For a long time I got Vogue, the fashion magazine. This was primarily because I like to look at pretty pictures, since I tend to find the articles pretty insipid. I’ve tried to cancel Vogue twice. It just kept coming. After a while I decided to stop worrying about this and just keep looking at the pretty pictures since they weren’t actually charging me for the magazines that I asked them not to send me in the first place. Recently I’ve gotten increasingly annoyed with it, however, and have managed to get them to stop coming altogether (much to my relief). What finally put me over the edge with Vogue was actually not an article (although the piece where a writer froze herself in the interests of maintaining youth and beauty came close) – it was actually the ads.
I hold magazines responsible for everything they print, including the ads, particularly a magazine with a name like Vogue. See, they can approve or disapprove of an ad. It’s their magazine. Even if you buy ad space, if the ad you send in isn’t something they approve of for their publication, they can refuse to print it and then offer to print a different ad or refund the money. For a magazine like Vogue, a company may very well make a whole new ad if one is refused. So while the company is primarily at fault for making the ad, Vogue is at fault for giving approval of it by printing it.
The single worst ad that I found in a Vogue was, sadly, in the “Power Issue” (March 2009). It was for Jimmy Choo – a shoe company. It was a set of three images on a two-page spread. The image that made me really angry was on the top half of the right-hand page (here is the image). It showed a woman’s body from about her waist to just above her knee with one leg curled up so that its entirety was in the shot. The woman is wearing a white crocheted swimsuit with ties at the hips and open sides. On her feet are worked leather ankle strap stilettos with very high and very pointy heels. The heel of the visible shoe is pushed into the inside of the opposite thigh, high up near her crotch, and it looks rather painful. Her one visible hand, with its long, shiny, red fingernails, is teasingly pulling on one of the ties on her swimsuit. This is totally a bondage porn shot – the heels pressing into the woman’s flesh, the blood-red nails, the tease that she’s about to reveal more, the ties on the swimsuit and the tight cropping of the shot showing us only her crotch and surrounding areas. She’s not a person, she’s a sex toy.
It really bothered me how dehumanized this image (and numerous others like it) was. This not only didn’t make me want to buy shoes, it made me not want to buy anything from Jimmy Choo ever. I like fashion and try to wear things that look flattering on me, but I choose to wear what I wear for me. Not because it makes me look sexy or might turn a guy on. This ad isn’t trying to sell shoes with women in mind, it’s trying to sell shoes that make women sexy to men. And yeah, sometimes being sexy to men can give a woman self-confidence and make her feel more beautiful than she otherwise would, but that’s not what this is trying to say it does. This is just objectification.