Who remembers these ads? The Calvin Klein ad on the right was actually pulled because of its disturbing nature, but I don’t remember seeing anywhere that the D&G ad on the left generated as much controversy. Fashion and the glamorization of violence has become the new trend. What it is supposed to depict other than violence, I don’t know, but magazines and photographers and models are shouting “creative license” as an excuse for parading these images in front of us and then asking us to accept them.
Trigger Warning! This post contains images of abuse ironically disguised as fashion spreads. I am purposefully not showing the images until further down, so I’ll start with a short commentary. I am tired of seeing models painted and posed as if they were dead, dying, or drugged up. Yes, I understand the notion of creative license and artistry, but how can images of violence really be peddled as art or fashion??!! I grew up watching my mom get beaten and abused, and I never stopped to think, “Oh, my, I need to run and get my camera! This would make a great piece of art!” No! I was scared, horrified, and angry! I wanted to kill the men who hurt my mother, so when I see pictures like this, and then hear women justify or rationalize them as okay, I get angry, not just at the magazines that display the images, or the photographers that pose the models, or the make-up “artists” who bruise and black their eyes; I also get mad at the young women who think there’s nothing wrong with these images. Have we become so brainwashed by the media and popular culture that we actually buy into the excuses that allow us to accept such images as “art?” Have we become so numbed and desensitized to violence against women that we can look at these images and not become angry?
Jezebel featured the most recent images of violence in a Bulgarian fashion magazine called 12, but if you keep up with representations of gender in the media, then you know this is the current fad. The magazine’s photos are just another example of violence against women cloaked as art or creativity. If this is just creative license, then why do we never see male models bloodied up and bruised or made to appear as if they were just murdered? Why is it only women, or am I not seeing similar images of men? Do men’s magazines contain similar images?
Another excuse I’ve heard is that the models wouldn’t pose for them if they thought it was wrong, so who are we to say anything? I can’t speak for the models, but this is their job. Their line of work has a short shelf life, because it is rare to see older women as models. Knowing that, I can only guess that most models take whatever jobs they can get in order to plan for their future retirement. Okay, that’s just my excuse for the models, because I imagine they make enough money to choose whether or not they want to support the glamorization of violence against women. I would think they’d be horrified to pose for such pictures!
And it’s not just happening in Europe. It’s also happening right here in the United States, as if no one should expect that. Glee, a show that has captured the hearts and minds of many young (and old) people has also made stars and unintended role models out of the actors who appear in the series. Yet, one of the stars, Heather Morris, appeared in a recent photo shoot that generated controversy, “Bruised Up Barbie.” The controversy prompted photographer Tyler Shields to donate the money generated from sale of the pictures to domestic abuse charities. How grand of him.
Shields tried to explain that it was never his intention for these images to glamorize violence against women. This is the excuse we always hear. What was his intention then? Do these photographers have such small worlds that they don’t EVEN imagine that someone actually lives the lives they are depicting or that someone might get disturbed or traumatized by these images? Don’t they imagine that boys and men might think that women are okay being beaten and abused, because we “accept” these images or because the models pose for them?
Below are images of REAL women from around the world who have survived abuse and acid attacks. They aren’t actresses or models being made up and paid to pose. They aren’t glamorizing their abuse. Yet, how do these images compare to the ones above? Why don’t we also look at these images of real violence as cutting edge glamour photos? These women’s scars are permanent. They won’t wash off with soap and water or eventually heal, leaving no visible marks.
Then there is the image of Rihanna, the well known singer whose boyfriend, Chris Brown, beat her up. Should Rihanna make some additional money by allowing fashion magazines to use this picture as part of a fashion spread? It looks like it would fit in very nicely with the Bulgarian magazine (that wasn’t promoting or glamorizing violence against women). It is only by accident that the world saw this picture. Most women hide evidence of their abuse. They are ashamed when it is their abusers who should be ashamed. Yet, fashion magazines all over the world don’t hide black eyes or slit throats or bruised bodies. The real survivors of abuse hide while the world of celebrity pushes it in our faces as examples of art!
Bruises fade and broken bones heal, but acid thrown on one’s skin or a nose cut off does not heal. Neither does the emotion and spiritual trauma of abuse ever leave women’s bodies. The memories are always there no matter how much time goes by. My mom never forgot the beatings and the name calling. Neither did I. I still have nightmares about my mother’s abuse. I learned to be distrustful of all men, because I knew how sweet and charming abusers could be when out in public. In my mind, all men are potential abusers, because I don’t know how they really are behind closed doors. I have seen too many women beaten and bruised to think otherwise. I have seen politicians ignore this epidemic. Is our society any better than the those who justify the stoning and acid attacks against women?