Naked Ladies... and Eyewear?
by janedoe on February 24, 2017 - 4:34pm
In the advertisement by Tom Ford, a naked woman is seen combing a man’s hair. He is well-dressed, in a suit and bowtie, while flaunting Tom Ford’s designer glasses. He looks directly into the camera, while the female model’s gaze is downturned, seemingly concentrating on perfecting the pristine part in his hairline. What is particularly eye-catching is her half-exposed breasts and her obvious tan line. There are multiple sexist messages implied within the ad. They not only attempt to convince the consumer that women should be subservient to men, but also that women’s only redeeming feature is their sexually appealing body and their absolutely flawless beauty.
To begin, her position of inferiority to her male counterpart in the advertisement can be deduced from their actions, their positioning, their garb and their facial expressions. The female model is portrayed to be performing a service for the man, delicately perched on his shoulder. Her obedient execution of the domestic, but also rather demeaning task of hair combing, as well as her passive stance that seems to cede to his confident one, indicate her dependency and her subordination to him. Moreover, her lack of clothing clashes strongly with his sleek get-up. The fact that she is deprived of her garb, while he is not, is a dehumanizing act that effectively reduces the female model to little more than a mere commodity for the man. Implicitly, the ad seems to state that a Tom Ford man will naturally have attractive naked women dying to serve him.
Next, it’s important to understand that although the ad is geared towards a male audience, it also conveys powerful messages to the female population. It tells women that their sole defining factor is their sexual appeal. To demonstrate that, notice the placement of the glasses, the product that Tom Ford is actually trying to sell. They are conveniently positioned in the same line of vision as the female model’s exposed breasts, almost as if to say that in order for women to be desirable to and to be “worthy” of a high class Tom Ford man, she must be physically appealing, like the female model in the ad. She must be slender, have shapely breasts, luscious hair and flawless skin. This ad and many others impose a very narrow standard of beauty that does not leave room for other factors that should define a person. Further, the problematic issue raised in the article that “generally, for a woman, physical appearance is much more important than her status or achievements” can be reflected in the deliberate choice of the models in the ad as well (Cortese 59). Nicholas Holt is an actor, famous for his portrayal of the character Beast in the X-Men franchise, while Carolyn Murphy is a model, who isn’t particularly well-known for anything other than for her appearance…
As Miss Representation emphasized, marketers dictate a society’s cultural norms and values. For women, that entails an unattainable ideal of beauty that conforms to male standards and leads to self-objectification, which is “hypothesized to be related to increased risk of psychological problems, including eating disorders, bipolar depression, and sexual dysfunction” (Cortese 61). Indeed, anorexia and bulimia have become more common than ever and cosmetics, dieting and cosmetic surgery have all become huge billion dollar industries precisely because they are able to profit off of women’s insecurities. Of course, women are not alone in this fight. In the ad, the male model is not particularly muscular, but he is slim and well-built. Cortese explains that “although advertisers don’t seem to be as hard on men as they are on women… ads target men’s physical prowess in two areas especially, stressing a lean and muscular body and a healthy, thick head of hair, without any gray, of course” (76). Studies have shown that in recent years, there is an increasing number of men who have developed eating disorders due to the cultural stress of having to fit the specific body type, found in harmful advertising (68).
To solve this prevalent and ever-growing problem in society, I would change this ad by clothing Carolyn Murphy and also giving her a pair of Tom Ford glasses to wear. She would be standing next to her male counterpart and would look square into the camera, effectively adopting a more confident posture, making the two sexes equal to one another and giving more dimensionality to her character. Today, it would be foolish to ignore the immense influence that the media and technology exerts over us and the destruction that it has already caused. Instead, we ought to take this chance and use this tool to our advantage to resolve these issues, once and for all.
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.
Tom Ford. The Fashionisto. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.