Small Men, Big Problems
by Margarita on February 26, 2017 - 9:57pm
This advertisement for men’s suits is a part of the 2016 marketing campaign by the Amsterdam-based company Suitsupply. The images from this campaign feature oversized and underdressed women accompanied by tiny men wearing the company’s line of suits. The company has been criticized before for promoting sexist ideals and the objectification of women, however, this time the company’s CEO, Fokke de Jong, defended the images by claiming that they were “sexist towards men” since they objectified the male models (Moss). The campaign’s title, “Toy Boys”, supports this statement, however, the way the women are depicted in the advertisements completely counteracts his claim. This advertisement features a small man slapping the butt of an oversized, scantily clad, black woman. Her hand is on her butt and her fingernails are painted red. This situation is problematic in many ways since it not only objectifies the woman in a unnatural manner, but it also promotes the societal belief that sex and violence are two things that are normally combined.
The objectification of the female in this image is very powerful since it is done in many ways; the most obvious way being that the woman is disproportionately large compared to her male counterpart. Claiming that the men are the women’s toys would have been effective if the women in the pictures were in control of the situation. Clearly this is untrue since the male is the one “playing” and the woman is the passive object of his desires. This relates to “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising” as men are usually the subjects in a scenario while women are the “perfect” and “seductive” provocateurs (Cortese, 59). In this case, this giant woman should technically be able to overpower this tiny man yet she is still his subordinate and is simply there for his pleasure. Her face is not shown which further dehumanizes her since consumers cannot see who she is and how she is feeling in this situation. The concentration on her bum, a heavily sexualized female body part, puts emphasis on the fact that she is seen merely as a collection of body parts. Her red nail polish also proves how she is present as an object of sexual desire since red is often associated with sexuality and female attractiveness (Burkley).
Another problematic aspect of this image is the glorification of violence against women. The use of violent sex in fashion advertisements such as this one is unfortunately very common and is usually portrayed by a man asserting his dominance over a woman. This is exactly what is happening in this Suitsupply ad and the unequal relationship between the two models is depicted in a playful and bright setting which normalizes and romanticizes such behaviour. The positioning of the woman’s hand on her butt also reflects the idea that women enjoy this kind of treatment. This is a particularly dangerous message to spread since the normalization of violence against women in the media can be attributed to higher rates of violence against women and sexual assaults according to a featured speaker in the film Miss Representation (Newsome). The butt slapping combined with the objectification of the woman in this advertisement are concerning since they degrade women and allow both men and women to see females as nothing more than an accessory who’s main purpose is to be sexually alluring. This sends a negative message to young boys since it teaches them that their female counterparts should be objectified and that they want to be subjected to violence. A different but equally appalling message is sent to girls, telling them that their main goal should be to be sexy and that their worth depends on their physical attractiveness.
This advertisement could be changed in many ways, especially since the product is marketed towards men in particular. The best way to avoid the objectification of women would be to completely cut them out of the picture and simply feature men wearing the suits in an attractive way that would make consumers want to wear these suits. It is understood, however, that such an ad would not be very eye catching, so this ad could feature a man wearing a suit who is the center of attention in a social scene. This would portray the positive association between being well dressed and popular without going against feminist values. There would not be any objectification and masculine stereotypes of domination would not be advertised. Although it would be a positive adjustment, it would be a small step in fixing what is a very large problem seen in the marketing industry today.
Burkley, Melissa. “Seeing Red: Does Wearing Red Make You Sexy?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, LLC, 12 Aug. 2010, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-social-thinker/201008/seeing-red-does-w.... Accessed 26 Feb. 2017.
Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, Third Edition, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, New York, New York, 2008, pp. 57–89.
Newsom, Jennifer Siebel and Kimberlee Acquaro, directors. Miss Representation. Ro*Co Films Educational, 2011.
Moss, Rachel. “Ads Featuring Half-Naked Women Are Sexist Towards Men, Claims (Male) CEO.” The Huffington Post, The Huffington Post, 25 Feb. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/02/25/sexist-suit-supply-toy-boy-advert-sp.... Accessed 26 Feb. 2017.