid you were bzzt wrong. The correct answer is she’s actually promoting lingerie – obviously – because nothing says sexy like a woman’s body lying crumpled in a twisted position on the floor.
The image is unbelievably from an ad campaign for Australian supermodel Elle MacPherson’s Intimates label. It was shot back in 2004 but has resurfaced on Twitter after Renee Mayne, an Australian bra business specialist took issue with the image and shared it on social media.
WTF was Elle MacPherson Intimates thinking when they released this image It goes against EVERYTHING lingerie is about pic.twitter.com/QdDztxNPwq
— Renee Mayne (@BraQueen) August 3, 2013
Mayne was shocked and sickened to discover the image when she was absentmindedly flicking through images on Facebook.
“It gets to me because I have been that woman on the floor, who had just been kicked, beaten and thrown down and nothing about it was sexy or alluring. It was frightening. It is a part of my life that is over and rarely discussed, but for a lot of women it is still a major part of their lives,” she writes in a blog post.
Unfortunately this example promoting sexualised violence and the objectification of women isn’t an exception in the increasingly grubby advertising landscape.
Take a look at this disturbing image by Lebanon handbag designer, Johnny Farah that was released in June.
This ad is “celebrating” a collaboration between Farah and photographer Joe Kesrouani yet you wouldn’t know it as it shows a man with several belts tied around his torso and head pulling on a belt that is TIED AROUND THE NECK of a female model who has the added humiliation of having a bag placed over her head.
Ooh, I wonder if that Johnny Farah bag comes in black? Said no one ever.
When the tired, old ‘sex sells’ concept is tramped out in promoting anything from Lynx deodorant to Victoria’s Secret undies, certain values and attitudes towards sex are projected along with the product/s being sold. And the same goes for the sexualised violence in these types of campaign images.
The abstract link that a woman enjoys being bound or consents to being held down while three men look on doesn’t need to link to the message that the designer has a new range of belts and bags to sell. It’s the basic premise of how advertising works and when it relates to sexualisation of violence against women it makes the viewer an implicit, unwilling voyeur and reinforces sexism by objectifying the individual, which is most often the woman.
The concept of ‘shockvertising’ or generating outrage using shock value in order to get publicity certainly isn’t new. It can be traced back to 1980 with that infamous and much copied Calvin Klein campaign starring a 15-year-old Brooke Shields in tight blue jeans saying, “Want to know what gets between me and my Calvin’s? Nothing.“. But thirty years on, fashion advertising, which should actually be targeted to women and not targeting women is reaching distasteful new lows on what is and can ever be considered acceptable.
As Buzzfeed.com points out many of the photographers responsible for violent imagery in the gallery below lashed out at criticism against their work defending what they do as “art” yet most of these campaigns are unoriginal as they ‘hinge on the same concept,’ and follow the same disturbing narrative.
Take a flick through the gallery and you’ll see the same sets of vacant eyes staring back, the same menacing scenes of implied rape and the same sense of gender power imbalance. Where women are bound, made up to appear like they’ve been cut, punched or been victim to numerous other despicable acts of physical abuse all under the guise of selling designer accessories and clothing.
I don’t know about you but nothing makes me want to buy a pair of shoes more than seeing them hang lifelessly off a dead model stuffed into the trunk of a car, her attacker standing by digging her grave.
According to White Ribbon, “anywhere from one quarter to one third and even up to one half, of Australian women will experience physical or sexual violence by a man at some point in their lives”.
The violence and exploitation against women in advertising should never trump “art.” And nor should we consent to it being on the billboards we drive past or in the magazines we read.
If you feel as strongly about this one as we do, you can sign a petition at Change.org here.