Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Dear Fashion, I am bound to you.
I found myself unable to tear my eyes away from the editorial above from French Vogue above today, and it made me think.
We live in a world that despite modernization combined with the dissemination of knowledge and globalization, largely still treats women as property and second-class citizens. Human trafficking and domestic violence are still alive and well in our own country and all over the world.
It is no big secret that advertising in your world is geared primarily towards women. So why is it that the you persist in advertising your products through imagery, subtle or overt, saturated with undertones of bondage, domination, submission and hypersexualization? Are you just hell-bent on subjugating the entire sex?
No, you are just hell-bent on selling, and you would not repeat yourself if it didn’t work. So why does it work, and why I am strangely ok with and attracted to advertisements with underlying themes like the one above?
I feel that when themes of bondage and submission manifest themselves in the form of a glossy and deliberate image in a fashion editorial, they are subversive and transformative in ways we might not consider at first glance. Ultimately, the model takes away power from the gazer because she leaves them in an untenable state of longing or cathexis. A hypersexualized, well-lit fantasy world in which a beautiful woman can be dominated is created and yet it is not. It is artifice, it is deception, and it is perfectly acceptable because as a sane admirer, we ultimately understand that these images have been simulated and that nobody was actually harmed or forced to take these pictures.
I think that images like these let us get lost in our deep-seated, guilty attractions to violence and vanity, and I think that’s why we love them so much. These visually stimulating fantasy worlds allow us to vicariously explore unacceptable desire without actually becoming sadomasochists, and we are so gratified by the transformative experience it provides that it makes us buy unnecessary shoes and handbags.
So cheers to you, fashion for understanding our needs and exploiting them solely for the purpose of getting at my purse. It works so well, and I love you all the better for it.