Thou Shalt Not Wear This: The pursuit of controlling women’s bodies
The ad jumped at me. A pair of heroic, photoshoped breasts clad in a bra, with the slogan underneath: Thank You, Prima Donna. Of course, the woman whose breasts belonged to was nowhere in sight. She didn’t need to exist: the company was selling you a bra for your breasts to make them look good and appealing to men, that is, bigger, higher, firmer, and therefore the selling point was not women, it was breasts. The face that no breasts have ever been seen walking along in a vacuum without a body attached to them was irrelevant. The whole point was not women, stupid, it was making men wanting the women in their lives to look like the breasts in the ad. Prima Donna was giving you this opportunity on a silver platter, and you should be grateful, hence the slogan underlining this whole disastrous example of advertising.
I must admit I was shocked, although I don’t know why. Indeed, it’s not as if I was a virgin to the constant sexist attacks modern day advertisement inflicts upon me. Maybe it was the aggressiveness not only of the ad itself that triggered something, but also of the display. I felt as I could not walk a street without seeing this same ad everywhere.
The issue here is not only sexism, it is the terrible victory of capitalism in merchandising just about everything. On the one hand, you have a woman’s body that looks close to nothing to what a real woman’s body look like, with the pernicious effects we now know it has on women’s self-esteem and body image. On the other, you have the hyper sexualisation of women’s bodies that comes in full light. This pair of breasts is showed by itself, the body ceases to be a body to become a thing, and like all things, it is disposable of, can be sold etc. What Prima Donna really is selling is not a bra, it’s a new pair of breasts. Excepts breasts are not things. They’re part of a woman’s body, and last time I checked, it was illegal to sell parts of people’s bodies. The commodification and hyper-sexualisation of women’s bodies is everywhere to be seen, with feminists being slagged as awful kill-joys for not understanding second degree ads and so on. There is clearly no second degree: these ads are offensive to women, offensive to men as they insult men’s intelligence, reinforce gender stereotypes and are unethical. And I’m happily killing the joy of the advertising tycoons everywhere.
Another ad that killed me was for a car. A lot of ads that regularly kill me are for cars which might explain why I still haven’t learned how to drive and am in no rush. Anyway, if you must know, it is for the new Fiat 500, which apparently now is a bit bigger, and the slogan said: ‘Now size L is the sexiest’, implying that up until now, it was definitely not size L that was the sexiest. You know, because a size L is Large and Large is NOT SEXY. Size Medium isn’t even sexy, you’d want to be a Small or an Extra Small or even better, be a size X-RAY the best size in the world where no one can actually see you, you’re so slim and sexy. It is getting rather wearisome that at the end of 2012, people in power still find they’re entitled to dictate what is beautiful and sexy and expecting women to be grateful.
While capitalism and patriarchy sexualize and commodify women’s bodies,with no respect for issues such as body images and self-esteem and guilts women into shaping themselves into some sort of patriarchal fantasy, some religious authorities guilt women into dressing in a way that is ‘pleasing to God’, the aims being the same: shape women into a pattern that is digestible for patriarchal societies, gain control over women’s bodies, lives and behaviours. Capitalism wants you to strip in order to be sexual every hour of every day, traditional religion beliefs want you to cover up to be very afraid of sex, not talk about it or think about it, and bear it to have children. The pressure applied by religious authorities can get as far as paying families of women who decide to wear the chador, harassing women who decide not to wear it, shaming them and applying community pressure until she either caves in or leave. While this is true, I don’t want to be associated with feminists who see the veil as a form of oppression: it is no more a form of oppression in itself than a micro short when it’s worn freely and happily, by a conscious internal process. It’s when it’s forced upon a woman, when its goal it to subject a woman to somebody else’s will that it becomes dangerous, just like a micro short that would be imposed on women in order to make them feel ‘sexy’. Sexy and happy are two feelings of well being women are perfeclty capable of identifying and shaping for themselves.
The two reactionary stances are highly damageable to women, the two stances are equally harmful to women’s free will and possibilities, the two stances are really insulting to men as well as they reduce men to slaves to sex, women being the trigger to their addiction.
The two stances are by products of the fear of free, liberated women who would tell oppressors to shove their good advices of what it means to be a woman and how women, or people who identify as such, should dress and behave. The two stances lead to reactionary behaviours in case a woman gets raped, saying ‘she was asking for it’ before of what she was wearing.
Now excuse me while I go and remove all the people who have nothing to do inside my head and my wardrobe and go and dress as I please.