For many years now, women have always been used as the secondary character in media advertisements around the world. The media has constantly been depicting the women as people who only belong in the kitchen and also heavily depend on a man for support and help. Women have been depicted like this since the industrial revolution (Lucas, 2018).
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Of late, the women have been the main primary targets in the fashion industry and it is sad to say that the other industries have also followed suit. We are going to specifically look at a company that faced a backlash after depicting women in a bad way.
It is a fashion business company that is based in Italy dealing with items that are usually classified as a luxury in the fashion industry. The company is however infamously known for its many controversial ad campaigns that depict the sexuality of women and men in a bad way that does not go well with the society (Gender Links, 2018). The ads have caused so much discomfort and rage by viewers around the world. In this part, we are going to analyze one particular advertisement that depicted a woman in a bad way. In this part, we will also illustrate the power relations, the specific ideas attached to the product in the advertisement and also the use of stereotypes by this fashion conglomerate.
The company has a bad reputation in terms of developing adverts that are very controversial due to the depiction of sexual acts. These adverts have gone beyond what the mainstream society considers as acceptable sexual practice. Apart from the advert that we are going to analyze here, the company has also included other images that portray women in bad light such as; portrayal of women as slaves and mistresses; portrayal of women in shower room orgies and finally portrayal of men in homosexual encounters (Gender Links, 2018). Most of the adverts by the company have always sparked debates and controversy of what the images interpret and the kind of impact that they have caused in the society.
It is not usually a bad idea for the big international designer brands and fashion houses to take risks and think out of the box especially when it comes to the creation of a new campaign brand that will be used for their upcoming seasonal line. However, in looking at this advert, it is clear that Dolce & Gabbana took their creativity beyond the border and thus crossed the line by depicting a woman in a compromise situation.
In the controversial advert, the company depicted a woman that was dressed in a swimming costume lying on her back. There was a shirtless man pinning the woman down. However, the woman expressed fear through her eyes. Apart from the shirtless man pinning the woman down, there were also other three men in the background who are looking at the shirtless man and the woman lying on her back (Gender Links, 2018). The three men are not actually doing anything to help the woman a sign that they approve of what is being done by the shirtless man. The advert was not really a surprise to many, as the company is widely known for creating highly racy sexualized campaigns that aim to capture the attention of their consumers. Therefore, this ad was not even an exception. However, this ad looked like a rape glorified in a frame to many viewers rather than highly-fashion couture. The company published the advert in 2007. Its publication led to a huge public outrage especially from many women around the world. It was the worst depiction of women.
It is so clear that the advert was trying to portray an impending gang rape of the woman and consequently promoting violence against women; the woman’s vacant expression on the woman lying down indicates to us that she is not a willing and active player even though the brand argues that it was just meant to play on sexual fantasy. The big question then would be, whose fantasy was this? Was it for the men or the woman? And finally is it even worthy to be called a fantasy at all? The sad thing about the ad is that it was just launched before the start of 16 days of Activism. The world was preparing to join hands to fight against children and women violence and this advert tended to represent women as just sexual objects. The advert also misrepresented men by displaying them as powerful, people who are out for sexual conquest, cruel and uncaring to women.
There are however those who may want to argue that this advert was simply expressing the sexual fantasy that many women often hold and therefore it was just promoting a less prudish attitude that is toward sexuality and sex. Agreeing with this statement may mislead us to see the image as sex positive and progressive. In the same way, one may be tempted to see the promotion of homosexuality in the adverts as just one way of expressing sexual diversity and therefore it is something that ought to be celebrated. However, the right thing to do is to strongly oppose such portrayal and promotion of sexual violence instead of celebrating sexual diversity. The expressions from both the woman and the men in the background does not indicate to us that these people are actually on a sexual fantasy as the company wants us to believe (Gender Links, 2018). To me, the image is just simply telling us a story of a woman that is helplessly being raped while the other men in the image are ignoring it, meaning they approve the rape or maybe they also want to rape the woman themselves.
As we all know, images usually hold a great deal of power in our society today. Images have the power to uphold and challenge the assumptions and beliefs of the society. Dolce and Gabbana ended up reinforcing assumptions when the real intention was to actually challenge the assumptions in the society. According to the viewers, they interpreted these images to mean that men are powerful sexual predators, it tells the women that dressing in a particular way can get them in trouble with men and finally, the image was telling the viewers that rape is something that is acceptable. Even though the adverts have helped the company to increase its sales over the past years, there is need for the company to be questioned how it uses gender in its advertisements. The company should think of creating images that are gender sensitive and at the same time effective instead of creating ads that bring controversies. In defense of the advert, the company argued that the advert was just an artistic way of recalling an erotic dream or a sexual game but not any other thing as people were thinking. (Gender Links, 2018) According to the designer of the ad, it is not possible for any woman to fantasize about being raped.
Actually, from the advert, it is very clear that, woman has been displayed as a helplessly creature that she is unable to resist any kind of evil that might be done on her by any man. With psychological development, it is very clear that, the girl child will be tortured and be made to think that, the male species are danger (Allison, 2017). Actually, the problem with this advert, it is known will bring a wrong image of male species as they are ruthless. With the social aspects, it is clear that, the social interactions will be greatly affected since they will try to distant themselves from male species.
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Lucas, D., & Fox, J. (2018). The psychology of human sexuality. Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. DOI: nobaproject. com.
Zamboni, B. D., & Zaid, S. J. (2017). Human Sexuality Education in Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Programs. Journal of marital and family therapy, 43(4), 605-616.
Gender Links (2018). Dolce and Gabbana advert~Gender Links. [online]. Available at: http://genderlinks.org.za/programme-web-menu/dolce-and-gabbana-advert-2008-12-30/[Accessed 18 Aug.2018]
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