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Selling (out) our Women
October 20, 2007 1:05 PM   Subscribe

List of Ads Offensive to Women. Topping the list: Dolce & Gabbana: This ad is beyond offensive, with a scene evoking a gang rape and reeking of violence against women. In an interview, NOW Foundation President Kim Gandy said, "It's in Esquire, so they probably don't think a stylized gang rape will sell clothes to women, but what is more likely is that they think it will get them publicity. It's a provocative ad but it is provoking things that really are not what we want to have provoked. We don't need any more violence. posted by Tommy Gnosis (215 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is there a distinction to be made between a gang rape and a gang bang? if so, apply it to the photo here. (example: in bukkake photos there are a number of guy over a woman.
But she is a willing participant)
posted by Postroad at 1:10 PM on October 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


We don't need any more violence.

Please don't speak for the portion of "we" that wants to kick the people that make these ads in their Baby Gear.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 1:14 PM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


That's a gang rape? Uh, I'm not seeing it. I see a bunch of people that look like extras from a Guenther video. The guy in the background has a "Damn, I wish I was Christian Slater" look about him.

Call me a sexist pig man or whatever, but I think that anybody seeing that ad and thinking 'omg she's being gang raped' has a few screws loose.
This is where modern feminism takes a wrong turn and careens off into the ditch.
posted by drstein at 1:16 PM on October 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


In the interest of "balance", here is a profile on Kim Gandy done by some right wingers.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 1:18 PM on October 20, 2007


Creepy
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 1:19 PM on October 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


What are the chances more than one of those guys is straight, anyway?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:23 PM on October 20, 2007 [5 favorites]


I don't think it's easy for an image to effectively communicate whether a woman is "consenting" but I can think of a few:

Woman on top
Woman not being held down
Woman not being suggestively attired in shackle-pumps
Woman appearing to have the slightest amount of enjoyment of the activity in question

That last one there is what you would put in if you were honestly trying to say "it's a wholesome consensual gang-bang!" Instead of, you know, a dead-eyed look suggestive of a woman trying not to be aware of what is happening to her.

We can all make up fun stories about what's really going on in this image that makes it not rape-fantasy, but here's one: how about it being a guy held down ass-up with the same guys standing around him and the same kind of expression?

Oh and Tommy, what's up with the "our" women thing?
posted by emjaybee at 1:23 PM on October 20, 2007 [14 favorites]


What are the chances more than one of those guys is straight

More than a few of the comments in blog post I linked to above tried to make that point as well, but I don't see how that makes the ad any less offensive.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 1:25 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


My biggest question with the dolce ad is, why would those five obvious homosexuals want to have sex with that woman, forcible or otherwise?
posted by jonson at 1:25 PM on October 20, 2007


drstein holding a woman down while a bunch of men stand around, passive....well let's just say it's not something that I think is appropriate. You don't need a few screws loose to find it offensive. (on preview emjaybee has it right, what if it were a man being held down while oiled up men stood over him? would that run as a magazine ad?)

As someone who works in advertising I'm lucky enough to have avoided most of the campaigns where the keyword is "edgy". So often the message the image sends is forgotten as the creative types look at the photo. Instead they see great lighting and strong imagery without thinking about what the imagery is saying. I don't know if that happened in the D&G ad, but it does happen an awful lot.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:25 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


CURSE YOU FLORENCE HENDERSON!
posted by jonson at 1:26 PM on October 20, 2007


what's up with the "our" women thing?

Sorry... was thinking in the sense of the royal "we". I didn't mean for that to sound possessive or patriarchal, though I can see how it could be interpreted that way. I've never been any damn good at FPP titles.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 1:27 PM on October 20, 2007


Wouldn't it be nice if more people would think "Is this going to improve or harm society" when making these decisions, instead of thinking "more mOrE MOAR MONEY MINE ME MONEY!"

Dolce & Gabbana has a sick greed.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:28 PM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


It is worth noting that almost nothing in ads is accidental, especially at this level. So, if there is some ambiguity about whether or not this is a rape scene it is very likely that is what is being intended (the ambiguity that is). It would be too over the top to make it explicit so a certain measure of plausible deniability is built in, "what? No that's not rape she's obviously consenting, do you have a screw loose you damn feminist!"
posted by edgeways at 1:29 PM on October 20, 2007 [8 favorites]


Damn you Florence Henderson. I had ready, "If there's going to be any rape in that group, the girl won't be involved.
posted by geoff. at 1:30 PM on October 20, 2007


These ads are dumb. I

What in the name of sweet-pogo-sticking jesus are these bizarrely coiffed greased up nihilists supposed to inspire me with?

Am I supposed to want to smell like whatever in the fuck they all are? Is it a smell? An emotion? Are they selling me hats? Jeans? An image?

I know they make clothing and a few other things. But seriously.. what the fuck?

Same with the stupid perfume ads. Exceedingly skinny vacant stare motherfuckers leaning on things.

Yeah, we know, you have a sense of dissatisfaction with the world around you.

Pretentious fucks. Especially considering that the stuff they're hawking came from some lab scientists test tube, not from the armpit of the god of nihilists himself..

But I digress.

these ads are dumb, but the page bitching about them seems to be focusing on pretty minor stuff.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:31 PM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


I think they just want her shoes.
posted by found missing at 1:31 PM on October 20, 2007 [22 favorites]


I don't see how that makes the ad any less offensive.

It doesn't, really. It just makes it more ridiculous. Too ridiculous and stylized and ultimately limp and bloodless to push my personal hand-wringing buttons. Ad tries to be controversial to get attention, mostly looks sterile and vapid, gets extra publicity anyway. That's my take, for what it's worth. Regretable, maybe, but too inept to be worth wasting much bile over.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:34 PM on October 20, 2007


Is there a distinction to be made between a gang rape and a gang bang?

I dunno, the thumbnail didn't look so bad, but if you look at the image it's a bit different, the guy is holding down the woman's arm, and she has a sort of pained expression on her face. It doesn't look like a gang-bang, but those guys look pretty disinterested for rapists.

The people in the ad don't look 'normal' either in terms of a gang bang or a rape scene.

To me, frankly, It looks like the woman is having a seizure and the one dude is a lifeguard trying to help her, while the others rubberneck.

(I say lifeguard because he looks like the type, plus there is a pool, and she's not passed out because her knees are up. So seizure?)

To me it isn't sexy, or even sexual, really.
posted by delmoi at 1:35 PM on October 20, 2007


Here's a better one, for a brand of heavy cream made by Candia in France. The text says: "Babette, I tie her up, I whip her, and sometimes she ends up in the saucepan". To "end up in the saucepan" is French slang for "to have sex", from a female point of view. It apparently didn't turn off customers: sales went up 36% and Candia made a second ad: "Babette, I can do anything to her".
posted by elgilito at 1:35 PM on October 20, 2007


I think that babette ad is offensive to heavy cream.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:37 PM on October 20, 2007


IRFH has a good point. The style of the ads, and I've seen a few of them, reeks of laziness. Very 80s in it's look.

They could have chosen a lot of different ways to go and deciding that holding down a woman is what would make it tick. Just goes to show that rather than try to actually produce good ads the company chose to produce crappy, offensive ads as a way of branding their products. I can easily say I won't have any interest in their offerings.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:38 PM on October 20, 2007


Troll ad wins.
posted by DaShiv at 1:42 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


"drstein holding a woman down while a bunch of men stand around, passive....well let's just say it's not something that I think is appropriate"

To me, it doesn't even look like the other people are even in the same time & space. Christian Slater-ish is sitting on some mysterious floating box, and Shirtless Dude has no feet. He's floating in some water on some astral plain.

"It's a provocative ad but it is provoking things that really are not what we want to have provoked."

It doesn't seem provocative at all, really. It's Yet Another "throw half dressed people in to sell a product." If you want to be really obnoxious about it, make the claim that it's sexist because there are a bunch of shirtless men and only 1 woman. Or something. But calling it a gang rape? I think that's stretching it quite a bit.
posted by drstein at 1:43 PM on October 20, 2007


They all look so bored that I can only imagine they're standing around at a photo shoot.
posted by rtha at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


So when one group says that they find something offensive, it's an acceptible response to mock sexual orientation? Way to go people.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2007


Sorry, I can't take NOW seriously, especially after reading some of their comments on the ads. I'd say they need to relax, but that'll probably get me branded as misygonist who wants women to "just lie back and take it". It's hard to have a conversation is one side is batshitinsane.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2007


It's hard to imagine how it could get much more offensive.
It's the banality of the treatment, the fumblingly misunderstood messages about sex and power. Playing with fire not to light a candle for us to see by but to spark a little heat into the dead corruption of corporate style. Not just ugly; moronic as well.
posted by Abiezer at 1:53 PM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


Well, she is pretty thin so it looks to me like she is hungry and wants a sandwhich but the men are holding her down so she can't get one because men are evil and they want women who look like skeletons. They will probably all take turns raping her later but this is just general body image oppression not rape yet.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:55 PM on October 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


So when one group says that they find something offensive, it's an acceptible response to mock sexual orientation? Way to go people.

Not mocking, acknowledging. The image represents what it represents - which seems more tasteless, in my opinion, than offensive.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:01 PM on October 20, 2007


Jesus, I am SO glad NOW is there to tell me what's offensive to me.
posted by tristeza at 2:03 PM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


These ads are not dumb. Offensive, maybe, but not dumb. They are exquisitely well designed, photographed, and targeted. Everything is thought out, right down to the strategically placed "OL" and "G". They're like really clever subliminal puzzles.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


List of Ads Offensive to Women.

I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I was onboard when I saw the Dolce & Gabbana ad. Even though I didn't think it evoked rape, I could understand the idea that someone might. But then as their list rolled on, it just became clear that the makers of this list thought that it was offensive anytime a beautiful or thin woman was in an ad, regardless of what the ad was for. A silhouette of a woman crossed with a beer bottle is offensive? The words "super skinny" for a hair product are offensive? A cigarette ad with a woman in it is offensive? The bar for offensiveness seems to have slipped down a couple notches.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:08 PM on October 20, 2007 [8 favorites]


I can see their point on some of these examples, including the D&G ad. But I think they do their cause a disservice by applying the "offensive to women" label so broadly. They need to realize the difference between an ad that's sexual, and an ad that's sexist. For example, the Candies and Ralph Lauren Polo ads both have sexual themes but don't seem to put women down or objectify them unless you want to believe they do.

Meanwhile, the Dior and Brown & Williamson ads are marketed at women, which is no more sexist than using a male model to market golf clubs. The fact that those two ads both relate to addiction, and whether that's unethical, is a separate question from whether they're sexist.

There's still inequality in the world, no question about that. There are still body image issues for both genders that are perpetuated by the media. There are still real examples of ads with questionable and/or offensive content...

All the more reason not to dilute your message by stamping an authoritarian "OFFENSIVE TO WOMEN" on anything that indicates that women may have, or god forbid enjoy, being sexy and having sex.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:12 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I liked the ad. I'm off to get me some gabbana (not too big on dolce).
posted by parki at 2:19 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I dunno. I think that this is a hell of a lot more offensive to women.

The D&G ad is merely in poor taste.
posted by MythMaker at 2:19 PM on October 20, 2007


The page says this:

Tired of advertisers peddling flesh and not product? Now's your chance to sound off to advertisers about the negative, dangerous messages they send to women and girls.

I agree with that. I am not shocked or outraged, but I am weary or a lifetime of seeing women denigrated, emaciated, and objectified to sell products. I dislike the messages that these ads send to girls and young women. Realistic or not, that D&G ad reeks of violence. Outrage is too strong a word for my response, but I'm not liking these ads and think there is nothing wrong with urging women (and men) to let advertisers know they suck.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:25 PM on October 20, 2007 [11 favorites]




If you don't like an ad, don't buy the product. That's it. If you like the ad, buy the product. Obviously these ads work, otherwise companies wouldn't invest in them. In this society, everyone's trying to make a buck. Everyone's vying for attention. In order to outdo the competition one has to keep upping the ante. Sex sells. Duh.

There's nothing more to see here. Move along.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:32 PM on October 20, 2007


The D&G ad has made several appearances on mefi before, we must just be jonesing for extra controversy today.

It's easy to gloss over it online, but when I saw it in a copy of GQ, across two pages, it really did shock me. In fact, I wrote them a letter about it.

The fact that the men are so blasé is exactly what makes it disturbing-- they don't see anything wrong with what's happening and seem to be turning a blind eye.

And if you think this is about some easily-offended people projecting their own imagination onto the ad, then you're incredibly naive about marketing and how ads are generated. Dozens, maybe hundreds of people worked on this ad, you can be sure that if anything, the impact is softened from how it was originally intended to appear.
posted by hermitosis at 2:33 PM on October 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm not liking these ads and think there is nothing wrong with urging women (and men) to let advertisers know they suck.

I agree in theory. Except... These types of ads are trolls. Their only intent is to be noticed and get a reaction. Any reaction. Telling advertisers that you don't like their ads is worse than pointless - it tells them that they have your attention. So I'm thinking there are really only two ways to respond that makes any sense. Ignore them completely, or inform them that you will be boycotting their customers. Anything else would just confirm that their tactics work.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:34 PM on October 20, 2007


Shouldn't these ads be offensive to everyone, and not just women? Or are we fine saying that men are just cretins?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:37 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


NOW woman gets called out talked over by Patrice O'Neil.
posted by hermitosis at 2:37 PM on October 20, 2007


Looks like rape fantasy to me.

Doesn't make it less offensive to me, but still.
posted by konolia at 2:37 PM on October 20, 2007


Here's the secret: view all advertising, lifestyle magazine articles, and reality tv shows as the product of clean and shiny white people with multicultural names, not eight years out of school, told all their lives that they were smart and special, now especially proud of themselves to be living in the big city with money to burn and to be working in a so cool renovated former industrial space with extremely comfy chairs, yet drowning their weekends in alcohol, cocaine and sex with strangers just like them because inside they suspect that they're whoring their genius to The Man, all overseen by a 53 year old who once burned as brightly as them, who now juggles a wife, two exes, a 27 year old mistress named Amber, a daughter with a fatherless child, a son who last month blasted through six hundred bucks on the credit card buying imaginary product on Second Life, and thoughts of suicide that cause his therapist to yawn deeply when he tries to articulate them.

Or you could be like NOW and react to all advertising as Duluth's oldest living spinster librarian reacted the day she stepped into the drugstore for her regular Saturday night Eskimo Pie and spotted Hugh Hefner's first publication behind the counter.
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:40 PM on October 20, 2007 [39 favorites]


rtha writes "They all look so bored that I can only imagine they're standing around at a photo shoot."

Exactly. It doesn't look to me like consensual sex, or non-consentual one-on-one sex, or non-consual group sex, or anything, really, besides "a bunch of people at a photo shoot". If I were forced to find a comparative sexual situation, I'd say it just looks like the set of some horrible porno: two bored people about to have sex, and a few crew members milling around.
posted by Bugbread at 2:45 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


A cigarette ad with a woman in it is offensive?

Seriously, that ad has to be at least 10 years old. Nothing since then NOW could get offended about? Or were they trying to fill up spots on their template, so they pulled out that Glamour 1955 issue sitting around?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:46 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


"It's in Esquire, so they probably don't think a stylized gang rape will sell clothes to women..."

Well, the ad is in a men's magazine. And the likely targets of the advertisement are the metrosexual and gay men who are attracted to the "hotties" in the picture.

I think they just want her shoes.
Bruce: Look, are those Manolo Blahniks?

Tad: Indeed they are.

Chad: Karl, hold her down while Erik snags that lovely pair.

Bruce: Darling, do you wanna join us boys for a Cosmo, or two?
posted by ericb at 2:49 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the ad for Fetish perfume. The copy read "Apply generously to your neck so he can smell the scent as you shake your head 'no.'"
posted by sneakin at 2:53 PM on October 20, 2007


Either your sense of humor is drier than I anticipated, ericb, or you're just more of a jerk. Can someone help me figure this out?
posted by hermitosis at 2:56 PM on October 20, 2007


BTW -- the D&G ad was pulled in Spain and banned in Italy.*

A previous ad depicting models brandishing knives caused controversy for D&G.
posted by ericb at 2:57 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whose the target market here and here? What about this one?
posted by ericb at 2:59 PM on October 20, 2007


Fashion trivia: Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce separated as a couple in 2005, but obviously still work together.
posted by ericb at 3:02 PM on October 20, 2007


Either your sense of humor is drier than I anticipated, ericb, or you're just more of a jerk.

I'll go with either one.
posted by ericb at 3:03 PM on October 20, 2007


Again.

Every ad in existence should be perceived as a guy in a cheap suit waving his arms in a crowd trying to get your attention. Some of these guys are gonna wear something other than a cheap suit, because they know that they have a better chance of getting your attention if they drape a bunch of half naked people on them, but the guy in the cheap suit is still there, waving his hands trying desperately to get you to look his way.

That's how he puts food on his table. If you were hungry enough, you'd surely contemplate wearing a bloody goat carcass on your head if you thought it'd feed your family. Most advertising executives sell their soul to the Devil quietly the first week they are in business, cuz they need money for brunch next Tuesday.

Perhaps if the picture in question was actually of an advertising executive with a goat carcass on his head, I might actually be upset for the goat. Half dressed naked people in suggestive poses. Meh.

This is nothing new.

There's nothing more to see here.

These are not the droids you are looking for. Move along.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:04 PM on October 20, 2007


If rape is nonconsensual sex, and neither person looks like they want to have sex, but they're about to, does that mean that they're about to mutually rape eachother? It's like D&G wants to cover all parts of the "rapist fantasy / rapee fantasy" market.
posted by Bugbread at 3:05 PM on October 20, 2007


ZachsMind writes "Perhaps if the picture in question was actually of an advertising executive with a goat carcass on his head, I might actually be upset for the goat."

I believe this is the ad you're looking for (though, admittedly, it was more a promotional event than a print ad, and the goat carcass wasn't on the ad exec's head).
posted by Bugbread at 3:07 PM on October 20, 2007


Dozens, maybe hundreds of people worked on this ad, you can be sure that if anything, the impact is softened from how it was originally intended to appear.

Right. Because one of those later people couldn't have been trying to bump up the "edginess" from that original conception. But be sure to raise the spectre of even worse we haven't seen.

And if you think this is about some easily-offended people projecting their own imagination onto the ad, then you're incredibly naive about marketing and how ads are generated.

Considering you're the only person to offer the interpretation -- perhaps the only one to think of it -- that these men are passively condoning something rather than, as stated by several above, "on a different plane" or "standing around in a photo studio", yeah, I think there's a lot of projection going on here. Is it calculated to have that effect? Of course. But the effect is optional. You choose to get offended. I kind of think there are better (worse) things to get offended about.
posted by dreamsign at 3:08 PM on October 20, 2007


Obviously these ads work, otherwise companies wouldn't invest in them....In order to outdo the competition one has to keep upping the ante.

Benneton's advertising campaigns have often thrived on controversy -- especially in the 90's.
posted by ericb at 3:08 PM on October 20, 2007


What you are all objecting to is the lack of subtlety. These images work as advertising by appealing directly to emotions we'd rather deny. You have enough sophistication to feel disturbed but you don't fully grok why you react. The advertisers are simply associating with a brand the release of conflict between violent desire (to dominate or be dominated, in the first ad) and social responsibility. Purchasing the product becomes cathartic and no one suffers except financially. How is that bad?

Acts that result in an undesired violation of personal agency are offensive. Fantasy is fantasy and as such is healthy. Direct your rage, outrage, and disgust at rapists, child abusers, and the like. People getting upset over images are living their own fantasy -- that their outrage improves the world. As fantasy goes that's rather more offensive because it encourages destructive inaction rather than preventing destructive action.

If you've been a victim then you may experience this image on a personal level and I understand tramua well enough to know that such reactions can't be dismissed simply because they aren't reasoned: but you with direct experience finding the memory inflected upon you by an image, you are the only one with a right to be angry at the image.

The rest of you, stop feeling good about how outraged you can get. If you're just trying to be sensitive then may I suggest you do something productive: volunteer at a help line or to teach sex ed or castrate sex offenders, whatever.

There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that violent and destructive impulses exist within us all, just as we all, on some level, desire our own destruction. Advertisers know this and exploit it. Is that what you're offended at? That advertisers are exploiting aspects of yourself that frighten you? Understand yourself better and you won't be exploitable in that way. These ads become tasteless, as offensive to personal standards of sophistication and refinement as American Idol or McDonald's or George Bush, but not intrinsically threatening.

Fantasy and reality are distinct. If you are too feeble-minded to make this distinction then please go kill yourself before you do any harm. If you can't get over what is depicted then don't buy the product. Don't demand that it be sold in a manner you find less challenging. It isn't up to everyone else to modify their expression or their business model to avoid provoking your anti-social impulses or to protect your fragile self-image.
posted by Grod at 3:17 PM on October 20, 2007 [10 favorites]


Here's the secret: view all advertising ... as the product of ...

people who should kill themselves.

posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:23 PM on October 20, 2007


Or you could be like NOW and react to all advertising as Duluth's oldest living spinster librarian reacted the day she stepped into the drugstore for her regular Saturday night Eskimo Pie and spotted Hugh Hefner's first publication behind the counter.

Sigh.

All the usual arguments (though calling them arguments is giving these comments credit they don't deserve):

Those women complaining are crazy/insane/hysterical! Check.

Those women complaining are sexless prudes! Check.

Sex sells, QED! Check.

It's only a picture, and you think is actually means something, you silly girl? Check.

If you don't like it, register your displeasure the very useful gesture of not buying anything! I'm sure the Ad company responsible for this will be knocking at your door in record time to ask you opinion! Check.

Har har, it's so cute when they get mad. Good thing we never have to take them seriously! Check.

Leaving thread now.
posted by jokeefe at 3:27 PM on October 20, 2007 [35 favorites]


Yeah, my husband and I like to play a game called What Do They Want You to Buy?, which consists of us flipping through the pages of our respective magazines and shouting out whatever the ads ostensibly want us to buy. It usually goes something like this:

Him: Car! Car! Truck! Watch! Car! Gadget! Sexy Tit-Flavored Alcohol! Futuristic Razor!

Me: Shoes! Jewels! Birth Control! A Tampon...Made out of Diamonds! Lipstick that Will Never Come Off, Ever! Scientific Conditioner! Moisturizer with Gold in It! Ooo look, a D&G ad. Hrm, I'm not sure... Greasy Prostitute? Luxury MegaRape? Squeal Like a Pig Experience?
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 3:29 PM on October 20, 2007 [21 favorites]


Larger version of the Dolce & Gabbana ad.

Sexy Tit-Flavored Alcohol!

Make it a double.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:33 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's hard to imagine how it could get much more offensive.

Oh, that's easy.

(1) Make the dude holding her down a dirty, shirtless guy with really obvious and severe Down's syndrome. Make sure his very tight pants have a preposterously huge bulge. Give him big scars on his back. For real fun, make him non-anglo.

(2) Add a dead goat on the floor, lying in a pool of blood that appears to have streamed from its hindquarters.

(3) Make the dude looking down, that's standing in the water, a bored Catholic priest holding a whip.

(4) Make two other dudes lookalikes for the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King.

(5) The last dude in the back right? Make him a little boy. Make him the most bored by everything. He's holding a knife.

(6) Change the tagline: DOLCE AND GABANNA: CERTIFIED JEW-FREE SINCE 1983.

(7) Change the location to the rotunda of the capitol or the oval office. Liberally add sprays of blood and feces to the floor and walls.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:37 PM on October 20, 2007 [33 favorites]


I think many people who object to the ads don't really understand them. The woman in the D&G ad is getting fucked, but not by these dudes. They're too effete and tentative. They're boy voyeur wannabes. The guy in the sunglasses is helping out by holding her down, but his legs are in the wrong posture. No, she is getting fucked by the D&G logo. It's the only thing hard enough, man enough, Italian enough to do the job. The "G" has found her G-spot. And it's good.

So the next time she's walking around Beverly Hills, bored and horny, surrounded by boys who aren't man enough to do the job, Dolce and Gabbana is there for her. It's extremely clever. And those who find it offensive sow its seed. Fucking brilliant.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:40 PM on October 20, 2007 [11 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe writes "It's hard to imagine how it could get much more offensive.

"Oh, that's easy."


You did well, but you skipped some obvious things:

Don't make the guy have Down's Syndrome, make her have Down's Syndrome.

And make her 8 years old.

Yeah, "It's hard to imagine how it could get much offensive" is a claim that's very seldom true.
posted by Bugbread at 3:49 PM on October 20, 2007


What exactly do people mean by "offensive" anyway? Generally, the only times I've ever offended on a gut level are when someone insults a family member or friend of mine, or when I see real -- not simulated, symbolic, or abstract -- acts of extreme cruelty. Nothing in these ads strikes me as remotely "offensive" in either of those ways.

Has "offensive" really just turned into a word people use to describe anything they don't particularly like?
posted by decoherence at 3:51 PM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe - my point was the utter shallow stupidity of it and the casual nature of the wrongness. I realise it could be more crudely gross-out. The pseudo-sophistication combined with sorcerer's apprentice meddling with forces they are too dull to understand. The horrible thought of talentless hacks rehashing genuinely provoking work from twenty years ago and thinking they're clever. Quietly piling another turd onto the towering edifice of shite that is the citadel they inhabit, and we get to live in the stinking shadow of.
Obviously I'm over-doing it for rhetorical shits and giggles, but it is the ultimate in offensive.
posted by Abiezer at 3:52 PM on October 20, 2007


decoherence writes "What exactly do people mean by 'offensive' anyway? Generally, the only times I've ever offended on a gut level are when someone insults a family member or friend of mine, or when I see real -- not simulated, symbolic, or abstract -- acts of extreme cruelty. Nothing in these ads strikes me as remotely 'offensive' in either of those ways.

"Has 'offensive' really just turned into a word people use to describe anything they don't particularly like?"


Well, you admit that you find things offensive when they insult folks that you consider your in-group (friends, family members). Other people just have different boundaries for their in-groups. I suspect that they mean by "offensive" the same thing you mean by "offensive", they just have a different scope.

Like, some people think Linkin Park is awesome. Nothing by Linkin Park strikes me as remotely awesome. I find Explosions in the Sky awesome. But I'm pretty sure that what they mean by awesome is the same thing I mean by awesome, even though we feel that way about different things.
posted by Bugbread at 3:56 PM on October 20, 2007


Abiezer writes "Obviously I'm over-doing it for rhetorical shits and giggles, but it is the ultimate in offensive."

You are the wrongest person ever. Nobody has ever been wronger than you right now.

Obviously I'm over-doing it for rhetorical shits and giggles, but what you are saying is the absolute peak of incorrectness.
posted by Bugbread at 3:59 PM on October 20, 2007


Ooh, hoist on my own petard! View's lovely from up here.
The above was an expression of my first reaction though. The idea that they're contributing to the sum total of misogyny in the world via a weak pastiche conceived by the self-regarding mediocre with the ultimate aim of flogging some not-so-special clothing. If they were really setting out to shock it probably wouldn't be so bad. It's both nothing and spirit-draining.
posted by Abiezer at 4:08 PM on October 20, 2007


Right. Because one of those later people couldn't have been trying to bump up the "edginess" from that original conception. But be sure to raise the spectre of even worse we haven't seen.

If you've seen any of D&G's other ads (like the ones linked to in the thread), then I'm sure it's clear that that they are intending to strike a major nerve from the get-go. The fact that they've succeeded so rarely is what's actually noteworthy about their campaigns in the midst of other fashion ads.

Considering you're the only person to offer the interpretation -- perhaps the only one to think of it -- that these men are passively condoning something rather than, as stated by several above, "on a different plane" or "standing around in a photo studio", yeah, I think there's a lot of projection going on here. Is it calculated to have that effect? Of course. But the effect is optional. You choose to get offended. I kind of think there are better (worse) things to get offended about.

Get real. If I was the only person to think of it, then there wouldn't be an issue to begin with. This ad has been going around (and around, and around) for a year now. Just because something doesn't register in MeFi's meh-osphere doesn't mean it's a position not worth taking. As a homosexual I try to stay particularly sensitive to the way sexuality is portrayed in the media, and so it's completely reasonable that I would wind up with an unsavory opinion about this ad.

In fact, I'm actually more disgusted with it knowing that D&G is a prominent label in the gay marketplace, and is possibly more careless in its misogyny because it's less interested in how women will react to these ads. This is an ad for straight men and gay men to bond over, the woman is just bait.

Choosing battles wisely has nothing to do with whether you get offended, it's about what you DO about you feel. In my case, I turned the page, made a mental note that D&G was irritating, and sent GQ an email complaining about the ad, which took 5 minutes, whether it made any difference at all or not.

Keep in mind that your average metafilter user is a straight male of a sexually-active age, and therefore we as a site are not necessarily the best judge of what is offensive to who, or why. The fact that we do as well as we do in our discussions is a testament to the sensitivity and intelligence of these males, but it's brainless to assign the majority here any special authority on this subject.
posted by hermitosis at 4:08 PM on October 20, 2007 [5 favorites]


Bugbread, are you really suggesting that when people say these ads are "offensive," they mean it in the same way as if someone had vilely insulted their mother or their closest friend?

I get that people don't like the ads. I get that people find them distasteful. But the offenses in question seem so abstract, so symbolic, so removed from anything likely to affect anyone on a visceral, emotional level that the word "offensive" seems hardly to apply.
posted by decoherence at 4:11 PM on October 20, 2007


JoKeefe: "Leaving thread now."

Finally she's gone!

Alright! Bring in the dancing girls and the portable wetbar!
posted by ZachsMind at 4:13 PM on October 20, 2007


Decoherence: "Has 'offensive' really just turned into a word people use to describe anything they don't particularly like?"

That may be the most coherent statement in this entire thread.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2007


In her book, Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West, Sheila Jeffreys has an interesting discussion about misogyny among gay fashion designers:

From Google Book Search:
Gay men can have problematic relationships with femininity and with women as a result of their situation under heterosexual male dominance. Bullying and persecution ... all inculcate the notion that boys and men attracted to other men lack the masculinity appropriate to the status of manhood. Femininity is the default position and can become erotized in masochistic gay male sexuality, but it signifies the subordinate position into which they are cast in relation to heterosexual men. Thus their relationship to femininity and to women themselves can be troubled and uncomfortable.


Here’s a blog post that discusses gay men and misogyny:

Queer men face a serious problem within the community that does not receive much attention or discussion. A pathological current spreads among gay men that has reached epidemic proportions. No, I am not talking about the growing dependency on spray-on tans (although...). Rather, I am constantly struck by the level of misogyny that comes into play during many informal gatherings of gay men. Misogyny, the irrational fear and hatred of women’s bodies, too frequently creeps into our conversations when we are in exclusively gay-male groups.

posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2007


...Okay. So. It wasn't a 'statement' per se. It was a question. Still. It's a coherent one.

The term 'offensive' is a word people use to describe anything they don't personally like.

There. Now it's a statement.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:22 PM on October 20, 2007


Misogyny, the irrational fear and hatred of women’s bodies, too frequently creeps into our conversations when we are in exclusively gay-male groups.

And more from the blog posting to which Jasper Friendly Bear links:
"More times than I would like to recount, however, I have witnessed exclusively gay male partygoers descend into discussions about their disdain of vaginas and women’s bodies in general. Even the most sexist straight guy would probably blush at the unchecked misogyny in queer-told jokes about vaginal penetration and/or menstruation. If you are a gay man who claims that he has never witnessed this type of discussion within a circle of gay male friends, you are either lying or not paying attention."
What? I have never been involved in such a discussion. I guess I'm a liar and aloof! However, I've been in many a chat with friends about how beautiful and stunning "so-and-so" looks, etc.
posted by ericb at 4:27 PM on October 20, 2007


decoherence writes "Bugbread, are you really suggesting that when people say these ads are 'offensive,' they mean it in the same way as if someone had vilely insulted their mother or their closest friend?"

Yep, that's what I'm really suggesting.

I'm not offended by this ad, but I've been offended by things in media that aren't about my direct relatives or friends. And I've been offended by things said about my direct relatives and friends. The two offensivenesses were the same (not in degree, of course, but in substance, much in the same way that I think burning gasoline is hot, and the sun is hot, in the same way, but to different degrees).

decoherence writes "I get that people don't like the ads. I get that people find them distasteful. But the offenses in question seem so abstract, so symbolic, so removed from anything likely to affect anyone on a visceral, emotional level that the word 'offensive' seems hardly to apply."

Hence my Linkin Park example. You don't feel something. That's groovy. But don't mistake that for "and thus other people don't either, and they're using the word wrong".
posted by Bugbread at 4:27 PM on October 20, 2007


queer-told jokes about vaginal penetration and/or menstruation

Can't say I know any.
posted by ericb at 4:29 PM on October 20, 2007


Jasper Friendly Bear writes "Femininity is the default position and can become erotized in masochistic gay male sexuality, but it signifies the subordinate position into which they are cast in relation to heterosexual men. Thus their relationship to femininity and to women themselves can be troubled and uncomfortable."

Er, if I'm reading this right, then would it be fair to say that this ad represents a rape fantasy from the perspective of "rape victim fantasy", since the female's position is the character identified with?
posted by Bugbread at 4:30 PM on October 20, 2007


Wage slaves who are defined from within and without as nothing more than "consumers" and "end users", who in their every off hour are required to navigate a mindscape almost entirely made possible and governed by advertising and marketing just to survive, whose only freedom is one of "choice" and so who must choose from a mountain of commodities that can only be distinguished from each other by intangible "branding": these people (that would include me) entertain the illusion that they have any options in this situation? that we need more "good" advertising and less "bad" advertising and that we could somehow arrive at that by complaining loudly or making different choices as per our consumption? I don't think so...marketing defines our discourse, it is the only language we understand yet we can barely speak it sometimes...

I don't know what G&D sells but I can only assume there are many products out there that are similar, forcing G&D to go "edgy" in order to differentiate their brand from the rest. Edgy is about provocation and in the branding arms race it's only going to get more provocative and hence more offensive as time goes by.

Is it the marketing that is coarsening our culture, or is our coarse culture requiring marketers to use nastier and nastier methods to get our attention, even if only for us to argue about the method? I wonder....
posted by bonefish at 4:37 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


While there are likely some gay men who harbor an "irrational fear and hatred of women’s bodies," I suspect many -- if not, most -- admire the beauty of the female form. And such admiration comes without "sexual desire." Heck, this objectvity is a compelling force in the ability of gay men to stylize women -- their hair, make-up and fashion. The appreciation for a woman's beauty with no sexual underpinning is what allows a gay man to work so well in collaboration with her.
posted by ericb at 4:42 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


ericb writes "What? I have never been involved in such a discussion. I guess I'm a liar and aloof!"

Well, that, or you don't hang out with the assholes that Gayprof hangs out with. Yet another example of "X is true for me, therefore X is true for everyone, and they're either lying or stupid not to notice it."
posted by Bugbread at 4:46 PM on October 20, 2007


bonefish writes "marketing defines our discourse, it is the only language we understand yet we can barely speak it sometimes..."

Funny, I'm pretty sure I also understand English, Spanish, and Japanese. It's a bit of a surprise to find that I don't, but please don't tell my boss, because I'm sure he'd pay me far less for my services as a translator. And then I couldn't exercise my only freedom, which is apparently one of choosing which product to buy (apparently other choices like "shall I take a nap or shall I stay awake", and "shall I go for a walk with my son or shall I just fiddle around on my guitar" were also equally illusory).
posted by Bugbread at 4:57 PM on October 20, 2007


Those women complaining are sexless prudes! Check.

Yeah, the line you quoted does have that implication, although I wasn't trying specifically to say that.

I can see their reasons for raising concern about the featured D&G advertisement. I don't agree with them, but I can see how the ad can be read as a rape scene. Anyone involved in creating it should have been able to see that, and perhaps should have moved onto the next sketch. Maybe I'm naive, but I'm guessing the creatives get lost in trying to find novel ways to arrange pretty people, and sex and power dynamics are forces they use to try to express their artistry, currency and boldness. In this time we have movies opening every weekend that display new ways to dismember people, we have easy access to porn where multiple guys use much younger females, we have aggressively misogynistic music and we have a bad boy aesthetic of tattoos, graffiti and motorcycle chopshop t-shirts. Marketers who rely on selling attitude probably have nightmares of being so quickly overtaken they'll seem to have become possessed by the spirit of Shirley Temple. And they'll blunder into presentations, like this one, that are offensive to some and mostly stupid to others because they operate in a self-congratulatory envelope that cultures a tendency towards wanking arrogance.

But social activists - or any other political group - have their own envelope, and their own tendencies towards self-perpetuating absurdities. Over their entire list of offensive advertisements they seem professionally aggrieved in a pursed-lip way, and that's what I responded to.

Sexless prudes are my people. As a long-standing, very seldom lapsed member of that club, I never once thought that the members of NOW, or many feminists, were high on our outreach list.
posted by TimTypeZed at 4:58 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


ROU_Xenophobe writes "7) Change the location to the rotunda of the capitol or the oval office. Liberally add sprays of blood and feces to the floor and walls."

8) A mention that both Dolce and Gabbana are two well know homosexuals, not flaming ,but surely well out of any closet !
9) A mention to how people outrage over nothing, go in denial over bad aspects of reality.
posted by elpapacito at 5:09 PM on October 20, 2007


Okay, I was going to let this thread go by without commenting but I find I can't. I'm really rather surprised at the number of people on here who have found several ways to say "it doesn't look like rape really" by talking about... how the models all have the dead eye stare, or how all the male models are likely gay anyway, or how it's just a fashion company attempting to be edgy...

But the fact remains that the image was quite clearly intended to imply sexual violence against a woman. If not a gang rape, at the the very least one man's violence against a woman going ahead unimpeded while several other people watched.

I dunno. I think that this is a hell of a lot more offensive to women.

Indeed, that was also very offensive. Because the judge there was trying to say that it didn't look like rape really...
posted by Zinger at 5:16 PM on October 20, 2007


bugbread writes: I'm pretty sure I also understand English, Spanish, and Japanese.

...none of those languages are in the ad. In fact, there is no text at all in any language in the ad, there is only image and brand. And what is it saying? As this thread shows, a lot of different things to different people, which could mean it is saying nothing more than "G&D" (not even "buy G&D"). Maybe it's not a language, maybe it's an anti-language.
posted by bonefish at 5:18 PM on October 20, 2007


bonefish writes "...none of those languages are in the ad. In fact, there is no text at all in any language in the ad, there is only image and brand."

Ah, so your point was "the only language we understand in advertisements without any language is advertising". How very deep and astute.
posted by Bugbread at 5:20 PM on October 20, 2007


If I was the only person to think of it, then there wouldn't be an issue to begin with.

The "it" in question was regarding the supposed role of the other males in the photo, and opinions ranged from mentally not even there, to gang rapists. No one had suggested that what had been considered a theme failing, if you will, was actually designed to evoke the impression that they were blase about violence and/or rape. That was you. So I'll get real so long as you get particular enough to actually hold to a point.
posted by dreamsign at 5:29 PM on October 20, 2007


Maybe they just did it for the lulz?
posted by chlorus at 5:29 PM on October 20, 2007


Get real. This from the person who says reactions to this ad are not about projection? Then by all means, tell us what the objective meaning of the ad is then and why all other interpretations are wrong.
posted by dreamsign at 5:31 PM on October 20, 2007


The last D&G ad that ericb posted looks like the aftermath of a gang rape. An all-male one.

Funny, I don't remember seeing much of an outcry from GLAAD.
I guess there's some kind of double standard at work. I forget - are gay men part of the patriarchy, or are they victims of oppression, and how come there's nobody to tell me how I should feel about the gay gang rape ads?

In the absence of guidance from an advocacy group, I'll just choose to feel "meh."
posted by bashos_frog at 5:53 PM on October 20, 2007


BoneFish: "...none of those languages are in the ad. In fact, there is no text at all in any language in the ad, there is only image and brand. And what is it saying? "

*ahem*

...

IT IS NOT SAYING ANYTHING.

It is a picture.

Pictures don't say anything.

They show.

The adage may be true that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, it is not the picture that says any of those words (unless it comes with a caption or whatever). It's you. It's me. We say things and claim them on the picture's behalf, but the picture could care less what we say about it.

This is a conflict that art throughout history has had to fight.

The Venus de Milo says nothing.

The Mona Lisa says nothing.

Whatever it says to you? That's actually you talking to yourself. No you're not crazy. This is natural human behavior. We talk to ourselves and pretend art is talking to us. We anthropomorphize everything. We talk to our plants and have even conducted scientific experiments that prove to ourselves that paying attention to plants and doting on them improves their growth. We have conversations with our pets, as if they care to learn our language. As if it matters to them what we have to say.

I have read critics and art enthusiasts talk at length about Picasso and what Picasso's work says and they can write entire books saying what Picasso's work says. Picasso's work says nothing to me. I look at it and all I get is 'meh.' I look at a work by Pollack and all I 'hear' is 'vomit.' That's the only word illicited from me regarding his work, but other people have written books and made movies elaborating on what they think Pollack says in his works.

His work just sits there and could care less whether or not I think it's vomit. It's gonna exist regardless of my opinion. As well it should.

AT BEST, an advertisement is saying "buy this." However, it doesn't even really say that. We imbue the picture with words, and advertisers may even add captions to tell us what they want us to think the image says, but it doesn't have any words for itself to say.

And yes unfortunately, even the worst ad ever in the history of anything is a form of art. It is commercial art that has sold out, but art nevertheless. It conveys emotion. And here is the beautiful irony: Commercial art tries to say something but what it actually says is up to the viewer.

We look at hyenas and lions in the wild, and we take sides. Most would see the hyenas as bad guys and lions as good guys (some would disagree no doubt), but they're both predators. They're both vying for the food stock of their environment. The real victims are the prey. However, we can't stop all lions and hyenas from eating. We can't protect the prey, because then the predators would starve. Who's the good guys then?

Whenever someone gets offended by art, it's because they see the worst that is inside them in the image.

If the image in question were evidence of an actual gang rape, then there'd be cause for alarm. This is just a provacative image that an advertising agency made for one of their clients, in an attempt to get YOUR attention. It means nothing beyond what you imbue.

Congratulations. Thanks to you, they can call this a success. THAT is why you will see MORE of this kind of provacative behavior in advertising. BECAUSE IT WORKS. Thank you for encouraging their behavior.

Please. Honestly. There is nothing more to see here. Stop rubbernecking. You're causing accidents.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:10 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow. Thanks to this thread, Dolce & Gabanna will forever be seared into my head. Metafilter, I congratulate you on accomplishing what an otherwise dopey ad never could accomplish: reminding me of the brand. Bravo.
posted by tgrundke at 6:36 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


The last time any of the men in that Dolce & Gabanna ad saw the inside of a woman was when they went to visit the Statue of Liberty.
posted by flarbuse at 6:59 PM on October 20, 2007


I bet more there are more women who fantasize about having five guys at once than there are guys who fantasize about sharing one woman with five of their bros.

That's all I'm saying.
posted by Edgewise at 7:11 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I bet more there are more women who fantasize about having five guys at once than there are guys who fantasize about sharing one woman with five of their bros.

Uh, no. I bet there are more guys who fantasize about sharing one woman with five of their bros than there are women who fantasize about having sex with five gay guys at once.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:38 PM on October 20, 2007


Whatever it says to you? That's actually you talking to yourself.

You know, the thing that I find odd about this whole thread is that the Mefi audience is as sophisticated an audience as it gets. Post a link to a piece on Barthes or Judith Williamson, and you'll get hugely erudite discourse on how we decode an advertisement. Post an actual advertisement though, and you get accounts that suggest that the reading is completely unproblematic and its meaning uncontested.

Well, I'm sorry, but I don't believe there was ever a gang rape that looked anything like this. Even in porn, which is where I think this image is taking it's external references from, the gang rapes don't look like this. Not enough anger, not enough violence, not enough humiliation. If it's anything at all, it's a reference to group sex or a rape fantasy. Your archetypal use of sexual imagery to sell clothes. Buy one of our dresses and not only will you be able to find one man who wants to fuck you, you'll be able to find half a dozen who are up for it. Put your man in one of our suits, and women will want him so badly, they won't be able to contain themselves.

But not only is it nothing like rape, its actually nothing like sex. Nobody is breaking a sweat. Nobody has a hair out of place. In the same way that art takes its references from earlier art, so advertising takes its language from earlier adverts.

I don't even think it's shocking. It could have been though. Replace these obvious models with real people. Photograph them in a way that shows the men as genuinely engaged. Use a woman that doesn't look like a supermodel, and show her as genuinely distressed or genuinely resistant and you might begin to approach shocking. As it stands though, I think that the subject of this photograph is fashion advertising, and it's cynically designed to pull the chains of the very people who feel as though they've had their chains pulled. In that sense, it's a successful campaign as it's achieived the objectives that were no doubt set out in the agency's brief. If that fact offends you, then I suspect that the most rational response to a campaign like this is simply to ignore it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:54 PM on October 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


Why do you keep telling people to move on, zachsmind?
posted by pinky at 7:55 PM on October 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm trying to see the "rape" in this ad but it's just not there for me.

At the very most, I see a scene of some very light bondage/BDSM -- if the ad was just one older guy and an older woman, it probably wouldn't be much different than "Fantasy Friday" in 30 million bedrooms across America.

So, I guess I'm asking: does feminism see any difference in the portrayal of BDSM and rape?
posted by Avenger at 8:05 PM on October 20, 2007


Zinger writes "But the fact remains that the image was quite clearly intended to imply sexual violence against a woman."

I think the fact that there's so much disagreement about this issue should be a strong indicator that it isn't "quite clear". That's how "quite clear" things work: there is very little disagreement about them, what with them being so very clear and all.
posted by Bugbread at 8:12 PM on October 20, 2007




proof that Dolce & Gabbana are equal opportunity gang-rapists

As referenced above.
posted by ericb at 8:48 PM on October 20, 2007


Well, as they say on MySpace... "THANKS FOR THE AD!"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:13 PM on October 20, 2007


Ms. has been calling out ads like these on its "No Comment" page since its inception 35 years ago.
posted by brujita at 9:14 PM on October 20, 2007


Uh, no. I bet there are more guys who fantasize about sharing one woman with five of their bros than there are women who fantasize about having sex with five gay guys at once.

Well, if you're going to go there, might as well complete the analogy: how many gay guys fantasize about sharing a woman with five of their gay bros?
posted by Edgewise at 9:16 PM on October 20, 2007


Chiming in late, here.

I view all advertising with total cynicism and a degree of awe in the design. I'm not particularly shocked by much, especially anything that doesn't need a NSFW label. For what it's worth, I'm a 40-ish woman, if that's important in this discussion.

I think we can complain all we want when we feel offended, but I have doubts on how much that would change anything. Advertisements are very carefully and cleverly designed for the market they aim for, often the most common denominator. Why would they change what works?

I also just wanted to point out that the NOW site also offers a Positive Ads page, too. Some lovely imagery, to be sure, but I'm just as cynical about those ads as the ones they considered negative.
posted by lilywing13 at 9:31 PM on October 20, 2007


There was a time when I'd find an ad like this "offensive".
Now, not so much... I guess the advertisers have won.
posted by hadjiboy at 9:38 PM on October 20, 2007


When I see ads like that I think of the Screwfly Solution.
posted by meehawl at 10:00 PM on October 20, 2007


All advertising should be offensive to everybody.

Read your Vance Packard.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:04 PM on October 20, 2007


I think the fact that there's so much disagreement about this issue should be a strong indicator that it isn't "quite clear". That's how "quite clear" things work: there is very little disagreement about them, what with them being so very clear and all.

Thanks for the condescension there bugbread. But if you'd actually read my post, the bit about it being quiet clear was referring to the advertiser's intention, not the various interpretations of it on this page or elsewhere. Given D&G's other ad, which many other people have already linked to, the overall campaign is very definitely sex and violence related.
posted by Zinger at 10:19 PM on October 20, 2007


As someone said upthread, nothing in advertising is unintentional. And because we see so many ads every day, we tend to think that we tune them out and thus we're not affected by advertising. I don't believe this; I think that advertising both reflects AND perpetuates social norms.

For example, start making note of the ads you see for household cleaning products. Now, note how many feature women using the cleaning products. I guarantee it will be the majority. On the one hand, I think that this is a reflection of the reality that few men do as much household cleaning as women (although men today do a larger percentage of unpaid household labour than they used to, women still do the majority); however, I also think it serves to reinforce the gendered division of labour, in which housework pretty clearly seems to be the territory of women. I don't think the reason more women take the lion's share of housework is because they love doing it or are more inherently suited for it; I think it's because they (and their male partners/family members) are trapped by stale gender roles which are perpetuated daily by what we see around us.

Jean Kilbourne has made several documentaries (well, filmed lectures, actually) about advertising and gender (the most recent is Killing Us Softly 3). Every time I teach intro to women's studies we do a unit on women and advertising. Students--male and female--usually say that ads don't affect them and that advertisers are just reflecting society rather than influencing it. After we watch Killing Us Softly, most of them are fascinated and at least a little unsettled, if not downright pissed off at the sexist ads around them that they never stopped to analyze before.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:31 PM on October 20, 2007 [8 favorites]


Oh noooooooooooooo.

As a woman, I would like a moratorium on people declaring what I find offensive. Not because I do not find those things offensive (I usually do) but because any such declaration is immediately followed by a bunch of people being really, really offensive, usually leaving me to think that my hard-won feelings of general benevolence about humanity are me being a total dumbass.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:53 PM on October 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


You go, jokeefe.

Hmmm, the general tenor of this thread seems to be that these ads are not /should not be all that bothersome. I also see lots of disdain for NOW for what is hardly a radical stand: contact the advertisers if you find these ads objectionable. And lots of intellectualizing about why these ads shouldn't be taken seriously.

Walk a mile in my 3 inch heels and tell me not to be bothered by this crap. It's interesting that this thread is about 4 to 1 male to female ratio, yet of the few women who had the temerity to comment in this moderately high testosterone zone, most expressed varying degrees of discomfort with the ads. More telling, another dozen or more favorited comments by those like jokeefe who spoke out against the ads. Lots of quiet, lurking women and I wonder why. I suspect jokeefe hit the nail on the head - *sigh* - "leaving thread now."

You guys need to think about why it is that so many of you think these ads shouldn't be bothersome yet so many women are saying, um, they kinda bother me.

Sexy ads are one thing, but I doubt many women find these ads sexy. Not OK: the subtle or not so subtle cooler than cool ads that give a nod and a wink to abusing, denigrating, or humilating women, along with the ones that perpetuate the dangerous idea that women need to look like the CK skeleton to be cool.

On preview, great comments, hurdy gurdy girl and thehmsbeagle.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:11 PM on October 20, 2007 [11 favorites]


Sexy ads are one thing, but I doubt many women find these ads sexy. Not OK: the subtle or not so subtle cooler than cool ads that give a nod and a wink to abusing, denigrating, or humilating women, along with the ones that perpetuate the dangerous idea that women need to look like the CK skeleton to be cool.

Bingo. And it's weird to me that so much "high fashion" advertising goes there. So for those of you getting all "GEEeeEEEeeezZZ if you don't like it don't buy their stuff..." don't worry, I don't.
posted by Salmonberry at 11:43 PM on October 20, 2007


jokeefe and madamjujujive both hit the nail on head, about the ads and this thread. WTF.
posted by homunculus at 11:54 PM on October 20, 2007


And it's weird to me that so much "high fashion" advertising goes there.

Allow me to play armchair aesthetic psychologist: high fashion and advertising both have always had complexes about not being art, but "merely" design. Consequently they massively overcompensate, especially when they intersect, with ads that actively discourage consumption of the product in question, and whole collections that don't contain any clothing that is functional, attractive or pleasing in any way. This is an attempt to gain artistic legitimacy by rejecting the purpose that they feel has been thrust upon them, rather than by bringing a new legitimacy to that purpose. You also see this happen a lot with set and costume designers, for similar reasons (though there they have artistic collaborators that can and do say them nay).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:14 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wasn't going to really comment, because of all the stuff jokeefe mentioned, but I feel like madamjujujive made a point that all teh dudes who said this ad a) isn't offensive or b) that there are better things to worry about should read:

You guys need to think about why it is that so many of you think these ads shouldn't be bothersome yet so many women are saying, um, they kinda bother me.

Saying that it's just a picture would be fine, if it didn't actually refer to stuff and wasn't released for a purpose in a time in society in history.

Although I have to say I've minded ads more: at least this one makes what it's about obvious.
posted by SoftRain at 12:52 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I read the thread until now and saw a lot of stuff I almost want to respond to, but really don't. However, I liked what madamjujujive said, so I thought I'd chime in.

There's no winning here. If I point out that the material is offensive whether or not it actually looks like a gang rape, and that it speaks to what it means to be a woman, and that it is inexcusable for many different reasons, then I'm easily dismissed: either I'm some over-the-top feminist (and who likes those?), or I don't understand how advertisement works. Because if it's offensive to you, it means you just don't understand what's really going on. Yeah.

I don't like being told by so many different products of society that my role is to be held captive by the man. I don't like it being implied that if I were good at being this thing that I am, that my skin would be tanned and shiny, that my hair would naturally blow in the wind, that my whole form would yield to the sexual desires of men, and that my mind may just as well be absent. I don't like being reminded that extolling those "virtues" of women sells things--that it is an advertisement that succeeds. I don't like being forced to remember that there are people who actually judge me by the standards presented in those ads.

It doesn't define my life. I don't see that ad and instantly believe that I am a useless member of society if I do not acquiesce to the sexual advances from suspiciously-oiled men. I do not think that I am as vapid and sexual as most of those ads imply all women are. I'm not that stupid. My life is not ruled by them.

....But, damnit, it's an annoying reminder. It's offensive because it says that women are whores, that "whore" is an appropriate word to be used, derogatory and self-satisfied. Just because it's a ridiculous advertisement, or just because advertisements are meant to gain comment, doesn't change what it's expressing or what comments ought to be made about it. The ad is saying something about me, which I find disgusting, and it is saying it to me, which I find horrific.

I hate being forced to get onto a feminist high-horse. It's so cliche. But, sometimes, it just feels at least a little bit necessary.
posted by Ms. Saint at 1:04 AM on October 21, 2007 [8 favorites]


Is there something wrong with me that I didn’t find this ad disturbing on first view? I knew I should’ve, but I just couldn’t. Is it because I’ve become so accustomed to seeing women portrayed in such ways? It’s almost become the norm now-a-days, and to see something really shocking you’ve got to be knocked out of your socks. I think that’s why most of the guys weren’t that bothered by it, although jokeefe’s comment bears repeating.

mjj, thanks for bringing it to my attention.
posted by hadjiboy at 1:09 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, seconding (thirding? fourthing?) what people have been saying. As a woman sometimes I just get tired of trying to go about my business and read a friggin magazine and be hit with incessant fucking TITS ASS LEGS SELL STUFF BUY STUFF ZOMG SEXY SEX SEX BUY BUY BUY FEEL GOOD SMELL GOOD LOOK GOOD SHUT UP DON'T THINK DON'T TALK STOP TALKING SHUT THE FUCK UP TITS ASS ASS TITS BUY BUY BUY!!11!1! It just gets tiresome past a point, you know? And it really makes me sad for humanity that we're so tediously, boringly predictable. I find ads like the D&G offensive as much for their triteness as anything else, like it's something new and provocative to use that kind of imagery to sell something. What the fuck ever.
posted by supercrayon at 1:20 AM on October 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm glad you decided to comment, Ms. Saint. I've been thinking about this thread quite a lot tonight, and I find your comment, for whatever reason, to be the most persuasive. For what it's worth, I now regret my somewhat flippant tone earlier, although in my own defense I will say that I never intended to imply any dismissiveness of other's feelings, only to describe my own reaction, which was that the image was tasteless and calculatedly button-pushing, but mostly harmless in its obviousness and artless staging. Nevertheless, I just wanted to say that your excellent comment has proved the value of continuing to hold these kinds of conversations, because at least one person was listening, and was persuaded to see another point of view. Consider me officially offended, for all the reasons you so eloquently described. So maybe there's a little bit of winning possible here, after all. Thank you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:30 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


On a completely different tangent, the term "suspiciously-oiled men" is absolutely brilliant.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:41 AM on October 21, 2007


You know, I wouldn't have looked at that and immediately thought "gang rape" - but I did think it looked damn stupid and poorly thought out, and then immediately wondered who the hell the ad was supposed to be targeting and what it was supposed to sell. I definitely see an art director trying to be edgy and grab attention - and also one who is trying too hard to be "arty" in all the worst ways. Anyone who arranged a composition like this and isn't lampooning something is trying to - well, I'm not sure I can figure out what the hell the message is, and while I'm not offended, I'm pretty sure that the art director had something sexual in mind when he put that little group together. And that the woman in the center isn't exactly enjoying herself - wait, is anyone in that image enjoying anything? (That's depressing in itself - the idea to sell through sexual boredom? Huh?) As a woman, none of it appeals to me - but then I get the feeling that I'm not the target audience for the scene that it's presenting.

But after all these comments I have to say that we can not pick any and all ads appart too much. Move along and nothing to see?!!! WTF! Ridiculous amounts of money are spent on these things. Let's pull them all to shreds. Offensive or not, let's not let the bildge be presented without some mocking. I'm offended that someone got paid for putting this together and convincing someone else that this image would be appealing. Although I don't immediately look at it and see gang rape - the more I look at it - well, I just become more annoyed. With the person who sold this tripe to the D&G. While I don't look at it and scream that we need to censor it all immediately I certainly don't think D&G get a pass - in fact I'd just loooove to have their PR rep come out and explain exactly, in great detail, this ad means to the company.

Oh and remind me - what was MeFi's gender breakdown last time anyone checked? I always get curious when I hear lots of people harumphing about how women shouldn't be offended by things - how many women do we have in here these days? Honestly. I do know the number has increased. (And I mean that in a non snarky way. The last few sentences anyway.)
posted by batgrlHG at 1:45 AM on October 21, 2007


As a woman sometimes I just get tired of trying to go about my business and read a friggin magazine and be hit with incessant fucking TITS ASS LEGS SELL STUFF BUY STUFF etc. etc...

Yeah, as a man I get tired of it too. It's tiresome and boring. And the incessant, never-ending omnipresence of it is ultimately... dulling. Dulls the senses, dulls the sensitivities, dulls pretty damn much everything. I don't think it's just women who feel like you do. People, don't fall into the "as a _______ ," trap! Unless it's "as a human being". It's not only women who feel the way you do about this.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:54 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


The ad is saying something about me, which I find disgusting, and it is saying it to me, which I find horrific.

Let me play devil's advocate here. If your assertion holds, this ad may as well be saying at least as much (and, thus, as little) about men, Caucasians, brunettes, me, and the spectrum of blue as it is about you. Now, before I crank up the outrage machine, I want to reconsider your strong identification with the woman in the picture.

A visual depiction of a woman is not always, per se, an automatic representative of all women, or of womanhood, nor is it a direct address to you as a specific instance of woman. Anything of the sort requires a leap of substitution. And it's important to acknowledge this substitution, and exercise it conservatively, because otherwise we exist in a world of persecution, in which impersonal statements become twisted into deeply personal judgments or attacks on us. There's a term for this outlook taken in the extreme - it's paranoia, where we see ourselves in everything, the punchline of every joke.

Is it possible for you to see a woman depicted in media or art without it having bearing upon you or upon womanhood in general?
posted by kid ichorous at 2:08 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh and just for fun - guys, next time you're at the grocery store flip through a Vogue - you know, the ones that are $5 or more, the stupidly heavy tomes. If you've never been exposed to fashion ads before it might be a weird trip. Cosmo and its ilk are one level, but Vogue goes all out budgetwise for this sort of thing. Not that there aren't some nicely done and even artistic photography in there - but there is a great deal worthy of eye rolling at the very least. When I was in college we used to put ads on a communal bullitin board just to dissect and roundly mock. Even more interesting to check back issues from 10 years ago and see how the same themes/arrangements of people and items are repeated. Multitudes of thesis fodder.
posted by batgrlHG at 2:09 AM on October 21, 2007


Pinky: "Why do you keep telling people to move on, zachsmind?"

Because...

1. Doing so amuses me.
2. I could tell advertisers to kill themselves, but Bill Hicks beat me to it.
3. When you stop and look at an ad long enough to BE offended? Those advertising schmucks just pwned you. You been Rick Roll'd my friend.
4. I know you won't. So I keep saying it. And I know you won't. So I keep saying it. But I know you won't. So I keep sayin' it.
5. Y'know somewhere in the world there's a baby out there right now. She's unattended and she's putting her hand on the hot stove. She responds by pulling her hand away from the hot stove, goes "ow," cries a little bit, and then y'know what she does? She puts her hand on the hot stove again! Why? Cuz she's a stupid human being, that's why. She's gonna grow up and give birth to more stupid human beings.

AfroBlanco: "All advertising should be offensive to everybody."

Amen.

I find all ads offensive but I also find I've grown jaded and accustomed to them, because I have to. I am painfully aware that my subconscious mind remembers every single pathetic billboard and radio jingle and TV commercial that has been thrust in my face my entire life. Somewhere in my head there's a balding man in a suit and tie reciting the words to Come Together as if he's conjured them up for the first time. And somewhere in my head I remember what that bastard was trying to sell me as he RAPED THE EFFIN' BEATLES. With the blessing of Paul McCartney no doubt. He probably bent over for that one, just so he could get some more hash.

The other day I was in casual conversation, and I don't know why the word 'fizz' entered the dialogue but someone said it and all the sudden in my head I heard "plop plop fizz fizz oh what a relief it is" for no fucking reason whatsoever. It just magically appeared in my head even though it had no reason to other than someone in the room used the word "fizz" in a sentence. Probably talking about her Coca-Cola she'd just bought from the vending machine even though tea, water and coffee are freely available where we were. She had to buy that Coke. Why? Cuz her brain was programmed to PAY FOR a Coke instead of get a glass of water that's FREE AND BETTER FOR YOU.

We are conditioned by strangers. We are all programmed by greedy bastards in clothes that probably cost them what you or I make in a month. An advertisement that doesn't depict gang rape isn't better for you. Those with power, those with money, should be supporting the arts and helping to improve the Humanities. Imagine if the patrons of Van Gogh or DaVinci only allowed them to make their stuff if they included logos on everything.

Real artistry is being ignored. The art that is being supported is what you see in magazines or hear on the radio or view on the television. Free speech isn't free if someone's paying for it to be said. Real artistry is not flourishing if only propaganda's making artists money.

I'm not offended by one ad. I'm offended by advertising, and I'm appalled that people get incensed over women being demeaned in commercial art. Big deal. Why aren't you upset that people are trying to make you buy stuff you don't need?

You know why women are demeaned in commercial art? The people paying for it want it. That's why. They think it sells, and they must be right cuz they got more money than we do.

If you really have a problem with this, take it up with the rich people paying for the ads, but don't expect anything to get done unless you got a few million dollars you can use to make their life hell. Cuz they won't listen, you won't get their attention, unless you can belly up to their bar.

Either shit or get off the pot. If you can't put your money where your mouth is, then all you're doing is looking at the car wreck and playing armchair quarterback with me.

"Well i wouldn't make an ad like that." Can you afford to make a double page ad in magazines? No? Can't afford to compete with the people who can? Surprise. There's nothing more for you to see here. Move along.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:15 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ms Saint,

I don't think it looks like gang rape, and I entirely agree with you. There is a whole BOATLOAD of problematic stuff in that ad (and, more importantly, the sheer volume of ads like that). I hope I haven't given the impression by saying "I don't think it looks like gang rape" that I'm thinking "and thus it's just fine".

Zinger writes "Thanks for the condescension there bugbread. But if you'd actually read my post, the bit about it being quiet clear was referring to the advertiser's intention, not the various interpretations of it on this page or elsewhere."

Hey, sure, anytime you want to condescend to everyone by saying that something is very clear (and thus that people who don't see what you're saying are very dim), I'll be sure to return the condescension. And I actually did read your post. People are disagreeing not only about the interpretations of the ad, but also the advertiser's intention. Well, dim people, I guess, what with it being very clear and all.
posted by Bugbread at 2:33 AM on October 21, 2007


I wanna make this really fucking easy this time.

Please watch Bill Hicks talk about the movie Basic Instinct.

Now let's use our imaginations.

Let's pretend that whenever Bill says "Basic Instinct" or "movie" what he's really saying is "Dolce & Gabbana ad."

Whenever he says "piece of shit" what he's really saying is "piece of shit."

Now, whenever you get offended by an advertisement? Repeat the above steps, replacing "Basic Instinct" and "movie" with whatever is bugging you.

Congratulations! You now won't die of internal hemmoraging before you're forty.

Did you get all that? If you really need to I can type it all out again.

You can even pretend that Bill Hicks is saying "ZachsMind" instead of "Basic Instinct" and you will no doubt get endless joy and fulfillment out of that. It's very zen.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:42 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


None of those ads are as offensive as the trojan men are pig commercials.
posted by IronWolve at 3:15 AM on October 21, 2007


Gosh, you’d think that the girl had the words “dumb”, “whore”, or “cum dumpster” written across her body. For all of the talk of being demeaned by being viewed sexually, the white elephant in the room still goes ignored

I like ad art. I thumb through old magazines just to look at the ads, and I am struck by how sexist they are. I am even more appalled that the overt sexism wasn’t obvious to me when I first saw them many years ago.

But I’m not seeing sexism in the ads. I am seeing several folks telling me how offended they are because pussy is a monarchy and that perpetual puritanism that masquerades as empowerment.

No thanks.

I am puzzled that anyone thinks these ads bears any reflection to real life.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 3:19 AM on October 21, 2007


Interesting note: I had never heard of Dolce & Gabbana 'till this thread. I still don't know what the sell and have no interest in finding out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:06 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


They've caught a WOMAN, in a gay bath house, posing as a drag queen! Off with her head! (and, as mentioned above, steal her shoes!) She's a sicko stalker, trying to convert our fine upstanding young gay men to a life of sordid breeding. Evil evil evil!
posted by Goofyy at 6:38 AM on October 21, 2007


What I love is how a discussion ostensibly about ad offensiveness and the social position of women in today's society is now a dick-measuring contest about just how offensive we can be.

If ever we were more ironically demonstrative of the wrong way to go about it, I'd like to know. Just as a point of reference.
posted by kalessin at 6:43 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is it possible for you to see a woman depicted in media or art without it having bearing upon you or upon womanhood in general?

No, not in society as it currently exists. As I tried to say in my reply to MythMaker's comment ("I dunno. I think that this is a hell of a lot more offensive to women."), these threads are not unrelated. For everyone in the prostitute rape thread who wondered how someone could make a judgment that said sex at gunpoint wasn't rape if you were a prostitute, just look at the posts here. Just look at how many people (mostly male as others have pointed out) basically said "oh fffft, you're overreacting, it's just an ad" or tried to claim that there was nothing sexual or violent about the ad.

Do I think D&G ads are directly responsible for rape crime in the Western world? No, of course not. But as HurdyGurdy said upthread, such images reinforce stereotypes and the tendency to objectify women; they also (again, as many people have already said here) tend to desensitize us and make us jaded to real life problems with gender relations and justice.

Do I consider myself a feminist? Using the simplest definition of feminism, yes. Do I sometimes wince when organizations like NOW make certain pronouncements, and do I sometimes wish they'd lighten up? Yes, absolutely. But I'm quite happy to know that NOW et al., usually get it right when they say on my behalf: Do. Not. Want. Because unfortunately, Zachsmind, the LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU approach has rarely been proven effective at changing attitudes and behaviors.
posted by Zinger at 7:19 AM on October 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


they also (again, as many people have already said here) tend to desensitize us and make us jaded to real life problems with gender relations and justice.

On the other hand, constant frenzied outrage over the stupidest shit tends to desensitize us and make us jaded to, you know, real life problems with gender relations and justice.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:36 AM on October 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gosh, you’d think that the girl had the words “dumb”, “whore”, or “cum dumpster” written across her body.

If you're unable to distinguish between the debasement that's suggested versus that which is explicit or overt, I'd say you stumbled into the wrong thread.
posted by psmealey at 7:38 AM on October 21, 2007


And by wrong thread, I mean precisely: the right thread
posted by psmealey at 7:41 AM on October 21, 2007


None of those ads are as offensive as the trojan men are pig commercials.

I know I'll instantly regret responding to a comment left by someone with such a fascistic sounding handle, but this is the commercial in question. I am going to sidestep the inevitable crypto-right wing saw that we live in a misandrous society to weigh in the with possibility that the difference is in message. The message of the Trojan commercial is, if not exactly that gentlemen should always bring a condom, that at least do the right thing when it comes to safe sex. The message of the commercials in the NOW link is basically that all women are here for men's pleasure and amusement. The two are on completely different planes.

I love teh sexy, don't get me wrong, and their sure as hell ain't nothing wrong with sexy. But what's sexy to me is powerful intelligent women with ideas and self-confidence (difficult to show in print media, I suppose), not degraded, overly sexualized girls with parted lips displayed in submissive poses.

I apologize for having so poorly framed the FPP. I really didn't want this to get hung up on the D&G ad, though I can see now how it did. I thought the ads that NOW found reprehensible were an interesting range. Some were ridiculous, to be sure, but others were thought-provoking. A worthwhile topic to explore, at any rate regardless of ZachsMind's harping.

I'd offer my own thanks to joekeefe, madamejujuve and a few others for offering some clarity and intelligent commentary that rose far above the preponderous of bleak (LOL THOSE DUDZ ARE TEH GAY, THIS IZNT ABOUT TEH RAPE) and despairing comments in the thread.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2007


the whole point of advertising is to create a buzz, get people talking, and all of you happy fools have just gotten suckered in!
posted by bruce at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2007


I have to struggle hard to read "gang rape" into that ad. What I see is the boys, from left to right, thinking:

"Ooooh, I wish I could get MY hair that silky!"

"It doesn't matter how much I shave, I cannot get my legs that smooth!"

"You bitch! How did you loose those extra 7 ounces?!"

"Are those Jimmy Choos?"

"Nice arse!" (...looking at the guy in front)

I am desensitised. Fully. I realise that now. NURSE!
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 7:59 AM on October 21, 2007


the whole point of advertising is to create a buzz, get people talking, and all of you happy fools have just gotten suckered in!

Congratulations, you're the 10th person on the thread that's weighed in with the idea that no one gets it but you. Feel free to collect your gift bag on the way out.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 8:04 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ms. Saint writes "But, damnit, it's an annoying reminder. It's offensive because it says that women are whores,

Not all woman behave like X , that's the first generalization error. Also, all the controversy about the ad is that it's generic enough, abstract enough to suggest a number of possibile interpretation, among which the one that the woman is being raped. Begin rape an act that is done by definition -against- the will, there could also be an act that is very similar , but not the same as rape : the difference being that that particular woman may as well enjoy the situation ina a gangbang.

That is NOT the same as saying all women are "whores", or that all women like to be raped or to be into a gangbang, or secretely desire so. No sir, that's a generalization in which that particular woman (which is a paid actress, btw) is assumed to represent all women. Yet this assumption is made by one in the audience, not by the ad itself.
Another possible interpretation is that SOME woman would like to have "the power" to attract the attention of all these men, but that doesn't imply she also wants to be abused by one or many of them ; which would reveal she's rather immature and not sure of her own capability to attract the attention of who she wants to, so she find the idea of having "the superseducing power" rather entertaining.

Zinger writes "Such images reinforce stereotypes and the tendency to objectify women"

It may, and I am not so sure about that, if the watcher decides to see a rape as opposed to a voyeuristic scene in which the other males are just watching. Actually the responses to the ad are more interesting that the ad itself, as they suggest how its being interpreted.

ZachsMind writes "You know why women are demeaned in commercial art? The people paying for it want it. That's why. They think it sells, and they must be right cuz they got more money than we do."

I think they are more after obtaining attention. If publishing a pile of fuming shit was somehow conductive to sale, they would print it. My objection to this behavior is that the end is seen as justifying the means, so that any judgment on the means is going to become secondary or not to be considered at all if it's not leading to the desidered end. I don't agree with the opinion that the particulare D&G ad is suggesting somebody to rape, but I cannot sincerely exclude that nobody is going to read it like it because of the presence of many men in a context that is physically suggestive of many man against a woman, not too difficult to imagine a rape in it.

I favourited your post because I too believe we are being _suggested_ systematically , but the word programming and conditioning I'd rather use for far more invasive types of actions, for instance a negative reinforcement. I'd too would rather move the resources spent in systematic suggestion in other endeavours, but I guess that as long as "they work" in promoting and directing sales they will be used ; also because Mr Rich said so, but not only because of him, but primarily because it routinely produce some result , it's an instrument and it can be used wisely or poorly, or not at all.

Yet the very instrument can be used to attract attention to some other subject: take , for instance, the recent "event" of a man using red dye to make the Fontana di Trevi look like a bloodbath : it worked very well ! Or did it ? All the attention was, I guess carefully in mainstream media, defocused from his "manifesto" to the mere stunt itself. Which suggest it just can be done ! So if few or no one suggested RAPE in D&G, it wouldn't have seen that much bruahah.
posted by elpapacito at 8:05 AM on October 21, 2007


Zinger writes "For everyone in the prostitute rape thread who wondered how someone could make a judgment that said sex at gunpoint wasn't rape if you were a prostitute, just look at the posts here. Just look at how many people (mostly male as others have pointed out) basically said 'oh fffft, you're overreacting, it's just an ad' or tried to claim that there was nothing sexual or violent about the ad."

Half-empty? Half-full? For everyone in this thread who says there's nothing violent or sexual, look at how many people (mostly male) have been outraged at the judge's decision in the prostitute thread.

I think there's a bit of a fundamental disconnect (or, rather, artificial connection) going on between the different statements regarding this:
There is an issue of whether or not this depicts (abstractly) rape.
There is an issue of whether or not this depicts (abstractly) gang rape.
There is an issue of whether or not this is inherently offensive to women.
There is an issue of whether or not this is inherently offensive to men.
There is an issue of whether or not this is inherently offensive to gays.
etc. etc. etc.

The problem is that so many statements about one of those are being taken as therefore indicating someone's position on all of the issues. The idea that if someone says "This is not a depiction of gang rape", that it therefore means "and thus is not a depiction of rape at all, and is not offensive to anyone", etc. etc. Thus any disagreement with any part of the NOW position is being taken as sexist man-drivel.

Personally, I don't think it depicts gang rape. I don't think it depicts rape. I do think it depicts violence (violent sex and rape are not synonymous: rape can be non-violent (roofies), and consensual sex can be violent). I do think it depicts sex (abstractly, obviously). I do think the images are degratory to women. I also think they're degratory to men.

So don't take any statement of "it doesn't look like rape" to be more than just that: a statement that "it doesn't look like rape".
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 AM on October 21, 2007


(Sorry, don't get me wrong, it's not that nobody is saying "this ad is OK, you're overreacting". Some people are saying that. I just mean don't make the mistake that everyone who disagrees with any part of what you're saying therefore disagrees with every part. Some do, some don't.)
posted by Bugbread at 8:12 AM on October 21, 2007


Be it offensive, disgusting, stupid, or woody-inducing to the viewer of the ad, it is nonetheless effective: who among us will not remember whose name is on the ad. . .

This ad, published in a men's magazine, is not about selling a product. It is all about "branding" a producer of clothing to the intended male audience as transgressive. The semiotics of the photo are all aimed at a gay male audience, which is why the reading of the photo as suggesting a gang rape of a woman is superficial at best. As one astute poster noted, the woman's posture is more likely to inspire projected identification by males in the target audience. Thus the brand message: Our transgressive corporate enterprise will cause suspiciously-oiled men to detain you. You will remember this because our disturbing photo elicits an emotional response.

Even for those of us who find the ad objectionable, an emotional response has been elicited, and the advertising game has worked. And that has been the name of the advertising game since George Washington Hill caused America to remember LSMFT.

BTW, I award Ms. Saint the coveted Sam Clemens Memorial Lightning Bug Trophy for "suspiciously-oiled men."
posted by rdone at 8:13 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Eh, I won't remember it and it wasn't effective. This sort of shite is ten-a-penny. Presented here before me, I offered a reaction. Without this thread cropping up in my "My Comments" I'd not be thinking about it today. But anyone who thinks prevalent imagery and memes, including in commercial puffery like this, do not in some way play a part in a feedback loop that contributes to the reproduction of culture, is an idiot.
posted by Abiezer at 8:25 AM on October 21, 2007


Either shit or get off the pot. If you can't put your money where your mouth is, then all you're doing is looking at the car wreck and playing armchair quarterback with me.

That is the best bit of mixed metaphor I've had in months,
posted by luftmensch at 8:45 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


rdone writes "This ad, published in a men's magazine, is not about selling a product. It is all about 'branding' a producer of clothing to the intended male audience as transgressive."

Yes and no. It's about branding in order to sell products. People often skip the last step and say that the purpose of advertising is to get noticed. Yes, but it's to get noticed in order to increase sales. Advertising which gets notice but no sales is considered failed advertising by everyone except for the people who work in ad agencies, and even there, the executives in the ad agency realize it's a failure because they lose a client. It's only the lower level guys who don't see the money that consider it a success because "everybody is talking about that ad I designed!"
posted by Bugbread at 8:48 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I see that even NOW can't distinguish between a hot, skinny woman and someone with an eating disorder.

Healthy, hot, skinny women are all targets of disdain and prejudice now- thanks to the tabloids, companies like Dove and organizations like NOW.
posted by wfc123 at 8:53 AM on October 21, 2007


wfc123 writes "Healthy, hot, skinny women are all targets of disdain and prejudice now- thanks to the tabloids, companies like Dove and organizations like NOW."

I don't think it's that so much as the general obesity issue in America (oh, no, I said the "o" word!). People are so used to seeing large folks that they recalibrate their mental meter such that those large people are now regular size, and someone smaller is therefore underweight/bulimic/anorexic/whathaveyou.
posted by Bugbread at 8:59 AM on October 21, 2007


Here's another tired argument to add to jokeefe's list:

Because you are man you can not have a valid opinion on this matter. Check.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:02 AM on October 21, 2007


I love teh sexy, don't get me wrong, and their sure as hell ain't nothing wrong with sexy. But what's sexy to me is powerful intelligent women with ideas and self-confidence (difficult to show in print media, I suppose), not degraded, overly sexualized girls with parted lips displayed in submissive poses.

Can't we have both? To be frank, I honestly like both.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:05 AM on October 21, 2007


Tommy Gnosis, Thanks so much for this post.

Advertising that dehumanizes rape, whether the rape is committed against females or males, making it some sort of eye candy to sell product is, imo, revolting and immoral. Nothing new in the advertising business, which targets people's psychological vulnerabilities any way they can to sell sell sell. Heroin chic and Terry Richardson's ads are typical of that selling style. I think this ad exalts gang rape, makes it look cool -if you buy the right clothes to go with the crime. The practice of bukkake doesn't involve pinning a woman down, as depicted in the ad, because the hands would be busy elsewhere.

What sells product also sells social trends. Merchants of Cool is an excellent Frontline documentary, on GoogleTube, detailing how advertisers/merchandising directors connive to make money and the destructive impact it has.
posted by nickyskye at 9:05 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


BTW -- D&G's statement when they pulled the advertisment in Spain:
"Dolce & Gabbana defended the campaign as art in comments reported by La Vanguardia. 'What has an artistic photo got to do with a real act?' the paper quoted the firm as saying. 'You would have to burn museums like the Louvre or the paintings of Caravaggio.'"
posted by ericb at 9:39 AM on October 21, 2007


Christina Hoff Sommers comments on the NOW campaign that criticises these advertisements in The Subjection of Islamic Women:

"On February 20, 2007, a Pakistani women's rights activist and provincial minister for social welfare, Zilla Huma Usman, was shot to death by a Muslim fanatic for not wearing a veil. And he had a second reason for killing her: She had encouraged girls in her community to take part in outdoor sports. The plight of women like Usman does not figure in NOW's 'Six Priority Items' although Global Feminism is one of the 19 subjects it designates as 'Other Important Issues.' NOW hardly mentions Muslim women, except in the context of the demand that the U.S. military withdraw from Iraq. So what sort of issue does the flagship feminist organization consider important?

"NOW has just launched a 2007 'Love Your Body' calendar as part of its ongoing initiative of the same name. The body calendar warns of an increase in eating disorders and includes a photograph celebrating the shape of pears. There is also an image of the Statue of Liberty with the caption, 'Give me your curves, your wrinkles, your natural beauty yearning to breathe free.' The calendar bears these inspiring words: 'None of us is free until we are all free.' To breathe free, college women are encouraged to organize 'Love Your Body' evenings. NOW suggests they host 'Indulgence' parties: 'Invite friends over and encourage them to wear whatever makes them feel good - sweat suits, flip flops, pajamas - and serve delicious, decadent foods or silly snacks without the guilt. Urge everyone to come prepared to talk about their feelings and experiences.'

This is pathetic. To be sure, serious eating disorders afflict a small percentage of women. But much larger numbers suffer because poor eating habits and inactivity render them overweight, even obese. NOW should not be encouraging college girls to indulge themselves in ways detrimental to their well-being. Nor should it be using the language of human rights in discussing the weight problems of American women."

Women not being killed is a higher moral priority than women not being portrayed inaccurately in advertisements. These two priorities may be related, but they are not equally related. The flapping wings of a single butterfly does influence weather patterns across the globe, but not as much as a local mountain range. Fight stupid and tedious advertising, but fight women being killed more.
posted by eccnineten at 9:40 AM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Because you are man you can not have a valid opinion on this matter. Check.

Your level of whining is kinda tiresome there. No one said "men don't get an opinion." What women say, and have to keep saying is, we live in a rape-promoting culture, and have for a few thousand years, and that rape is one way that women are intimidated and oppressed, and that this is hey! one of the defining characteristics of patriarchy. And while men can both be oppressed and have opinions all they like about what is offensive, they have not lived the experience of being a woman, which means that every day--EVERY GODDAMN DAY--you think about where you walk, what time of night, with whom, because you are the main target of rapists, street harassers, and other creeps who think your body is their property to grope, comment on, and assault.

And then you go home and turn on CSI and see how inventively the writers have come up with ways for psycho criminals to brutalize women; and then you flip open a magazine and see ads like this one. And you get the smallest bit tired of it. And no, this is not at all on the same level as men being portrayed as lovable losers, or as pigs if they don't use birth control in one ad. Though it's telling that so many people think they are equivalent, and therefore, men are just as oppressed as women, and therefore, women need to shut the hell up about it.

And this ad, which ironically fails to get its "hey rape is just edgy sex, and we're edgy for showing it" message across because everyone looks dead-eyed and/or uninterested, is still offensive. It is shittily-done, but the message it tries to convey is still offensive. There is more offensive stuff out there, but this one was the one brought up for discussion.
posted by emjaybee at 9:47 AM on October 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


Oh and Christina Hoff Summers' whole schtick is "women elsewhere are oppressed even worse, so suck it up feminists!" She's carved her niche using feminist language to basically tell other women to sit down and shut up. The "feminists have failed to adequately address all oppression everywhere in the world" move was used by other rightwingers besides Summers, and is typical misdirection.
posted by emjaybee at 10:00 AM on October 21, 2007


eccnineten, NOW stands for National Organization for Women, It is a U.S.-centric organization: "The largest organization of feminist activists in the United States. NOW has 500,000 contributing members and 550 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia."

NOW states its official priorities as: pressing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will guarantee equal rights for women; achieving economic equality for women; championing abortion rights, reproductive freedom and other women's health issues; supporting civil rights for all and opposing racism; opposing bigotry against lesbians and gays; and ending violence against women.

It is essentially a lobbying organization designed to raise awareness and effect political change in the U.S.

You can have an opinion about whether NOW should or shouldn't have a global focus and tackle global feminist issues, but at present, that is not part of the organization's stated purpose or mission.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:23 AM on October 21, 2007


It's Raining Florence Henderson:
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:45 AM on October 21, 2007


Sure, it's funny. But, it's already someone's username.
posted by found missing at 10:53 AM on October 21, 2007


It's Raining Florence Henderson: What are the chances more than one of those guys is straight, anyway?

jonson: My biggest question with the dolce ad is, why would those five obvious homosexuals want to have sex with that woman, forcible or otherwise?

geoff.: If there's going to be any rape in that group, the girl won't be involved.

ericb: Bruce: Look, are those Manolo Blahniks?
Tad: Indeed they are.
Chad: Karl, hold her down while Erik snags that lovely pair.
Bruce: Darling, do you wanna join us boys for a Cosmo, or two?


Jasper Friendly Bear: Here’s a blog post that discusses gay men and misogyny

Goofyy: They've caught a WOMAN, in a gay bath house, posing as a drag queen! Off with her head! (and, as mentioned above, steal her shoes!) She's a sicko stalker, trying to convert our fine upstanding young gay men to a life of sordid breeding. Evil evil evil!

the_very_hungry_caterpillar: I have to struggle hard to read "gang rape" into that ad. What I see is the boys, from left to right, thinking:
"Ooooh, I wish I could get MY hair that silky!"
"It doesn't matter how much I shave, I cannot get my legs that smooth!"
"You bitch! How did you loose those extra 7 ounces?!"
"Are those Jimmy Choos?"
"Nice arse!" (...looking at the guy in front)

I am desensitised. Fully. I realise that now. NURSE!

Desensitised, or just insensitive? Why is the immediate reaction to misogyny so often homophobia?
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:59 AM on October 21, 2007


Gang rape or good time?
posted by dasheekeejones at 11:09 AM on October 21, 2007


Reggie Digest writes "Desensitised, or just insensitive? Why is the immediate reaction to misogyny so often homophobia?"

Er, isn't homophobia the dislike of gays? Maybe ericb, Goofyy, and the_very_hungy_caterpillar's comments could be interpreted as homophobic (actually, I assumed that Goofyy is gay, not that he was making fun of them), but what makes jonson's, geoff.'s, or Jasper Friendly Bear's comments homophobic? Because they are saying that the folks in the ad look gay? Is it heterophobic if I say that Jack Black looks straight?
posted by Bugbread at 11:10 AM on October 21, 2007


So in your whole life, you've honestly never heard the word stereotype? Is that what you're saying?
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:31 AM on October 21, 2007


emjaybee: And while men can both be oppressed and have opinions all they like about what is offensive, they have not lived the experience of being a woman, which means that every day--EVERY GODDAMN DAY--you think about where you walk, what time of night, with whom, because you are the main target of rapists, street harassers, and other creeps who think your body is their property to grope, comment on, and assault.

You realize that, in this "patriarchal rape culture" of which you speak, men are more often the victims of nearly every kind of violent assault, right? You also realize that it's entirely likely that more rapes of men occur (and, I might add, with no legal recourse) in American prisons than rapes of women occur outside of them? In such circumstances, how could you claim some special, exclusive hold on victimization?

Oh, right... with CapsLock.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:45 AM on October 21, 2007


Reggie Digest writes "So in your whole life, you've honestly never heard the word stereotype? Is that what you're saying?"

No, I'm saying "those aren't examples of hatred of homosexuals". Sure, they're stereotypes, and sure, stereotyping often feeds into bigotry, but stereotyping isn't, in itself, bigotry.

kid ichorous writes "You also realize that it's entirely likely that more rapes of men occur (and, I might add, with no legal recourse) in American prisons than rapes of women occur outside of them?"

Well, you have to admit, you don't really walk around every day in fear of being raped in prison if you aren't actually in prison.
posted by Bugbread at 11:59 AM on October 21, 2007


You all aren't in prison?

::locks doors::
posted by found missing at 12:06 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Reggie Digest: Desensitised, or just insensitive? Why is the immediate reaction to misogyny so often homophobia?

In my comment, I was referring not to the male models in the advertisement but to the actual designers. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are gay men and were actually in a long term relationship. Many prominent fashion designers are gay men. Fashion photography and advertising often seems more misogynistic and pornographic than advertising produced by other industries. Sheila Jeffries' book (Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West) is one of the few things I've seen that tries to explain why an industry dominated by gay men would produce this peculiar style of advertising. I’m not a homophobic, nor is Sheila Jeffries or the blog I linked too. And I agree with hermitosis' comment above.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 12:41 PM on October 21, 2007


Zinger: "Because unfortunately, Zachsmind, the LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU approach has --"

LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA

"-- been proven effective at changing attitudes and behaviors."

Works fine for me. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 12:56 PM on October 21, 2007


This is like arguing that you saw a person shoplift an item that was worth $10 when there was something worth $25 right next to it. "Why didn't the shoplifter get that instead?" you ask. "It would have made more sense." I argue that it's still shoplifting, so what difference does it make? It's no more or less wrong.

rdone: "The semiotics of the photo are all aimed at a gay male audience, which is why the reading of the photo as suggesting a gang rape of a woman is superficial at best..."

*reads rdone's post twice*

*blinks*

*looks at ad in question again*

*blinks*

*reads rdone's post again*

So you're saying this is a gay male sex ad that's pretending to be a superficial display of extra-marital sex involving multiple male partners and one female?

*blinks*

Where's the closet, then? Shouldn't there be a closet in the picture? Or is the female a metaphorical closet?

*blinks*

That does it. I care even less now. You guys win.

Argue over the semantics of shoplifting to your heart's content. Stare at the wreckage all you want. You're all crazy, and I'm crazy wasting even one more sentence on this thread.

At least with a Snickers ad, I know what the heck they're trying to say. "Buy more candy." I don't want to know what this ad is trying to convey. It fails anyway.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:14 PM on October 21, 2007


This has been one of the most interesting threads I've read in a while - lots of food for thought.

Advertising depicting violence is shitty, whatever form that violence may take.

All advertising is shitty, for lots of reasons.

I wish we still had the img tag.

posted by algreer at 1:14 PM on October 21, 2007


I think our OMFGVIOLENCEAGAINSTWOMEN outrage squad -- well, the American contingent of it -- would be better off paying attention to the fact that Roe v Wade is one vote away from being overturned, and that John Paul Stevens is a very old man and there's a Presidential election a year from now where you'll have to choose the man or the woman who'll nominate the next Supreme Court Justice(s): awareness of those supremely important facts are way more consctructive that some virtual circle jerk about how misogynistic two dudes who design clothes in Milan may or may not be.

not to mention the fact that I'm not sure how many man will see that ad and be inspired to rape or abuse a woman: I am on the other hand sure that lobbying one's elected officials on the very important issue of the lack of funding for safe shelter for abused women and the often inadequate funding for State's law enforcement efforts to fight that very real and very horrible plague of real violence against women.

pouring facile outrage over a fashion ad, instead, does not strike me as effective.

God save women from the abusers cowardly fists and, frankly, from the dumber advocates of zero-tolerance against French Vogue ads, too
posted by matteo at 1:18 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


David St. Hubbins: Have you seen Duke Fame's current album?
Ian Faith: Um... yes, yes.
David: Have you seen the cover?
Ian: Um... no, no, I don't think I have.
David: It's a rather lurid cover, I mean...ah, it's, it's like naked women, and, uh....
Nigel Tufnel: He's tied down to this table,
Ian: Uh-huh.
Nigel: And he's got these whips and they're all...semi-nude.
David: Knockin' on 'im, and it's like much worse...
Ian: What's the point?
David: Well, the point is, it's much worse than "Smell the Glove"...he releases that, he's number three.
Ian: Because he's the victim. Their objections were that she was the victim. You see?
Derek Smalls: I see....
Nigel: Oh...
David: Ah....
Ian: That's all right, if the singer's the victim, it's different. It's not sexist.
Nigel: He did a twist on it. A twist and it s-
Derek: He did, he did. He turned it around.
Ian: We shoulda thought of that....
David: We were so close....
Ian: I mean if we had all you guys tied up, that probably woulda been fine.
All: Ah....
Ian: But it's...it's still a stupid cover.
David: It's such a fine line between stupid an'...
Derek: ...and clever.
David: Yeah, and clever.
Nigel: Just that little turnabout....
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 1:50 PM on October 21, 2007


matteo, there's nothing to stop someone from being part of this campaign and campaigning in other areas.

not to mention the fact that I'm not sure how many man will see that ad and be inspired to rape or abuse a woman

Perhaps not, but given the pervasiveness of implied violence to women, implied (and overtly stated) ownership of women, and implied (and overtly stated) submissiveness of women in advertising, many people believe it is worth their time to campaign for fairer representation. Particularly given the effect that advertising can/could have on developing minds.

I've had my bingo card out for this thread!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:53 PM on October 21, 2007


At least with a Snickers ad, I know what the heck they're trying to say.

Snickers Superbowl Ads and Web site promotes violence against gays and lesbians. Mars Scraps Snickers Ad After Complaints.
posted by ericb at 1:56 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


*promote*
posted by ericb at 2:01 PM on October 21, 2007


I think our OMFGVIOLENCEAGAINSTWOMEN outrage squad -- well, the American contingent of it -- would be better off paying attention to the fact...

...pouring facile outrage over a fashion ad, instead, does not strike me as effective.


You're the one trying to make those levels of outrage seem equivalent so as to sound inappropriate. People are upset about images in the media BECAUSE of the high stakes and grim realities of women's rights as our government rolls over them, not INSTEAD OF.

And kid ichorous, while prison rape is a huge issue (one that I am actually very vocal about protesting), dismissing women who complain about this ad by saying that men are possibly raped MORE than women are is possibly more offensive and patronizing than anything we've seen in this thread so far, congratulations.
posted by hermitosis at 2:05 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Desensitised, or just insensitive? Why is the immediate reaction to misogyny so often homophobia?

Reggie Digest -- as a gay man there was no "homophobia" involved in the "imagined dialogue." I attributed to the "hotties" (and, yes, I find each of them "fuck-worthy" and very much "my type.") in the print ad.

It appears that my attempt at "Sex in the City" humor/allusions (e.g. Manolo Blahnik shoes and Cosmopolitan -- aka Cosmo -- cocktails) failed you.

No foul, no harm.

Carry on.
posted by ericb at 2:36 PM on October 21, 2007


Hemitosis, you might want to review my comment again. I'm not dismissing all arguments against this ad, but I am responding to a specific statement made by Emjaybee - one that several users had starred. I thought I'd I made that abundantly clear by quoting Emjaybee's words immediately above my own, but here they are again:

while men can both be oppressed and have opinions all they like about what is offensive, they have not lived the experience of being a woman, which means that every day--EVERY GODDAMN DAY--you think about where you walk, what time of night, with whom, because you are the main target of rapists, street harassers, and other creeps who think your body is their property to grope, comment on, and assault. [...] And no, this is not at all on the same level as men being portrayed as lovable losers, or as pigs if they don't use birth control in one ad. Though it's telling that so many people think they are equivalent, and therefore, men are just as oppressed as women, and therefore, women need to shut the hell up about it.

My point is to dispel the claim that rape and assault are the special or exclusive burdens of women, that a daily, omnipresent terror of these is somehow a realistic worldview for an American woman, and that Emjaybee might win an argument by clutching talismans of victimhood to chest and claiming that the other side cannot understand.

Anyone can throw around terms of art like "rape culture," or paint a damsel-in-distress vision of dark alley violence, but, statistically speaking, a man has more chance of meeting a violent end in this "rape culture" or in that dark alley. In light of this and other facts, I think it's stupid to claim that men would need to live the experience of being a woman - that is, experience daily fear of rape and violence - before judging this ad. If you care to look, it's abundantly clear that men do live it, though this fact might not be rhetorically convenient.

It's puzzling that you'd take more offense at my criticism of Emjaybee that at the original statement itself, but there is always the possibility that I wasn't clear enough, and then there is always the possibility you're just being quarrelsome in a quarrelsome thread.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:39 PM on October 21, 2007


"If you're unable to distinguish between the debasement that's suggested versus that which is explicit or overt, I'd say you stumbled into the wrong thread."

Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know I wasn't allowed my own interpretation.

Iconography is not suggestive? And if “angel”, “mother”, or some such were superimposed upon the scene, what would that convey? The debasement issue is still kind of vague to me.

But suppose NOW is right, and the image and all of its identifiers are a subtle blend of sexism and debasement conveyed through a really poorly constructed photograph; what then? The notoriety NOW has given the ad campaign front and center attention instead of allowing it to die off as a failed experiment. A bunch of folks express a bunch of moral indignation, but not one of them will create a competing image that portrays their prejudices in a favorable light.

And NOW has sold their product to a receptive audience.

Tricky advertisers.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 2:59 PM on October 21, 2007


kid ichorous writes "If you care to look, it's abundantly clear that men do live it, though this fact might not be rhetorically convenient."

Er, not really. It's abundantly clear that it might make more sense for men to live it, but that doesn't mean they do. I've never met a guy who was scared to walk home alone at night for fear of rape. I've met women that have. Maybe the women are overreacting, maybe the men are underreacting, but the long and short of it is that men don't fear it as much as women do.
posted by Bugbread at 3:03 PM on October 21, 2007


I hate threads like this.

It's very hard to pick a couple ads and hold them up and say, "These are offensive to women," because half the audience right off the bat is not affected by the cumulative effect of these images.

Because when you're bombarded all your life by ads telling you directly or indirectly that you need to be thin, beautiful, and sexually available to have any worth, have this message reinforced through entertainment viewing (tv and movies), comic books, and music videos, then when you get to this particular ad you're already primed to think her only worth is to lie there and look pretty as a hole for use. It looks like rape.

This was a topic of discussion recently among women who listen to emo and pop punk (Panic! At the Disco/Fall Out Boy) because while the groups individually don't come off as misogynistic (just jilted lovers writing music about what is going on in their lives), taken as something cumulative effect then the genre as a whole comes off as hostile towards women.

The ad alone is probably in poor taste and overdone to an almost comic extreme, but when I look at it as a woman who is aware there is a lot of misogyny in the fashion and beauty industry, then yes I find that ad offensive.

And having a man tell me how I should feel about the ad or that I'm not viewing it intelligently makes me feel far more offended than the original image.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:04 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Meh. I need to write comments or make dinner if I'm going to skip preview. I obviously can't do both.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:10 PM on October 21, 2007


I actually really do agree with the statement you quoted than with the statement you responded with. I'm not even being quarrelsome; I just disagree.

I think it's stupid to claim that men would need to live the experience of being a woman - that is, experience daily fear of rape and violence - before judging this ad. If you care to look, it's abundantly clear that men do live it, though this fact might not be rhetorically convenient.

See, I really just think that's too easy. The fear (and even the violence) you're talking about have no place in a dialogue about violence and oppression of women. I don't think they are at all analogous. Do the men meeting a violent end in your statistic include those that themselves incited or participated in violence?

You really DO need to live (or have contact with) this experience in order to understand. Another thread that comes to mind is the safe2pee thread, where it was so difficult to convince the (mostly) straight white male participants that using public restrooms is often a very intimidating and even dangerous experience to people of alternative sexualities. Rather than explain why it shouldn't be, or why you don't think it is, isn't important, no matter how logical it seems to you.
posted by hermitosis at 3:11 PM on October 21, 2007


FunkyHelix writes "And having a man tell me how I should feel about the ad or that I'm not viewing it intelligently makes me feel far more offended than the original image."

And probably vice versa for us men.
posted by Bugbread at 3:12 PM on October 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


In my comment, I was referring not to the male models in the advertisement but to the actual designers... Many prominent fashion designers are gay men. Fashion photography and advertising often seems more misogynistic and pornographic than advertising produced by other industries. Sheila Jeffries' book (Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West) is one of the few things I've seen that tries to explain why an industry dominated by gay men would produce this peculiar style of advertising. I’m not a homophobic, nor is Sheila Jeffries or the blog I linked too. And I agree with hermitosis' comment above.

Homophobic is as homophobic does. You do. She does. The idea that there is a cabal of fabulously catty homosexuals conspiring to starve and rape women is, at best, stupid, and at worst, malicious. I don't dispute that D&G are out to get you; I'm just not at all convinced that their sexuality has anything to do with it. Correlation != causation and all that.

as a gay man there was no "homophobia"... It appears that my attempt at "Sex in the City" humor/allusions (e.g. Manolo Blahnik shoes and Cosmopolitan -- aka Cosmo -- cocktails) failed you.

Failed me, failed "us," whatever. I understood the "humour"; I just didn't find it very funny. Okay, no homophobia. I'll grant you that. But you're buying into and feeding the stereotypes -- stereotypes, one could argue, created by and large by those same straight women (coughcabalcough) whom you parrot -- that fuel homophobia.

(Christ, when did I become the homophobia police? I think I'm done with my derail.)
posted by Reggie Digest at 3:19 PM on October 21, 2007


But they didn't say, you should think these ads are offensive to women. They said we find these ads offensive to women. Which is different then a woman commenting that they agree and being told she's wrong or that because you don't see the same offense that the offense therefore doesn't exist.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:20 PM on October 21, 2007


hermitosis writes "You really DO need to live (or have contact with) this experience in order to understand...Rather than explain why it shouldn't be, or why you don't think it is, isn't important, no matter how logical it seems to you."

I think the disconnect here is that threads like the safe2pee thread are describing how people feel. In that case, it's silly to argue that it doesn't matter because they shouldn't feel that way, because the issue is that they do. In this case, though, the argument seems to be not about how women feel about the ad, but that the ad is intrinsically offensive, and words like "clear" and "obvious" are being bandied about freely. To understand what the image is meant to show in any "clear" and "obvious" way, one would have to have a certain experience, but that would be the experience of being in the team that created the image. The rest of us are just guessing, and there will be a difference of opinion, because none of us have experienced the brainstorming sessions and proposals that went into this image.

That's not true for all images, of course. There are images that are universally understood. A picture of a delicious Thanksgiving meal in an ad for turkey is clearly depicting a delicious meal. But when you've got a thread full of people arguing over what an image means, it is clear and obvious that what the image shows isn't clear and obvious.
posted by Bugbread at 3:24 PM on October 21, 2007


When someone deliberately sets out to denigrate or irritate a group of people, it is undeniably offensive. Some of these ads seem to fit that criterion.

The Calvin Klein one in particular is inexcusable. It's hard to tell if that woman is actually that thin, or if it's just the way the light hits the gauzy fabric, but either way, the end product is just a straight up fuck you to feminism.
posted by Reggie Digest at 3:38 PM on October 21, 2007


(Which is to say, there is a difference between being offended and feeling offended, namely that one is real and the other imagined; there is real offense in some of these ads, whether you feel it or not.)
posted by Reggie Digest at 3:45 PM on October 21, 2007


Reggie Digest writes "When someone deliberately sets out to denigrate or irritate a group of people, it is undeniably offensive. Some of these ads seem to fit that criterion."

I agree that some of the ads are pretty offensive (the Gucci and Mitchum ones I found especially galling), but disagree with your reasoning, which seems circular. It's undeniably offensive when someone deliberately sets out to denigrate or irritate a group of people? That makes sense. But how do you determine that that's what they set out to do? Because the image is undeniably offensive?
posted by Bugbread at 3:47 PM on October 21, 2007


"The steady normalization of invasive advertising dulls the public's perception of their surroundings, re-enforcing a general attitude of powerlessness toward creativity and change, thus a cycle develops enabling advertisers to slowly and consistently increase the saturation of advertising with little or no public outcry."
posted by ZachsMind at 3:52 PM on October 21, 2007


"You're standing in a bar. Looking at a fairly attractive girl, you're waiting for her to stop talking on her cell phone so that you can approach her and maybe be the one calling that cell phone in the not too distant future..."
posted by ZachsMind at 3:55 PM on October 21, 2007


A picture of a delicious Thanksgiving meal in an ad for turkey is clearly depicting a delicious meal...

...the imminent genocide of the first peoples.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:59 PM on October 21, 2007


It's Raining Florence Henderson writes "...the imminent genocide of the first peoples."

Well, clearly and obviously.
posted by Bugbread at 4:06 PM on October 21, 2007


DO NOT WANT
posted by ZachsMind at 4:12 PM on October 21, 2007


But how do you determine that that's what they set out to do? Because the image is undeniably offensive? But how do you determine that that's what they set out to do? Because the image is undeniably offensive?

It could be one of two things: a) complete ignorance regarding the depiction of women in the media, and the debates surrounding it; or b) deliberate disregard of same. Assuming the firms responsible for the ads in question have had adequate training in their field, or have, you know, turned on a television in the last 30 years, I think it's reasonable to surmise that b) is more likely the case.
posted by Reggie Digest at 4:19 PM on October 21, 2007


So it's undeniably offensive because it was deliberately created in order to denigrate a group of people. You know that it was deliberately created to denigrate people because they are deliberately disregarding the depiction of women in the media. You know that because the only other choice is complete ignorance of said depiction.

But why are those the only two choices?

If it were an ad depicting a businesswoman having a coffee, would you say that it's undeniably offensive because, in the end, an ad with the businesswoman having a coffee could only be due to complete ignorance regarding the depiction of women in the media, and the debates surrounding it; or deliberate disregard of same? It sounds like your reasons for determining it's undeniable offensiveness all hinge on the starting assumption that it's offensive.

Again, I agree that it's offensive, but I don't understand how you are coming to that conclusion.
posted by Bugbread at 5:10 PM on October 21, 2007


hermitosis: You really DO need to live (or have contact with) this experience in order to understand.

I certainly don't, no more than you need to enlist in the Airbourne 101 to offer a cogent opinion on the Iraq war, no more than a cardiologist learns his profession by having heart attacks instead of studying them. I'd say that firsthand emotional investment in an issue brings quite the opposite of clearheaded reasoning.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:12 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


kid ichorous writes "I'd say that firsthand emotional investment in an issue brings quite the opposite of clearheaded reasoning."

That's part of the problem, really. Women are too close to the issue, men too far. Nobody's really qualified to give a clearheaded response, so you just get male and female chuckleheads (myself included) spouting their bullshit opinions as fact.
posted by Bugbread at 5:24 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, just to be clear, I feel that you're (Hemitosis & Emjaybee) defending somewhat shaky ground. On one hand, Emjaybee set forth with the argument that women are singled out as society's victims, and thus hold a special cache on this topic. But if we observe that men are at comparable or more risk of violent crimes and rape, the bar is suddenly raised to "women's issues are still special ground," with the corollary that a woman's opinion on this subject possesses some kind of magical authority.

Now, that can be shown wrong just by pointing out two women who disagree on the same subject. But what's annoying is that this same kind of argument is being voiced time and time again on different topics.

For example, many of those who lost someone on 9-11 have become outspoken supporters of the Bush administration's unconstitutional and nonsensical actions since. You might point out to them that, statistically, terrorism represents a smaller threat than lightning, but they appeal, ad infinitum, to the same mantra: Unless you lost someone on 9-11, you can't understand, nor talk about terrorism. Ditto for the Iraq War, ditto for just about any topic.

If someone were to tell me that they're constantly afraid of being raped on the street, or that a trip to the art museum, or a stroll through the pages of Vogue, constitutes an assault (e.g. As Catharine MacKinnon would say), I react the same way as I do when I hear panic over terrorism. Yes, I have sympathy for people who are fearful, but my sympathy ends when they advocate positions that are in conflict with the world beyond their personal experience and feelings.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:48 PM on October 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


But if we observe that men are at comparable or more risk of violent crimes and rape...

You can keep saying this and keep basing your opinion on it, but that doesn't make that observation accurate or analogous. You haven't posted any research that indicates this is true, and as I said upthread, I wouldn't be surprised to find that such a figure included men who had either incited or participated in the violence that led to their death. And sexual violence (not counting institutionalized violence, which both men and women encounter behind bars), is really the subject at hand, in which I doubt violence against men comes anywhere close to that against women.
posted by hermitosis at 8:26 PM on October 21, 2007


You can keep saying this and keep basing your opinion on it, but that doesn't make that observation accurate or analogous.

Crime rates by gender:
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/gender.htm

Reported fear of crime, by gender:
http://cjr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/23/1/29

Prison Rape:
http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison/report.html
http://www.spr.org/en/factsheets/basics.asp

I wouldn't be surprised to find that such a figure included men who had either incited or participated in the violence that led to their death.

So that's why infanticide rates for boys are higher than for girls? Just asking for it by the way they dressed, I suppose?

...not counting institutionalized violence, which both men and women encounter behind bars

Absolutely - and the rape of women is often perpetrated by the staff itself. It obviously contributes less to rape statistics because there are far fewer women in American prisons, and they're generally sentenced to less time, but it's certainly not a less serious matter.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:24 PM on October 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


In the link you posted, men committed 93.6% of sex-related homicides, and women were the victims of 81.2% of them. And as I said, that information is what is relevant to the issue we are discussing in regards to this ad. The rest of it is a lot of colorful noise that illustrates the conversation you are having with yourself.
posted by hermitosis at 5:24 AM on October 22, 2007


jokeefe said all that needed to be said. Discussions about this sort of thing on MeFi is a waste of everyone's time.
posted by agregoli at 9:42 AM on October 22, 2007


agregoli writes "jokeefe said all that needed to be said."

Nothing needed to be said.
posted by Bugbread at 1:03 PM on October 22, 2007


This is nothing new.

BEGIN AUTOMATIC RESPONSE TO PREDICTABLE REFLEXIVE CYNICISM

There are a lot of things that aren't new that are still
(a) offensive
(b) undemocratic
(c) too expensive
(d) tasty

and failing to recognize this just brings us spiraling further down in to
(a) patriarchy
(b) fascism
(c) debt
(d) non-tastiness
.

Someone unboil that frog.
posted by poweredbybeard at 5:13 PM on October 22, 2007


The "Boiled Frog" is a myth.
posted by ericb at 5:30 PM on October 22, 2007


"And having a man tell me how I should feel about the ad or that I'm not viewing it intelligently makes me feel far more offended than the original image."

Yeah, I agree. If there were a bit more "well, to me this ad seems X" and a bit less "let me tell you how you should look at this ad" I'd be a bit less annoyed with the attitude being spewed. It's not that the guys don't have the right to an opinion on this, it's just the possibility that you might not see it the same way if you're of a different gender seems to be missed by some folk.
Oh and thanks ever so much Zach's Mind for explaining advertising to us. Because of course none of us would have ever heard of Bill Hicks without your lecture. (Or Carlin or Bruce or the many other comedic references possible, etc.) But please, feel free to add another comment about why you're bothering to cast your pearls before the swine... and we'll go back to rolling our eye at your concept of pearls.
posted by batgrlHG at 11:21 PM on October 22, 2007


Advertisers are actually trying to get the attention of interstellar aliens, who have been sharing this planet with us for many decades now, and secretly have all the world's true wealth ever since we abandoned the gold standard back in Nixon's day. That's why all 'human' fashion models look subtly alien.

All advertising is quietly put before the eyes of Dan Ackroyd before it is broadcast or published, so if you're still upset about anything, take it up with him.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:40 PM on October 23, 2007


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