by Aliya Rahiman
Society has an unknown power. This power often applies pressures on to people, which subsequently lead them to believe they must wrap their bodies in well-known high couture brands. This occurs because high end brands have the ability to form a connection with the idea of a grand and luxurious lifestyle. Unfortunately, it is a lifestyle that a person feels he or she must immerse themselves in. However, I find it interesting that many fashion advertisements reveal women in a very vulnerable and threatened state. The advertisements presented here provide for an analysis of male dominance over women. The images also reinforce the idea that a man holds an aggressive form over a woman. In a sense, these advertisements are subliminally promoting violence, but are disregarded because it is done “fashionably.” This ideology that we unknowingly follow is demeaning and repeatedly disrespectful to women. Consequently, we are, reinforcing the tolerance and acceptance for violence against women.
This advertisement is for cologne and perfume by Sean Jean. Sean Jean is a well-known label of the famous Sean Combs, also known as P.Diddy. P.Diddy is an icon in the music industry and has become a role model for many. The advertisement for men shows P.Diddy in a frontal view, whereas the only feature of a woman is her face. We can see that the women carry expressions of vulnerability. Specifically, the woman on his lap looks as though she is weak while the one behind her looks overpowered. P.Diddy is also portrayed as a womanizer, which apparently is achievable by means of wearing this cologne (or at least they would like to portray this thought). He is even wearing a ring and earrings, which connects to wealth and if women are only absorbed in men, who are rich, then a woman must be prepared to be taken advantage of. This is also interesting because he is a black male, which gives into the idea of “pimping” and reinforces the stereotypical image of African American male dominance. A pimp is widely known as someone, who in some sense “recruits” females, owns them to a degree, and in return receives the funds, which these women get by means of having sex with other men. This image is constantly seen and especially in the music industry where Sean Combs is also a part of.
The perfume advertisement to the right looks as though the woman is resisting. There is a definite contrast between both advertisements by the same label. The perfume image indicates that a woman is powerless and is in no way capable of being dominant whereas the cologne advertisement outlines this.
This is an advertisement for Louis Vuitton. The woman in this particular ad looks as though she feels unsafe thus clutching her bag very tightly. She is alone in what seems to be a very secluded area’ which can be viewed as threatening. This complies with the common notion that women must be careful as to where she is, be mindful of her surroundings, and ensure that her safety is primary and should not be alone. The woman is quite far from the man, yet the man is looking over his shoulder as though he is intrigued in her or the very expensive bag. The man’s full body and shadow is also an indicator that he can be in control of the woman in that setting and situation.
A prevalent theme throughout these advertisements is that women are weak and find themselves in vulnerable situations. Dolce and Gabbana have not drifted from this idea. In this advertisement, it seems that one woman is looking to escape the situation, but there is a man seen at the back, who looks as though he is coming for her. While one has a target, the other two men have found theirs and are once again in control of the women in this ad also. The focus is featured to the woman lying on the ground while a man is on top of her. This looks as though it could be a case of sexual assault because the ad has very violent content surrounding it.
This Calvin Klein ad is no different from the rest. This appears to be set in a baseball dugout and a soon to be gang rape incident. She appears to be unresponsive while the man on top is taking advantage of her. It is not just him, but the other two allowing for the situation to continue shows conformity. This ad is quite similar to the D&G ad where a woman is lying down and a man is placed on top of her. I feel as though the red relates to what could be a potential bloody situation afterwards, while the black and white relates to a lifeless and dark crime.
These four advertisements are only a small portion of what is displayed in our society. As one can see, the advertisements analyzed are from major brands in which women are exposed negatively. Violence against women needs to end, but will not be achievable as mainstream media is glorifying violence by means of fashion. Society should seriously seek to recognize messages that are hidden in the advertisement. The media and fashion corporations need to end the concept of women being abused and seen as vulnerable or such trends will continue to exist.
Aliya Rahiman is participating in Violence, Media Representations and Families a media literacy program joint initiative between Kwantlen Polytechnic University Sociology Department, First Voices and Battered Women’s Support Services.