The "Fashion & Style" section of Today's New York Times features a story about the Juergen Teller photographs Marc Jacobs uses for advertising purposes. The ads are unlike ordinary fashion ads because the photographs are raw, overexposed and kind of mysterious. Cathy Horyn writes, "Buying something from Marc Jacobs is like joining a club. Of course, that can be a turnoff to some people, but that would matter only if Mr. Jacobs sought a justification for the ads, one beyond their ability to inspire and provoke. And since some of the ads barely show the clothes, clearly he is not." Of the new ads starring Victoria Beckham, Horyn says "Instead of looking like a glamorous celebrity, she has been rendered as an abstraction, a living doll." Fun, right? Over on Feministing, Courtney E. Martin finds those ads severely troubling. In fact, she suggests that we all boycott Marc Jacobs.
"On the one hand, I'm almost relieved that Beckham is owning the fact that she's selling herself as a product," Martin explains. "It's what so many of today's vacuous celebrities are doing anyway." But:
On the other hand, it all makes me sick. We've moved beyond 'the male gaze" and objectification; now girls can grow up worshiping Victoria in her painfully tall stilettos and aspiring to be seen as a "living doll," an inhuman product. Beyond the classic advertising trope of cutting women into pieces, this ad campaign also seems to suck the real life right out of them. Please, please, please boycott Marc Jacobs.
So many of you will say, "I can't afford Marc Jacobs anyway." Not the point. The heart of this issue is the use of a woman as an object. Sure, Victoria Beckham objectifies herself — and admits to it — but is it detrimental to our gender? There was a time when women were actually treated like objects, like property to be transferred; like a doll to be dressed up and adored — but meant to be beautiful and silent, passive and a being whose intellect and emotions were irrelevant. Have we come far enough that it's fun and fashionable to treat a woman like an inanimate object? If there was a photo of woman in a bag with only her legs sticking out on the cover of Playboy or Maxim, would we think it sexist? (Think about that famous 1978 Hustler cover.) Do we forgive Juergen Teller, Marc Jacobs and Posh Spice for this ad because it's "cool"?