Sociologist Michael Kimmel and a reader named L.A. sent along a link to a fashion spread on a Bulgarian magazine’s website. It’s another example of the glamorization and sexualization of violence against women. Titled, “Victim of Beauty,” the featured photographs have absolutely nothing to offer, short of showing beautiful women who appear to have been beaten, cut, strangled, and burned. As I’ve written elsewhere:
As much as I’m bored of seeing women appear to be beaten, sick, or dead in fashion spreads, it also really feels like we must hate them. Why else? Why else this constant glorification of their abuse?
I’m going to show one image and throw the rest behind the jump. They’re very disturbing (e.g., women with slit throats and more). Take a morbid tour, if you like, through more examples of violence against women in fashion: the fear and suffering of women as a sexual turn on, dead and deadish ladies in fashion (here, here, and here), ads with women looking supremely uncomfortable, Asian bondage fantasies, two more examples of the sexy black eye trope, and gulf oil spill themed-examples (here, and here).
Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Michael Ahlers — July 6, 2012
I have no idea what the text reads, but are we sure this glamorizes or sexualizes the violence? My initial reaction could not have been more different. I thought the title, "Victim of Beauty," and the associated image was meant to call my attention to the problem of violence against women—however misguided the method may be.
Tom Megginson — July 6, 2012
I was just writing about the cultural context of women with violent facial wounds in another ad:
Thanks for this. I linked back to your post.
myblackfriendsays — July 6, 2012
Jesus. I guess they're trying to be provocative?
Miss_Led — July 6, 2012
...And if you are reading “abuse”, it is in your head, not ours...
They are actually denying this depicts abuse, and saying it is "all in your head" if you think it does. Breathtaking. Amazing example of the culture of rape/abuse in action. Very crazy-making to victims of abuse, too.
Act Ronin — July 6, 2012
My daughter, a 15 year old baseball player, sustained a massive black eye in a game (with half of her face swollen up twice its size), and without shedding a tear continued to play through the entire game. In the baseball yearbook, this event entitled her to a large photo of her face with the caption, "The toughest kid in baseball." Now that is the kind of black eye we should all be aware of, and celebrate.
m Andrea — July 6, 2012
The abuser, the one who did this to them, is left out of the picture. Let’s put him back in:
“Victims of beauty” suggests that the reason these women deserve to
be abused BY MEN is because they are conventionally attractive TO MEN.
Elena — July 6, 2012
The "Glasgow Smile" picture specially interesting: in Japan, one of the most well-known urban legends is the one of the "Kuchisake Onna" or "Slit-Mouth Woman". The older versions had as the protagonist a woman whose samurai lover cut her face, but newer ones (from the 1970s onward, when the legend grew again in popularity) have the Kuchisake Onna be a victim of a botched aesthetic surgery.
In all versions, the Kuchisake Onna (a woman with long loose hair, a trenchcoat and a face mask that every Japanese wears when they get a cold) approaches her victims and asks them "Am I pretty?", and then reveals her face. If the person she asks replies wrongly (yells in horror, that sort of thing), she takes a pair of scissors from her pocket and cuts their face, too. The right replies vary from retelling to retelling, and range from "Yes, you're pretty" to "You're so-so" to "Pommade" (because the doctor who left her face like that used hair pommade).
Anyway, there's this basic element of punishing the hubris of a woman who wants to be more beautiful by unnatural means by making her hideous, and being disfigured being so horrible a fate that you turn in your infinite anger into a vengeful ghost in order to take your revenge on innocent bystanders.
(And that's the difference between Japanese ghost tales and Western ghost tales. Western ghost tales end with women being made victims. Japanese ghost tales begin with women being made victims, and then their ghosts killing dozens of people in revenge. I've always felt that if the Japanese had made their version of Madame Butterfly, it would have ended up just like the legends of Oiwa or Okiku)
Yunnan Chen — July 6, 2012
This is disturbing on so many levels. The immaculately made-up models. The tagline and its implication. And the fact the magazine seem completely immune to any kind of introspection to what they're propagating adds to it.
"Hey, you know what people love looking at these days? Beaten-up sexy women, mm mmm"
Hanna — July 6, 2012
If this was a guy in the photograph, no one would care. Maybe the uproar over these photos is a little sexist, hm?
Frederick Levy — July 6, 2012
Don't google the new Tomb Raider...
Naomic3 — July 6, 2012
They titled the spread Victim. Of. Beauty. They are the ones that linked beauty (females, because men are not "beautiful" in western culture usually) and victimization. A victim has a victimizer, whether it be abuser or (in the Japanese myth shared below) a botched surgery. A victim indicates powerlessness. Here, the powerless are beautiful women, so who has the power? Someone violent and brutal. And by the types of wounds, sadistic. A zombie or animal would not inflict careful slits or black eyes, thought-out burns or broken noses. These publishers know what they're trying to sell, and as repulsive as that is, the shrug and "it's all in YOUR head" attitude is what's really sickening.
Luis Montero — July 6, 2012
What i find utterly disturbing is not just de representation of violence depicted, it's something else, kind of a deeper violence: it's that they all share a common trend: all these women look anorexic. Which is a violence we somehow must asume as rightful.
(Sorry for the misspellings, but English is not my mother language)
Xavier AM — July 6, 2012
Dear Sociological Images: Please stop being so prudishly sex negative and bigoted against the BDSM culture / fetish iconography. The lure of the visceral has been with us forever, and if people want to get off on it - mutually and consensually - then hooray to them for finding somebody to be happy with in the world. Nobody needs another voice of guilt and shame telling them that their sexuality is wrong.
Because violence against women is art. :/ « The Ramblings of a Black Feminist — July 6, 2012
[...] http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/07/06/the-sexy-black-eye-its-ugly-relatives-trigger-warnin... Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]
Tusconian — July 6, 2012
As for the response on the website: why can't it be all of those things? They are beautiful girls, in well-done special-effects makeup, photographed by photographers. I think it also displays some sort of violence against women (I am having a hard time seeing it as simply domestic violence, but it's definitely a sexualized violence against women). I think it would be much more provocative and shocking if that was the point. "Even these women you perceive as beautiful and having cushy lives are at risk of violence" or something would be an interesting concept. Instead, it's "well, you're just CHOOSING to see that." Same old, same old.
Koldpurple — July 7, 2012
Those photos are absolutely disgusting!
Lizzie Ousby — July 7, 2012
This is not 'shockingly good special effects makeup' there is a lack of continuity, if the girls had suffered this much damage they wouldn't have perfect makeup or hair for a start, the special effects makeup concentrate on one small area, kind of like an uninspired drawing floating in the middle of the page... and it doesn't look like some kind of meaningful juxtaposition... just... not very well planned out. judging it purely on whether it's a good photo shoot or not I would say absolutley not. Also their comments are pretty sickening, I would prefer it if these kind of images were being produced alongside a campaign for awreness and prevention of violence against women.
spiderbright — July 7, 2012
There aren's enought curses in the English (or any other) language to express how utterly outrageous and upsetting I find that response posted at the end of the article.
"It's in your head." Yeah, 'cause we all live in a vacuum totally void of images depicting violence against women, and not at all inundated by them on a daily basis, used to shock and titillate and advertise everything from shoes to shaving cream. And women obviously aren't the majority of domestic violence victims, so why would any woman find these contextless images of injured women triggering?
It's all in our heads, ladies!
vorodecky — July 7, 2012
This is the first time that I even hear about this magazine... and I am from Bulgaria.
What the effing ef?
And the context is extra sad... the home abuse laws were accepted in 2008 (or 2009).
So... honestly, not surprised by this at all, but so horrifyingly idiotic.
“Жертви на красотата” « It Looks Like A Feminist Blog — July 7, 2012
[...] фотосесия, основно са разкритикувани тук, тук, тук, тук, тук, тук, тук и [...]
skilletfreako — July 7, 2012
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? Those are the most horrible and disgusting images I've ever seen!
Village Idiot — July 7, 2012
Quoting the weak rationale for the spread:Well that’s the thing, isn’t it? We didn’t explain our meaning,
making it possible for everyone to read what they want. And if you are
reading “abuse”, it is in your head, not ours. We see beautiful
girls, shockingly good special effects makeup, and great photography.
That is the defense of a classic Narcissist (with sociopathic tendencies) when confronted about their pathological handiwork. If they do something fucked-up, it's your fault.
If it's so gosh darned artistic then why is it yet another rehash of a tired old cliche'? This spread has all the hallmarks of nihilistic adolescents with entitlement issues trying to shock their court-appointed therapists. Sad and boring is what it is; art can be so much more than shoving turds in people's faces to watch them wince (well, not art from these guys, anyway).
mimimur — July 9, 2012
Obviously the special effects make up would have to look like something in order to be Shockingly Good. Who the hell do they think they're fooling?
Andrew — July 9, 2012
Lisa sees violence being glamorized, I see glamour being subverted with violence. For those who think that all associations between the carnal and carnage need to be eliminated from culture, that's not an important distinction. But to me it is.
The typical and invisible way to glamorize violence is to render it glibly and stylistically, driving a wedge of indifference between the viewer and the victim, and encouraging us to identify with the perpetrator(s). What's being done here I wouldn't categorize the same way; we aren't shown any of the implied violent acts, have no connection to the perpetrators, and are forced to look directly into the eyes at the victims and confront something grotesque and disturbing.
Whatever the artists' intentions (which magazine editors are never good ambassadors for, by the way), I think the work holds up well to being read as a comment on the absurdity of the "glamour" aesthetic, in which makeup, lighting, and ridiculous instructions ("empty your face!") conspire to display models as utterly vacant, passive ciphers. The contrast between the makeup, which convincingly depicts visceral pain and suffering, and the generic facial expressions may ring as hollow deadpan irony, but it's satire nonetheless.
Of course, you may interpret it differently, and you may find it not to your taste. Certainly, many people here do. But if there is an argument to be made against a photograph, what is it in favor of?
Cool_chick_ia — July 9, 2012
For people arguing for/against BDSM issues and claiming that this is not necessarily portraying domestic abuse. I just have two questions:
VICTIM of BEAUTY? and WHY WOMEN??? What is the purpose, the value, the aesthetic in these horribly graphic pictures? Why are they VICTIMS of beauty? And why is this kind of violence always portrayed with women as the subjects?
teknohed — July 10, 2012
I have a fairly large facial scar that covers a large part of my right cheek. As disgusting as THESE pictures are I often long to see models with dramatic facial scars become a bit more normalized and less fetishized. Not sure what that says about me.
discordia » Apropå våldtäktskultur — July 13, 2012
[...] av koppling använder sig av. Modefotografer har en tendens att koppla sex, mord och våld med vackra kvinnor på ett riktigt obehagligt [...]
Phire Walk With Me | Weekly Link Round-Up — July 18, 2012
‘Victim of Beauty’ (Graphic) « augustation — July 22, 2012
[...] ‘Victim of Beauty’ (Graphic) Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]
Noa — August 23, 2012
In all honesty, nothing about the photographs themselves read as abuse to me (with maybe the exceptions of the black eye and the wounded nose, probably because I've had it acculturated in me that those only and always result from domestic abuse). Disturbing, yes, but disturbing is a perfectly valid stylistic choice.
I'm especially confused about how this could be sexualising violence in a photoset consisting exclusively of heads and necks. And a pair of shoulders.
We can complain about the title or argue over whether it's beautiful or terrible art, but that doesn't really merit the suggested comparison to the 'morbid tour'.
discordia » Cyberpunk-trailern — January 18, 2013
[...] är en halvnaken brud gör så klart sitt till. För er som inte är medvetna om det så är kvinnor som dött och/ eller misshandlats supersexiga i modevärlden (triggervarning, MYCKET grafiska bilder). Jag tycker Cyberpunktrailern touchar på lite av de [...]
Headless | Coffee Black, Tea with Milk. — February 22, 2013
[...] bondage, and other awkwardness and murder-type misogyny that I associate with fashion shoots (see here, here, and here for more *trigger warning*…). These pictures tell a story. It [...]
Renee — November 26, 2014
Maybe these 2 have a connection.
The troll — November 26, 2016
The split lip and bruised eye look is a classic, and very erotic. We're a product of our shared evolutionary heritage - it's primal, and as long as you're not actually going out and committing these crimes, there's nothing wrong with looking at a photoshoot