Between Women: The Diversity of Same-Sex Relationships of Women in Victorian England

Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England by Sharon Marcus is a convincing, captivating, and original analysis that uncovers the importance and significance of the relationships between women in typical Victorian life. Marcus discusses how not many women in Victorian England had sexual relationships with each other or lived together in long-standing relationships like marriages. However, she also examines how women in Victorian England were involved in close and intimate relationships, which people at the time “believed cultivated the feminine virtues of sympathy and altruism”—that often had an element of objectification and closeness and affection (in a sexual manner). Marcus’s assertion that female bonds were “not only tolerated but promoted as necessary elements of middle-class femininity” (259) proposes an essential counteracting to the domineering opinions today that people in Victorian England saw all same-sex relationships as disgraceful and appalling.

Marcus goes on to argue that the wishes and needs of women at the time were motivated by consumerism and capitalism, and their friendships were recognized, reinforced, and strengthened by their “families, societies, and churches.” As she explains across a sequence of close readings, same-sex relationships and intimacy occurred in tandem and agreement with and even often promoted heterosexual relationships. Therefore, of course the people around women would support these same-sex relationships because these relationships in turn promoted heterosexual relationships, which led to reproduction and other societal expectations of women at the time.

Marcus goes on to support that images of women in the media at the time did not turn women into submissive and passive people, but on the contrary, represented the “erotic appetite for femininity” of women at that period. The appeal for femininity and fulfilling the ideals and expectations of being a woman in Victorian England drove women to this “erotic appetite. ” Marcus also showed how the relationships between women were a vital and central element of femininity through the analysis of literature, memoirs, letters, and more, and her immense collection of evidence further proves her argument.

When exploring the array of different types of female friendships, she focuses on how in many cases, female friendships just meant regular friendships, and how other times it meant lesbian relationships. Marcus goes on to describe how when same-sex “female marriages” were formed, that to her, they were not the controversial topic that same-sex relationships are today or that people thought they were. Even though these marriages were not legally formed, they were acknowledged in more wide scale social groups. Marcus also writes about a different sort of same-sex relationship between women and that is the relationships between mothers and daughters, and daughters with their dolls that were depicted in illustrations, and how these images had deceptive masochistic and sadistic insinuations and implications.

Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her area of study is 19th-century British and French literature, specifically, she focuses on “performance studies, theater, and the novel; literary theory; gender and sexuality studies.” (Columbia U. Website) She is the author of Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London (University of California Press, 1999) and also won the Perkins Prize for best study of narrative for Between Women, along with several other awards for this book. Her essays have appeared in The Blackwell Companion to Comparative Literature, The Cambridge History of Victorian Literature, and more. Marcus has also written for The Boston Globe, The Chronicle Review, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times Book Review. Marcus was also the recipient of Fulbright, Woodrow Wilson, and ACLS fellowships, and a Columbia Distinguished Faculty Award. In 2014, Marcus was appointed Dean of Humanities at Columbia University.

In conclusion, Between Women by Sharon Marcus is a persuasive and unique examination that unearths the meaning and substance of the interactions between women in standard Victorian life. Very few women in Victorian England had sexual or long-lasting relationships like marriages. Marcus discusses how women in Victorian England were often involved in close and intimate relationships, which they thought encouraged the feminine features of compassion and selflessness. Her claim that female relationships were not only allowed but encouraged and endorsed as necessary for conventional femininity suggests an fundamental response to the widespread opinion that the people in Victorian England saw all same-sex relationships (no matter the degree of sex or sexuality played in the relationship) as outrageous and horrifying.

Pretty in Pink? A Media Analysis of a “Progressive” Toy

 

Pretty in Pink? Media Analysis of a “Progressive” Toy

Gender as a concept is a systemic structure that begins affecting children at a young age. The manipulation of gender and sex starts with advertisements for items such as toys, clothes, and furniture that mold the way children see themselves as soon as they are old enough to register what they see and hear on television and in print. Mass media and industry pushes the binary as a way to sell more items and this process requires children to pick a side: either the feminine side, where the toys are centered on appearance and homemaking, or the masculine, where the toys are more aggressive and active. The push towards a more inclusive toy industry is warped, and is seen through a recent advertisement for a toy called GoldieBlox. GoldieBlox is a set of building blocks and is focused on attracting a young, female audience. The commercial seems to reject the pink, princess-centric world of girls’ toys for a more scientific, active toy. What this commercial does not address, however, is the reinforcement that there are two types of girls: one that enjoys the norm and one that does not fit what we traditionally perceive as a girl’s toy. When the girl does not fit the norm, she is automatically placed in the other category, in which it is imperative that she maintains her femininity even though she rejects the traditional set of toys. In this way, the toy industry’s push to design more “inclusive” toys still remain solidly in the gender binary.

This GoldieBlox commercial, aptly named “The Princess Machine” begins by showing three girls sitting in front of the television, bored by the advertisement for a girly toy. The commercial proceeds when the girls don safety goggles and decide to construct an elaborate machine from their girly toys, such as baby carriages and tea sets. The girls work together to create a series of pulleys, levers, and ramps that extend throughout their whole house, creating a domino effect that moves a ball along the trail of toys. The girls run alongside the ball as it travels from room to room, eagerly awaiting the finale. The advertisement shows them enjoying their final product, which changes the television channel that originally showed the feminine toy commercial to an advertisement for this specific toy. The girls then cheer and celebrate their invention.

This advertisement is expertly crafted in order to appear to be advocating change in how toys are marketed to children, but only breaks down the feminine stereotype enough that it is comfortably available to the mainstream. An example of how it remains entwined in the binary is the toy’s pink packaging, showing a smiling blond girl on the box, plays directly into preconceived and accepted notions of what young girls should look like and how they should spend their time. This toy is no more evolutionary than a Barbie, and is a exemplary instance of Judith Halberstam’s argument in An Introduction to Female Masculinity that, “tomboyism may even be encouraged to the extent that it remains comfortably linked to a stable sense of a girl identity” (6). Girls are allowed to express themselves through traditionally masculine toys only until they hit puberty, when they are expected to become feminine, docile, and disinterested in masculine pursuits. Another interesting aspect of this commercial is its name: The Princess Machine. The name is not mentioned anywhere in the video, but can be found by searching it by name. The naming of this commercial is crucial to the argument that social norms can only be pushed so far, and not broken, as to create discomfort for the audience. The title of this commercial asserts that, although these girls do not want to be princesses, they can still create something feminine and acceptable to the gender binary. Notable, as well, is the race of the girl on the packaging. The use of a blond girl, though cartoon, asserts the argument that this toy is focused on maintaining what the media sells as acceptable for girls to be: white, “pretty”, and feminine. Not only is this toy selling the binary, its selling what society is groomed to think of as beautiful. The commercial, much like it does to the binary, pushes the idea of inclusivity just barely, by including one Caucasian and two girls of colors in it. The packaging tells the consumer that this is the ideal and is the first part of the toy little girls will see, which is no different than any other of the white centric, mainstream advertisements see across all industries. All these aspects of the commercial and packaging are, in a not so subtle way, asserting society’s views that being white, blond, and cis-gender is the ideal identity of a child.

The binary further asserts itself in the sub context of this commercial, narrowing the entire female gender to one of two categories: those who enjoy baby dolls and tea sets, and another, which rejects these items. The commercial seems to, at first glance, break down the stigma that girls enjoy playing solely with baby dolls and tea sets, but the makers have only given females one other option. By discussing femininity by only giving an alternative, this commercial’s message is very similar to the mainstream, exclusive message of the gender binary. This message is reminiscent of Wilchins’ Queer Theory, Gender Theory and her idea that, “Woman could do anything men could do and still retain their femininity” (8). Wilchins is discussing how, instead of completely breaking down and eradicating gender norms, it is popular now to offer an alternative to the “girly girl” while still remaining what is commonly thought of as feminine and therefore comfortable for the general population. Wilchins’ assertion is related to an image seen at the end of the commercial, with the three girls standing shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed, wearing their construction belts and safety goggles. Although this would be considered a common frame if it were little boys, the girls have to remain feminine by wearing girly clothes as to not disrupt the binary. Another pertinent topic discussed by Wilchins is the idea of gender expression, which she defines as, “the manifestation of an individual’s fundamental sense of being masculine or feminine through clothing, behavior, grooming, etc.” As long as the toy user’s gender expression is one that has been seen before and accepted by society, she is allowed to freely enjoy her blocks or dolls. If she were to start acting like or identifying as more masculine, Wilchins says, “[people] will probably be shocked, disgusted, or at least turned off” (9). GoldieBlox is an excellent example of the cunningness of advertisers, who play to their consumer to sell more products.

GoldieBlox is a toy marketed towards an apparent shift in commercial industry towards a more inclusive, neutral business. When analyzed, however, GoldieBlox and its corresponding advertisement do nothing to break down stereotypes and expectations placed on children and the activities they enjoy doing. The resulting advertisement is a misrepresentation of what is it to be a girl with interests that do not include traditional girly toys and fails to acknowledge that feminine ideals are ever present and still being embedded in the minds of the girls watching these commercials.

Works Cited

GoldieBlox & Rube Goldberg. YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Aug.

  1. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIGyVa5Xftw>.

Halberstam, Judith. “An Introduction to Female Masculinity.”

Introduction. Female Masculinity. Durham: Duke UP, 1998. N.

pag. Print.

Wilchins, Riki Anne. Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant

Primer. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2004. Print.

 

Burger or Blow Job?

“Sex sells.” This is a phrase that is ever popular in the advertising world and is used to sell products, services, and businesses alike. This strategy is usually seen as effective, but sometimes advertising companies purposefully push boundaries past what is deemed acceptable in order to evoke shock value in their viewers. In 2009, Burger King did just that with the release of an advertisement promoting their new “Super Seven Incher” burger. The advertisement had a limited release; it was only made public in Singapore, but was pulled from the market very shortly after it began circulation due to its controversial nature.

The images of the advertisement are overtly sexual and intend to depict a woman performing oral sex on the “Super Seven Incher.” The woman is the focus of the advertisement, as her profile from the neck up is shown on the left side of the ad. She is a white woman, has a blonde bob, and a face full of makeup. Her eyes are wide and her red lips are parted in an oval shape. Coming out from the right side of the page is the Super Seven Incher, aimed directly at the woman’s mouth. The advertisement is shaded darker at the corners and becomes increasingly lighter as the focus moves inwards towards the mouth and the burger. Below the image of the woman and the burger are the words “IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND AWAY” in white, bold letters. Below the phrase is a yellow panel depicting the burger along with a drink and fries and a price of $6.25 for the whole meal. The description of the meal is in the lower right hand corner of the ad.

The target audience of this advertisement is very obviously the heterosexual male and it is supposed to be viewed through the framework of the male gaze. The sexual nature of the image is attention grabbing and conveys the message that by eating the Super Seven Incher, they will receive as much gratification as they would from receiving oral sex. By depicting the act in this way, the ad is designed to create a fantasy for heterosexual males, which can be fulfilled by eating this burger. Eating this burger will make heterosexual males happier, more satisfied, and more appealing to women, according to the ad.

Depicting the woman in the advertisement in such a hyper-feminine way insinuates that the woman’s sole purpose in the advertisement is to provide pleasure and act as a sexual object. Creators of the ad specifically used a young white woman with bright red lips and blonde hair, characteristics that are routinely associated with sex appeal, to target their audience. Although the advertisement was released in Singapore, the woman is white which reinforces the westernized beauty ideals that we see across most media. By portraying the woman in this way, the ad creators have established that this is what a “real woman” should look like and this is how she should act. The woman is submissive to the man and his desires (as represented by the burger) and the ad links her femininity to sexual objectification. Sex sells, but usually only if it is in a heteronormative way. If the roles had been reversed and an image was insinuating that a male was performing oral sex on a female, the reactions would have been different. People would have been taken aback by the overt sexuality, since a male gratifying female sexual desires is not something often portrayed in contemporary media. The same goes for if a woman was illustrated performing oral sex on a woman, a man on another man, or any other combination of gender identifications.

The imagery of the advertisement is extremely sexual and this is furthered by the use of language surrounding the ad. The name of the burger itself, the “Super Seven Incher,” has nothing to do with the taste appeal of the burger. It does not describe what is on the burger or its quality, but instead describes the length of the burger. This burger length is a not so subtle reference to male genitalia, adding to the visualization of the sexual image that is portrayed. In the quote under the burger, the words “IT’LL BLOW” are larger than the rest of the words on the page, immediately catching the viewer’s attention. Slang terms for performing oral sex are “blowing” or “giving a blow job,” so the use of this specific language was no accident. The most glaring use of language to conjure up sexual images was in the description of the burger in the lower right hand corner of the advertisement. The advertisement tells its audience to “Fill your desire with something long, juicy, and flame grilled” and “Yearn for more after you taste the mind blowing burger” Both of these particular quotes describe the burger, but they do so in a way that expresses the longing and need of the heterosexual male to have his desires fulfilled. The “yearning” and “desire” that is expressed can refer to the male’s need for sexual gratification, but can also refer to the female’s desire “for more,” not in reference to the burger, but alluding to it as a representation of male genitalia. Using the images along with the specific choice of words furthers the message of the advertisement and adds to its shock value.

Although the ad was removed from the market, it was successful in the regard that its shock value made it widely circulated and talked about. It successfully perpetuated the image of traditional gender roles and used sexual imagery to maintain heteronormativity. Its purpose was to push boundaries, spark conversation, and evoke a strong emotional response from its viewers, whether it was one of desire or disgust. By this ad fulfilling its purpose, Burger King got the publicity that it wanted, a publicity that has lasted longer than they could have imagined.

Works Cited:

Stransky, Tanner. “Burger King’s Super Seven Incher Ad: Subtlety Is Dead.” EW.com. N.p., 24 June 2009. Web.

“Top 10 Tasteless Ads.” Time.com. N.p. Web. <http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1907218_1907236,00.html>

Respect Me For My Brains, Not My Body

Picture this. You are a blonde, caucasian woman. Perhaps you have large breasts. Perhaps you are frustrated with societal assumptions that because you are blonde, you must not be intelligent. Perhaps you are on the lookout for a company to purchase new glasses from, as you just got a new prescription. Enter Oogmerk Opticians, an eyewear company from Belgium. Their ad campaign, entitled “Get The Respect You Deserve”, contains a simple depiction of the same blonde, white, large lipped, large chested woman with one difference. One of the women is wearing a pair of glasses. In what is an extremely simple cartoon, both women are gifted a singular descriptive adjective below their depictions. The woman without glasses is labeled “easy”; the woman with glasses is labeled “hard”(See picture to the right). oogmerk_hard_rgb_1While the intended purpose of this advertisement is to get women to buy glasses, its main success is perpetuating effects caused by the sexual objectification of white women, namely through self-objectification. Furthermore, this advert does not even skim the surface on the wide ranges of stereotypes and objectifications unique to non-white women.

Culturally, women are objectified in a number of ways. The most prominent kind of objectification seen is sexual objectification, which occurs “when a woman’s body or body parts are singled out and separated from her as a person and she is viewed primarily as an object of male sexual desire” [1]. This dynamic is constructed through a society-wide hierarchy that places white, cisgendered, heterosexual males at the top. Sexual objectification of women can lead to a variety of outcomes on a scale from seemingly harmless to some of the worst experiences people will have to go through in their lives. A direct offshoot of this practice can be seen as the societal scrutiny of women’s bodies which create a wide range of standards and, often, unattainable images for how women can and should look and act. This analysis will focus namely on the experiences of white, heterosexual, cisgendered women, who exist at the top of the femininity hierarchy. However, it is extremely important to remember that these interactions and expectations exist in a wide range of unique ways the varying intersections face these challenges.

Stylistically, this advertisement makes its message crystal clear. The subtle nature of utilizing so few words in this advertisement draws up the image of a picture being worth a thousand words. The secondary sex characteristics, both the enhanced breasts and enhanced lips, depict an obvious statement about the assumed sexual behavior of the women. The viewer is then coerced in a simple manner to adopt this train of thought. Namely, that women who wear glasses are smart and/or stuck up, and therefore are “hard” to get into bed. This parallel structure seen is in no means a novel idea and claims its foundations around the segmenting of the female body. The females depicted are segmented so that the points of focus are their breasts and faces. Societally, women are commonly “seen as parts, rather than a whole”, namely their sexual body parts [2]. This stems from a depiction of sexual desire that reduces women to “a mere tool for sexual purposes,” or to a “sex object” [3]. While this conversation focuses mainly on cleavage, of any variety, as a depiction of a marker for essential female sexuality, the linking of the lips in this instance only aids in painting the portrait of a sexualized woman. Considering the unique role breasts play in conventional femininity, it is not a surprise that they are such sexualized part of the female figures in this advertisement. Breasts are utilized more than any other part of female anatomy in advertising and media images, that society “can barely catch a glimpse of side boob without thinking it’s sexual” [4]. However, an intriguing focus is made in this advertisement as well by enhancing the lips and linking these sex characteristics through color. This makes a subconscious association for the viewer regarding sexual acts that only works to underscore the overarching message.

This sexualization of secondary sex characteristics is solidified with the conquest related terminology applied to each woman. By stating the ease in which, if wanted, a heterosexual man could bed these two women, the objectification is internalized and able to cause a cascade of self-objectification and its effects. Furthermore, this diminishes the ability of women to appear educated, which reinforces the societal threat of women’s intelligence to the patriarchal hierarchy. By viewing these images in a sexual connotation, this concept of women being educated is erased from the thoughts of any potential customers, which allows the grounds for the tag line “get the respect you deserve”.

The language used, albeit simplistic, is probably the most problematic part of this advertisement. The message that women have to control their image in order to be respected, and that one can only be respected if they are “hard” to get into bed, constructs a pre-existing societal framework in which women are judged, as beings, solely for their appearance and not for their character. By evoking these images and concepts in this advertisement, the company is pining to tap into the appearance anxiety of the women viewing it. Appearance anxiety and body shame have been seen heavily in women who have been objectified, due largely to self-objectification [5]. The coopting of these symptoms of sexual objectification has one purpose: to trick women into feeling that they can change societal beliefs about their sexual promiscuity by buying Oogmerk glasses. This is a clear example of the rhetorical appeal of pathos, as its intention is to sway the emotions of its audience [6]. Through an explicitly minimalist approach, combining visual and verbal messages, these effects caused via sexual objectification are exploited to make sales and inherently reinforce these standards and requirements for existing as a “successful” woman. All of this ultimately ties to support the deeply ingrained societal dynamic of sexual objectification of women, which “no woman can opt out” of [7].

While ultimately this is not the most problematic use of objectified tropes surrounding the ties between female sexuality and female body parts, it highlights an overarching problem seen in the advertising industry today. Too often, there are problematic outcomes, like the power dynamics of rape and sexual assault, that stem from these beliefs that women exist as objects for men’s sexual desires.

 

[1] Szymanski, D. M., L. Moffitt B., and E. Carr R. “Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research 1 7.” The Counseling Psychologist 39.1 (2010): 6-38. Web.

[2] Pappas, Stephanie, and LiveScience. “Our Brains See Men as Whole and Women as Parts.” Scientific American. N.p., 2012. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.

[3] Papadaki, Evangelia. “Sexual Objectification: From Kant to Contemporary Feminism.” Contemp Polit Theory Contemporary Political Theory 6.3 (2007): 330-48. Web.

[4] By 50 Million Liters Since 2007. “The Sexualisation of Breasts – The Circular.”The Circular. N.p., 03 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2016. <http://thecircular.org/the-sexualisation-of-breasts/>.

[5] Szymanski, D. M., L. Moffitt B., and E. Carr R. “Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research 1 7.” The Counseling Psychologist 39.1 (2010): 6-38. Web.

[6] “Pathos.” Writing Commons. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.

[7] Fischer, A. R., S. K. Bettendorf, and Y.-W. Wang. “Contextualizing Sexual Objectification.” The Counseling Psychologist 39.1 (2010): 127-39. Web.

Blu Electronic Cigarettes – The Reinforcement of Sexual Norms and the Co-opting of Rebellious Smoking in Cigarette Advertisements

blueCigs

Image from NPR: http://www.npr.org/2014/03/03/284006424/e-cigarette-critics-worry-new-ads-will-make-vaping-cool-for-kids

Blu Electronic Cigarettes markets themselves as a healthier, cooler alternative to tobacco cigarettes. To that end, in 2014 the company released a full page advertisement featuring the body of a woman in order to attract primarily young, white consumers. This advertisement is in a format that is suited to magazines, webpages, and billboards. It was found in Sports Illustrated magazine and on Sports Illustrated’s website, which suggests that the advertisement is intended to target men. However, the images and text in this advertisement are strongly in line with historical strategies intended to market cigarettes to women, which suggests that women are also an intended target. Either way, Blu’s advertisement relies on and perpetuates images of sexualized femininity in order to sell their product, and in doing so finds a place in the continuing relationship between women and cigarette marketing.

Instead of burning tobacco, electronic cigarettes heat and vaporize liquids that contain nicotine, which the user then inhales[i]. In this advertisement, Blu ignores promoting the supposed comparative health benefits of electronic cigarettes or their ‘cool’ factor, and instead opts for the lowest common denominator of advertising – sex sells! The advertisement is dominated by the body of a young, thin, white woman at a beach in a bikini bottom labeled ‘Blu Electronic Cigarettes’. She is only shown from just below the rib cage to halfway down her thighs, centered on her groin. An image of the product itself occupies a small space in the lower right corner of the page, opposite the slogan ‘Slim. Charged. Ready to Go.’, directions to the company’s website, and health disclaimers in the smallest of small print.

The focus on the model’s sexual appeal instead of the product being sold reinforces the sexualization of femininity in American culture. The model’s genitalia, figure, and race are all highlighted as elements of her physical attractiveness. The viewer’s gaze is drawn directly to the model’s crotch, where the company’s name is stamped across her bikini bottom. Thus, the Blu Electronic Cigarettes brand is literally attached to the vagina. The image is constructed so that you can’t miss that association. If, by some chance, the viewer missed the model’s groin on the first look, all the lines of focus direct the gaze back to the model’s vagina. The model’s fingers, the insides of her thighs, the packaging of the cigarette recharge kit and the jewelry in the model’s belly button all act as arrows pointing the viewer’s attention straight back to her vagina. The focus on the model’s genitalia sexualizes her femininity. When one recalls the phallic shape of a cigarette itself, the sexual overtones of the image are overwhelming. In this context, the words in the slogan ‘Charged’ and ‘Ready to Go’ take on a sexual connotation, suggesting the primary importance of the female body is its sexual potential. For the purpose of this advertisement, the model’s function is entirely for her sex appeal. A further examination of the model shows that she is thin around the waist, and her impossibly photo-shopped ‘thigh gap’ is prominently displayed. An implicit comparison between the slimness of the model and the slimness of the cigarettes is drawn by word ‘Slim’ in the slogan. According to Blu, sexy women must be thin. Men viewing this advertisement internalize that thin women are sexy women, and women themselves learn that they must slim down for men to find them physically attractive. Thus, this advertisement reinforces the notion that thinness is required for sexual attractiveness in women. Finally, the model is a white woman, which perpetuates the default of whiteness as the sexual ideal in American culture.

Unfortunately, Blu’s advertising strategy appears effective, as young people are exposed to electronic cigarette advertisements and are using electronic cigarettes is larger and larger numbers. Even though tobacco cigarettes cannot be advertised to minors, those restrictions do not yet apply to electronic cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 69% of middle school and high school students in America viewed electronic cigarette advertisements in 2014[ii]. All this advertising is having an effect. Again from the CDC, from 2013 to 2014 the usage of electronic cigarettes among American middle school and high school students tripled, increasing to 3.9% of middle school students and 13.4% of high school students[iii]. Aside from the well-known adverse effects of youth nicotine use, these numbers show that the next generation of Americans are still witnessing and likely internalizing outrageously sexualized images of women as the norm of glamorous, sexy and cool.

This advertisement fits comfortably in the long history of cigarette advertisements aimed at women. In 1928, Edward Bernays orchestrated an Easter Day parade featuring “a number of genteel women” publicly smoking in a New York City on Fifth Avenue. He then ran a series of advertisements for Lucky Strike cigarettes aimed at women, knowing that women were an untapped, potentially lucrative client base. Thus began the co-opting of women smoking as a sign of defiance by cigarette companies and advertising agencies. Early slogans included “You’ve come a long way, baby” from Lucky Strike, referencing the women’s liberation movement of the 1920s[iv]. In the 1930s, A Chesterfield advertisement suggested that, “Women started to vote… just about the time they began to smoke”. Philip Morris followed suit, exclaiming “Believe in Yourself!” above the image of a glamorous smoking woman. These advertisements also capitalized on sexual norms, suggesting that smoking would keep women skinny with the slogan “Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet”[v]. Much later, Camel released a brand called Camel No. 9, designed to evoke the glamor and sex appeal of perfumes and pop songs. Of course, all of the women shown in the advertisements were thin white women. The advertising succeeded in changing cultural norms. Women began smoking in larger numbers as they saw smoking as a glamorous, independent act. The effects carry over to this day. Twenty percent of modern women smoke[vi], and in modern culture, smoking can give women an air of power and eloquence, as seen in the television show Mad Men and the feature length movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Blu Electronic Cigarette’s advertisement fits in the pattern of previous cigarette ads aimed at women. It markets its product to women with vague allusions to women’s sexual liberation, promises of thinness, and the allure of the white sexual ideal.

The advertisement promoting Blu Electronic Cigarettes perpetuates the social norm of white sexualized femininity. The product is advertised solely by an attractive, thin, white model, or more precisely, the model’s barely concealed vagina. In doing so, Blu finds a comfortable place in the tradition of marketing cigarettes to women by co-opting women’s liberation and promising that their product will make women sexier, skinnier, and cooler.

 

Citations:

[i] “How VaporFi E-Cigarettes and Vaporizers Work.” How VaporFi E-Cigarettes and Vaporizers Work. VaporFi, Inc., International Vapor Group, Inc., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2016. <http://www.vaporfi.com/how-it-works/>.

[ii] “E-cigarette Ads Reach Nearly 7 in 10 Middle and High-school Students.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 05 Jan. 2016. Web. 08 Feb. 2016. <http:www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0416-e-cigarette-use.html>

[iii] “E-cigarette Use Triples among Middle and High School Students in Just One Year.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 08 Feb. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0416-e-cigarette-use.html>.

[iv] Lee, Jennifer 8. “Big Tobacco’s Spin on Women’s Liberation.” City Room Big Tobaccos Spin on Women’s Liberation Comments. The New York Times Company, 10 Oct. 2008. Web. 08 Feb. 2016. <http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/10/big-tobaccos-spin-on-womens-liberation/?_r=0>.

[v] Christian, Wendy. “Torches of Freedom: Women and Smoking Propaganda – Sociological Images.” Sociological Images Torches of Freedom Women and Smoking Propaganda Comments. W. W. Norton & Company, 27 Feb. 2007. Web. 08 Feb. 2016. <https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/02/27/torches-of-freedom-women-and-smoking-propaganda/>.

[vi] “Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Aug. 2002. Web. 08 Feb. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5112a4.htm>.

Tom Ford Media Analysis – Erica Miller

Erica Miller

GSS 101

7 February 2016

Professor Gonzalez

Media Analysis: Tom Ford

            Tom Ford utilizes stereotypical gender roles to promote his latest line of eyewear. In the print advertisement, Tom Ford depicts the different genders in their clichéd form. This not only strengthens gender ideals enforced since childhood but also reiterates these ideas to grown individuals.

The Tom Ford ad was originally published in Elle magazine, which is catered towards ‘Fashion-forward’ individuals. Tom Ford is a high-end label that only the upper-middle, to upper class could afford. This advertisement is intended to educate men on the proper way to dress to obtain an ‘ideal female.’ It also insinuates that by wearing Tom Ford eyeglasses, a man achieves a look of ‘ideal masculinity.’

One of the main issues is how the ‘ideal woman’ is portrayed. She is a white, heterosexual female, who is lean, but also shapely in the right areas. In addition, she is portrayed as being completely obedient to her male partners demands, ironing his clothing before even putting on her own. This advertisement also misrepresents the majority of men by arguing that the ‘model’ male is a Caucasian heterosexual, who dresses in a suit and bowties. He is also perfectly groomed, and his suit appears to be wrinkle free, which we can assume is from the female’s efforts. The underlying message that this conveys is that men are superior to women, and biologically dominant to the female body. As he is reading the paper, participating in outside work and connecting to the world, the female is expected focus completely on satisfying the male and staying inside the sphere of her home. While ironing his clothes, she is staring intently at the man, although she is receiving no attention back from him. This sends the message that she is completely reliant on him and his approval.

The image of the naked female holds a lot of underlying patriarchal messages. The use of the old-fashioned iron that appears to be from the forties encourages the cult of domesticity and retaining the image of the female in the household that was strongly held in that time period. Although she did not have time to put on clothes, she did have time to fix her hair, apply makeup, put on jewelry, and strap on high heels. This strengthens the cultural idea that females must always look presentable regardless of the time or circumstance. This idea of this woman’s physical perfection strengthens the social norms that promote feminine perfection, and discourage anything that falls short.

Without specific assumed social norms, this advertisement would fall apart and would not succeed in grabbing the attention of the majority of the American public. By displaying the man as an educated, work-driven individual, it reinforces the idea that men are ‘too good’ for housework, and that the woman’s position is in the house. In addition, the female is seen as having housework as her number two duty, right behind her number one duty of pleasing her man. It is also presumed in this advertisement that white, upper class, and ‘beautiful’ individuals dominate the professional sphere. Sexually, the advertisement appeals to the cis-gender, heterosexual audience. The advertisement promotes the idea that having the ‘ideal’ body type will in turn, attract the ‘ideal’ man. This also promotes the idea that cis-gender individuals, specifically cis-gender men, dominate the professional field.

This piece should appeal to the white male in the work force, and encourage him to purchase Tom Ford eyewear. It also promotes the idea that successful individuals, and white-collar workers will own their own pair of Tom Ford glasses. If one wants to obtain the ‘luxurious’ lifestyle, one would assume from this advertisement that they needed to purchase Tom Ford eyewear.

This advertisement would be highly effective for the working, upper class, male spectrum. However, as females have begun participating in the feminist movement, many have started realizing issues with promoting the patriarchy. By creating Tom Ford advertisements like this, women are completely objectified and devalued as human beings. Instead of being appreciated as humans in society, they are viewed as personal servants for the working male that supports them. In response to the backlash received from publishing of this ad, Elle magazine pulled it from publication, and “banned its printing due to inappropriate images that may be seen as degrading to women” (www.elle.com).

Tom Ford capitalizes on societies way of thinking to create an ad that appeals to the majority of Americans by focusing on expected gender, racial, and sexual norms. However, the complete objectification of these roles has lead to major pushback from feminists, resulting in the discontinuance of this specific advertisement from being printed. Although it was created to appeal to the general audience, it has instead raised awareness of the problems of objectifying women, and assuming these broad social norms.

 

Works Cited

“Cara Delevingne’s Tom Ford Ad Gets Banned.” ELLE. Elle Magazine, 30 Apr. 2015. Web. 07 Feb. 2016.