Horribly Misogynistic Fashion Spreads Via America's Next Top Model and New York Times Magazine

nyt-mag-noose-fashion-spread.jpg

Jean Kilborne, I hope you’re reading (I know she probably isn’t, but I figured I would give her a shout out anyways.). I’ve got some pictures you can add to your award winning films on misogynistic media.

First, we have last night’s episode of America’s Next Top Model, where the photo shoot consisted of simulations of murdered models. Jill mentioned it over at Feministe, and Jennifer at WIMN’s Voices has a much longer post, including this link to the actual pictures. The pictures also include the comments of the judging panel, which adds another touch of misogyny to the photo shoot. I saw the episode last night and dropped my jaw in amazement.

A few weeks ago the NYT magazine featured another blatantly misogynistic fashion spread. This spread included women in nooses and bondage. I was able to find the blogger Musings of a Working Mom who posted a few of the pictures on her site (You can see all of the photos here.). The photo from above is one example from the NYT Magazine.

I say we start a letter writing campaign. If you want to email the New York Times Magazine about their photo shoot. Here is the email: magazine@nytimes.com

America’s Next Top Model is sponsored by a few companies. One such company is Sprint. I found the name and email of some folks at Sprint. I’m not really sure exactly who one is supposed to contact, but you could CC an email to each of these folks:

Sprint Nextel Executive Services
866-398-4606
executive.offices@sprint.com

Director of Consumer and Business Communications Laura Lisec
Laura.m.Lisec@sprint.com

I had a hell of a time finding contacts for Cover Girl, but they also sponsor ANTM if you can find a contact. In fact, if anyone knows the right people to contact, feel free to tell me in the comments section.

This entry posted in Anti-feminists and their pals, Feminism, sexism, etc, Gender and the Economy, Popular (and unpopular) culture, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

67 Responses to Horribly Misogynistic Fashion Spreads Via America's Next Top Model and New York Times Magazine

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  5. 5
    Robert says:

    Appalling. Why do people buy/watch this stuff, again?

  6. 6
    Jamila Akil says:

    I thought the photos in the New York Times spread were tasteful and beautiful, exactly what I would expect from haute couture. None of the models in those pics looked in any way close to what you would expect from real bondage.

    Now the America’s Next Top Model Photo’s…….those were bad. I remember one season of ANTM where they had the girls photographed in a grave at real cemetary and I didn’t find that offensive at all. These newest photo’s cross the line of decency by attempting to make victimization appear fashionable and beautiful, when it’s not and never can be.

  7. 7
    defenestrated says:

    The NYT shots seem to be working from a consistent motif of nooses – maybe weird, definitely morbid, but not innately demeaning. With the ANTM ones, though, the only consistent theme is violence and victimization of women. I’m reminded mostly of that Italian Vogue spread last year of mostly police brutality towards women.

    Damn. Be warned, the best link I was able to find takes five years to load. Sorry about that.

  8. 8
    Charles says:

    The NYT spread is creepy, but seemed like it was doing a marionette thing (which has its own misogyny) rather than a murder thing (although the ‘strings’ are very noose-like).

    The ANTM photos are just nasty, definitely the natural continuation of the L&O, CSI fixation on murdered barely clothed young women.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    What I’m trying to figure out is how this will help sell … whatever it is that they’re trying to sell in those pictures. I presume it’s the dresses the models are wearing. I mean, I can’t see where the mindset of someone who’s getting married is going to be attracted to this kind of picture (or anyone else, for that matter).

  10. the NYT shots are more fanciful than anything. The one featured here is a bit creepy, but the others (like the one of the model who looks like she is flying) are more fairy tale/whimsy than anything else.

    As for the Top Model photos…yes, what are they actually trying to sell? Are the clothes even noticed? No, it’s all shock factor done up in CSI style. However, it is more objectionable on the basis of the glamourized violence than anything. Would photos of male models as crime scenes be as objectionable? To me, yes, because a photo of a human, period, faked or not, with a bullet through their head is objectionable. It’s a case of bad taste following the crime drama fascination currently held by the media. The models happen to be women.

  11. 11
    nubian says:

    i don’t think that showing women in bondage is essentially misogynistic.

  12. 12
    Frowner says:

    Well, the NYT one isn’t advertisement for the clothes, so to speak–how many people even among New York’s wealthy, can afford those dresses? It’s an advertisement for the brands, an advertisement for the NYT and an advertisement for a point of view. We’re meant to take away a bunch of rather creepy ideas about aristocracy, pedigree and race, for example–the women are described according to their aristocratic descent if any and their national origin; we see wealthy, aristocratic women from India and China as well as the descendants of some really nasty industrialists and colonialists all together as if our nasty past was all reconciled now and the sweaty taint of war and industrial production had been sanitized; we see a sort of variety-pack of women–here’s the Chinese one, here’s the Japanese one, here’s the English one, here’s the Italian, etc. (No Africans represented, or Russians (I believe); that’s still too raw and contemporary I guess).

    It’s a nasty spread, with the ugliness of the marionette strings/nooses, the dainty etiolated women and the frisson of colonialism and industrial exploitation. It’s decadent, really, and not in some cutsie-pie retro cheesecake porn way, either. It’s very clever.

    The dresses are pretty and the photos are pretty, I must admit, and I find it less viscerally troubling than pictures of murder victims, but if I had to choose, I’d take the crappy shock pop culture trash (which is at least up front about its values) over the rich-people-getting-a-little-thrill-from-their-own-muddy-origins-in-racism-and-exploitation approach.

  13. 13
    Susan says:

    It’s decadent, really, and not in some cutsie-pie retro cheesecake porn way, either. It’s very clever.

    And very disturbing on many levels. I could wish that being misogynistic were the worst part of all this.

    One could hope that this was a fluke, that the culture really is more healthy than these pictures suggest, and of course there are many parts of the culture which are; still, that anything like this gets published in a main-stream newspaper cannot be a good sign.

  14. 14
    Angel H. says:

    Both of these photo shoots are very disturbing.

    And to those who believed that the NYT times photos are “tastful” and “fanfciful”: Sorry, but whenever I see nooses, I think of lynching. And lyching ain’t pretty.

  15. 15
    Rachel S. says:

    Frowner said, “over the rich-people-getting-a-little-thrill-from-their-own-muddy-origins-in-racism-and-exploitation approach.”
    Yeah, this is what the NYT is all about. Their fashion spreads frequently appeal to this kind of imagery. Incidentally, they actually do have an African woman; you may have to cycle through the photos a couple times. I wasn’t even thinking about the colonialism/industrialization metaphor, but just adds to the point. I’d love to see them make that point with men, but that ain’t gonna happen.

    To all,
    I find the NYT Mag photos to be part of a trend. They had another one not long ago where women’s heads were morphing into walls. In a couple cases, they made it look like the women were trying to get out but they were being sucked in.

    If I saw fashion spreads with dead men or noose imagery that makes them look like ornaments or marionettes then I would say its disturbing because it is violent, but I see these violent photo shoots as a broader trend of degrading women. I think you would be hard pressed to find any equivalent photo shoots of men, and from my point of view that’s where the gender double standard enters. The fact that this imagery is violent and centers around death and powerlessness is what makes me think of it as misogynistic. And even if one did not believe it was misogynistic, at the very least it is either tasteless and it promotes violence against women.

    I’m also with Angel, when I see nooses I think murder or hanging.

  16. 16
    pearlandopal says:

    Frowner, just as a note, an African and a Russian are represented together in the very last photo.

  17. 17
    Susan says:

    Why anyone would see these pictures and thereby be motivated to buy anything, including clothes, is a complete mystery to me.

  18. Rachel:

    Similar imagery of men can be found, of all places, in music videos. Several of those by Nine Inch Nails and Tool come to mind, where in men are displayed tied up, wounded, and as victims.

  19. 19
    Crys T says:

    So the fact that a few music videos by some relatively marginal artists feature these types of images but with men in them somehow “balances out” the fact that images of this type featuring women are part of mainstream popular culture?

  20. 20
    Rachel S. says:

    Renegade Evolution,
    I was specifically referencing fashion, but if we want to extend this out to other mediums, one question I would ask is what is the purpose of each “art form.” I know rock and metal and other similar forms of music thrive on violent imagery broadly, but if we are going to look at this from a sociological perspective, we need to study these images as part of patterns. I suspect someone has done these studies; unfortunately I’m not familiar with them off the top of my head.

    In fact, a good study would break these images down by medium, they would examine the gender make up of the imagery, and the specific qualitative nature of each image. Off the top of my head I would guess, that in these cases of violent imagery of men, the men are show as having more agency and they are men who are familiar and not faceless/nameless. Of course, that is an empirical question, and we would need to develop ratios of male to female representation in such photos. If we find 100 photos of women being tortured or bound for every 85 photos of men, then we have a pattern.

    While I appreciate anecdotes and I am indeed using two above, the greater question for me as a sociologist is what is the larger pattern here? I’m confident that in high fashion the number of violent images of women far outnumbers the violent images of men, but I’m open to seeing a study on this before I say this definitively.

  21. 21
    Sienna says:

    I wrote the following to the contact at Sprint:

    I was horrified to see that Sprint is a sponsor of America’s Next Top Model program which has recently introduced extremely misogynistic photography in its weekly programming (e.g. photos of “dead” models encaptioned “Decapitated by a model” etc.) While I realize that your advertisements do not include such disreputable images, the fact is, Sprint is judged by the programs it chooses to support via advertising. Please take a leadership role in demanding that this type of anti-woman, violence-promoting photo shoot be dropped from prime time programming that young women (many of whom are your customers) are exposed to.

    Thank you,

    New York, NY

  22. Cyrs T: I am merely pointing out that such imagery does exist, thats all, I am not saying any of it is easily excused (though I would argue Nine Inch Nails is “marginal”…considering their record sales and number of fans), and it does lends itself to the idea that violence, period, is a huge selling point in society regardless of at whom it is directed (women or men).

    Yes, violent or questionable imagery of women far more prevelant in media across the board. I did not state otherwise. As far as fashion goes, the majority of models are women, thus images of them, period, are more likely to be seen. As Nubian pointed out, however, bondage imagery in an of itself may not be, in the eyes of many, flat out misogynistic.

    It does not equal out, but it is, as are all examples, from those videos to the Top Model photos, that violence is used as a selling point, violence against both women and men. Violent artistic material as a whole or violence as entertainment is nothing new. It’s been going on for as long as humans have walked the earth.

  23. 23
    Rachel S. says:

    RE said, “As far as fashion goes, the majority of models are women, thus images of them, period, are more likely to be seen.”

    I should expand on my point to note that I’m not only interested in the male to female ratio, but also the percentage of pictures of males or females depicting violence, which takes care of the problem you mention.

  24. rachel;
    i’d be interested to see that statistic myself, if it exists, for various forms of media…I mean, I am willing to be in fashion photography, there are more images like that of women. Same goes for music videos. Action movies? I bet there are more acts of violence against men in action movies (as they tend to fill both more hero and villain roles in such films). I wonder if statistics for such things exist.

  25. 25
    Rachel S. says:

    It could be dramatically different for each genre. We would also need to look at the agents of the violence and the victims of the violence. I suspect that you won’t see many women agents of violence in any genre, especially the action movies.

  26. 26
    Sailorman says:

    Are you lumping the NYT and the ATM photos together as “violent” or are you only referring to the ATM photos when you use taht term?

  27. rachel:

    I dunno, I watch a lot of action movies, and there are definitly female agents of violence in them, often.

  28. 28
    Rachel S. says:

    RE said, “I watch a lot of action movies, and there are definitly female agents of violence in them, often.”

    Well the vast majority of characters in those movies are men. For example, I just saw 300, a violent movie that also plays of racism and nationalism. I recollect one violent act by a woman, compared to thousands by men. Most of the violence was male on male, but there was a rape scene where the Queen was raped to get back at her husband. Think about a Arnold Shwarzeneggar (SP?) movie; how many women does he fight and kill?

  29. 29
    Rachel S. says:

    Sailorman, I think they are both violent. If those were pretty velvet ropes and not nooses, there’s a chance that I may not think of violence, but when I see nooses, I think hanging, lynching, etc. Then when I see a woman’s head or arms in said nooses, the implied violence is even worse.

  30. 30
    Daran says:

    I bet there are more acts of violence against men in action movies (as they tend to fill both more hero and villain roles in such films). I wonder if statistics for such things exist.

    In fact most film violence is directed against men in cannon-fodder roles. Neither hero nor villain, they’re the victims nobody cares about.

  31. RS: Terminator I and II, Arnold’s machine character is destroyed by the Sarah Conner character (after stalking her) in the first film then teams up with her in the second. Both pretty violent movies… The one that immediately popped into my head though was Die Hard III, where the most gristly killing in the whole film was perpatrated by the female villain character, Katya. But yes, action movies are primarily male casts, with male on male violence.

  32. 32
    Rachel S. says:

    Daran, Can I get you to admit that these pictures promote misogyny?

  33. 33
    Rachel S. says:

    I’m heading to grade papers; I’ll get back to this later.

  34. 34
    Frowner says:

    22: I would add that some of the rope are definitely neck-sized nooses, and that’s part of what’s irrefutably creepy. The NYT seems to specialize in creepy “arty” photography, too–I mean, if this spread were in Vogue you’d expect it to have more gloss and more color and you’d expect the ropes to be very circus-like. Also a lot less of the collect-all-the-international-rich-women thing.

    There’s nothing to prevent multiple, apparently-contradictory discourses being at work in the same culture at the same time. So I might get a kick out of pictures of violence against women, while also getting a kick out of seeing white women kill bad brown men in the movies. Neither of those has to be primary. My racism may sometimes reinforce my sexism, or sometimes my racism may work against my sexism.

    Actually, I find the top model pictures less creepy, because they reflect cultural anxiety about death–talking about and looking at death is considered creepy and taboo, and therefore transgressively alluring. And when you have something transgressively alluring, why not dress it up with some semi-naked models?

    That is, I don’t think these pictures are the same as some of the crime-scene fashion shoots I’ve seen–they’re not really about violence against women, or even violence standing alone. They’re about death and gore and bodily mutilation, as a thrill and an anxiety–with the added thrill of sexxeeee chicks. (Consider the one where the woman looks stabbed–that’s waaaayy more gory than something that’s purely about “Sexxxxeeee ‘dead’ lady”)

    And I think it’s hi-LAR-iously stupid where the one critic tells the model that she ought to look like a corpse with a personality but that instead she just looks dead. What’s at work is that the show wants to shock and transgress and titillate, and it’s ridiculous and funny that the hosts are so much on board with that–they’re willing to say really crass, dumb things just to shock and transgress, etc. It’s capitalism consuming itself, eating itself.

    I guess the questions the pictures raise for me are more this: why is it that our culture must work out every anxiety through women’s bodies? Is there no limit? Can we establish a limit? Can we say that death–while it shouldn’t be taboo and transgressive–isn’t a fit subject for commercial flippancy?

    The shared theme with these two photo-shoots is the idea of the bodies of Others–whether women or people of color–as both the laborers who produce and the product sold. The model works to produce “deadness”; the model’s picture is sold; television grinds on. Women and people of color labor to produce wealth and then they’re turned into dolls and poppets and pictures which are sold and generate even more wealth.

  35. 35
    Lizzie says:

    The NYT ones just seem fanciful, not creepy. Showing models in bondage isn’t inherently misogynistic. Nooses may make you think of lynching, but that’s your baggage.

    Helmut Newton was doing this (more interestingly) in the 70s.

    Ostensibly the girls on ANTM are doing these things to show how versatile and creative they are. Modeling isn’t just standing there, it’s inhabiting the clothes and becoming the woman who would wear them, making them come alive. (Ironic…) This is a “reality” show that’s produced as entertainment so of course they’re going to make it outrageous. I love fashion but I’m not interested in the soap opera.

  36. 36
    Ellenore says:

    Speaking of fashion spreads, have you guys seen the Soprano cover of this week’s Entertainment weekly? The one with the naked, faceless girl? I haven’t seen any outcry- is it a reference to the actual show somehow?

    Lizzie- What else are nooses used for besides hangings? I think that’s what most people would think of when seeing one.

  37. 37
    Sailorman says:

    Rachel S. Writes:
    March 23rd, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Sailorman, I think they are both violent. If those were pretty velvet ropes and not nooses, there’s a chance that I may not think of violence, but when I see nooses, I think hanging, lynching, etc. Then when I see a woman’s head or arms in said nooses, the implied violence is even worse.

    I don’t have the same automatic “Noose!” reaction that you do, but i can certainly see where you are coming from. however, it’s contextual, isn’t it? When I see nooses I sometimes associate them with hanging. When I see–as in the first picture, say– a woman pulling on a rope with a free hand, leaning sideways, while resting her arm on a noose, i don’t think “hanging.” In fact, i think it’s a bit of a stretch.

    And what’s up with “Then when I see a woman’s head or arms in said nooses”? I just looked through the entire NYT spread again, and I didn’t see any heads in nooses. Not one. Did I miss a picture somewhere?

    Some of the pictures are more disturbing than others, of course. But choosing the most disturbing one (at the top of this post) and speaking as if it represents the entire spread is incorrect.

  38. 38
    Rachel S. says:

    Sailorman, tell me why you think that one is the most disturbing?

  39. 39
    Rachel S. says:

    Lizzie,
    So a noose is my baggage? Who the hell are you kidding? As Ellenore said what else is a noose used for? Maybe in you little alternative world off in la la land there is some other use for a noose, but here on earth we typically think of nooses and hanging. C’mon now. Who are you kidding?

  40. RS: I will admit I thought of BDSM before I thought of lynching, now, were the nooses around the neck? I would have thought of lynching…

  41. 41
    Q Grrl says:

    The NYT ones just seem fanciful, not creepy. Showing models in bondage isn’t inherently misogynistic. Nooses may make you think of lynching, but that’s your baggage.

    This is the second comment to hint that BDSM is not “inherently” or “essentially” misogynistic. Nice. I’ll leave that up to others to prove.

    My litmus test would be if these were women of color, lesbians, disabled women; what would the reaction then be? Just sexual titillation? Just shit’s and giggle’s with no further overflow of ideas, violent memes, or underlying hate?

  42. 42
    Q Grrl says:

    As for the impact of the NYT photos, I think they are highly evocative of meat packing plants. No. Nothing hateful there.

    Must just be my issues.

  43. 43
    Q Grrl says:

    Sorry for three posts in a row, that’s how today is going.

    Anyhow. For those few here who are trying to imply that criticism of BDSM is foolish, or unhip, or even repressed, I want to point out that the ANTM photo spread is the ultimate BDSM fantasy brought to its natural conclusion: the “money” shot here being the degree of sexiness that can be displayed in DEATH by the objectified female body for the pleasure of the purported male viewer. That goes beyond hateful. That’s fuckin’ depravity.

    These are the comments about the 10th model/10th photo:

    Miss J: You’re so used to moving, that when you’re dead, you’re just that: capital D-E-A-D, dead.

    Nigel: All the other girls managed to have some sort of spark even in this sort of morbid situation. I think I look at you in this picture, and you actually just look dead. One of the simplest things, like acting dead, can be the most challenging. The problem is that you didn’t do anything. You just gave up and thought that that was being dead.

    Yeah, that piss-fucking-poor model couldn’t even get death right. I mean, she just looked, well, D-E-A-D. Christ almighty.

    You know what I want. I want pictures of US soldiers, bloody, dead, from Iraq. Then I want us to judge them on how sexy they are. Whether they’re getting the portrayal of death just.right. Whether they have the effing zing that we seem to need and crave.

    Oh, wait. That’s right. Dead men arent’ sexy.

  44. 44
    Dianne says:

    This is the second comment to hint that BDSM is not “inherently” or “essentially” misogynistic. Nice. I’ll leave that up to others to prove.

    This may be wandering off topic, but I would claim that, indeed, BDSM as a sexual practice is not inherently misogynistic. I don’t know the statistics, but my impression is that as many men enjoy playing the “victim” role in BDSM games as the “aggressor” role. And if consenting adults find it amusing to use ropes or whips and whipped cream, or llama outfits when they have sex, I don’t see that it’s either my business (well, unless I’ve been invited to the orgy or something) or inherently oppressive. (As long as people keep their boundries clear and respect each other.)

    That having been said, I found most of the NYT photos and all of the ANTM photos creepy. The NYT photos are subtler in their threat, but the threat is clearly there. At least, I don’t see any other way to interpret a photo of a woman with her neck almost, but not quite, in a noose. Although I kind of liked the third photo in the NYT link. It shows a woman with one finger in a tiny noose. My interpretation of that one is that the implied “they” who have been tying up and threatening to strangle women in the other photos tried it on her and she defeated them and is showing her power by contemptuously resting her hand in the single, now freudianly tiny, noose that is left. But perhaps my interpretation is overly optimistic.

  45. Q grrl… bdsm is not about death for the thousands of healthy people who practice it…

    Anyway…the comments about getting death right were absolutely absurd.

    And I do beleive there were women of color in both sets of photos…

  46. 46
    Sailorman says:

    # Rachel S. Writes:
    March 23rd, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Sailorman, tell me why you think that one is the most disturbing?

    because there’s no real agency. The women in that picture look, for lack of a better term, like something was done to them. And you can’t see their faces. All in all, a disturbing photo. the only other one that bothers me for similar reasons is the chair photo, because she looks unhappy.

    All of the other ones have more of a “participatory’ feel to them. At least to me. And that makes them much, much less offensive, at least to me. Some of them seem completely non problematic to me (the swing photo, the ‘finger hooked on rope’ photo, and the ‘flying’ photo) The rest are a bit more questionable IMO but overall not at all something that I think crosses the line into “violence” or “troubling”.

    I think it’s a personal issue though and I can easily see how some folks would hate them all.

    And just to clarify, FWIW: It’s not as if i’m a fan of the NYT spread. I dislike it in a variety of ways (objectification, for example). I just think it’s an interesting conversation wrt whether the pictures are violent or plain bad. But if you think it’s a derail, let me know and I’ll bow out.

  47. 47
    Sailorman says:

    Can I just point out BTW that maybe there aren’t many POC models in the NYT spread intentionally?

    One can i think make a decent argument that nooses in general shouldn’t always get equated with lynchings. Certainly (nooses + well dressed women) is not normally the lynching equation. But that argument certainly can’t be made for (nooses + POC).

    Not that this is much of an excuse (better to choose a topic which doesn’t by its nature exclude an entire class of models). but it would have been much MORE offensive with a lot of POC models, at least from a racial perspective.

  48. 48
    Dianne says:

    One can i think make a decent argument that nooses in general shouldn’t always get equated with lynchings. Certainly (nooses + well dressed women) is not normally the lynching equation. But that argument certainly can’t be made for (nooses + POC).

    Maybe not lynching, but nooses certainly generally imply death. In this context, the implication might be more of the sacrifice of the virgin than lynching, but there’s still an implication of violence.

  49. 49
    Jake Squid says:

    … I want to point out that the ANTM photo spread is the ultimate BDSM fantasy brought to its natural conclusion: the “money” shot here being the degree of sexiness that can be displayed in DEATH by the objectified female body for the pleasure of the purported male viewer.

    Q Grrl, you may have many well thought out reasons for why you find BDSM to be inherently misogynistic, but this isn’t one of them. This simply displays ignorance. Either that or you are equating BDSM with porn, for which I find this argument to be somewhat more compelling, though I don’t buy that either.

    In any case, the ANTM photos are something I expect to find in a serial killer’s collection, not something mainstream.

    And, dammit, when we ask you to look dead, we want to see some life in you!

  50. 50
    Q Grrl says:

    No, I think I’m on the money. These photos are photos. Not sex acts between consenting adults. *If* they are pictoral representations of BDSM, for which the general public did not give consent, and which only portray bound or dead *women*, then that is nothing buy misogyny using the hip linguistics of BDSM to get its message across.

    So, if what you’re saying is that there isn’t misogyny in BDSM, or certainly not misogyny in BDSM as displayed in these photos, then you very well have to admit that you can’t cop a BDSM plea that these photos are acceptable and non-misogynistic. Which isn’t a very clear sentence, I realize. But it seems folks see rope and they want the rest of us to believe it’s just a little BDSM scene being portrayed and we just need to chill out so as to see the light. Tying a woman up, with noose or without, without also depicting the person who tied her up makes me, the viewer, complicit in interpreting this as BDSM – which is pretty fucked up because really the only way these photos become BDSM is if I, the viewer, have internalized the language and meme of BDSM.

    FUCK.THAT.NOISE.

  51. 51
    Jake Squid says:

    Ah, I think that I see what you are saying. However, your initial BDSM comment made the claim that the ANTM spread was ultimate BDSM fantasy brought to its logical conclusion. I think that is what people are arguing against. I think it’s ludicrous to consider misogyny inherent to BDSM or to believe that dead women are the logical conclusion of the ultimate BDSM fantasy.

    Now, the argument that these misogynistic photos contain the language of BDSM is something that nobody is denying.

    But it seems folks see rope and they want the rest of us to believe it’s just a little BDSM scene being portrayed and we just need to chill out so as to see the light.

    But nobody here said anything of the sort. Nobody, as far as I can remember – in response to you, claimed that there were no elements – no language – of BDSM in these photos. We have all disputed ONLY that misogyny is inherent in BDSM and that DEATH OF WOMEN is the logical conclusion of the ultimate BDSM fantasy.

    *If* they are pictoral representations of BDSM, for which the general public did not give consent, and which only portray bound or dead *women*, then that is nothing buy misogyny using the hip linguistics of BDSM to get its message across.

    Nobody is denying the truth of this statement. However, incorporating the “hip linguistics” of BDSM into misogyny doesn’t make misogyny inherent in BDSM. Nor does the depiction of faux murdered women that has incorporated the aforesaid hip linguistics make objectified dead women the logical conclusion of the ultimate BDSM fantasy. That’s a logical fallacy

    So, to try to make myself clearer (since I serious doubts about my clarity today):

    Nobody denies that there are elements of BDSM in these images.
    Several people deny that misogyny is inherent in BDSM.
    Several people deny that dead women are the logical conclusion of the ultimate BDSM fanasy.

  52. 52
    mandolin says:

    Sailorman writes:

    because there’s no real agency. The women in that picture look, for lack of a better term, like something was done to them. And you can’t see their faces. All in all, a disturbing photo. the only other one that bothers me for similar reasons is the chair photo, because she looks unhappy.

    All of the other ones have more of a “participatory’ feel to them. At least to me. And that makes them much, much less offensive, at least to me. Some of them seem completely non problematic to me (the swing photo, the ‘finger hooked on rope’ photo, and the ‘flying’ photo) The rest are a bit more questionable IMO but overall not at all something that I think crosses the line into “violence” or “troubling”.

    Ditto, actually. I was looking through the pictures rather blithely until I hit the one on the chair, at which point I said to my partner, “I don’t LIKE that and I don’t know why.”

    It’s absolutely the agency, and the unhappiness. (I wasn’t particularly fond of the one with the woman with the rope wound around her legs, either, but I assume that was an attempt to mimic a kind of skirt which is often seen with the type of dress she was wearing.)

    I sort of adore the photograph of the woman (descended from Mellon, I think) with the sun embroidery on her chest. Of course, it’s also the photo in which the noose imagery doesn’t really appear.

    I don’t know what to make of the NYT photos. I think the analyses of race and money are deeply interesting. There was clearly SOMETHING strange going on in the concept for the photo shoot, but I have no idea what it was, really. Utterly confusing, to me.

    And creepy. Of course, I’m not inherently opposed to creepy. I really just don’t know what to think about it, but I think that this kind of critique is necessary. This is certainly one of a set of valid reactions to the photo shoot. It’s inherent in what they did, whatever they were trying to do.

    I’m rambling, a bit. The ANTM photos were fascinating, also… the first few werent’ so bad, particularly the poisoning. The stab victim on the red couch who they criticized for still “dying” looked like a glam 1950s shot. I mean, with that camp, it’s hard to take seriously. A few of the others really wrenched me. I would agree with most of what’s been said about their misogyny.

    However, I think that both the NYT photo shoot and the ANTM shoot are primarily interesting, as Rachel S. says, within their context. It’s not so much that the NYT shoot is itself completely horrible — though there’s an argument to be made for that — it’s that it exists in part of a dehumanizing context where womens’ bodies are treated violently for titilation. The ANTM shoot is not just part of a camp tradition, but seems to be playing on other, repeated themes, particularly as evidenced by the creepy commentary.

  53. 53
    piny says:

    So, if what you’re saying is that there isn’t misogyny in BDSM, or certainly not misogyny in BDSM as displayed in these photos, then you very well have to admit that you can’t cop a BDSM plea that these photos are acceptable and non-misogynistic. Which isn’t a very clear sentence, I realize.

    Meh. It’s a pretty murky derail.

    There’s a difference between arguing that these photos are portraying women’s bodies in misogynistic ways–that they’re symbolically damaging and brutalizing those bodies using imagery typical of bondage erotica and present in BDSM–and arguing that they’re the ultimate expression of BDSM. We don’t need to resolve the nature of BDSM–and the extent to which it might incorporate either unregenerate symbols of bondage and coercion or unchallenged messages of bondage and coercion–in order to evaluate the way in which these pictures are attempting to be erotica or advertisement, either.

    We are being told to view these women as sexy. We are also being shown that they are unconscious and/or dead. Furthermore, they seem to have been hung like meat in a shop or sheets on a line. Therefore, this picture carries really disturbing implications wrt to the humanity of women. And–like you’re saying–really disturbing implications wrt what we’re supposed to want to wear, fuck, and be.

    I think that these photos are disturbing, although I’m not sure the photographer really meant for them to be as creepy as they seem to me. (That’s probably naive.) It looks as though people here are reading different levels of constraint, discomfort, and animation into the models, so maybe these photographs are the result of internalization rather than conscious manipulation of putative feelings towards women’s bodies. I don’t know.

  54. 54
    piny says:

    You know, if I saw these pictures presented as BDSM-related–that is, if they were some photographer’s art representations of his or her consciously acknowledged fantasies–I’d be a bit creeped out in that context, too. I’d be looking at the postures and the expressions and everything else, and wondering why the women involved seemed so lifeless and uncomfortable. (And I’d wonder why a self-defined scenester spent so much time fantasizing about such inept bondage technique. I mean, Midori would have kittens.)

  55. 55
    SMM says:

    I was doing some research on the Tate/Labianca murders earlier today and stumbled into the crime scene pictures–sickening of course, sorry I looked. Then I checked Alas and found this thread.

    Quite a juxtaposition of time and images; I suppose whoever put this together fancies themselves very edgy and all but why not take it a step futher and use real photos of murdered women. Hell, you wouldn’t even have to photoshop the rope in Tate’s case–it’s already wrapped around her neck.

    Let’s celebrate the horror!

  56. 56
    A.J. Luxton says:

    Solely on the “demand for sexual commerce” level, I will simply point out that dominatrices make a great deal more money than pro submissive women, and leave it at that.

    But as regards BDSM in an actual, personal context… which has as little to do with imagery in mass culture as, say, two actual women having sex with each other has to do with a “lesbian” porno… the most basic feature of the experience is trust.

    I am not talking about the use of coercion or force. Again, forced bondage is as different from consensual BDSM as rape is from sex. It is possible to be very, very anti-rape without saying that no consensual sex is possible. It is possible even to agree that a situation in which a person agrees to sex without actually wanting it is a rape or coercion situation without saying that there is no way for a person to want sex. Why is this so very different?

    If someone lies on top of another person, that person is, by the laws of physics, somewhat restrained. We can use this as a basic example from which other examples follow. If one of my partners lies on top of me or vice versa, and the person underneath doesn’t want it, we’ll say “Good grief, can you get up? I need to go to the bathroom,” or whatever, and … yeah. Same principle applies to bondage.

    We had some light bondage play early in our relationship and might again, but these days when someone is feeling dominant or submissive we usually do something simpler: “I want you to close your eyes and lie on your hands.” It works wonders, when the trust is there.

  57. 57
    Ledasmom says:

    Hate the ANTM photos, love the NYT Magazine ones. It’s the sense of playing with gravity that I like about the latter, and to me they look at least as much like women having fun with rope as women who’ve been restrained with it.
    I especially love the one that appears to be referencing the Statue of Liberty – what one can see of her dress actually looks interesting, and it’s just an entertaining picture altogether.
    The ANTM photos, though – they tell lies about death in order to use it for a cheap passing thrill.

  58. 58
    A.J. Luxton says:

    On ANTM, and the ANTM photos, and the high fashion modeling culture:

    Actually, in context, I have no problem with the photos: they’re high camp of the “every day is halloween” variety, and that show has a history of doing very, very over-the-top campy things with their photo shoots. It’s surrealism, essentially. Sure it objectifies, but objectification is found at every level of Western culture and probably non-Western culture as well, and we desperately need to reappropriate it.

    What I have a problem with is the cultural nonsense that says only people of a certain gender/body type can participate in this sort of thing.

    Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m becoming very interested in taking high-fashion-modeling-style photos of real people — done up in similarly outlandish garb, makeup, and poses, similarly aestheticized… I’ll have to do a lot of research for this project, but I think it could be greatly worth the trouble.

  59. 59
    A.J. Luxton says:

    Er, I think I was insufficiently clear above –

    What I mean is that I have no problem with the parts of the show that are: “This week, let’s dress up like colors! This week, let’s dress up like food! This week, let’s dress up like dead people!”, because, good grief, I’m a strange performance-artist type, I think it’s a lot of fun dressing up in any costume someone gives me to put on and playing the part — and the photos they take are definitely artistically sound, if sometimes disturbing — but when they told one very skinny girl to get thinner, some months back, I about threw something at the screen.

    It took me a while to figure out that high fashion photography is quite literally about arranging people in still life, which is asking them to participate in a thing, not as voices but as objects. The still life can be naturalistic or absurd, but is not usually supposed to be a medium for messages. Nonetheless, subconscious messages from the creators sometimes slip in by accident.

    I was an extra in a movie recently and it was much the same way. Any hint of character from me that did not blend into the background would have gotten me thrown out, or simply edited from the scene.

    I’m going to be doing data entry next week and it’s going to be much the same way, except that I’ll be a brain-and-fingers object, not a visual object.

    Rarely do any circumstances occur that ask me to participate in a thing with all of myself at once. In employment, especially.

    But anyway: I’d like to get together with some people and make that kind of art OUR way.

    To show it can be done.

    To play with some high-fashion shots and replicate their aesthetic sensibilities with models in front of the camera who are either not conventionally considered “beautiful”, or are people who could walk out their door and be thought of as beautiful but would never fall within the ridiculous standards of a modeling competition.

    My partner’s got a great digital camera, and we have space, and I bet I can scrounge together lighting, and really cool clothes for pretty much *anyone.* Probably got to find someone to do makeup, though. I’m only so-so at it.

  60. 60
    Dee says:

    Rachel S.
    I’m sure you saw where Cover Girl is owned by Procter & Gamble.

    This link has photos and names of the Board:

    http://www.pg.com/news/management/bios_photos.jhtml

    Looks like Susan E. Arnold is the Vice-chair of P&G Beauty & Health

    Also this link:

    http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/irol/19/195341/pdf/media_contact.pdf

    which shows that Anitra Marsh – NA Cosmetics (Cover Girl) with a phone number, fax number and email address.

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  62. 61
    Adrian says:

    The problem with these pictures seems to be the way they symbolize violence, showing beautifully-dressed fashionable women as endangered or victims, as if victimization made them more attractive. But isn’t it also a political statement, an activist statement, to say the fashion industry tends to victimize women? I’m not saying any of the pictures currently under discussion were trying to make such a statement…but I think it’s important to keep the discussion space free and open enough so that kind of symbolic statement *could* be made, rather than just saying images of women are too sensitive to connect to anything else.

  63. 62
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    It’s weird, the ANTM theme this past week very much reminded me of the performance art done by Vanessa Beecroft, and I was offended for much the same reason. Often times people seem to try to conflate the success of taking ownership of words such as queer or vagina by those being oppressed with the words, with the idea of conceptually owning the idea of violence against women, or exploitation of women. The problem though is in how the words are ultimately defined, before and after ownership. Either way, violence against women is violence against women.

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  65. 63
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    What I found most upsetting about the picture here is the woman on the left–she looks like she’s starving and has collapsed onto the rope.

    A lot of the pictures just looked like oddities–women pretending to be marionettes or with ropes attached in ways that don’t affect how they’re standing.

    A lot of what it says to me is that no one expects the clothes to be interesting enough to grab attention if they were shown in normal or attractive contexts.

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