Fishing for Power
by cohl2106 on October 25, 2016 - 8:59am
In this advertisement, a group of men dressed like fishermen stands on the deck of a boat around their catch of the day: a topless woman portrayed as a fish. The woman is tied upside down by heavy chains and looks distressed while staring at all the other motionless fish beside her. She is covering her breasts with one of her hands as the other hangs limply by her side. In contrast, the men are all fully clothed: they are wearing fashionable knit sweaters and stand with their chests puffed out. All have confident and defiant looks on their faces. Their positioning and demeanour around the woman’s limp body highlights the idea that the men wearing the clothes being sold are powerful. The advertisement boasts the message: “Lafayette Homme: Clothes for Men”. This phrase suggests that men who buy Lafayette clothes will be more likely to live up to a dominating and womanizing status.
This advertisement conveys the problematic ideals of hegemonic masculinity, which include male dominance over other sexes, as well as the negative impacts of the predominance of characteristics found in “the man box”, such as being powerful and highly sexual. The men in this picture are not glancing at the half naked woman’s body, but rather straight into the camera and into the customers’ eyes. They do not care for the woman hanging in front of them, nor do they seem to notice her. They are asserting dominance while she is just “one fish amongst the many others”. Accordingly, as fishermen, they are guaranteed to catch many other fish per day. In this spirit, females are seen as replaceable, disposable, sexual creatures intended to be subordinate to men and readily available to them.
Such messages of male domination, female objectification and female dehumanization are dangerous, as they lead males to accept rape supportive attitudes. According to expert Jean Kilbourne in “Miss Representation”, “turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person”. In this case, treating women as though they were fish only serves as a stepping-stone for customers to potentially commit more severe and degrading acts against women. The fact that the woman in this advertisement is chained upside down also sends the message that such violence is socially accepted. Furthermore, the woman’s nudity entails that women are purely sexual objects, while in contrast, the fully dressed men are not subject to being so blatantly degraded.
This advertisement is further harmful to individuals, as the objectification of women not only causes an increase in men’s violence, but also an increase in women’s self-objectification. Anthony Cortese states: “being raised in a culture that objectifies the female body and sexualizes women leads them to internalize this objectification.” (Cortese 61) Women consequently set unrealistic standards for themselves. In this case, the female portrayed is an extremely fit, voluptuous, Caucasian woman with luscious wavy brown hair. It is impossible for every woman to look like her, yet from this image, females take away that this is the type of woman men seek to attract, regardless of the fact that she is being highly degraded and objectified. From changing their appearance to their behaviour, women will go to great lengths to try and match this impossible ideal. This entire process causes much psychological and physical harm.
In all, the media constantly bombards society with advertisements of a violent and sexual nature. By doing so, it trivializes violence against women, normalizes the idea of male dominance, and has made female objectification a societal norm. Accordingly, from cosmetic surgery to crash dieting plans, women try to mould themselves into the “ideal woman” that the media has managed to fabricate.
If I were to modify this advertisement, I would completely remove the suspended woman, and instead showcase men actually fishing or having a good time on the boat. The clothes in the original advertisement are not well showcased given that the colours of the men’s apparel are muted in contrast to the woman’s figure, whose extremely pale skin and scales stand out at once. I would therefore place a larger emphasis on properly showcasing the garments being sold, as this should be the primary focus of an advertisement.
Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, Third Edition. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. 57-89.
Miss Representation. Girls' Club Entertainment, 2011. DVD.