Gee, I Wonder Why You Choose To Look Like You Want To Get Raped

In this article, Leslie Goldman writes about that American Apparel billboard ad, with the woman with her back to the camera, her legs spread out, in which someone has cheekily sprayed the words “Gee, I wonder why women get raped”, the question mark between her thighs.
She criticizes the practise of using sex to sell, which is of course always demeaning to women. It all goes well until she says that the picture in question was the self-portrait of a real woman, implying that that kind of makes it ok. The author-model is quoted saying

“the fact that some people chose to project ‘victim’ onto that image — an image that I took of myself — is only an indication of their own distorted perceptions about women and sexuality.”

It’s good to know that no woman in the whole history of human kind has ever contributed to her own oppression, de-humanization, sexual abuse, and the like. Really, it is good to know. No woman has ever stayed with an abusive husband. I tell you, the minute a man was raising his hand upon his wife she would be at the door stopping a taxi. And no woman has ever contributed to promote her inferior status. This is why generations of mothers would raise their girls in politics and science, convinced that this would make their daughters more attractive to potential husbands. Oh, and a woman has never, ever presented herself as a piece of meat because, say, she would be able to get food that way. Also, the minute that women the world over realized that they should have the right to vote that men have been enjoying for centuries, they all leapt to their feet and became suffragettes. Not one woman opposed the suffragette movement, not a single one.
Serious, now. Following patriarchy’s well defined path for a woman’s life is rewarding. Pandering the patriarchy is more rewarding still. There’s nothing men like more than a woman who actively embraces her inferiority status; and nothing titillates men more than a woman who loves to present herself as a sex object. This is why whatever a woman chooses to do is NOT OK simply by the fact that she’s a woman and she’s choosing. Because she’s not free to choose. None of us really is, when the price of deviating from that chosen path is so high.

To that model who has chosen so freely and, may I add, wisely, I would say:

1) It’s indeed your right to present yourself as sex on legs to all men in New York who could potentially see the ad. Really it is. The message you are giving with you body, as “dude from company” has said is “Here’s my arse, fork me”. Just one thing. When and if a man spots you walking down the street, recognizes your arse and demands the sex you so eagerly offered, you should have to comply without a peep.
2) Would you have the kindness to present yourself as sex on legs in a way that makes clear it’s only YOU the one doing the offering? Because as this ad stands, it gives the impression that everyone with a vagina in the city of New York is actually suggesting so. You see, this is how the media works, by representing the world and therefore, women in it. It would be very impolite of you to give men the impression that all women are offering up their arses, when in reality is only you. Because if men did indeed get this idea and started demanding the sex we didn’t offer well, it would be considered rape.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Thom said,

    Seems to me , also, that the woman who took this image of herself is failing to see something very important about context. The photo, framed and matted and hanging on her apartment wall, say, isn’t as likely–in my judgment–to “express” the same message as the image when it functions as a billboard advertisement. (What it might express on her apartment wall can be debated, sure, but that’s not so important as noting the distinction.)

    The reason why is obvious, and you’ve already noted it: Media instruments, such as advertising, depend crucially on the sexualization of images of women. As a consequence, viewers of the image–particularly males who are sexually attracted to women–are going to interpret the image along the lines you’ve noted. And, of course, that’s exactly what American Apparel wants us to do.

    (Have something of a love-hate relationship with A.A. Great politics when it comes to the production of clothing; lousy politics when it comes to the young, pouty, supple women populating their ads.)

    Anyway, just found the blog, and looking forward to reading more of your stuff.


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