August 27, 2014

What Is Empowering? Why are we looking for empowerment in an underwear ad?

I am kind of surprised by the internet's collective reaction to a new underwear ad campaign by Dear Kate.

Adweek explains the ad campaign:
But Dear Kate CEO Julie Sygiel says this isn't your typical Victoria's Secret spread. "I think a lot of traditional lingerie photo shoots depict women as simply standing there looking sexy. They're not always in a position of power and control," she says. "In our photo shoots it's important to portray women who are active and ambitious. They're not just standing around waiting for things to happen."

Stygiel said of the controversy:
"If someone views our campaign as perpetuating sexism, it's because they have certain expectations of women. The way we see the world is that women can be just as powerful in underwear as they are in a power suit. It's not fair for women in tech to be singled out and confined to more conservative behavior simply because they work in a male-dominated field."
This is one of the offending photographs:

These women are all CEOs of tech companies.

I feel like in all the talk of whether this is or isn't empowering, we're really overwhelming a beacon in a field that is...distressing, to say the least.

So today, rather than a lot of analysis, I'm sharing some photos from other famous ad campaigns for both men and women. At the end, dear reader, please feel free to leave a note with how you prefer women (and men, for that matter) to be portrayed. Enjoy.

 This picture is actually one of my favorites for proving this point. This model is none other than Megan Fox--a successful and beautiful actress in her own right.

Notice anything?

How about the absence of a head and face?

In this ad, Fox is reduced entirely from being a human being, to jus t a fuckable torso. Notice she's got enough left down below for someone to have a go. She's prone. She's passive. She's waiting.

Notice the arrangement of the subjects in this ad. Who's in a position of power? The male--he's in a position that actually suggests, pointblank, the ability to penetrate the female. Here are two individuals, both advertising the same type of product, and one is presented as an agent, and the other as a receptor.

When I first saw this one, I was like, well, she's mostly clothed...then I saved it, opened it on a better screen, and saw the inset.

You've got a play on the naughty Mrs. Claus theme. You've got a prone woman in the first picture, very come hither, and you've got her bent over with only the most bare hint of a pair of underwear in the second picture.

This woman is again fairly fully covered. And yet...what's the overall presentation? She's not doing anything. Standing. Passively. Waiting. Again. Where's the agency? Where's the ability to make decisions? Where's the power?

Here's a selection of male models. Notice a difference between the above photos and this one? The males are placed in a position of agency. Their stances are more aggressive. The casual draping of a towel suggests that their entire purpose isn't to stand there looking beautiful for us--they have things to do, this is just a moment out of their otherwise busy day. Which of the women profiled so far has a similar bearing?

Don't get me started on this one. Going to leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Here not only is she passively sexual, but the nudeness of the underwear actually suggests that she is naked.

That, my friends, is what we here in the business of amateur blogging, like to call a "sex face". Yes, it's a sex face. Even the downturned eyes suggest that she's making eye contact with someone.

Perfect body. Satin sheets.

Padded room. Silly fragile females. Just sit here and look sultry.

Another partially clothed underwear ad. And yet, again, passive, wistful stance.

Again, sexual positioning, although goody! "Girl" on top!

Actual fully clothed ad...and yet, notice the shirt isn't buttoned. Also, how the subject is positioned leaning back--it's an invitation. Yet another "come hither".

Here is an example of a woman suggesting power. The stance is more purposeful. And yet, the body type is still the same--lean. Do you even lift, bro?

I especially love how this one makes a point of how our bodies are not our own.

"Come and get me lover."

Here's another male example. Who's leaning on whom, though?

That's a sultry come-hither if I've ever seen one. Propped up on her knees, ready to please.

Is pulling on stockings orgasmic? I missed that memo.

And one more, just for fun:

Why yes, that is his weiner.

Anyway, my point is quite simple.

We have unrealistic expectations of an underwear ad. And I am kinda shocked by it. Dear Kate marketed empowered women to a market of women.

I'd definitely say it's a hell of an improvement.

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