Sex. Sex is everywhere. Flip through channels on the television and what do you see in every genre? Sex. News channels cover stories of celebrities’ sex scandals and have been noted to comment on the appearance of celebrities as relevant news. Women newscasters often show a lot of skin, except perhaps the skin under all of their makeup. Adult shows of all types display sex scenes or make sexual innuendos. Even children’s shows have hidden sexual images and insinuations. Commercials are possibly some of the worst, showing advertisements for Viagra and openly talking about erectile dysfunction disorder. Driving through a city, you can see images of nude women on billboards and even advertisements for strip clubs on taxis. Print media is just as bad, showing sexual images throughout magazines, disregarding the original context of the magazine itself. This abundance of sexual imagery and content throughout every aspect of media purely reinforces androcentrism and misogyny. Within the selected advertisement for a Tom Ford menswear collection, androcentrism and misogyny are enforced by the visual elements of the advertisement, the story that it sells, and the basic human needs that it portrays toward its intended audience.
The visual elements of Tom Ford’s advertisement exhibit androcentrism and misogyny at its finest. The x-shaped composition of the piece is established through the balance of color in the image. The expected attraction of the image is assumedly the woman because of the unnaturalness of a nude and highly sexualized woman engaging in the nonsexual act of ironing. Due to the balance of the composition, the eye is drawn to the man’s bare legs due to the similarity in color. Completing the intake of the image, the eye moves horizontally to the black pants, and then is drawn to the suit, the intended destination. Therefore, one could argue that the purpose of the nude woman is to eventually lead the eye to the marketed product. In support of this argument, the sexualization of the woman character does indeed play a significant role in the movement of the eye toward the product. So how do misogyny and androcentrism relate to the visual elements of an advertisement? Well in this case, the whole image is composed around the importance of a nude woman. The color of the woman’s skin has to be similar to that of the man’s, but simultaneously has to contrast with the products in order to form the composition. Furthermore, the objectification of the woman as a sexual object is arguably needed in order to draw the initial attention of the image. Although the objectification of the woman and the nudity play a role in the composition, they do broadcast the idea that it is okay for a woman to be demoralized in the way of solely being a sexual image, which falls right into the factor of misogyny and that women are lesser than men, the central idea behind androcentrism.
The story that the advertisement sells, through the characters, plot, and symbolism, is also a great indicator of the underlying androcentrism and misogyny in media. First, the woman is quite seductive in nature, yet holds intense hostility toward the man, which coincides with her acting as his servant. In response, the man has a supercilious attitude, not showing any recognition toward the woman ironing his pants. These expressions in each character directly link to the plot of the story: the woman’s inferiority to the man. This inferiority is not merely present in Tom Ford’s advertisement, but has been established for many years and across many cultures. For example, Hinduism in India around 500 BC, “required obedience of women toward men. Women had to walk behind their husbands. Women could not own property, and widows could not remarry” (“Women’s History in America”). Women’s inferiority in androcentrism has been around for thousands of years. The symbols that are associated with the woman are the iron and ironing board and the classic black heels. These items all relate back to the stereotypical vintage housewife look displayed through numerous advertisements and images, and they prove that this preconception of woman being made for the purpose of housewives is still present. The housewife image once again portrays submissiveness and overall weakness. These qualities relate to the gender ranking of women, an indubitable form of misogyny, under the patriarchy of men within androcentrism. On the other side of the spectrum are the symbols of the glasses and the newspaper, both associated with the man. The glasses and the newspaper are symbolic of intelligence, one of “the ‘regimes of truth’ associated with masculinity in the United States” according to Shaw and Lee in Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Shaw and Lee 125). As Jackson Katz says in Tough Guise, “an important part of masculinity is the very performance of it… Masculinity is a pose, a performance” (Tough Guise 2). There is a high importance of the posing of masculinity in society because of the gender ranking of the man over the women, therefore masculinity over femininity, which directly links to the concept of androcentrism.
In relationship to the image’s need to sell as an advertisement, there is definitely an appeal to the need to be physically attractive, the need to feel good about ourselves, and the need to have status. These needs collectively contribute to defining the purpose of the advertisement in respect to its intended audience. The need to be physically attractive is avidly shown by the perfectly photoshopped man and woman, especially the woman, who is displaying every inch of her body for inspection, an indisputable display of misogyny through the aspect of respect for women as individuals. The advertisement for the suit itself also plays a role with the need to be physically attractive, since the suit is what apparently makes the man so attractive that he has a naked woman at his surrender, which completely depicts the man’s place within androcentrism. There is also a need to feel good about ourselves expressed, but only if “ourselves” is for men exclusively. In U.S. culture, there is a sense of pride among men for having the capability of looking attractive and for having a woman at their dispense or under their control, socially expressed by saying that the man has a woman “by his side”, although the woman is obviously of lesser importance than the man, an obvious illustration of androcentrism. This needed pride in order to feel good about themselves in exemplified by having the suit. There is an extreme display of the need to have status written all over this image.
In this picture, status means having control over a woman, an exaggeration, but still the essence, of androcentrism. This status is shown through the degradation of the woman, a key tactic in misogyny, through the relationship between the man and the woman in regards of symbolism, interactions between the characters, and the overall dehumanization of the woman.
As exhibited through Tom Ford’s advertisement, androcentrism and misogyny are enforced by the visual elements of the advertisement, the story that it sells, and the basic human needs that it portrays toward its intended audience. The need of sex in advertising, mostly degrading women, has gone erratic. In the words of Adweek journalist David Wallis, “marketers flash young women’s breasts to hawk everything from chicken wings and cars to fishing line and, of course, magazine issues” (Wallis). This exhibition of the degrading depictions of women in the media further embodies the persisting need for feminism in our culture. Androcentrism and misogyny are still very much existent in today’s world and need to be eradicated.
Richardson, Terry. Tom Ford Menswear Ad. 2010. Tom Ford. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.<http://www.moodiranje.com/wp-content/uploads/tomford-sexist-ad.jpg>.
Shaw, Susan M., and Janet Lee. Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015. Print.
Tough Guise 2. Dir. Jeremy Earp. A Media Education Foundation Production, 2013. Film.
Wallis, David. “The Breast of Advertising: From Hooters to the cover of ‘Time’, does the strategy sell or repel?” Adweek. 4 Jun. 2012. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.<http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/breast-advertising-140889>.
“Women’s History in America.” Women’s International Center. Bionic Sisters Productions, 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. < http://www.wic.org/misc/history.htm>.