Search results for high heels

Last night some friends and I were on the Strip here in Vegas and wandered over to look at City Center, the new casino/very high-end shopping center/”walkable city within a city” that was such a big deal when it opened recently that national news outlets, including NPR, talked about it. Anyway, we were wandering around and came upon a lingerie store with this mannequin in the window:

She’s blindfolded, handcuffed, on her knees. Another mannequin was also blindfolded, with ties around her ankles, and a third had a long pearl necklace wrapped around her neck and then tied around each wrist.

Our reaction was, basically, “Agh! Agh! WTF? Why?!?” We all, men and women alike, interpreted it as an icky depiction of sexual domination of women, perhaps even violence.

But of course, there’s another way to interpret it, particularly given that it’s a lingerie store: as consensual participation in S&M/bondage or sexual role-playing.

I still can’t shake off my initial feeling. We often see implied, or obvious, violence toward or sexual harassment of women as marketing or entertainment (see the trailer for the movie Bounty Hunter, vintage Betty Crocker ad, PSA for labeling cleaning products, violence against women in prime time, ad for CSI, t-shirt to show team spirit, ad for shoelaces, Lanvin ads, trailer for Dead Girl, Barney’s window display showing splattered blood and mannequins under attack, is stalking romantic?, trailer for Observe and Report, Rene Russo photo shoot, ha ha! She wasn’t being beaten!, “going in for the kill has never been so satisfying”, oops, I strangled a woman, and…oh, there are many more, but I don’t have time to link to them all). It seems naive to think that people can see mannequins posed like this and completely disconnect them from other portrayals of women bound, gagged, dead, sexually assaulted, etc., that are meant to be funny or sexy.

But it also seems problematic to dismiss the idea that in at some situations, such as this one, the situation could be consensual S&M. Allusions to at least light bondage has become more common in pop culture, particularly handcuffs as a sexy prop (sometimes used for laughs if one partner ends up handcuffing the other to something and then robbing them, stealing their clothes, etc.). Yet those who participate in S&M are also often stigmatized as sexual deviants.

But then, how do we think about S&M/bondage given that the sexual norms common in the U.S. include the idea of female sexual passivity and submission? Is this mannequin problematic in any way even if the store meant to invoke the idea of sexual role-playing?

I am confounded by this. The mannequin creeps me out. I don’t like it. But I’m sure many people can make eloquent arguments against my reaction, or how we approach the various issues involved. So what to make of this mannequin, readers? Help me out.

NEW! (Mar. ’10): SOM sent in this photo of the display in the window of the shoe store Sole Experience in Edmonton, Alberta, that shows a woman in high heels with her feet bound. This image, to me, seems to more clearly imply violence than the one above, possibly because of the use of rope rather than handcuffs, which are associated with sex role-playing:


Caroline J. sent in a link to an anti-rape campaign in Scotland title This Is Not an Invitation to Rape Me. The campaign includes various posters with commentary on the myths associated with them. Some examples of the posters (the second one might not be safe for work, so after the jump):



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April last year:  This fascinating Italian anti-immigrant poster suggests that, if immigration to Italy is allowed, immigrants will persecute the native Italians like U.S. colonizers did American Indians.  It’s a pretty amazing tactic.

NEWLY ENRICHED POSTS (bottom of post may not be safe for work!):

Total Drek revised an xkcd cartoon on the difference between causation and correlation.  So we added it to our original post.


Sex sells ‘n stuff:

Sarah Haskins makes fun of euphemistic references to female genitalia.  We added her video to our post on our efforts to avoid using the real terms.  

Related to discomfort with women’s genitalia, Taylor D. sent in a link to even more vintage ads for Lysol as a douche, which we added to this post.

We added a vintage ad to our sex sells post.  This one tells men that if they don’t buy Firestone tires, they won’t get laid.  Women?  Well I guess they don’t drive.  

Also in sex sells, we updated our post on the sexualization of food, this time with a Max Factor ad and a not-to-be-missed Hardee’s commercial featuring Padma Lakshmi having quite the sensual experience with a bacon burger (scroll all the way to the bottom). 

We also added another image to our post with examples of sex as “scoring.”

Now to sperm: We added three more images affirming the idea that we were all once a mighty sperm (eggs, apparently, just add nutrition, if that) to this post on the weird ways in which sperm are socially constructed.  In one of them, a condom ad suggests that one condom could have prevented the holocaust by dressing a sperm up as Hitler.  Another example dates back to the beginning of the idea in 1694.


On race and ethnicity:

We added material to two posts in our series on how and why people of color are included in ads aimed at white people.  First, we added a set of photographs taken by Joshua B. at Office Max to our post showing how people of color are often portrayed as being more, eh em, colorful.  Second, we added an image to our post on how people of color are literally background or arranged so that the focal point (visually or through action) is the white person or people in the ad.

We added images of sculptures that comically/stereotypically (depending on your point of view) represent European countries to this post about stereotyping nationalities. The installation was supposedly by 27 different artists, but it turns out to be a hoax; all of them were created by a single Czech artist.

Also in ethnic stereotypes, we added a cartoon from Life magazine suggesting that monkeys are insulted by being given Irish names.  We added it to our collection of anti-Irish sentiment from the 1800s.

And visit this post to see our newest example of using the notion of the “savage” to sell in the 1950s.

Miguel sent us an image of a “White” Obama, which we added to our post that asks “What do Black and White look like, anyway?”

Philip D. sent us a set of Crown Royal ads that reportedly target a “general” and a specifically African American audience, respectively, which we added to our post about marketing products to different groups. 

On gender: 

Elizabeth M. sent us a link to fashion designer Nina Ricci’s new line of shoes.  They’re high high HIGH heels!  We added it to some other real hobblers here

Women cannot be counted on to hold it together in the face of low calorie sweets… or at least that’s what another commercial tells us. 

Ben O. sent us a link to a company that makes pink protective gear for female construction workers.  We added it to our post featuring pink handcuffs for cops.  

There’s now another image up from the Evan Williams bourbon “The Longer You Wait” ad campaign

Keely W. sent in a link to the new Fling candy bar, just for girls.  We added it to our post on gendered candy marketing.

The Daily Show spoofed the obsession with Michelle Obama’s clothes.  Andrea G. sent in the link and we added it to our collection of examples of this obsession.  We also added a picture of the cover of a new book: Michelle Style: Celebrating the First Lady of Fashion.

We added a picture of a sink that looks like a woman’s lower half to our post about urinals shaped like women’s bodies

And, finally, does a month go by where we don’t update our BOOBS! post?  Rarely.  This time, though, we’ve got something special: Jezebel offered us a photo essay of a boob shaped milk cartoon, from fridge to trashcan.  Visit our updated post here (scroll to the bottom) and enjoy this teaser:


In the Girl and Boy Scouts, merit badges represent the acquisition of skills and knowledge.  Artist Mary Yaeger tries to draw attention to the skills and knowledge that girls and women in America aquire, whether they be scouts or not, with her own set of embroidered merit badges. They feature things like tolerating menstrual cramps, shaving armpits, taking the birth control pill, suffering through gyn exams, using mascara and lipstick, learning how to walk in high heels, wearing sexy underwear, and more.

The project nicely reminds us that women have to work hard to appear properly feminine, as well as the unique things we experience as women.

Via Jezebel.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a Visiting Scholar at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming Introduction to Sociology text. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The New York Times has a fascinating peak into marketing logic.  The team at Frito Lay discovered that women prefer to snack on veggies and fruit, but that didn’t deter them.  They’re on a mission to sell more chips to the ladies. 

Through market research, they discovered that women feel guilty.  A lot.  The article reads:

Though Frito-Lay had often tried advertising snacks as guilt-free, this led to the conclusion that “we’re not going to alleviate her guilt,” Ms. Nykoliation said. “This is something in her life. So the question for us was, how do we not trip her guilt?”

Part of the strategy was to follow the success of SunChips by toning down the packaging and showing off healthy ingredients in the snacks.

“She wants a reminder that she’s eating something better for her,” Mr. Jones said.

Baked Lay’s will no longer be in a shiny yellow bag, but in a matte beige bag that displays pictures of the ingredients like spices or ranch dressing.

So Frito Lay is attempting a guilt-detour.  You don’t have to justify eating the bad-for-you-chips because they’re good-for-you-chips.  The bag is a natural color instead of neon orange and there are actual food stuffs on the front instead of a Cheetah! 


(image via)

This is a nice example of the appeal to nature as a marketing strategy.  Of all of the marketing strategies out there designed to make us buy things that we don’t need and perhaps don’t even want, I suppose this is rather innocuous (though I could argue that it makes it more difficult for us to actually evaluate what foods are and are not “natural”).

Alongside this makeover, Frito-Lay is also starting a website and animated cartoon serial designed to appeal to women.  I’ve embedded the “trailer” below.  Notice how it affirms the idea that women are obsessed with food and their weight, at the same time that it is carefully crafted so as to encourage women to “cheat.”  As the woman in the video says about her cookie: “So if I eat it standing up, it doesn’t count right?”  And her friend replies: “Absolutely.”  Everyone knows that it still “counts,” but when the one friend eggs on the other, we all feel more comfortable “cheating.”   Frito Lay foods for everyone!

So the commercial reproduces the stereotype that women are boy crazed whiners with a deranged relationship to food and an embarassing obsession with shoes.  [By the way, Gwen and I are, like, totally like this.  It’s amazing we even have time to be sociologists, what with all the traipsing around in high heels, discussing diet fads, and oogling cute boys!]

Okay, so it reproduces rather repugnant ideas about women.  What’s the harm?

On the first day of Sociology of Gender I ask students to introduce themselves and answer a few questions including:  “Are you a stereotypical man or woman?  Why or why not?”  Inevitably the majority of students will say that they do not conform to the stereotype, that they both do and do not have characteristics associated with it, that they display human characteristics, not just ones associated with their sex.  I then ask them:  “What percentage of your friends and family fit the stereotype?”  They respond similarly.  I follow up: “How many of you regularly find yourself starting sentences with ‘Women are so…’ and ‘Men are so…’?”  They all raise their hands.

 This, I suggest, is interesting.  Gender stereotypes don’t come from us and aren’t validated by our actual experiences.  Yet, we still talk as if they were true.   If we don’t affirm the stereotype, where do they come from and why do we believe that they are true?

Well, here’s part of the answer: We know what men and women are like because we are constantly told what women and men are like.   This Frito Lay campaign is one source of this particular stereotype about women; more can be found here, here, here, here, herehere, here, and here.

Another question, and one I’d love to know the answer to, is:  Why is it that, when cultural messages and actual experiences contradict each other, we come out endorsing the cultural messages?

Elizabeth recently posted about an ad for Motrin that suggested that you should take pain medicine so as to keep walking in pain-inducing high heels.  The message was, essentially, “Suffer for fashion, ladies!  Motrin will help!”  I wanted to discuss, also, this second ad in their series (found here) and an anonymous commenter egged me on:


They start off saying that how mothers make decisions about how to carry their infants according to what is in style (“Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion”).  They then point out that what is currently in fashion is painful for mothers.  But, of course, moms are going to do it anyway, because the sacrifice is for the child (“It’s a good kind of pain, it’s for my kid”).  But also about fashion!  And about how in-fashion it is to be a mom!  (“Plus it totally makes me look like an official mom”).

The ad trivializes motherhood (threatening to reduce it to fashion), equating it, in a sense, to the high heels in the other ad.  At the same time, it legitimizes suffering in the service of your child, which reinforces the ideology of intensive mothering that has ramped up the must-haves and must-dos of mothering like never before in human history.

The good news is that Motrin pulled this ad campaign and has apologized after bloggers took them to task.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a Visiting Scholar at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming Introduction to Sociology text. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Motrin shows ads on the sides of bus shelters in the Boston metro area. Here’s one, which says, “High heels…when you strut, we feel your pain.”

"When you strut, we feel your pain."

Another ad in the series says, “30-pound stroller…when you lift, we feel your pain.” I can only find these 2 examples so far, and it seems they are both gendered feminine, associated with a shoe style worn almost exclusively by women and with an activity [stroller use = child care] connoted as feminine.

As always, we are busy behind the scenes.  Here are some of the posts we have enhanced over the course of this bizarre election month:

We added several images to this post about the media’s sexualization of Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin, as well as another image to this post about the “Drill Baby, Drill” t-shirt featuring McCain doing Palin doggy-style (which we thought, for some reason, merited its own post).

We added an interview with the creators of Obama Waffles to the post about “On the Campaign Trail.”

We have a fantastic collection of ads that demonstrate how white standards of beauty are applied to black women.  In them, the black and white women look almost identical.  We added another couple ads for Maybelline where “diversity” looks surprisingly like twins.  Scroll to the bottom here.

We added two more examples to our lists of ways in which people of color are used in advertising aimed at white people: to associate the product with a racial stereotype and to signify human variation

Ben O. had another image of a scale conflating health and weight.  We added it to our other example here.

We added two new images to this post about the frequently contradictory messages we get about eating healthier. The first image shows a sticker on a vending machine encouraging people to make healthy choices about what to eat. The second shows a picture of the products actually for sale in the vending machine, which don’t exactly provide consumers with a panoply of healthy options.

We added three new images to our post on The Frightened Sperm.  One is a cartoon depicting Michael Phelps as the winning sperm, one is a clip from The Family Guy showing Stewie in a spermship, and the last depicts an egg actively guiding some sperm while providing barriers to others.  Thanks to commenters Noumenon, MW, and Ranah respectively for these images!

We added another vintage douche ad (this one for a douche made from Lysol).  Thanks to Holly Mac. for this one!

We added another image of sexualized food to this post, this time the cow used to advertise Skinny Cow ice cream (scroll all the way to the bottom). Thanks to Blanca for pointing it out!

We added to this post about how Dove, a brand with the much-touted “Real Woman” ad campaign, and Axe, a brand marketed to men using highly sexualized images of women, are both manufactured by Unilever. The new content is a link to a post from Moment of Choice about a woman’s experience auditioning before a panel of men for one of the Dove commercials.

We added another image in our post about the Declare Yourself ad campaign, which we initially discussed in the context of Jessica Alba’s appearance in one of the ads.

To our post showing re-touching of celebrities, we added a link to a photo gallery comparing photos of celebrities to their Photoshopped images on magazine covers.  See it here.

Regarding how girls are socialized to think of themselves as high-maintenance divas, we added another image here.


We combined two posts about Heelarious, a company making high heels for infants, into one post.

We consolidated two posts about policing masculinity that included Snickers ads featuring Mr. T into one post, found here.


We added another class assignment, this one by Alicia Revely.  Read it along with our other class assignments.