“Using Boobs”

How many images do you figure you’re surrounded by every day? How many do you “ingest”, directly or indirectly?

Who creates all those images?

What various agendas and motivations might those creators have for making these images and showing them to you?

I believe these questions are important to everyone, but if you have a worldview that includes particular criticisms of our culture — the idea that there are fundamental ways that our cultures devalues bodies, as one example — then these questions become even more important.

This is why I enjoy blogs like Sociological Images, which I’ve linked to before. The SI writers have some worldviews that differ significantly from Gabe’s and mine; we have some differences in our basic operational definitions, and we likely see the path to healing or improving our world to be very different. But SI consistently puts forward some very thought-provoking ideas, and encourages its readers to flex their own critical thinking muscles on the world around them. I appreciate that.

I found this recent post of theirs to be truly fascinating: Using Boobs To Sell Car Insurance. They have posted three foreign commercials, all of which they consider to be objectification of women. I invite you to visit the site now, watch the videos and notice your own responses before reading further. What do you see when you watch those videos? What responses do you have, and why do you think you have those particular responses?

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Now, here’s mine. To clarify from the start, I don’t believe that the depiction of a body, female or otherwise, is inherently objectification. That basic assumption threads through my response. While there’s plenty to be said about power dynamics in media construction, I don’t find that issue to be specifically relevant to my responses here, and so I have not addressed it.

I am especially fond of the first commercial. Having vehicles painted on boobs puts me in mind of the tenderness I feel in my own relationship to my car — it is a “body part”, an extension of personality for many of us, on some level. The shell we ride in dangerous, modern, high speed traffic is oftentimes a reminder of our bodies’ softness and fragility. There is a playfulness in the short film that I enjoy very much, as various hands collaborate on a dance reminiscent of Annie Sprinkle’s performance art piece “Boob Ballet”. Many of the SI comments on this commercial focus on a perceived threat in the brief struggle between two pair of hands. I got none of this message, as the posture of the women does not transmit to me concern or danger. Other comments found the lack of heads to be disturbing. I found the piece worked better without splitting our attention between faces and breasts; I also don’t feel a need to value a head more than other parts of bodies, which are just as full of personality and uniqueness as the faces we usually interact with. I saw erect, beautiful torsos playing a game that I was delighted to see.

I found the second commercial more problematic. Though it’s a personal opinion, there was not much aesthetically that I found pleasing, so I was left to focus on the characterization of individuals actually working for this airline. While I don’t find the sexy car wash girl inherently problematic as a character, to overlay that character onto every single female flight attendant actually working for the airline is to remove a lot of personal autonomy and individual choice. That’s not cool for me. Perhaps someone else can add to this?

The last commercial? It is absurd, and humorous for that reason. A scantily clad, oontz-filled dance to sell tires? I don’t know that the absurdity was intentional, but it’s fun. I’m aware that the lead dancer is rounder than the vast majority of Caucasian dancers in US media, and I enjoyed the small amount of diversity of bodies shown. The dancers are talented, but I can’t tell how much imagination the creators really put into their use of our time.

One Response to ““Using Boobs””

  1. stoat Says:
    June 28th, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    i say boo to the second one. the first one echoes the kind of airbrushed nudity i’ve seen on swedish ads but the concept is funny. i like the third ad the best. i am amused that they are not even trying to tie it to the product at all. and there is great dancing! i lived in russia for a while and i used to watch their version of MTV all the time for the dancing.

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