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“Sexy” according to Victoria’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret has released this year’s list of the sexiest womenin 18 categories. Alongside the obvious, 16 of the 21 women are blond, er “blond.” Maybe 15.  Whatever. Have at it in the comments.

Also, Britney’s back? When did that happen?

Thanks to Dolores R.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Victoria’s Secret Says to Love Your Photoshopped Body

Katrin discovered a particularly ironic bit of photoshopping.  The first picture is of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley on a photo shoot, the second is her ad for the Victoria’s Secret “I Love My Body” ad campaign.  Notice that the body she is supposedly loving has significantly less more cleavage than the body we see in the first photo.  Apparently even models’ bodies are unlovable without re-touching (or surgery?).

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The SocImages Re-Touching/Photoshop Collection

We’re cultivating a Pinterest page featuring revealing examples of re-touching and photoshop.  Here are our nineteen newest contributions, borrowed from JezebelBuzzfeed, and Photoshop Disasters.

12 3 4 5 628 9 10 11 12

Perfect without a belly button (ebay); Lindsey Lohan once also had a mighty migrating belly button:

1

Terrifying proportions (Westfield Mall):

2

And Good Housekeeping too:
5

Take care with the placement of that right hip (Victoria’s Secret):

4

Let us count the ways (Speigel, Victoria’s Secret, and Laffy Taffy via Photoshop Disaster):

7 6 3

See our full Pinterest page here.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

From Our Archives: Love Your Body Day

It’s Love Your Body day!  Below is a Hall of Fame and a Hall of Shame.  The second set of posts reveal just what we’re up against, but the first set is a salve, a celebration of all of our beautifully diverse and interesting bodies.  You choose what will amp you up today,  but don’t miss this year’s SocImages Pick: Kara Kamos on the total irrelevance of beauty.

The Hall of Fame

Disability
Body Types
Gender
Race/Ethnicity/Color

The Hall of Shame

Body Types
Hair
Transsexuality
Heightism
Disability
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Prison Labor and Taxpayer Dollars

American companies that once looked to places like Mexico and China for cheap labor are bringing those jobs back to the U.S.  Why? Because prison labor is much, much cheaper.  Paid between 93¢ and $4.73 per day, and collecting no benefits, prisoners are a cheap labor source for about 100 companies (source).

What does this have to do with you?

If you have insurance, invest, use utilities, have a bank, drive a car, send a child to school, go to a dentist, call service centers, fly on planes, take prescription drugs, or use paper, you might be benefiting from prison labor.

If you’ve bought products by or from Starbucks, Nintendo, Victoria’s Secret, JC Penney, Sears, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Eddie Bauer, Wendy’s, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Fruit of the Loom, Motorola, Caterpiller, Sara Lee, Quaker Oats, Mary Kay, or Microsoft, you are part of this system.

When prisoners are in state and federal prisons, the U.S. taxpayer is subsidizing low wages and corporate profits, since they are paying for prisoners’ room, board, and health care.  When prisoners are in private prisons, prison labor is a way to make more money off of the human beings caught in the corrections industry.  In other words, prison labor is an efficient way for corporations to continue to increase their profits without sharing those gains with their employees.

For an extensive list of the companies contracting prison labor, click here.  You might also find interesting the video clips, embedded in this news story, of promotional videos by prison corporations that attempt to sell the idea of prison labor to companies:

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

From Our Archives: Love Your Body Day

The Hall of Fame

Disability
Body Types
Gender
Race/Ethnicity/Color

The Hall of Shame

Body Types
Hair
Transsexuality
Heightism
Disability

Sexual Objectification (Part 1): What is It?

This is the first part in a series about how girls and women can navigate a culture that treats them like sex objects. Cross-posted at Ms.,  BroadBlogs, and Caroline Heldman’s Blog.

Around since the 1970s and associated with curmudgeonly second-wave feminists, the phrase “sexual objectification” can inspire eye-rolling. The phenomenon, however, is more rampant than ever in popular culture.  Today women’s sexual objectification is celebrated as a form of female empowerment.  This has enabled a new era of sexual objectification, characterized by greater exposure to advertising in general, and increased sexual explicitness in advertisingmagazinestelevision showsmoviesvideo gamesmusic videostelevision news, and “reality” television.

What is sexual objectification?  If objectification is the process of representing or treating a person like an object (a non-thinking thing that can be used however one likes), then sexual objectification is the process of representing or treating a person like a sex object, one that serves another’s sexual pleasure.

How do we know sexual objectification when we see it?  Building on the work of Nussbaum and Langton, I’ve devised the Sex Object Test (SOT) to measure the presence of sexual objectification in images.  I proprose that sexual objectification is present if the answer to any of the following seven questions is “yes.”

1) Does the image show only part(s) of a sexualized person’s body?
Headless women, for example, make it easy to see her as only a body by erasing the individuality communicated through faces, eyes, and eye contact:
We get the same effect when we show women from behind, with an added layer of sexual violability. American Apparel seems to be a particular fan of this approach:

2) Does the image present a sexualized person as a stand-in for an object?

The breasts of the woman in this beer ad, for example, are conflated with the cans:

Likewise, the woman in this fashion spread in Details in which a woman becomes a table upon which things are perched. She is reduced to an inanimate object, a useful tool for the assumed heterosexual male viewer:
Or sometimes objects themselves are made to look like women, like this series of sinks and urinals shaped like women’s bodies and mouths and these everyday items, like pencil sharpeners.

3) Does the image show a sexualized person as interchangeable? 
Interchangeability is a common advertising theme that reinforces the idea that women, like objects, are fungible. And like objects, “more is better,” a market sentiment that erases the worth of individual women. The image below advertising Mercedes-Benz presents just part of a woman’s body (breasts) as interchangeable and additive:

This image of a set of Victoria’s Secret models, borrowed from a previous SocImages post, has a similar effect. Their hair and skin color varies slightly, but they are also presented as all of a kind:

4) Does the image affirm the idea of violating the bodily integrity of a sexualized person that can’t consent?

This ad, for example, shows an incapacitated woman in a sexualized positionwith a male protagonist holding her on a leash. It glamorizes the possibility that he has attacked and subdued her:

5) Does the image suggest that sexual availability is the defining characteristic of the person? 

This ad, with the copy “now open,” sends the message that this woman is for sex.  If she is open for business, then she presumably can be had by anyone.

6) Does the image show a sexualized person as a commodity (something that can be bought and sold)?

By definition, objects can be bought and sold, but some images portray women as everyday commodities.  Conflating women with food is a common sub-category.  As an example, Meredith Bean, Ph.D., sent in this photo of a Massive Melons “energy” drink sold in New Zealand:
In the ad below for Red Tape shoes, women are literally for sale:

7) Does the image treat a sexualized person’s body as a canvas?

In the two images below, women’s bodies are presented as a particular type of object: a canvas that is marked up or drawn upon.

——————

The damage caused by widespread female objectification in popular culture is not just theoretical.  We now have over ten years of research showing that living in an objectifying society is highly toxic for girls and women, as is described in Part 2 of this series.

Caroline Heldman is a professor of politics at Occidental College. You can follow her at her blog and on Twitter and Facebook.

Behind the “Perfect” Body: Models and BodyBuilders

In a link sent in by Anjan G., Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima explains what she does in the months prior to walking the catwalk (source).   Here’s a summary:

  • For months before the show, she works out every day with a personal trainer; for the three weeks before, she works out twice a day.
  • A nutritionist gives her protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to help her body cope with the work out schedule.
  • She drinks a gallon of water a day.
  • For the final nine days before the show, she consumes only protein shakes.
  • Two days before the show, she begins drinking water at a normal rate; for the final 12 hours, she drinks no water at all.  She loses up to eight pounds during this time.

The result:

Lima’s training and nutrition regimen reveal that the look that is believed by some to be the epitome of feminine accomplishment — the look required to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel — is accompanied by significant physical strain.  Lima looks as she is supposed to on the runway, but she is also dehydrated and hungry.

The story reminded me of this photograph, taken by Zed Nelson.  It shows Ronnie Coleman, immediately after walking off the stage at the Mr. Olympia competition, breathing through an oxygen mask.  He would take first place.  Explaining the photograph, Nelson writes:

Oxygen administered to exhausted contestants during final round of judging. The strain of intense dieting, dehydration and muscle-flexing, places high levels of strain on the heart and lungs, rendering many contestants dizzy, light-headed and weak.

Bodybuilders often have extreme and rigid exercise and diet plans in the months preceding a contest.  In those months, a male bodybuilder’s goal is to make himself appear as strong as possible. He must balance his body’s functional needs with his aesthetic goals, and sometimes the latter wins over the former.

Male bodybuilders and female models, then, represent aesthetic extremes of masculinity and femininity, but their bodies aren’t the natural extension of male and female physicalities. Instead, achieving the look require significant sacrifice of one’s body.  In other words, they look fit and strong, but looks can be deceiving.

See also:  criticism of female body builders and the right to consume women’s beauty.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.