Indecent Beauty Standards
by food4life on September 27, 2015 - 11:52am
Indecent Beauty Standards
American Apparel's advertising campaign is known to be controversial, their models are often naked and their ads send out a sexist and sometimes racist message. In an ad for a vinyl mini skirt, they're model who seems underaged is topless, sucking her thumb while leaning on a bathroom vanity. The problem is that the ad is blatantly selling sex, it doesn’t leave much for us to imagine. We should be concerned about ads that sell sex because it contributes to self-objectification and promotes hypersexualisation.
By analyzing the ad, the model is portraying a provocateur look by being good looking, appearing young, using sexual seduction and seems perfect (Cortese 59). The provacateur look is deceptive because it misleads women into believing that this is beauty, Cortese elaborates,“the provocateur is not human; rather, she is a form or holow shell representing a female figure. Accepted attractiveness is her only attribute (...) Cultural ideaology tells women that they will not be desirable to, or loved by, men unless they are physically perfect” (59). Through advertising, the desire of embodying the provacateur look becomes strong amongst the female viewers which is unrealistic to achieve. The women become susceptible to purchasing the merchandise and vulnerable to self-objectification.
We are exposed to ads like this everyday where a woman’s body is sexually objectified. It degrades our bodies and affects our mental health, Cortese explains, “ being raised in a culture that objectifies the female body and sexualizes women leads them to internalize this objectification (...) such self-consciousness is characterized by habitual self-monitoring of one's physical appearance (...) related to increased risk of psychological problems, including eating disorders, bipolar depression, and sexual dysfunction” (61). As our culture continues to publish ads like these, women are becoming more self-conscious and anxious about their bodies which leads them to prioritize achieving the unrealistic beauty standard that is unattainable. They become shameful of their natural body and turn to the materialistic solutions.
We have identified the problems women face in advertisement and the consequences it leaves us with but we are still being exposed to it. Why is it legal that women can be portrayed as sexual objects in ads? According to a documentary published in 2011, Miss Representation, the law makers are out of the picture. The CEO positions in major TV broadcasting firms are dominated by white males who approves of objectifying a woman's body because it generates good revenue. The documentary explains that there is also a negative impact in young men. The exposure to the ads where women are objectified causes the young men to judge real women more harshly.
It's important to mention that women are not the only victims of sexual objectification in the media. There is also a male provocateur image, Cortese elaborates “media image of muscular and vascular yet thin men in advertising (...) resemble the mythical Adonis- handsome, chiseled, smooth, well groomed, healthy looking and a hairless body”(69). The pressure for men to achieve this body ideal exists and men are also susceptible to mental health issues but because the body image is healthy (muscular body) compared to women (waif look), the health concerns are different. Men turn to body-building to achieve the provocateur male look and can develop an obsessive-compulsive disorder called muscle dysmorphia, Cortese shares, “These men are obsessed with achieving an unrealistic cultural standard of muscularity as masculinity”(72). It's clear that both men and women are victims but the severity and health concerns are more alarming for women.
Overall, the consequences, self-objectification and hypersexualisation, women have to deal with from advertisement is of great concern in our culture. There are many possible changes that can be made in an ad to reduce the sex selling factor. In the American Apparel ad, the changes that can contribute to a decent ad would be; have the model wear a shirt & strike a pose that doesn’t involve thumb sucking. Surely selling a mini-skirt already has 'sexy' stereotype and the vinyl material also has a 'kinky' stereotype around it therefore it's degrading to women the extent advertising companies go to objectify woman's body for more revenue.
Cortese, Anthony J. Provocateur; Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group. Maryland. 2008. Print.
Newsom, Jennifer Siebel, Miss Representation. 2011.Documentary