Just when you think fashion couldn’t get any more misogynist…

It goes and surprises you.

On a recent episode of America’s Next Top Model — hosted by Strong Woman Tyra Banks — the models were made to do a photo shoot in which they were all supposed to look like they had been murdered. Each woman got a different style of death — electrocuted, stabbed, shot, strangled, etc. And each woman is made up and positioned to look beautiful, sexual, and as if she had been violently killed. I don’t really know what to say beyond, “Holy shit,” but luckily Jennifer is more articulate:

The lithe lot of ‘em are arrayed in awkward, broken poses, splayed out in cold concrete corridors, lifeless limbs positioned bloodily, just so, at the bottom of staircases, bathtubs and back alleys, mimicking their demise via stabbing, shooting, electrocution, drowning, poisoning, strangulation, decapitation and organ theft (!), to judges’ comments of “Gorgeous!” “Fantastic!” “Amazing!” “Absolutely beautiful!” and, of my favorite, “Death becomes you, young lady!”

Like Jennifer, I’m not going to post the pictures here. They’re absolutely grotesque and extremely disturbing, but you can view at your own risk here.

Most of the models are dressed like super-sexy sirens, with a bra-covered breast hanging out of a shirt, or skirt hiked up as far as it can legally go without breaking obscenity laws and legs splayed, or dressed in sexy lingerie and laying on a bed. They have blood sprayed across their chests, or bruises around their necks. It’s clearly intended to turn the viewer on, while equating desirability and eroticism with violence against women.

To borrow a Twisty-ism, I think we often underestimate just how much they hate us. But they aren’t really trying to hide it, are they?

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85 comments for “Just when you think fashion couldn’t get any more misogynist…

  1. Shira
    March 22, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Wow. I was floored when they did the eating disorder themed photos, but this is just beyond the pale. I don’t even know what to say. This is nauseating. I couldn’t get through even half of those pictures.

  2. March 22, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Thanks for linking to my post about ANTM, Jill. That Twisty-ism really is apt, here. I really believe that reality TV is the cultural arm of the backlash against women – I’ve been beating that drum for years, and I’m thinking about writing a book on the topic.

    If anyone on a college campus is interested in delving into these issues in depth, I do a multi-media presentations on gender roles, misogyny and reality TV on the college lecture circuit via the non-profit I work with, Women In Media & News. People can find out more here: http://www.wimnonline.org/analysis/lectures.html and they can email WIMN at info[at]wimenonline.org if they want more information or if they want to bring me to their campus.

  3. March 22, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    I think I saw this on an episode of Law & Order Criminal Intent.

  4. Katy
    March 22, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    I found this quotation from one of the judges very interesting:
    “Miss J: These are broken-down dolls. These are busted up, broken-down dolls, marionettes.”

    I would analyze, but that (coupled with the pictures) seems to sum up the idea of women for the majority of the fashion industry.

  5. March 22, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    I’ve seen numerous actual photo spreads done just like that. Horrific.

  6. March 22, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Oops, didn’t mean to post just that.

    Very bizarre and disturbing. I’m not sure of the thought processes that went into deciding that “dead” was a good theme for a photo shoot, especially for a modelling competition.

    I mean, if it were a photographer’s competition, then I could understand. The photographs would still be repulsive, but trying to capture the image of death would be an interesting exercise. But for models, who’s job comes down to, basically, stand there, I don’t see the point.

    Look on the bright side – This is, pretty much, the apex of objectification. Nothing else in your lifetime will be as objectifying as this. Okay, maybe that’s not really a bright point.


  7. Miller
    March 22, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    Good Lord.
    I doubt this will even surprise the public–at all. “Sex” is strictly defined as requiring the humiliation, degradation, raping, torturing, and killing of women and girls (if any of you are shocked by this you shouldn’t be: it is the staple of mainstream pornography, and it’s getting worse). The power of sexuality (sex can sell anything) has been distorted to eroticize violent hate and, thus, make it not only “natural” but extremely powerful and (possibly) permanent. Child molesters will always look at children and be desperate to harm them, so I doubt adult males using sex to fuel their violent hate is any different. At the very least, bigotry against girls and women will thrive and become more extreme.
    This version of “sex” is the equivalent of hate speech, yet because it’s so overwhelming the intense rash of critics will condemn you for being anti-sex, a prude, since this is the only “sex” they have been conditioned to be aroused by.

  8. Holly
    March 22, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    The lingerie-clad ones, like in the hallway, are by far the most grotesque and evocative of sexual violence. The other ones… they could be part of something more generally morbid, except of course for the fact that this photo shoot, like all of ANTM, is all about photographing and flattening and objectifying women and women’s bodies. You can see this same kind of thing in say, certain kinds of goth fashion or photo shoots — use of blood, people who look dead or dying, suggestions of violence — but it goes across gender lines, men and women, and all sorts of gender-crossing and androgyny besides. I have to say I find that stuff much hotter by virtue that it sidesteps a lot of the more obvious misogyny of the ANTM shoot. And I’ll admit that I think death and violence have a compelling kind of psychological link to love and sex.

    But of course, once you bring huge institutions like the fashion industry into it, that are just used to chopping up people’s bodies and using them to make obscene amounts of money, and you’re not in some small subculture anymore, who gets used as the fodder for this stuff? Women and pretty much only women. Maybe the occasional pretty, pretty boy. But especially stuff like the lingerie-eviscerated-in-seedy-hallway photograph; how is that supposed to be anything but a straight up evocation of the most brutal kind of sexual violence? They just don’t think about this stuff at all, do they?

  9. Miller
    March 22, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Can we replace that word “objectification” and use dehumanization, instead? Since the assumption that patriarchy depends on is that girls and women are not human, I doubt it’s coincidence that “objectification” is never used when describing bigotry against other groups but always used with regards to the assault on female humanity, as if to sanitize it. Who the hell commits hate crimes against mere objects, anyway? Demonization justifies aggressive violence because people assume there must be a good reason why society has dehumanized a group, that they somehow must be morally inferior.
    Dehumanization forces the reader to remeber that this person is indeed a human, and she’s being stripped of something powerfully inherent, her basic human rights.

  10. lindsay
    March 22, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    I watch the show every week with my friends. At first when I saw this episode I thought it was wrong. I dunno, their always doing something odd on that show. I don’t think they were doing it to be offensive or misogynistic, it was more like “ooh here’s an idea, let’s dress them up like Halloween.” Besides, and I’m not condoning this, but don’t most models look like half-dead heroine junkies anyway? I think they obviously could have been more tasteful, but I really don’t buy that they were doing it out of being hateful towards women. The story behind each woman’s death was at the hand of another woman model, it’s not like they were saying their boyfriends killed them.

    I dunno, I’m more worried about shows like “Beauty and the Geek” and “The Sopranos”. And I still adore Tyra.

  11. Lorelei
    March 22, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    I think that some of those photographs are fantastic. As photographs and as theme and for lighting and the way the models went about posing, they’re some pretty great photos.

    But not to model lingerie, what the fuck?

  12. March 22, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Okay, none of those shots was exactly in good taste, but most of them were just horrendous. I especially liked teh way one of the judges enthused about one shot: “You really look completely lifeless!” My fave was probably the “organ theft” one: “Why did I got to answer the door just wearing my underwear?”

    And I’ll admit that I think death and violence have a compelling kind of psychological link to love and sex.

    I agree, Holly, which is why I was surprised at hwo turned off I was by the photos. They concentrated entirely on the disgusting or nauseating aspects of death, and none of the sexy ones. It was all bodily fluids splashed luridly on the floor and walls, discolored skin, disgusting wounds, broken bodies, etc.

  13. March 22, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    Yes, Katy, that line just about sums up the whole thing.

    They are just objects.

    I understand that, for photographers, in any assignment, the subjects ae just that — subjects to be manipulated as objects to fill the frame, to suit the vision that the photographer has. But I think the choice of ”

    Miss J: These are broken-down dolls. These are busted up, broken-down dolls, marionettes

    is just so telling.

    I used to do studio work, and I did my share of shoving subjects this-way-and-that, but these are beyond the pale.

  14. n.
    March 22, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    I don’t know what to say. I feel stick to my stomach. Also I’m crying. I feel very frustrated right now. I’m frustrated that my roommates would be extremely hostile if they knew how I feel about these photos. I’m frustrated that I don’t fit in with the feminist community. I feel frustrated and scared and alone.

  15. March 22, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    Okay, so I watch this show all the time? Like, I record it so I don’t miss it? And because y’all might not have seen it? There was an even grosser aspect to the shoot. Seriously.

    One of the model’s friends died of an overdose the week before and last week’s episode was all about her grief and helplessness not being able to go home and deal with it with friends and family.

    The next week: let’s reenact your friend’s death, ‘kay? It’ll be fierce. Cue: Scripted comment of support by all judges. Tyra gives her a hug and tells her how professional she is.

  16. March 22, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    I watch the show and thought the same thing. It was awful.

    Did anyone see the horrible New York Times Magazine spread a few weeks ago with women in nooses? It was also horrible. I don’t recollect any woman’s head being in a noose, but the hanging imagery was clear.

  17. Tara
    March 22, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Miller, thanks for your thoughtful comment. “Objectification,” I think, was a powerful way to conceptualize the construction of women as commodities. From being a helpful term at one point in feminist discussions, it now has not only lost its charge but also been, I agree with you, incorporated in both anti-feminist and/or ‘apolitical’ discourse. I agree with you that “dehumanization” works to do the (necessary) reminding that women and girls are human.

  18. March 22, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    Yeah, Lauren has a point. They were also trying to play up the “catty stereotype” because they were all supposedly killed by another model who was jealous.

  19. March 22, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    Ok, I take that back. One of the woman did have her head in a noose. This blogger has some of the photos from the NYT magazine photo spread.

  20. Tara
    March 22, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    I’ve seen one episode of this program, I believe the one just preceding this episode (where the models were posed as sweet confections). I was not the only one, I know, to think that some of the shots looked bloody — altogether, they were gross. I didn’t watch this episode. But, from what you describe, it can’t be anything other than awful.

    I’m surprised, I suppose, with the show’s sexism and misogyny with how Tyra Banks the talk show host has been received: as a strong woman, okay with her body, validating of other women, etc. Of course, I know, this is a commercial instanciaton of feminist empowerment, and it’s full of contradictions. (We need only to look at Oprah’s magazine for more illustrations.) But, still, this and other episodes of ANTM are so clearly woman-hating when the talk show claims it’s woman-affirming. (And, I’m acknowledging that talk shows have been a site for much feminist criticism.)

  21. March 22, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    But fashion is fun! And if you criticize it you’re being antifeminist to feminists who like fashion!

    Had to get that out of the way. Sorry.

    Nitpick: Twisty does say it a lot, but it’s a Germaine Greer-ism, originally: “Women have very little idea how much men hate them,” from The Female Eunuch. I need to read that. I love this, from an interview I found with her:

    Andrew Denton: You said in ‘The Female Eunuch’ that women have little idea how much men hate them. Is that still true?

    Germaine Greer: Yep. Otherwise they wouldn’t get killed all the time, would they?

    Andrew Denton: People get killed for many reasons.

    Germaine Greer: No, but women get killed at home, most often by their partners.

    Because it’s so sex-ayy, I guess.

  22. prairielily
    March 22, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    I can’t be too surprised. This is a show that once featured ghost brides. It’s Trash TV.

    n., are you alright? Why don’t you feel like you fit in? You sound like you need a hug. And maybe some new roommates.

  23. March 22, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    The fact that Lauren watches this show every week makes me feel less guilty for doing the same. I do refer to it as a “guilty pleasure,” though, FWIW.

    Lauren, word. The episode before this one was entitled “The Girl Who Cries All the Time.” The two events that made “the girl” (Jael) cry were:

    (1) After sitting in a chair for 8 hours getting hair extensions (which involves having your hair braided into tight cornrows and then having the extensions literally sewed onto the braids), Tyra sent word that the new look wasn’t really working, so they were going to remove the extensions and give her a super short haircut. So Jael starts crying because, well, she had just sat there for 8 HOURS having her hair pulled until her scalp was red and then they decided to yank it all out, so it was all for naught.

    (2) She got a phone call informing her that a close friend of hers died of a drug overdose.

    What a baby. [/sarcasm]

    So I too found it disturbing that when she had to lay on a bed pretending to be dead, after having found out that her friend had died of an overdose (and it was “last week’s” episode, but it was probably like a day or two before this photo shoot, in reality t.v. time), Jay told her that while some of that emotion she was feeling might be good for the photograph, she needed to keep it in check so it didn’t totally overwhelm her (which wouldn’t make such a good photograph).

    But I’ll admit that I didn’t find the death photo shoot disturbing. The thought did enter my mind that this series of photographs was glamorizing violence against women, but I guess I was just thinking about it in terms of artistic merit (and also thinking that I wouldn’t find it disturbing to pretend to be dead for a photo). (Not discounting other people’s opinions, just describing how I felt about it.)

    And yeah, I also wanted to ask n. why she doesn’t feel that she fits in with the feminist community. I’ve definitely had the nagging thought that I’m “not feminist enough” while reading feminist blogs (and I kind feel that way after writing this comment about ANTM), but I think everyone has her own life experience and education and whatnot and frankly, I’m not going to lose sleep over the fact that somebody who reads a comment of mine might think that I’m not “feminist enough.” I’m still learning.

  24. March 22, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    Also, to add to my gross fandom factor and up the grossness of this particular episode: After giving their false statements of support to Jael, the girls leave the room for the final judging. At which point Nigel, who is apparently a photographer, faults Jael for her “baggage.”

    And like RR said, “and it was “last week’s” episode, but it was probably like a day or two before this photo shoot, in reality t.v. time.”

    Baggage, my ass. In my world we call it “grieving.”

    The fact that Lauren watches this show every week makes me feel less guilty for doing the same. I do refer to it as a “guilty pleasure,” though, FWIW.

    It’s sort of guilty, I guess, but I won’t deny that I have a sick fascination with pop culture, especially reality tv, because it’s a funhouse mirror of reality and based mostly on what the producers think the audience wants to see. I like trying to tease the motivations from the producers, directors, personalities in all sorts of pop culture media for this reason.

    And a feminist lens can almost always be applied, so I get my fluff with my filet.

  25. March 22, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    And a feminist lens can almost always be applied, so I get my fluff with my filet.

    Right. I do approach this show as a kind of sociological examination. It’s probably a sad commentary that it’s my boyfriend who chastises me (gently) for watching this show, since the judges consider a women who wears anything more than a size 4 to be a “plus-size model.” But he and I have an agreement — I’m allowed to watch this Trash T.V., and I won’t raise hell when he wants to watch the military channel.

  26. March 22, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    women = woman

  27. March 22, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    I actually watched ANTM model one cycle when I got My First TV (a gift from my building manager who was throwing her old one away). A friend of mine talked about it somewhat obsessively when it first came out, and I was curious. It was fine, but it seems like every cycle is the same. The Spoiled Girl, The Wild Girl, The Lesbian, The Religious Conservative, The Pretty Girl Who Shows No Emotion, The Shy Black Girl, The Loud Black Girl, The Girl With The Needy Boyfriend, The Nasty, Ambitious Girl Who Eventually Lets Her Guard Down, etc. There always seems to be a full episode devoted to one of the girls having to get her hair cut really short, and how difficult it is for her. Then there’s always the more or less utterly predictable drama: “You guys, what happened to my energy drinks?” And the pointlessly sadistic rituals of the various inane photo shoots (“You have to pose naked on a block of ice”).

    Still, it does have a certain junk-foody pleasurable feel to it.

  28. evil fizz
    March 22, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    One of the woman did have her head in a noose. This blogger has some of the photos from the NYT magazine photo spread.

    Uh, wow. I think those are worse than ANTM. 100% speechless.

  29. Galatea
    March 22, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Man. The first couple were kind of icky, but nothing much worse than the police brutality photo shoot a while ago, but the last four made me feel like I’d been punched in the stomach.

  30. Miller
    March 22, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    Heraclitus (Jeff):
    Are you kidding me?! Where the hell does violent hate come off as merely “tasteless?” Put a black man with a noose around his neck or torture and kill any other group member and see if it’s just a matter of taste (Remember, when people protested that illegal immigrant game? Entertainment value doesn’t minimize the damage, just shows how powerful it is in society). Dehumanization is so rampant no one gives a fuck, I get that. What I don’t understand is that you can find such blatant brutalization trivial by making it seem inappropriate (you even dared to call some aspects of death erotic) rather than audaciously hateful. And I don’t give a shit if the two Jays or the other judges, including Tyra herself, did not intend to be hateful towards girls and women the effect is disturbingly clear: it normalizes violent hate (as some of these posts show).
    What type of media do you (plural) consume that this is remotely acceptable to you?

  31. Elinor
    March 22, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    ANTM’s one of my guilty pleasures too, although when I look at the content of that guilt it makes me uncomfortable with myself — the show is frequently sadistic in its treatment of the contestants, who are usually not young or skeletal enough to make it in the high fashion world (which is a related issue, of course). Even if these young women are voluntarily making fools of themselves, a lot of them seem too sheltered to know that’s what they’re doing. The first season of the show was great because it was basically narrated by one of the more skeptical of the contestants. She actually managed to ridicule some of the sillier things they were made to do — and get it into the show. I don’t think they’d allow that now.

    I thought the feminist blogosphere might pick up on the corpse shoot. It really is inexcusable. I’m surprised that they actually put the photos up on the website — the last time they did a shoot this comprehensively questionable, they “changed” the models’ ethnicities, which gave many of the regulars an opportunity to make startlingly awful comments, and they didn’t post the pictures online.

  32. March 22, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Okay, I just looked at the photos via the link Jill provided, which I didn’t do initially since I had already seen this episode of the show. (Shame on me for not clicking the link.) On the show, they display the photos for about a second (literally) during the evaluations at the end of the show, interspersed with other stuff from the evaluations. But looking at the photos all in one series and being able to focus on the entire photograph for an extended amount of time (usually, they’ll show the whole photograph for a fraction of a second, then they’ll zoom in on their faces for another fraction of a second), I definitely had a different feeling than I did when watching the show. I’m not backtracking; the context made a difference in the impression I got. On the show, with the exclusion of Jael’s situation, as you’re watching them get made up and chatting or whatever behind the scenes, it had a kind of playful or humorous vibe to it. It was more like they were dressing up as zombies or something for Halloween. But just seeing the women contorted into those positions with vacant looks on their faces, the vibe was disturbing. Numbers 8 and 9 really got to me.

  33. March 22, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Along the same lines as Heraclitus (#15):

    One of the judges comments, “You really don’t dead to me. You look like you’re dying.” Another responds, “Even though she doesn’t look dead, I think she still came up with a great picture.” (emphasis mine). I understand that the premise here was to make a shot in which the models looked dead, but that comment makes it sound as though you couldn’t have a beautiful photo without a model who looked dead. What the hell?

    The originally linked post from WIMN’s Voices brings up a tangent issue: why does advertising in particular seem to focus so heavily on misogynistic imagery? I get the impression it’s addressed there more as a “what” than a “why” question (saying misogynistic advertising imagery encourages misogyny in the real world, rather than asking why advertising that uses misogynistic imagery seems to work so well), but now I’m curious. Surely there’s a more detailed answer to “why does misogyny sell?” than just “they hate us”, as true as that might-or-might-not be.

  34. Stick
    March 22, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    I can’t believe they did that. In another series they had the girls pose in coffins as sexy corpses. Somehow I could tolerate that, but this really pissed me off. There’s nothing sexy or arousing about a young girl (or anyone) being stabbed, drowned, or left for dead. You’d never see a guy posed like that. So glad I found this site tonight.

  35. March 22, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Yes, Miller, I “dared” to say that I find some aspects of death erotic (what a shockingly original pronouncement) without checking with you for permission first. My bad. Otherwise, I’m not really into the “more outraged than you” game, to the extent that the rest of your comment is in response to anythng I said.

  36. exangelena
    March 23, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Follow hyperlinks to rather gory (and true) descriptions of what it’s really like to die (sorry didn’t have the heart or the stomach to research them all):

    “The lithe lot of ‘em are arrayed in awkward, broken poses, splayed out in cold concrete corridors, lifeless limbs positioned bloodily, just so, at the bottom of staircases, bathtubs and back alleys, mimicking their demise via stabbing, shooting, electrocution, drowning, poisoning, strangulation, decapitation and organ theft (!), to judges’ comments of “Gorgeous!” “Fantastic!” “Amazing!” “Absolutely beautiful!” and, of my favorite, “Death becomes you, young lady!””

    Death ain’t hawt.

  37. Freud Pickle
    March 23, 2007 at 1:16 am

    Yuck! Ick. Bleaaah.

    This isn’t anything new: it’s a horror movie. It’s the same sort of “objectification” and “dehumanization” that you get in any number of slasher films: the sexy woman gets killed messily, with the misogynistic and anti-sex overtones that she deserved it for being a sexual person.

    Slasher movies, like Japanese “guro” (grotesque) porn, have taught audiences a fetish for death. The slasher film contributes the idea that to be sexual is to deserve to be mutilated and killed. Guro contributes the trope of “the audience as serial killer” — the female body dismembered for male pleasure. Here we find the combination of the two: the exhibition of dead women depicted as being killed for being sexy.

    Normally, this is a very unusual fetish confined to rather disturbed people. However, for the sake of trendiness it is here being popularized.

    And it rather makes me want to puke.

  38. mustelid
    March 23, 2007 at 5:10 am

    I really don’t know how this was supposed to be a good idea for a show. Can’t really say much about ANTM since I’m not a regular viewer.

  39. Miller
    March 23, 2007 at 5:52 am

    Oh, please. This is not about asking for my damn permission nor is it a game over who’s more outraged. I was stunned over how anyone could trivialize something so damn blatant (Feel free to quote the word stunned for added effect). Dehumanization affects every member of that group, whether they care for it or not. What I’m saying is that one should not just merely ask, “How do I feel about it?” but how the glamorization of violent hatred directly affects an entire group of people by making it so damn acceptable, even pleasing.

  40. Miller
    March 23, 2007 at 6:00 am

    Just one last thing:
    Essentially, although one may find such pictures wonderful that view is forced onto a group of people without regard to her personal preferences since it eroticizes dehumanization and violence.

  41. zoopy
    March 23, 2007 at 8:38 am

    What’s the big deal?

    Are these photos any more objectifying than any other artistic depictions of death — see the numerous (often quite nubile) ones of Christ? Are they promoting violence toward women any more than a mini-skirt promotes sexual advances? Don’t the women have a choice whether they want to participate in the show? No one forces them. Their chance of success is very narrow, so leaving is never a terrible option. Why is it misogynist or anti-feminist to give women the option to display themselves how they see fit? Is it more feminist to be judgmental and shaming?

    There was a radio report about actors doing the dead scenes on shows like CSI and Law and Order. The actors didn’t mind — works is work for an actor. Said it could be fun but grueling. No one said anything about misogyny or misanthropy or death wishes ot whatever. Because it’s not a big deal, playing dead. Same here. We even did it as children. It’s fun, in it’s own way.

  42. Ledasmom
    March 23, 2007 at 8:59 am

    What bothers me most about these pictures is that they’re not horrific enough. There’s not one bit of disturbance to their clothes or to their makeup that wasn’t planned to be exactly on that edge between horror and beauty; it’s making the idea of necrophilia pretty, leaving one with the illusion that a brutalized dead girl is entirely capable of getting up and walking away.

  43. March 23, 2007 at 9:59 am

    My friend PAM did an Awesome job with her article on the fashion piece. The photos were beyond the pale and Pam captured the outrage to perfection.

  44. March 23, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Is it more feminist to be judgmental and shaming?

    Nobody’s being judgmental or shaming. They’re criticizing the concept of the series of photographs.

  45. wolfa
    March 23, 2007 at 10:11 am

    “What’s great about this is that you can also look beautiful in death.”

    Yeah, that’s so awesome to know that if I die, I can be gorgeous, at least if I die in lingerie or evening wear.

    I admit to being oddly puzzled by the decapitated one.

  46. Frumious B
    March 23, 2007 at 10:30 am

    With all the pornified female victims of male violence in this culture – Special Victims Unit, every rape scene in movies and television, Kiss the Girls – this comes as no surprise to me.

  47. orange
    March 23, 2007 at 10:32 am

    I sent hate mail to the station, and attached a NOW article on violence against women in the US. I can’t believe that anyone would think this was ‘pretty’ or even ‘okay.’

    Zoopy: The point is not to shame or judge the women who participated. Not at all. The point is to criticize a culture that finds the beaten, humilated, murdered corpse of a woman “beautiful” and “sexy.” This is fundamentally fucking disgusting.

  48. March 23, 2007 at 10:39 am

    I’m sorry, n. If I were your roommate or a nearby neighbor, I’d let you tell me about how you feel and listen and understand it.

  49. Catherine Martell
    March 23, 2007 at 10:39 am

    zoopy says:

    Are these photos any more objectifying than any other artistic depictions of death — see the numerous (often quite nubile) ones of Christ?

    Yes. There is a pretty massive power differential between Jesus, a man heralded by 2 billion people as the Son of God, and a dead, raped, anonymous woman.

    Are they promoting violence toward women any more than a mini-skirt promotes sexual advances?

    An awe-inspiringly bizarre comparison, that can only be valid if you believe that miniskirts do promote sexual advances, which they don’t. Miniskirts may be worn for all sorts of reasons – to look sexy, to look funky, because it’s warm out, because you feel like it. This does not imply consent to sexual advances. This photoshoot is deliberately designed to glamorise and sexualise violence against women and the murder of women.

    Why is it misogynist or anti-feminist to give women the option to display themselves how they see fit? Is it more feminist to be judgmental and shaming?

    Oh, for pity’s sake. Yeah, sure! I’m lying here in a pool of my own blood with my tits hanging out and strangulation marks around my neck, but it’s just so empowering! Especially when between 1/3 and 1/4 of all the world’s women experiences violence at the hands of her partner! I so love all the super free choices I get to make under the patriarchy!

    To paraphrase another Twistyism, if I remember rightly: just because a woman makes a choice, doesn’t make it a good choice.

  50. exangelena
    March 23, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Do all the people who think that death is sexxayyyy actually know what it really looks like?
    If you’re a bit squeamish, I recommend not reading this (reposting links from upthread)

    When people really die, their sphincter muscles relax and they void their feces and urine. Depending on the weather, flies will start laying eggs on the moist areas of their bodies within a few hours. The skin is the first to change color, from normal to light blue to an almost green discoloration. This color change usually occurs in the lower quadrant first, being most noticeable in the area of the lower abdomen/pelvis/groin. So much for those crotch shots, eh?
    If they’re shot, the bullet does not always go into or through him in a straight track … A surgeon must explore the internal track of all penetrating bullets, no matter how tiny the entering wounds may seem. If he meets an abdominal wound, for instance, he must first cut off all jagged infected surface tissue. Without damaging important nerves, veins, arteries, he must then pull out the intestines “foot by foot,” looking for bullet perforations, and stitching them up.

    If they’re electrocuted, The electric chair often results in horrible odors and burns; in Florida, in the 1990s, at least two inmates heads’ caught fire, and the chair routinely left the condemned’s body so thoroughly cooked that officials had to let the corpse cool before it could be removed.

    If they drown, You hit the water going fast, and your body plunges in deep. Conscious or otherwise, you breathe in saltwater and asphyxiate … Frothy mucus bubbles from the nose … The sea reclaims bodies quickly. Fish eat them. Not just sharks, but little fish. They eat the eyes and other tender parts. As the body decays and opens up, all manner of sea creatures move in to feed. Eventually, the body comes apart. A body floats because decay causes gases to form within its cavity. If that cavity is breached for any reason, the gas escapes and the body sinks.

    If they’re poisoned, The particles disperse through the body and first destroy fast-growing cells, like those in bone marrow, blood, hair and the digestive tract.

    If they’re decapitated, She was dragged to the block, but refused to lay her head on the block. She was forced down and struggled. The inexperienced executioner made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. She leapt from the block and was chased by the executioner, with his axe. She was struck eleven times before she died. There were 150 witnesses to her execution.

    Somehow I don’t suspect any of these are coming to a fashion magazine near you.

  51. Mnemosyne
    March 23, 2007 at 11:57 am

    The first season of the show was great because it was basically narrated by one of the more skeptical of the contestants. She actually managed to ridicule some of the sillier things they were made to do — and get it into the show. I don’t think they’d allow that now.

    Elyse Sewell rocked! I only watched that first season because I loved her so much and I knew they’d never have another contestant like her again.

    She’s working as a model in Asia now and doing pretty well. I’m not surprised — she was always very professional when she was on the show, far more than any of the other contestants.

  52. Mnemosyne
    March 23, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I’m not at all surprised that they did this photo shoot — horror films are almost insanely popular right now. That imagery is so huge in popular culture with the success of stuff like Hostel that it was pretty much inevitable that it would spill over into fashion as well.

    Of course, horror movies always have a huge jump in popularity during times of social upheaval (which is why the “golden age” of gore films was the 1960s and 1970s). If women are making advances in real life, they always, always have to get slapped down by popular culture.

  53. Random Observer 3
    March 23, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I’m with Ledasmom. The concept is not awful but it is executed horribly. The photos look incredibly staged and exploitive. The woman who fell from a rooftop fell with her legs spead open against a wall? Uh no…the pictures are just stupid and tasteless.

    Posing models in death photos to me isn’t the bad part, the bad part is in trying to tart them up and just the way it was done. I’m sure someone with talent could turn that sort of thing into a statement.

    Also Elyse was awesome. My roommate at the time and I both watched the first season because of her. She was actually self-aware and aware of the BS of the show. She brought the snark and was worth rooting for.

  54. Lizzie
    March 23, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Ostensibly the girls on ANTM are doing these things to show how versatile and creative they are. Modeling isn’t just standing there, it’s inhabiting the clothes and becoming the woman who would wear them, making them come alive (ironic…) This is a “reality” show that’s produced as entertainment so of course they’re going to make it outrageous. I love fashion but I’m not interested in the soap opera.

    Fashion is about fantasy, selling dreams. Death and sex are linked, for a lot of us and obviously the fantasy isn’t about actual dead bodies.

  55. Rachel
    March 23, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    The individual women on the TV show had a choice as to whether or not to be on the show, and in these pictures. Every individual woman in the United States, where the show is massively popular, does not have a choice whether or not to live in a culture where women’s brutal deaths – what could be her own brutal death – are seen as erotic and glamorous. She can’t get away from it. I know if I had an out clause from sexual assault and brutal murder being taken as an integral part of my sexuality, I’d jump at the chance. Unfortunately, I live in 21st century America, so it seems the best I can hope for is getting away with sexily simulating assault rather than having to live it.

    For the record, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am not blaming the models. I’m blaming the producers who thought this would be a good idea in any way. I personally can’t understand why the models didn’t flee in terror, but when we position being a model and being seen by millions looking sexy on TV as the highest aim a woman could strive for, we can’t be too shocked when people will do icky things too get there.

  56. March 23, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I agree with some of what you say, Lizzie, but I think it’s revealing the way the judges enthused over the models’ ability to look completely lifeless, inert, stripped of all animating personal identity or energy.

    And I agree with what you’re saying, exangelena. Those descriptions of the physical reality of death are not pleasant or arousing. But I don’t think they’re any grosser than similarly graphic descriptions of respiration, digestion, “elimination,” cognition, muscle contraction, and even teh sex would be. They’re all reminders that we’re made of much squishier and runnier stuff than we’d care to admit most of the time, stuff that’s subject to decay. The death descriptions just bring that home a little more ruthlessly.

    I mostly didn’t care for The Sheltering Sky, but there were several good metaphors for life and death in it (especially the comparison of life to smoking a cigarette). The masterfully understated last sentence has always stayed with me (though the book doesn’t quite end with a death): “At the edge of the Arab quarter the car, still loaded with people, made a wide U-turn and stopped; it was the end of the line.”

    I don’t find the idea of huring other people erotic at all, but I do something find the thought of my own death to be rather sexy (or is it that I find sex to be rather like what I imagine death will be?), in between finding it terrifying, depressing, dreadful, a massive relief, etc. Mostly it just seems so unreal that it can’t really elicit any emotion more significant than vague boredom and a mild perplexity, like part of an abstract scientific theorem, or a random historical fact shorn of any context. As La Rochefoucauld said, “Death and the sun cannot be looked at steadily.”

  57. March 23, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    back to the cattiness –
    Mind completely stopped when they began their stories of how they killed eachother

    “typical” back biting, back stabbing women – we’re all masochistic and have an innate desire to be treated this way – we do it to ourselves – we do it to eachother.
    Women are emotional, out of control, petty without morality,
    untrustworthy painted wolves in sheeps clothing.

    To some degree I can actually appreciate the art and even the sexual appeal of it all.

    But this feeble attempt to make the violence acceptable and less mysogynistic, by pitting them against eachother made every aspect of it the whole thing disgusting and depressing!

  58. R. Mildred
    March 23, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    the thing is, the question that keeps coming to mind is…

    I wonder how many guys masturbated with marilyn monroe’s corpse after she committed suicide?

  59. March 23, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you, R. Mildred, for that image.

  60. Kayomi
    March 23, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Is anyone here considering action? I think it is great that Feministe is willing to start a post here so that we can share our thoughts and discuss what this tells us about women in our society. But, is anyone here willing to turn these thoughts into a boycott? I have been a viewer of America’s Next Top Model on and off since it started, but after this episode I have decided that this company does not deserve my business. I know that my viewing this show is only a blip on their radar but I know that if more men and women were willing to stop viewing this show, it might make them reconsider what images there are broadcasting. If anyone is considering a boycott, I would recommend contacting the company that profits from this show (CWTV) and informing them why you will no longer help them profit from eroticizing violence against women.

  61. exangelena
    March 23, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Heraclitus – If any fashion magazine does portray death in the true-to-life ways that I described, complete with oozing bodily fluids, putrescent aromas and decaying flesh, I will give them a medal for honesty.
    Last time I checked, respiration, excretion and muscle contraction aren’t sold as sexy. Women aren’t dressed up as alveoli or sliding filaments. IMHO, when I learned about physiology it was at such a micro level that I didn’t find it gross – just a lot about the flow of ions, molecules, proteins changing conformation, etc, quite boring if you actually think about it that way.
    And on a molecular level, death probably doesn’t seem that gross either, just a lot of chemical reactions and structures breaking down. But we’re not talking about death as a chemical process or even death as an abstract idea, we’re talking about death on a macro level, seen with the naked eye, as an image.
    Images of battering, violence and the death of women are presented as BEAUTIFUL – when in fact, that’s a misrepresentation, if we actually saw death, it would usually appear ugly, smelly and painful.

  62. March 23, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    I wonder how many guys masturbated with marilyn monroe’s corpse after she committed suicide?

    Or to keep it timely, ANS?

  63. March 23, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Oh, exangelena, I completely agree with you that these photos are bad. I was just making some general and I suppose mostly irrelevant suggestions about how we think and feel about death in an abstract way.

  64. Older
    March 23, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    I believe Dan Savage addressed the ANS question.

    I looked at those “fashion” photos. Aside from their offensiveness generally, you really can’t see the clothes that well. Wasn’t fashion supposed to be about the clothes?

  65. Henry Holland
    March 23, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    To borrow a Twisty-ism, I think we often underestimate just how much they hate us. But they aren’t really trying to hide it, are they?

    But…but….the woman have a choice about whether to do the photo shoot! The show is hosted by a woman, how can it be bad? /sarcasm.

    I hate this world we live in sometimes.

  66. exangelena
    March 23, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Heraclitus – yeah, and on that level I think you’re right … I mean, images of martyrology (whether secular or religious) can be extremely powerful. But I still think that’s way different from offering porn-y, sanitized images that glamorize sexual violence against women, when women are frequently raped, battered and murdered by their intimate partners, is quite a different thing and pretty unacceptable.
    But I’m probably arguing apples and oranges ;)

  67. holly r.
    March 23, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    I just found it hard to believe that ten years have passed, and this is still considered acceptable. About ten years ago, we were talking about this death + women imagery in my womens studies classes at KU. Maybe the best thing to do is (instead of arguing with ANTM trying to use reason) is to tell them this imagery is oh, so passe’…

  68. holly r.
    March 23, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    wait… we all do remember those images in advertising in black and white with corpse-like women splayed on the hoods of cars, right?
    that was my first thought… so clueless about the message ANTM was sending, and also so clueless that this has been way overdone.

  69. April
    March 24, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    I thought it was the best photoshoot they ever did. It was fantastic and fun. I think you are reading WAYYY to much into it. I think you should relax. The photoshoot I hated was the one before. I don’t mind nudity but that was just porno and really stupid. I hated that shoot. Tyra says on her other show that real people would NEVER make you pose nude .. then on her model show she makes them pose nude or they go home. THAT sends a wrong message. Playing dead is just like halloween fun and there is nothing wrong with it.

  70. Sylvs
    March 24, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Does anyone have any recommended books/articles on fasion & violence & women?

    I have to do a research paper for a Writing Class and having a hard time finding anything “scholarly” on the subject….

    :: sad face ::

  71. Ignorant Redneck
    March 24, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    As a card carrying Male chauvanist, this just pisses me off. My daughters were not created by god, carried by their mother, raised or cherished to be taught that they are to be victims! Aomen are so…so…valuable, that the reduction of their femininity to a consumerist automaton that exists to be desireable to male libedos is some sort of genocide. To do things that makes them think being victimized is hot…is a horrible, horrible abuse!

  72. Julie
    March 25, 2007 at 9:47 am

    I just went and looked at the pictures, I think I’m going to be sick. Sometimes, especially when someone is as new to feminism as I am, it really is scary to see how much they really do hate us, just how mch unbridled mysogyny is out there. They aren’t even trying to hide it and that’s the most disturbing part, this is just accepted now.

  73. Lisa
    March 25, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Would they ever show male models in these kinds of positions?

  74. Melissa M.
    March 25, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Wow, I don’t watch America’s Next Top Model, but I sometimes read recaps of it on LGBTQ websites. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that they glamorized women dying violent deaths or that they had one of the women pose for a photo shot about death right after she learned that a close friend of hers had died. I can’t help but think that the producers of ANTM were hoping to get better ratings by cashing in on their audience’s morbid curiosity. How would posing as a murdered woman affect Jael whose friend just died? I think that it is contemptable that not only were they inviting people to oogle fake corpses and perpetuating the idea that violent death is sexy, but they were also promoting people’s morbid curiosity about whether Jael would be able to “take” the photo shot.

    Speaking of how people actually die, shows like CSI may actually help make stop the victim pronograpy trend that so many tv shows and movies engage in. Compared to the romantic death scenes that are a staple of many movies, people don’t die in pretty ways in forensic shows. Their bodies stink and bloat and change colors. The good thing about shows like CSI is that they don’t allow us to romanticize death or to dehumanize murder victims as much as other portayals of death. The victim starts out as a body, an object, but because the “good forensic detectives” never lose sight that these bodies are human, murder becomes about the horors that are inflicted on people not grusome objects. Shows like CSI aren’t perfect, they fetisize science and sometimes the “gross out factor” definitely triumps over humanizing crime victims. In addition, their protayal of how many crimes get solved is just wrong. Still If I had to watch a tv show in which women “die brutally” (at least in photos) I’d rather watch CSI than AMTM any day.

  75. March 25, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    I made a slideshow using the ANTM photos and domestic violence statistics. It’s here if you want to check it out:


  76. March 25, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    If you go to Google Scholar http://www.scholar.google.com and type in the search term/phrases:

    violence against women fashion

    violence against women media

    sexism in advertising

    violence against women advertising

    You should find several relevant articles. I would focus search terms more around media and advertising because this is where the fashion industries sexism is most studied.

  77. Sylvs
    March 25, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Thank you Rachel!

  78. March 26, 2007 at 12:36 pm


    photoshoot where girl is told she must be photographed in the nude or else face expulsion = bad.

    photoshoot where girl is told she must be photographed as the victim of a brutal crime days after her own friend was such a victim or else face expulsion = good?

  79. Ken
    March 26, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    “Miss J: These are broken-down dolls. These are busted up, broken-down dolls, marionettes.”

    I would analyze, but that (coupled with the pictures) seems to sum up the idea of women for the majority of the fashion industry.

    Speaking as a bearer of a Y chromosome, I’ve also suspected that for a long time. During my college days (late 1970s), there was an urban legend going around that the fashion industry was run by woman-hating homosexuals and their “high fashion” was intended to make women appear as absolutely ugly as possible. And this was before the era of the cocaine-and-nicotine-fueled Supermodel (TM) as the Ultimate Feminine Beauty Doll.

    There’s classic melodrama “jep”, and a threat to a fictional character does build more audience sympathy when that character is a beautiful woman, but this…

    This is a fumetti version of what comics fans call “Women in Refrigerators Syndrome”.

  80. Juliana
    March 27, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Was this the same photographer who caught some major crap for doing this same thing as a spread or advert campaign in the late 80’s or early 90’s?
    I remember seeing the campaign and we covered it in university, but can’t for the life of me remember the guys name.

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