Sociological Images owes a great debt to Jean Kilbourne, a pioneer in the feminist critique of advertising.  She’s most famous, probably, for her video series, Killing Us Softly.

In those videos, she offers a typology of ways that women are subordinated in media content.  One of those is silencing.  Sometimes this means actually covering a woman’s mouth (forcibly, but also playfully), other times copy simply says that she need not (or shouldn’t) speak.  Below are a series of images we’ve collected that illustrate this.  Some of them are dated, but they give you an idea of what the mechanism of silencing looks like.

Canada’s Next Top Model (Cycle 3), sent along by Julie C., included a photoshoot in which the models’ mouths were covered with duct tape.

Erin S. sent in a link to a set of fashion photos in New York Magazine that show faceless women.

Reanimated Horse sent us an American Apparel ad in which the woman’s body is highlighted but her face is obscured:


The next two ads are examples of one’s that suggest that women need not speak, that products can speak for them.

“Eye contact is speaking without words”:

“Make a statement without saying a word”:

Finally, Sarah B. sent along a form of resistance to these kinds of images.  Colin von Heuring, who just started a brand new blog on media subversion, saw an ad with the copy  “You don’t need words to make a statement.”  He decided to “ma[k]e it explicit” (original on the left, modified on the right):

For more on Jean Kilbourne and the subordination of women in advertising, here’s the trailer to Killing Us Softly 4:

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.