by Barb on June 6, 2010
The thought of writing reactionary comments to some of the things that I have observed, as of late, has come to mind but I haven’t had the time what with moving to a new apartment, working, and taking summer classes. What did spark me to write this, though, was a recent article recommended by someone in my media criticism class in which Nevada State College sociology professor Gwen Sharp remarked upon the sexualization of violence in fashion editorials and photographs. The article from Sociological Images can be read below:
Anyone who pays much attention to the fashion world will have noticed fashion photographers have an ongoing obsession with images of women looking dead. These images are often sexualized, with the models in various states of undress, in lingerie, or lying in provocative poses. The effect is to present violence as sexy.
Hardly a month goes by that we don’t find a new example. Here are some recent ones. They’re after the jump both because they might not be safe for your workplace (scantily-clad women, blood spatters) and because they might be triggering for some people.
New York magazine has a slideshow of images from April 2010 issues of various magazines/catalogs, including a number that present dead-looking women. Lula included a fashion shoot in which women were depicted as having died in a pillow fight (thanks to Chrissy B. for the link!):
This one is also from Lula:
AnOther ran an image in which a barely-clothed woman appears to be unable to stand on her own:
Emily W. provided us with another example; Lindsay Lohan recently appeared in a number of photographs by Tyler Shields that include sexualized violence (via):
Lohan and the photographer have angrily responded that the images are just art and people shouldn’t get so upset.
That, of course, isn’t the point. The bigger question is why photographers, artists, fashion editors, and others continue to find images of sexualized violence toward women compelling.
While I may wholeheartedly agree with many for the need for self-expression and using art as a means of projecting social change, I do too have to contest that when the art on-hand vividly depicts and glamorizes social values that are not conducive to society, the needs to explore such should not be given attention. Even more disturbing to me is that the concept of sex and violence, paired together, has been incredibly numbed in society, so much so, that photographers find that portraying such is “edgy” as opposed to negative towards women. Some may also argue that the use of such “provacative” images and its ability to generate reactions from people is part of “art;” however, when the majority refutes such, there is an issue with the piece. To go further to say that these photographs are an example of outlaw discourse, one would have to ask if the marginalized cause in this case is that there is a restriction on our aesthetic? Perhaps. And admittedly, as a society, we are far more likely to praise the thin ideal for women and the V-shape for men. But really, how likely is it that these photographers had this idea in mind when shooting? Also taking into consideration the power that media has over us, especially in its growth in outreach with the drastic development of social media, do we not realize that such photographs, if continued, can propose this to be a social norm (much like the thin ideal, which was heavy popularized by the media)?