Archive for November, 2014

350MC: PETA Advertisements

PETA appears to have a problematic relationship with women when it comes to their advertising campaigns, and people in general quite frankly.
From Holocaust pictures to dressing up as members of the Klu Klux Klan, PETA seem to believe that any publicity is good publicity, even if it’s the media and general public calling you completely degrading and inappropriate. peta-dressed-up-as-klan-members-for-this-publicity-stunt-at-the-westminster-dog-show petas-got-autism-billboard-in-newark-was-pulled-by-the-ad-company-that-hosted-it-because-of-complaintsPETA likes to shock, but while I could write a whole Symposium Presentation alone on the issues with PETA (they aren’t very nice to animals for instance), I want to focus on their relationship with women and how they treat them in their photography advertisements.

This picture was taken by Mathew Brindle, and depicts the model (Jade McSorely) being hung like a piece of meat from chains. Other than the fact that the picture looks like a Serial Killer B Movie poster, it is also degrading the model to less than human, literally branding her as a ‘piece of meat’.

Huffington Post says

PETA’s campaigns have always used the bodies of young, thin white women as a canvas of protest. Their billboard campaigns have deliberately equated women’s sexuality with animal rights, notably in their “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” and “Be An Angel for Animals” campaigns. For an organisation which campaigns against the cosmetic industries’ use of animal testing, PETA seem unwilling or unable to engage with the relationship between the fashion-beauty complex, animal testing and torture, and their own use of pornography.

PETA regularly uses violence against women in their campaigns, and in fact created a whole advertisement around the premise of a boyfriend going vegan, and in doing so breaking his girlfriends neck during sex.

The premise is quite simple: she is suffering some of the unfortunate consequences of “sex injuries such as whiplash, pulled muscles, rug burn, and even a dislocated hip” caused by “mind-blowing intercourse” since her boyfriend has become vegan. This video quite clearly correlatesviolence against women with a “healthy” sexual relationship. Whilst there areimportantdebates to be had regarding BDSM, encouraging violent sex in advertising without contextualising consent is a dangerous step to take.The attempt to make the video seem lighthearted with the girlfriend smiling at the end of the video in fact does nothing but reinforce the rape myth that women enjoy rape, and that violence between partners doesn’t count as abuse. It entirely trivialises the seriousness of rape and violence. 

The attempt to make the video seem lighthearted with the girlfriend smiling at the end of the video in fact does nothing but reinforce the rape myth that women enjoy rape, and that violence between partners doesn’t count as abuse. It entirely trivialises the seriousness of rape and violence.

a-scantily-clad-pamela-anderson-starred-in-this-ad-which-was-banned-in-montreal-because-it-was-sexistThis PETA advert with Pamela Anderson is probably one of the more famous ad campaigns they have done. PETA stands by the notion that ‘sex sells’, but the combination of sexually appealing imagery and drawing on a women as if they were a piece of meat to be cut up entirely degrades the women to less than human, something to be objectified for the male gaze.

These images reinforce rape culture by portraying women as nothing more than sex objects, less than human, and they all have the sinister undertones of violence towards women.

I will probably include PETA in my Presentation, because being able to show evidence of a whole company perpetrating rape culture under the guise of a good cause will hopefully have an impact with my audience, and make them understand the problems this kind of imagery cause in society from the consistent exposure.

PETA’s campaigns perpetuate a hyper-sexualised and hyper-masculinised culture in which women’s bodies are considered nothing more than objects. PETA have begun romanticising and eroticising violence against women with their “Stay Firm and Fresh” and “Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me” campaigns. Their relationship with the porn industry makes their targeting of children questionable. It also makes me wonder how many people PETA are converting to veganism with their campaigns, or, have they gone so far as to alienate the very people they were aiming to convert?


Having worked on a few of the weekly tasks, I think it is fair to say that my Spoken Narrative has been the strongest piece I have created, and I would like to carry this further through PHONAR (and perhaps even to Final Exhibition?).

I want to create something visual with a Narrative that documents what I spoke about in the task. I have discussed with Jonathan different ideas, and have considered how taking something so personal forward can relate to the interviews we have listened to during our lessons.

  • Fred Ritchin’s comments that the narrative you create is more important than taking the photograph makes me believe that it is more important for me to create an interesting narrative that informs people and makes them interested in the subject that worrying that the photographs are the most aesthetically amazing photographs I have ever created.
  • I can work on this project for my final exhibition, for now perfecting the narrative is more important to me.
  • Ritchin and Bleasdale seem to share similar opinions to the importance of narrative over the photograph.
  • Campbell talks about how narrative creates coherence and order in a world where that doesn’t naturally exist. We are desperate to understand and fit what we see into how the world works.
  • If I apply this to my work, creating a narrative that informs people on something that is not physically easy to represent is what is important here. If I keep the timeline I created in my Spoken Narrative and apply it to my photography, I can hopefully take viewers on a journey through the narrative that creates understanding on both an emotional level that helps me, and informs about the larger societal issues this situation is related to.
  • I want to include words in my work to give myself a level of control of how the viewer interprets the narrative. As the subject I lose a level of control by opening it up to the public eye, but I can regain some of that control by using different mediums.
  • This is something else that applies to Bleasdale and Davidmann’s interview along with Campbell’s talk.


Current Ideas

When we were asked to listen to Jill Jarman’s and Laura Ritchie’s Chello piece, I instantly thought I could create something with it.

The combination of sharp and soft chords makes me consider how I could develop a narrative using photographs, words and sounds. 

Softer notes draw people into a relaxed state, while sharp chords can be jarring and uncomfortable and make people focus.

If I applied this to a narrative, I could create something that drew people into a false sense of security, then add a level of understanding that makes them realise that the aesthetics are not the important thing here, the meaning behind it is.

I originally had the idea to create a video to the music, with self portraits showing pressure on my skin, with flashes of objects that reminded me of the moments in the moments I spoke about in my Spoken Narrative piece. However, after discussions with lecturers and peers, I decided that I didn’t have to ‘give them all the answers’, and could create something far calmer with instead a narrative undertone that draws the viewer in.

Working off the idea of having objects that relate to moments in the timeline, I thought of the idea of taking attractive, bright photographs of these objects, to make the viewer look at them and merely appreciate the aesthetic quality of the photographs. Then, towards the end of the piece (I still want this to be a video of sorts, with the music over the top) I would add in the words, to add my voice to the pictures, to explain what this relates to. I want to change the music at this point to the harsher cello sounds, though that is open for experimentations.

I am considering what words to have. I have a few options:

  1. Words from my spoken narrative, next to the image that relates to them
  2. Words that describe how these images relate to the moments and situations
  3. Statistics of sexual assault/ rape.
  4. A mixture.

A mixture of the Spoken Narrative and Statistics is appealing to me currently, as it gives me a voice about what I went through, while also adding a much needed voice to the wider reaching implications of my experience. I think that combination would be the most effective in potentially reaching out to other victims as well, and giving them a voice through this work.
I can’t claim to be the best person to be a voice for others in this situation however, hopefully, if I speak, others might have the courage to speak as well, or they might at least not feel alone with something that can completely cripple you, make you believe you are along, and make you feel like you don’t deserve a voice.

Phonar Ideas

Marcus Bleasdale Interview

Marcus Bleasdale made an interesting point on how we have to consider our audience when choosing a medium to portray our work.
If something is posted in the Guardian newspaper, it will be read by people who buy the Guardian so a predisposed to agree with its contents. If you want to reach a new audience and create a discussion, that information would have a more far reaching impact on a billboard in the city.
Bleasdale’s decision to turn his work into a new media outlet translated the information into a language that will connect better with a younger audience. His desire to engage them in the important issues, that they will invariably have a level of impact on as they become consumers, was translated effectively into a new medium. It didn’t lessen his work, it merely made it available to a new demographic.
If a graphic novel or a video game can be created to inform people on important information, what other types of media can be used? Gifs and Vines are such an intrinsic part of internet society, perhaps that could be an interesting engagement tool?

I entirely agree and connect with Bleasdale’s comments on how photography is better the more you understand. His belief that the emotion behind a piece of work is primary and the image is secondary is an interesting dynamic that reflects our desire as photographers to create a narrative that engages people, rather than just being aesthetically pleasing and then fading into the background of an over-saturated society of image consumption.

The term Hyper-masculinity means the exaggeration of traditionally assumed masculine traits.

Within photography, this can be potentially troublesome for teaching young men how it is considered appropriate to act.

The same way that women are bombarded with images of slim models who have been photoshopped to unattainable perfection, and are regularly displayed as submissive to men, male models are commonly shown as being muscular, sexually domineering, aggressive and unemotional/ stoic beings.

The article ‘What Advertisements Directed Toward Men Are Really Selling’ explains,

‘Hypermasculinity portrays violence and physical aggression as manly ideals; it promotes a world where all of male life is a struggle of dominance of others, where sex is a matter of power and female submission rather than one of intimacy and mutual pleasure and that any “feminine” emotions are to be repressed.’

This constant bombardment links into my previous post regarding rape culture and advertisements. Not only are we reinforcing in society a belief that sexual violence is attractive, but we are also telling men that they must be entirely stoic beings devoid of emotion, that being aggressive and sexual beings is the only appropriate way to be, otherwise you are not ‘a real man’.

Advertising pigeon holes men and women into assumed gender roles that do not conform to how the majority of society truly are, yet society still desperately attempts to conform to it.

This is an important point to make regarding advertisement, as Rape Culture does not just have a negative affect on women, but rather the whole of society in all forms.

There is a dangerous link between sex and aggression that is portrayed as positive in Advertisements again and again, and is a constant streaming of reinforcement to rape culture within society.

There has been a lot of conversation about sexism in advertising and the fashion industry, but not about how this influences the prevalence of rape culture within our society.

I’ve decided to try and create a narrative that explains the long standing relationship between advertising and sexist imagery that reinforces the presence of rape culture by dehumanising the subjects.

With this in mind, I decided to research older adverts.

This piece by Business insider compares old advertisements to modern day ones, commenting on how the level of sexism portrayed within them has not decreased over time, if anything it’s got worse.

With the perceived improvements of our treatment towards women in society, the continuation of sexist imagery in advertising has a sinister undertone that suggests ingrained acceptance and normalisation.

1964 Mr Leggs Slacks Advert

The woman here is being treated as an object, under the submission and will of the man, the fact she is a tiger rug also suggests she is some kind of trophy to be obtained.
Saying that women belong beneath you, under your feet. This and Mr Leggs slacks advert both have painfully apparent sexist imagery that is a sign of the treatment of women and equality from that time period.

1967 Broomsticks Slacks Advert

There is a sinister message within this image. The woman is half naked, being grabbed at by five men. There is an uncomfortable similarity between this photo and a gang rape. The words below say ‘Ring around a Rose, or Carol, or Eleanor etc.’, this suggests a complete disregard for the woman, not even bothering to care what her name is, so long as the male consumer is achieving their personal desires.

These photos show a complete lack of respect for women, treating them as objects for use of male desires. However, they are older images, so while it’s important to look back at past photography, I need to compare these to modern day photographs, and consider the implications of any similarities.

Bela Bordosi
Details Magazine 2009
‘Girls Not Included’ Editorial

There are similarities here between the Mr Leggs Slacks Advert and the Shoe advert that I showed above. Once again the woman is being used as an object/ piece of furniture. She is in a submissive pose and doesn’t even have her face showing, further dehumanising her.

This perpetrates rape culture because it makes the viewer feel less empathy for the subject because they are being portrayed as less that human. A lack of empathy creates a dangerous situation where people become uncaring towards the safety of others, and only considerate of their own needs.
Dolce and Gabbana
March 2007
Photographer: Steven Klein

The models hips within this photograph by Dolce and Gabbana are elevated off the ground in a suggesting of movement. With her legs tightly shut and her face turned away from the man pinning her, it gives the cues of a non consensual assault.

Despite the connotations of rape within this photograph, this image is intended to sell a product, and be perceived as a positive scenario. It is reinforcing a old age belief that rape is entirely sexual, and sexy. I feel this is an obvious attempt at glamorisation of rape, which has a negative affect on societies views of rape and victims of rape.

Vogue Italia September 2006

Photographer: Steven Meisel

state-of-emergency-by-steven-meiselstate-of-emergency-by-steven-meisel-10-600x402’State of Emergency’ Editorial

Vogue Italia September 2006

Photographer: Steven Meisel

This advertisement campaign by Steven Meisel takes incredibly attractive women and places them in situations of violence, occasionally adding a sexual element by putting them in a state of undress. The question around this shoot is why is it considered a good marketing ploy to place women in aggressive/ violent situations? The sexual element of the officer pulling up the models dress, or the model undressing for a strip search is somehow deemed entirely appropriate in mainstream advertisement as a way of selling a product to consumers. This suggests that this kind of imagery is appealing in society, further showing how rape culture has ingrained in us a belief that sex and violence go hand in hand, and is not an entirely negative combination.

French Vogue 2009
This shoot caused massive controversy as the model here is in blackface (as in she is actually white but they have made her appear black using makeup)
While not related to rape culture, I feel it is important to show the problematic ways in which the fashion industry disrespects gender, race and culture, and how they continue to do so regardless of complaints. This is particularly troublesome as the fashion industry has incredibly low diversity representation.
Tom Ford For Men 2007
Photographer: Terry Richardson
The idea that sex sells has been prominent in advertisement for many years. However, in sexualising the advert for a product, you dehumanise the subject. This advert employs a common use of cropping in advertisements that accentuates only the part of the woman that are considered attractive. This chopping up of the body for the use in adverts objectifies the body and detaches the viewer from acknowledging that it is a person attached to the body parts being sexualised.


Different from the other adverts I have shown above, this advert came from Belvedere vodka, and is incredibly problematic in it’s imagery and use of text.

The forceful grabbing, shocked/ scared look on the woman’s face and predatory grin on the mans are an uncomfortable parallel to rape. The fact that it is blurry and not highly polished actually makes this advert a much more realistic depiction of rape than the above advertisements. While through research I have found that the picture is in fact a still from a comedy sketch, and not related to rape, the intent of taking this shot out of its original context is obvious with the addition of the text.

‘Unlike Some People Belvedere Always Goes Down Smoothly.’

Belvedere are not even attempting to hide that they are making a joke about raping someone in this advert. The words are a sickening mockery of forcefully raping someone, making light of the trauma of rape and the victim fighting back against their attacker.

Ironically, they did not ask permission to use the woman’s likeness in this advert, and were subsequently hit with a lawsuit.

Conclusion of Advertisement Research

It is obvious there is a problematic discourse regarding how mainstream advertisements portray sex and aggression. Rape imagery is used to sell products, and it is being normalised and sexualised in doing so. This trivialises the subject of rape by over saturating society with glamourised images of sex and violence, showing it as a positive and desirable thing.

Sara Davidmann Interview

Sara Davidmann successfully represented a minority group of people without taking advantage, or falsely representing them, to fit with her own personal narrative. She made a strong distinction between the idea of a subject and a participant, with her focus being very much on letting the participants in her photographs decide how they are perceived through the work. Davidmann’s work with transgender people is a collaborative effort between photographer and participant, creating a safe space for the participants where they can be sure they will not be misrepresented or put in potential danger, which is a genuine and very real concern for people in the transgender community, within this society. There were sacrifices that Davidmann had to make, not being able to always capture the photograph she wanted, but this was a sacrifice she willingly made to allow her participants the freedom and safety they required.

It is a wonderful narrative that is created in her work, not just by correcting the mistakes of the media that so often portray transgender people as tragic, isolated deviants, but also by creating a noticeable dialogue between her and them that draws attention to how important body image is to the transgender community and lets them be proud of the body that is shown in her photographs. She has become a part of their narrative without taking away focus or their voice.

I find Davidmann’s work with her family an interesting comment on the dynamic of a photo album, and a fascinating look into how her work has created a personal narrative for Davidmann herself.
The truths about Ken that were revealed to her because of her work, to me, show that by representing people in an informative and conscientious fashion you allow for better understanding and more revealing dialogue to be created.
It’s easy to take a photograph showing what you want it to show and then leaving without giving the subject a choice in their own representation, but by making them a participant and letting them have a voice, through your work, you allow for truths that are unsullied by your personal interpretations to surface and give people a chance to connect, feel raised up and become strengthened through your work. Photography is a powerful tool that can reveal truths and be used as a platform for informing people about things they would otherwise be misinformed about through the media and/ or societies prejudices.

For me, Davidmann’s photographs mean a lot to me and what I wish to do with my PHONAR work. Davidmann created a narrative and dialogue that was a truthful representation without taking advantage of the subject. I want to do the same with my photographs, working off of my Spoken Narrative task.
I am considering how I can appropriately represent people without pushing my own narrative onto them, and at the moment I don’t think I can. I am only just telling my own story and am not comfortable with the idea of relinquishing control over my work yet. Because of this, I will focus of creating my own personal narrative, drawing inspiration from Davidmann’s work and the other photographers we have listened to in Phonar to create something that is informative and a truthful representation of something that is a difficult subject, but a subject that needs to be revealed.

I spoke about in my Spoken Narrative task post shouting loudly enough for myself and for victims/ survivors who do not have their voice/ cannot speak for their own safety. I think that definitely still applies, and I will try to keep that concept in mind while I take my work forward.

The statistics I have researched and my essay don’t specify rape towards Transgender people, nor does it specify sexual violence towards POC.

The Transgender community, queer people, and people of colour are statistically more likely to experience rape and sexual violence than white, straight or cis individuals. This is a distressing fact that needs to be appropriately addressed and brought to public light.

However, I am focusing on Photography and Rape Culture, so do not feel that I can give the issue the in depth conversation it deserves. Also, as I am not in those demographics, I would be talking from a position to privilege. I feel that if I was to talk about rape towards the mentioned demographics, I would want to give it its own personal presentation, giving it its deserved spotlight, rather than just a side-note to reinforce my point. I would also want to work with members of those communities, and create my presentation as a spotlight on their views and experiences rather than enforcing my own on the situation.

I feel quite distressed that I can’t include everything in this presentation, but I feel that if I tried to, I would spread to thin, and sound like I wasn’t accentuating how important this discussion is. I don’t want to be unintentionally insulting towards people by talking about the potential dangers faced by them and not giving it enough time to reinforce why this is a societal problem reinforced by rape culture that needs to be addressed.

350MC: Rape Statistics

To further accentuate the importance of what I am discussing, I want to include UK rape statistics. I believe evidence of how prominent rape is in our society will give my presentation more impact, contextualising how Photography and its relationship with Rape Culture affects society and victims of rape.

Rape Crisis is a feminist organisation that promotes rape awareness and helps secure help for victims of rape and sexual assault. They are an incredibly important organisation in the UK that has been helping victims since 1973.
On their website they include a section on rape statistics, that I intend to reference.

In January 2013, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Home Office released its first ever joint Official Statistics bulletin on sexual violence, entitled An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales.

It reported that:

Approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year
Over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year
1 in 5 women (aged 16 – 59) has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

Rape Crisis does not include examples of Male rape in their statistics, and I feel it is important to include these in my presentation, as while rape is more common towards women, it still happens to men, and Rape Culture affects both genders negatively.

Government Statistics

The .Gov statistics are probably the most trustworthy source for them, though they don’t include the 2013 overview like Rape Crisis does.

Based on aggregated data from the ‘Crime Survey for England and Wales’ in 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12, on average, 2.5 per cent of females and 0.4 per cent of males said that they had been a victim of a sexual offence (including attempts) in the previous 12 months. This represents around 473,000 adults being victims of sexual offences (around 404,000 females and 72,000 males) on average per year.

I can’t include all of these statistics in my presentation, but a basic overview of them on a presentation slide or a brief paragraph could serve well to reinforce the importance of discussing the subject of Photography and Rape Culture.

Around one in twenty females (aged 16 to 59) reported being a victim of a most serious sexual offence since the age of 16. Extending this to include other sexual offences such as sexual threats, unwanted touching or indecent exposure, this increased to one in five females reporting being a victim since the age of 16.

Around 90 per cent of victims of the most serious sexual offences in the previous year knew the perpetrator, compared with less than half for other sexual offences.

I feel that, when you know the statistics behind rape, it serves to dispel the common misconceptions that arise in society due to Rape Culture. We live in a society that is common for victim blaming and accusing people of lying about being raped, when in fact research has shown that the largest suspected percentage of false rape accusations is in fact at most 3% ( while some other resources actually suggest even less. To put that into context, a 17 month study by Keir Starmer showed that while there were 5,651 prosecutions of rape, there was only 35 prosecutions for false rape accusations (

Combine this with other statistics that show how drastically many instances of rape there are every year, and we see that rape is not only difficult and unlikely to lead to a prosecution, but it is also incredibly rare for an instance of false rape accusations to occur.

The common, yet incorrect, belief that false accusations are rife is another aspect of Rape Culture that has become ingrained within our society.

I think that the statistics I have researched prove to reinforce that my subject is an important topic that needs to be discussed, and is based on fact rather than just personal opinion.
Rape crime punishment