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American Able
May 5, 2010 1:02 PM   Subscribe

'American Able' intends to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are invisibilized in advertising and mass media. I chose American Apparel not just for their notable style, but also for their claims that many of their models are just ‘every day’ women who are employees, friends and fans of the company. However, these women fit particular body types. Their campaigns are highly sexualized and feature women who are generally thin, and who appear to be able-bodied. Women with disabilities go unrepresented, not only in American Apparel advertising, but also in most of popular culture. Rarely, if ever, are women with disabilities portrayed in anything other than an asexual manner, for ‘disabled’ bodies are largely perceived as ‘undesirable.’ In a society where sexuality is created and performed over and over within popular culture, the invisibility of women with disabilities in many ways denies them the right to sexuality, particularly within a public context.

This work is part of a group exhibit for CONTACT 2010 and will be showing on over 270 digital screens in 50 Toronto Transit Commission stations on May 6, 11, 22 and 31.
posted by heatherann (99 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like everything about this.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:05 PM on May 5, 2010


I agree. That effing rocks.
posted by oneironaut at 1:06 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Totally badass tattoo on her.

Couple other thoughts: One, I like this. Two, it seems like her photographer should have tried to get more than one facial expression out of her. Three, I worry that these will quickly become /b/tard or goon macros.
posted by klangklangston at 1:07 PM on May 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


frigging. awesome.
posted by kalimac at 1:14 PM on May 5, 2010


So good!
posted by serazin at 1:16 PM on May 5, 2010


Advertising is ableist. It's also lookist, ageist, fatist, and usually racist. Substitute, "overweight woman of color over the age of 40" for "disabled" and this artist statement still reads true.
posted by availablelight at 1:18 PM on May 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I, too, like every about this, except this: invisibilized
posted by infini at 1:19 PM on May 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I like this.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 1:21 PM on May 5, 2010


(that being said, I still love these photos and the amount of public exposure--heh--they'll be getting)
posted by availablelight at 1:21 PM on May 5, 2010


Since this was inspired by American Apparel ads, is it safe to assume that it's just as borderline-NSFW as American Apparel ads also?
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:25 PM on May 5, 2010


Susannah Breslin on the project, including a little bit more about the model. Breslin is critical, if not dismissive, of the project--"Clearly, there is no problem too small in a first world country"--but at least, you know, she gives the model a last name.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:25 PM on May 5, 2010


Affirmative, Faint of Butt.
posted by everichon at 1:26 PM on May 5, 2010


Oh, and maybe a "jessachse" tag for this post wouldn't hurt, either.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:30 PM on May 5, 2010


wow.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:41 PM on May 5, 2010


I'm not sure why anyone should really care what Breslin has to say on the matter, one way or the other, just another talking head. Until I googled her I had no idea who she even was.
posted by edgeways at 1:43 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Advertising and mass media deserve some blame perhaps for the hyperbolic extremes to which they've taken our xenophobia, but the problem is that even if you take someone handicapped, blemished, assymetrical or ugly out of the context of supermodels, the image is still jarring and other for reasons that probably have more to do with biology than culture.

I think we all know this, and the constant fight to stare or look away is what forces those different into the margins even more so than the distilled beauty of commercial photography.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:43 PM on May 5, 2010


Holly Norris's "Misc Portraits" section is entirely full of the young and beautiful. What's up with that?
posted by DarkForest at 1:43 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is this disability exploitation designed to generate attention influenced by Charney’s own marketing savvy, or are we supposed to have an experience with these images that leads us to de-otherize that which was other?

I'm pretty sure it's that one thing, not de-other.
posted by Floydd at 1:46 PM on May 5, 2010


Susannah Breslin always reads as glib and dismissive, and seems to prize those qualities over ever being insightful or right.
posted by klangklangston at 1:47 PM on May 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


As a critique of Am Appy advertising, I am unmoved -- as a business it is not their job to be inclusive, they are trying to sell leotards.

As a statement of alternative beauty aesthetics, it is fantastic tho. She looks awesome. What I take away from the photos is that there are many ways to be sexy, and that those who have the brains and the balls to make something like this should do it as much as possible to challenge the what we consider normal or attractive in the human form.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:50 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Advertising is ableist. It's also lookist, ageist, fatist, and usually racist. Substitute, "overweight woman of color over the age of 40" for "disabled" and this artist statement still reads true.

To build on this....

I think this project successfully shows that it doesn't have to be. This work seems to point out how safe and contrived advertising can be. Perhaps this could have been a real, powerful, American Apparel campaign if their marketing department, or any other, had more creative vision and a broader view of human beauty.
posted by Hicksu at 1:59 PM on May 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


"overweight woman of color over the age of 40"

its only like 3 or 4 kg after winter...i'm working on it
posted by infini at 2:01 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holly Norris's "Misc Portraits" section is entirely full of the young and beautiful. What's up with that?

Nice catch. It does, however, look pretty much like a portfolio of commissioned photos - especially the shots of young couples, weddings & children.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:02 PM on May 5, 2010


Advertising is ableist. It's also lookist, ageist, fatist, and usually racist. Substitute, "overweight woman of color over the age of 40" for "disabled" and this artist statement still reads true.

I don;t want to remotely denigrate the struggles of those with disabilities by saying this: you're as likely to see an overweight person in an AA ad as someone in a wheelchair.
posted by mippy at 2:03 PM on May 5, 2010


De-otherizing the invisibilized.
posted by blucevalo at 2:04 PM on May 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Clearly, there is no problem too small in a first world country"

1) America is not a first world country - it's only existed for three hundred years or so.
2) There isn't a Grand Scale of Issues against which all grievances and matters of kyriarchy need to be assessed before we decide whether we are allowed to give a shit.
posted by mippy at 2:04 PM on May 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


infini: "I, too, like every about this, except this: invisibilized"

disvisablized
posted by stbalbach at 2:06 PM on May 5, 2010


"invisibilized"

This site is great but that word needs to not happen ever again.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:08 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a critique of Am Appy advertising, I am unmoved -- as a business it is not their job to be inclusive, they are trying to sell leotards

In terms of business. Maybe a clothing company could sell clothes using marketing that embraces beauty and sexuality in all types of people.
posted by Hicksu at 2:08 PM on May 5, 2010


Perhaps this could have been a real, powerful, American Apparel campaign if their marketing department, or any other, had more creative vision and a broader view of human beauty.

well if AA did it everyone would accuse them of being exploitative. which they in fact are-- they like to be provocative by using shots of traditionally attractive but non-professional-model women scantily clad and posed in slightly submissive ways. It's very effective visual branding because it's only kinda offensive but also quite hot in a Richard Kern sort of way... but if they did the same thing with a disabled person it would look and feel more cruel than empowering (demeaning a hot hipster girl = offensively sexy ... demeaning a disabled woman = just mean-spirited).

But for a photographer and subject to take on those roles themselves...well, if I was an Am Appy ad person I would be calling Holly Norris every 5 minutes to pay her to do another shoot with more women like Jess.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:09 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had an instinctive hate of invisibilized too, but it's not really worse than the oft used marginalized.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:14 PM on May 5, 2010


What's wrong with just using disemvisioned?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:15 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is there a line between parody and niche fetish porn here?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:17 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


thing
posted by infini at 2:19 PM on May 5, 2010


Those American Apparel ads creep me the fuck out. This though, is cool.
posted by agregoli at 2:19 PM on May 5, 2010


Disperceptuated, ascryed, unobjectificated, antisexualized, permadeviated, and thoroughly derailed.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:22 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe a clothing company could sell clothes using marketing that embraces beauty and sexuality in all types of people.

That sounds like a suicidal marketing strategy to me.

I mean, it's all very nice from an inclusive, touchy-feely social theory point of view, but 99% of advertising is about suggesting "if you buy our product you can be as cool / stylish / sexy as these people!" - which doesn't work quite so well when the people depicted are generally thought of as uncool, unstylish & unsexy.

Now, there may be a case for shifting social attitudes so that a wider variety of people are thought of as desirable role models, but there's no reason why businesses - which are by definition concerned about their bottom line - should become social service publicists in order to push that kind of envelope, and risk making a loss in the process.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:24 PM on May 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


I like the American Able images OK, but wow, Susannah (I'm 6' 1", WTF?) Breslin is nearly as obnoxious as the original American Apparel ads, which are nearly as obnoxious as Dov Charney, may he die in an underwear fire.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:36 PM on May 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't know if I'm missing some parody of real American Apparel ads, but why does it appear to show her with a pubescent boy?
posted by jacalata at 2:37 PM on May 5, 2010


"
I mean, it's all very nice from an inclusive, touchy-feely social theory point of view, but 99% of advertising is about suggesting "if you buy our product you can be as cool / stylish / sexy as these people!" - which doesn't work quite so well when the people depicted are generally thought of as uncool, unstylish & unsexy."

I can honestly say, given the choice between two near-identical products one of which is advertised in the normal way and the other with, well, the Other, then I'd be giving my money to the one that's trying to change things. I actually don't purchase things from AA, even though I know some of their products are pretty good, because I heavily dislike their advertising and I don't want to fund that.
posted by mippy at 2:37 PM on May 5, 2010


Oh, and maybe a "jessachse" tag for this post wouldn't hurt, either.

Thanks, you're right. I've added it.
posted by heatherann at 2:38 PM on May 5, 2010


but why does it appear to show her with a pubescent boy?

I thought it was a dykey girl.
posted by mippy at 2:38 PM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I mean, it's all very nice from an inclusive, touchy-feely social theory point of view, but 99% of advertising is about suggesting "if you buy our product you can be as cool / stylish / sexy as these people!" - which doesn't work quite so well when the people depicted are generally thought of as uncool, unstylish & unsexy.

I don't like Am Appy's adsas I find them creepy and unappealing. First, I looked at these photos without reading about the idea behind the exhibit just to see what I thought of the photos on their own. I found them really wonderful, cool, and fresh, which is something that Am App ads seem to strive for, but IMHO miss the mark. Honestly, if I had seen one of these in the newspaper, it would make me more likely to go into Am Appy than anything I've seen up till now.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:40 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think though there are people who are seen as uncool or unsexy in part because they are unseen. Yes, absolutely it is non normative and may be off putting to someone or another, but the more it becomes everyday and non shocking the more it can become sexy and cool... or just ok.

I can't help but think that part of advertising is also about the attention factor, and frankly an advertising campaign that features someone who is visually disabled (no, not blind) is likely to catch a lot more attention than yet another blond, thin, young person who may or may not have boobs.
posted by edgeways at 2:44 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a great little satire, but the ponderous framing is tough to swallow:

In a society where sexuality is created and performed over and over within popular culture, the invisibility of women with disabilities in many ways denies them the right to sexuality, particularly within a public context.

Too often, the pervasive influence of imagery in mass media goes unexamined, consumed en masse by the public.


First, critique of advertising and mass media has been around for decades, and is everywhere; hell, self-conscious ads that present critiques of advertising (cf: Sprite) are themselves a cottage industry. So its a bit tendentious to fly the "wake up naive consuming sheeple" flag.

Second, how does exclusion from advertising deny someone of their "right to sexuality"? Advertising is not a democratic process meant to accurately reflect the heterogeneity of society; its expressly designed to appeal to our desires for what we are not. Hell, I don't see anyone in ads that looks remotely like me, but that doesn't mean that I am (or anyone else is) being denied any rights.
posted by googly at 2:46 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know if I'm missing some parody of real American Apparel ads, but why does it appear to show her with a pubescent boy?

It's her conventionally cute, possibly genderqueer girlfriend? I appreciated that aspect of the shoot almost as much.
posted by availablelight at 2:52 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If Adbusters gets a whiff of this, that's a whole lotta free promotion for her photography business.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:53 PM on May 5, 2010


Is there a line between parody and niche fetish porn here?


It's wafer thin.
posted by fixedgear at 2:56 PM on May 5, 2010


Having no visual model for the expression of your sexuality makes it more difficult to see yourself as a sexual being. In some ways, I think that the objectification of women in commercial media contributes to cross dressing fantasies among men.

A few years ago, I remember helping a guy with down's syndrome try to open a malfunctioning newspaper dispenser. When I realized he was trying to get a copy of Yank! (Cheap newsprint porn) my whole world tilted a little as I realized I'd mentally consigned people with Downs to a state of eternal childhood, and of course they have a sexual identity. It was abn ugly moment in realization of what I was failing to examine around me.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:56 PM on May 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Holly Norris's "Misc Portraits" section is entirely full of the young and beautiful. What's up with that?

Seeing as she's a university student, I would imagine that the pictures are her friends and fellow students.
posted by jokeefe at 2:58 PM on May 5, 2010


last comment was in response to Googly
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:58 PM on May 5, 2010


I found the preamble a tad condescending, as if none of us would understand what's going on had it not been explained. I think this, in a way, feeds into the exclusive nature of what's considered beautiful. I mean, why take the time to explain that American Apparel chooses thin, attractive models with ideal physical proportions to sell clothes? There's nothing necessarily wrong with that. I understand the point of the work here is to highlight the contrasts between what's considered beautiful and what's not, but I thought it bordered on the fallacy of mutual exclusivity.

I guess my point is that it's an excellent idea for a project that was also executed very well, I just could have done without the "See! This person's beautiful too!" spiel. The pictures do this just fine by themselves.
posted by KyMaTo at 3:09 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I liked the pictures as both a political and an art project. As advertising, though, I don't think it would work well. For all that we wish for a better world, what appears to work as advertising (that is, to actually sell buckets of product) is imagery of a very, very narrow range of physical types.

Honestly, I think it's kind of unimpressive to go after American Apparel, which for all of its founder's faults, actually routinely presents images of non-white models, making their advertisements about a million times more diverse than almost any other mainstream clothing company. Artistically and politically it works, because AA has such a clear "branding" via photography which foregrounds sexuality. But in the bigger scope of things, AA doing a lot right already, compared to their competitors.
posted by Forktine at 3:24 PM on May 5, 2010


also, shocker: AA models aren't all amateur girls next door.
posted by availablelight at 3:27 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


America is not a first world country - it's only existed for three hundred years or so.

I don't think "first world" means what you think it means. Are you thinking of "Old World?" Cause that is entirely different and unrelated.
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 3:30 PM on May 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Affirmative, Faint of Butt.
posted by everichon at 1:26 PM on May 5 [+] [!]


Roger that K9 10-4 robbin' yer freedoms holla' back

Semper Fi!
uh oh! titties.

posted by nervousfritz at 3:56 PM on May 5, 2010


availablelight: that jezebel article links to this interview with Jess, who has much more interesting stuff to say about the project than the intro on the photography site...

Jes: God. American Apparel is sexy. I dunno about Holly but I love their style. Its andro and ‘basic’ and hipster. Lots of lyrca, lots of ‘your body as is’ type clothing. However, model and sales-clerk wise? Tall, skinny, white people. The usual. The fact that AA is hyper-sexual appeals to me. The fact that the lens isn’t really on an empowered body, is less appealing. Sexy sells. But why does sexy always seem to intersect with misogyny? Ultimately, AA is a popular brand of choice for hipsters, many of whom are educated and/or are familiar with the provocative nature of their ads. American Able doesn’t mock from the outside. It mocks from the inside. I like that.

...

Jes: It’s Holly’s project, but personally? I hope people see these ads in the TTC, laugh, and put on something skin tight when they go home and stare at their bodies. It’s like an invitation to a healthy dose of vanity. Why does fashion necessarily have to give people complexes? I’d love to be a model. I love designers and fashion, it’s art on bodies. I guess I love modeling because I feel like I embody a piece of that stare in my own work. That “I see you lookin’ at me” stare. I know I don’t look like a stereotypical model, and I like my body, but I get stared at a lot, in a different way. So when I pose, I have the opportunity to engage with my voyeurs. Or act indifferent about their gaze. Or make them question the politics in their stare. Or seduce them. Or pierce them. It’s really fun.

Right own.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:57 PM on May 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


I think this is awesome and while it's pretty easy to criticize parts of the idea and execution, the fact is that these young women have knocked out some big bricks in a huge wall. I really hope this turns into something.

And honestly, sexy, provocative Jes was a little too fetishy for me. Show me some introspective, down-by-the-seashore Jes and I'm buying some sweaters and stuff. Seriously.
posted by snsranch at 4:02 PM on May 5, 2010


I think the photographs are good as photographs but I am put off by heavy worded deeply political framing of the project. It takes something interesting fun and tries to make it so fucking self serious. It never fails: The statements of visual artists pretty much always convince me that they found the proper medium for creative expression because the written word sure ain't it.
posted by I Foody at 4:05 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Second, how does exclusion from advertising deny someone of their "right to sexuality"? Advertising is not a democratic process meant to accurately reflect the heterogeneity of society; its expressly designed to appeal to our desires for what we are not.

Agreed. I'm a little uncomfortable with the notion that to have a sexuality, one's sexuality has to be exploited for profit.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:07 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a little uncomfortable with the notion that to have a sexuality, one's sexuality has to be exploited for profit.

Unfortunately, that's exactly the situation for a lot of disabled people, whose only outlet for sexuality with another person is to pay a prostitute.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:13 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The statements of visual artists pretty much always convince me that they found the proper medium for creative expression because the written word sure ain't it.

Quoted for so-totally-true-th.
posted by everichon at 4:20 PM on May 5, 2010


[few comments removed - pla please try harder, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:39 PM on May 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I loved this - ignoring the AA critique because I despise that entire operation from the borderline child porn to the overpriced cotton shirts and don't really have further interest in engaging on them. But the pictures were beautiful, and inspiring. I have incredible respect for the model, and appreciate the message of finding beauty outside the mainstream-media dictated norms. I found many of the pictures stunning, and thought-inspiring.
posted by bunnycup at 4:48 PM on May 5, 2010


When I was 19, I worked for the Center for Research On Women with Disabilities -- CROWD -- at the Baylor Health Science Center in Houston. I was specifically collating and analyzing data from a broad-spectrum national survey on sexuality issues of women with motion disabilities. The data was terrifying -- women who were hysterectomized at age fourteen to make life easy for their caregivers, women who were repeatedly sexually assaulted by their prosthetists and who were grateful for the sexual contact even as they were repelled and traumatized by the abuse, women who were raped by the people operating wheelchair transport in a city that didn't have disabled access to public transit.

Aside even from the abuse statistics, there were stories of women with disabilities who had dated, fallen in love, married, borne children, and been discriminated against, shunned, or laughed at every step of the way. One woman spoke of how her OB assumed she was trying to terminate her pregnancy every single time he saw her for her scheduled pregnancy care (for a planned and very much wanted pregnancy; she had mild cerebral palsy); another told of how she and her fiance lost their wedding caterer because they hadn't even run her credit card to secure a deposit, assuming the wedding must be a joke because she was in a wheelchair.

That weird Cronenberg movie Crash was pretty surreal in a lot of ways, but one of the reasons I liked it was because Roseanna Arquette plays a character with significant motion disabilities who is incredibly and unabashedly sexual. A few people saw her character as exploitative and fetishy, but I was just glad to see it at all.
posted by KathrynT at 4:48 PM on May 5, 2010 [39 favorites]


KathrynT-I can not favorite your comment enough.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:05 PM on May 5, 2010


As a side note: The Tiresias Project is a disability arts multimedia … uh … extravaganza that has its center in disability and sexuality, mostly love poems. I don't know why their website still sucks, but my mom took the black and white photos. For folks looking for more of the intersection of sex and disability, these folks might be good to hook up with.
posted by klangklangston at 5:11 PM on May 5, 2010


For folks looking for more of the intersection of sex and disability, these folks might be good to hook up with.

I can't tell whether or not you intended the meaning that I read there.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:26 PM on May 5, 2010


A few people saw her character as exploitative and fetishy, but I was just glad to see it at all.

It's interesting to me that a couple of people (not to single them out) have called the images of Jes "niche" or "fetishy," and I keep wondering if we're looking at the same pictures. The clothes and poses are similar to the way women are routinely posed in the AA ads (except for the pleasant dearth of giant asses and crotches stuck up into my face, thank you very much), and Jes and her pal are fairly innocuously, if sensually, engaged with each other. What could be more mainstream than an ad for something or other with a tousled person or couple in some state of undress? I've probably encountered that image in one medium or another a hundred times so far this year, and I don't get out much.

In our culture, people outside the narrow body-appearance norms and especially those with disabilities are so automatically assumed to be sexless that striking even tamely sexualized PG-13 poses is considered taboo and "fringe." Which is exactly why there should be more images like these in mainstream art and advertising. I wish Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" and the like would branch out in similar directions.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:30 PM on May 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Women with disabilities as well as being seen, also want to be heard how sexy they can be – "I want people to know that although I have a disability, I can still move".
posted by tellurian at 6:11 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having no visual model for the expression of your sexuality makes it more difficult to see yourself as a sexual being. In some ways, I think that the objectification of women in commercial media contributes to cross dressing fantasies among men.

I have had men say this to me before - not about cross-dressing, but about wanting to be "objectified" in a way that only (some) women really are in our culture. As a woman, I can get that. While for the most part I am annoyed, bored, or appalled by peoples' attempts to objectify me and other women, I can also find it sexy and empowering. For people who don't get to see people who they can identify with being considered sexually by our society - it can make it harder to be secure and vibrant in your own sexuality.

One could argue that the solution here is to promote other ways to be fiercely and publicly sexual besides soulless commercial pop-cultural objectification, but since this is pretty much how we define sexuality as a culture, I'm not going to blame or shame people who are upset that they don't have access to it because of their gender, their race, their body shape/size, or any other reason.
posted by shaun uh at 7:13 PM on May 5, 2010


I also like everything about this!

I'm looking at Jes Sachse's website now, and there are some incredible pictures on it. This one is my favourite (actually my favourite thing I have seen all month!). There are lots of others of varying degrees of NSFWness.
posted by bewilderbeast at 8:15 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh my fucking god this is awesome.

I also have several fused vertebrae* and my back looks a lot like hers. I'm guessing she has scoliosis too. I have struggled with body image my entire life due to this.

I cannot express how much this means to me.

*she mentions this on her website
posted by desjardins at 8:59 PM on May 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


I Foody: “It never fails: The statements of visual artists pretty much always convince me that they found the proper medium for creative expression because the written word sure ain't it.

Yeah, this.

In the case of visual art in a gallery-type setting, I try to make a point of avoiding the artist's statement. In my mind no good can come of it. Either the piece works on its own (good!), it doesn't work (meh), it works but only because of the statement (ugh), or — and this is really sad — it works but then fails when combined with the statement (facepalm). So there's just no reason to go there.

When it's displayed that prominently on a website though, it's harder to ignore. Still I did my best, and I think the images are strong on their own. They'll be even better as part of the CONTACT installation / exhibition thing, where they'll actually appear in places where the ads they're commenting on would.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:19 PM on May 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this!
posted by Bergamot at 9:35 PM on May 5, 2010


I like this. This is good.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:54 PM on May 5, 2010


Someone asked about her "same" facial expressions...I wonder if her disability limits the number of expressions? But then, I know plenty of non-disabled people who can't manage more than one look in front of a camera, since they're not models.

This is awesome, though. And for all the "businesses are not going to make money showing non-(very limited) ideal people!" comments, I would say, bullshit. Presentation is everything. Oddly enough, when you put a non-standard-ad-model person in a sexy situation with all the sexy signifiers, they will read as sexy. I think that while Charney is a massive asshole, he has stumbled over this truth to a limited extent for his advertising. I really like the idea of disabled advocates taking it and following it even further.

And honestly, what would it mean to see more disabled people in ads, doing things, not sitting tamely in their wheelchairs? How do you perceive a dude sitting in his chair vs. a team full of wheelchair basketball players? How do you perceive a woman who climbs mountains with an artificial leg? You likely aren't repulsed, you think "cool!" because in your mental category, they move from the "sad and scary tragic figure" space to "person with thoughts and feelings and ambition" space. Or in this case, with sexual drives, just like anyone else. And if you're interested, then you're paying attention to the ad. Win win.

More of this, please.
posted by emjaybee at 12:22 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a big fan of this.

Halloween Jack: Breslin is critical, if not dismissive, of the project

Susanna Breslin's recent brave crusade against the whole concept of a trigger warning on articles about rape has led me to believe that she's a class 6 idiot, happy to be rude to easy targets for pageviews.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:07 AM on May 6, 2010


This was beautiful. I was immediately captivated by the first image and went on.

But I also saw it as border-line niche fetish. You don't know the people I know.
posted by _paegan_ at 7:39 AM on May 6, 2010


Jeez, I am completely floored by the fetish comments. Almost to the point of speechlessness. It... just... what? If someone poses in their underwear, it's fetishy just because they are different looking?

Yes of course some weirdo is going to jerk off to this, just like there are no doubt people who jerk off to American Apparel ads. Or Lane Bryant ads. I just... what the fuck. That's not the responsibility of the model. I mean, what, are my wedding photos some kind of sick fetish thing too because I look different? Please explain yourselves before I smash my keyboard.
posted by desjardins at 8:06 AM on May 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jeez, I am completely floored by the fetish comments. Almost to the point of speechlessness. It... just... what? If someone poses in their underwear, it's fetishy just because they are different looking?

The thinking, as far as I can tell, goes something like this:

If someone, particularly a woman, is posing in a way that can be even vaguely interpreted as erotic, it must be for someone else's titillation. And since no normal person would find this titillating, those people must have some weird fetish.

It's offensive on at least two levels when you break it down like that, really. Not everyone who poses for pictures is doing it for the titillation of the anonymous viewer, and "normal" is much less tightly defined than most people think. I'm starting to think that "fetishy" means "you're turned on by it and I'm not."
posted by KathrynT at 9:25 AM on May 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fetish is in the eye of the beholder, but the lighting, make-up, and poses used in a lot of Aerican Apparel ads seems to draw heavily from erotic or pornographic work more than from glamour mag photography.. Any parody is going to have similar echoes. Personally I think that Ms Norris managed to produce something that didn't cross the line into fetish porn, but of course when the focus is sexual objectification it becomes a thin line.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:24 AM on May 6, 2010


I understand that it's a comment on American Apparel ads, but how does American Apparel-type poses/lighting/clothes + disabilty = fetish porn? If she was wearing leather and holding a whip, OK. But she's posed in nearly the exact same fashion as AA ads, only she's disabled. If she was of typical body shape, but black with a white partner, would it then be interracial fetish porn? I doubt very seriously that anyone on mefi would say that.
posted by desjardins at 10:32 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because fair or not, the majority of images that our culture has that sexually objectify disabled women are pornographic, and parts of sites or collections related to a particular fetishist. While I'd love for that to change, it'll take time as much as anything, if it's even possible to make appreciation of those who are different a part of mainstream culture.

I'm kind of sorry I brought it up, and certainly there are people out there more than capable of appreciating bodies and faces that are unusual without crossing into the level of objectification where that is all they appreciate, but I suspect they are equalled or exceeded in numbers by those with a mania or fetish for a particular look.

I don't mean to imply that people with differences don't have a legitimate sexuality, but past depictions have enough associations to fetish that there is a lot to overcome.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2010


Also, I'd contend that almost all AA ads have the exact same level of objectification as in fetish porn, the only difference being the conventionally accepted sexuality of the objectified.

And yes, I would like a far wider swath of humanity to be considered conventional. It would be disingenious for me to pretend this was the case, regardless of my ideals.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:06 AM on May 6, 2010


As for your black+white partner thing, now no. Depicted naked in the 1950s in a flimsy magazine with the same subjects, probably fetish would be the first thing to come to mind.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:15 AM on May 6, 2010


I think we're using "fetish" somewhat differently from one another. I take it to mean "a strong sexual fixation on a particular body part, object, act, article of clothing, look, etc." Fetish shots don't just require taking photos of people/things someone might happen to fetishize; they require a fetishy photographic technique where the camera eye fixates almost exclusively on the fetish object in a salacious way.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:03 PM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


lets get some context. Dr Adder was fetish porn
posted by infini at 1:08 PM on May 6, 2010


FelliniBlank, yeah I was worried That I might be overloading the term fetish, but I don't know how else to describe people who are into someone in a wheelchair because they are in a chair for example. Any sexualized photos of a collection of people in wheelchairs could either be activism or fetish porn, but one wheelchair bound model in a more general collection of erotica would not be. A single model with no context is entirely subjective. I feel I'm doing a woefully bad job of articulating this, and hope I'm not hurting anyone's feelings.

Infini, I really wish KW Jeter had written more, but now I'm going to be thinking about vagina dentata all day. Did you see the movie teeth?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:28 PM on May 6, 2010


I think we're using "fetish" somewhat differently from one another. I take it to mean "a strong sexual fixation on a particular body part, object, act, article of clothing, look, etc."

Technically, isn't a fetish a displacement of sexual attraction from a "legitimate" object (basically, a person of your preferred gender who you consider attractive) onto an extraneous object (eg shoes, crutches, spiderman costumes, particular body parts unrelated to vanilla sexuality), without which the fetishiser cannot become aroused?
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:44 PM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Infini, I really wish KW Jeter had written more, but now I'm going to be thinking about vagina dentata all day. Did you see the movie teeth?

no, but vagina dentata always makes me think of The Many Coloured Land
posted by infini at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


and I, too, wish that KW Jeter had written more. I think I have most of them.
posted by infini at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2010


I might be overloading the term fetish, but I don't know how else to describe people who are into someone in a wheelchair because they are in a chair for example.

That's fine, call it fetish. It IS an appropriate word from the perspective of the viewer of the photos. It is NOT an appropriate word from the perspective of the photographer or the model unless that was their specific intent.

Any sexualized photos of a collection of people in wheelchairs could either be activism or fetish porn

OR it could be people in wheelchairs who want to take sexy photos of themselves because they like sex and they want other people to find them sexy not BECAUSE they are in a wheelchair OR in spite of it but because they are regular human beings not defined by a physical attribute they did not choose. I don't know what is difficult to understand here. I do believe you are not trying to offend, but you're coming off (to me) as obtuse.

I believe I'm done here, this is just too personal for me to think rationally.
posted by desjardins at 3:02 PM on May 6, 2010


desjardins, I apologize if I offended you or anyone else with my fetishy comment.

FWIW I was referring to how they captured the Lolita porn/fetish aspect of the AA ads. I should have just said that instead of being jokey about it.

(Even if it's not me you were talking about...folks have been polite enough to not point fingers...I understand and your point is well taken.)
posted by snsranch at 3:09 PM on May 6, 2010


It is NOT an appropriate word from the perspective of the photographer or the model unless that was their specific intent.

True, and rereading what I said makes me think I may have accidentally implied that, despite my not so timely efforts to qualify my statement, for which you and Jes Sachse, and anyone else who was offended have my deepest apologies.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:31 PM on May 6, 2010


Any sexualized photos of a collection of people in wheelchairs could either be activism or fetish porn

What if they were very overweight people? Not feeder territory, but much larger than those normally seen in sexualised images? Or a collection of people of colour - would that be an Asian fetish?
posted by mippy at 4:44 AM on May 7, 2010



Any sexualized photos of a collection of people in wheelchairs could either be activism or fetish porn - first quote

then response, for context:
What if they were very overweight people? Not feeder territory, but much larger than those normally seen in sexualised images? Or a collection of people of colour - would that be an Asian fetish?


Now I feel the need to speak up on this. To me, reading this, it sounds as though there is only one perspective on the world, from the frame of reference of white supermodel type of women/men which is considered the baseline.

This implies that any recent professional headshots of mine which convey vitality or attractiveness are therefore, and thus, "fetish porn" or "activism" simply by virtue of the fact that I'm neither under 40, nor caucasian (and frankly only weigh 50 kg for 157cm ;p so not overweight etc either)

It seems to me that then we have a larger issue for concern - this is anyone but the Other, true - but the baseline reference for "Otherness" is static and not dynamic depending on your point of view, geographical location or home culture/region.

That is, if one were Chinese, based on the mainland, is it then fair to say that "her" frame of reference for evaluating attractive Chinese women in fashion photography be taken as an "othering" or "fetishizing" or "porning" simply because those photos, nor the viewer, were young, hot white women.

Perspective needs to become more dynamic and responsive to the viewer's frame of reference as we globalize our communication platforms and enhance connectivity across cultures.

/end not quite rant but serious concerns
posted by infini at 5:01 AM on May 7, 2010


For me, the admittedly stretched use of the term fetish implies sexualized images that are not conventional for a given culture. Context is everything, and the same collection of photos on AsianFetishBabes.com vs jiayuan.com has a different meaning (although as FelliniBlank points out, the way the image is framed or focussed is a big part of context). Again, where context is unavailable the experience of the image is completely subjective. For me, fetish isn't a pejorative as much as objectification is, although obviously fetish can involve objectification.

I'd rather see images that don't ape AA, because the act of placing a model that so different from the outrageous and artificial standards of beauty feels more like a stunt than a celebration of what makes Jes Sasche unique, especially when she's removed from all context as a person (she's a decent poet as far as I'm able to judge these things). Is this a celebration of difference or a highlighting of it? Would this still work with a side-by-side comparison, or would it start to feel more like mockery than statement?

Mippy, I'm unaware of an upper size limit on feeder fetishes, and I'd think such a thing would be imposed more by the rarity of 600+ lb models than anything else.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:30 AM on May 7, 2010


I don't think "first world" means what you think it means. Are you thinking of "Old World?" Cause that is entirely different and unrelated.

I meant it in the civilisation rather than diplomatic sense. If the meaning has changed or differs in the US, then I apologise, but I don;t thank you for the patronising tone.

And this is only niche fetish porn in the sense that the original ads are almost porny.
posted by mippy at 9:20 AM on May 13, 2010


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