Friday, 31 January 2014

Undie Ads - revolutionary or just plain pants?

There's been some strange goings on in the pants department recently.

First, American Apparel, never usually ones to shy away from porn aesthetic in their advertising, put be-merkined mannequins in their windows. Apparently the bush is back. Cameron Diaz (movie star and personal spokeswoman for the pubic hair of all women everywhere) announced that hibernation for the furry critter was officially over.

So, here's my issue with this. Vaginas are not a fashion statement. Yes, perhaps the Guardian online does subsume the "women" section into its "Life and Style" supplement. This should not be seen as encouragement to celebrities and retail outlets to treat women's bodies with the same sycophantic faddish drivel reserved for detox diets, Spring/Summer collections, and beetroot-infused baked goods.

Great, women can spend a little less time preening. But that's something that should be our decision. If you reduce it to a fashion statement, you've lost the argument. What about when the fickle world of fashion decides that your unkempt muff is no longer 'bang on trend'? Frankly, I don't want my pubis co-opted by the hipsterati. It's not there to be cool; it's not a fashion statement. It's just a nice healthy part of my sexual anatomy, thank you very much.

That's not to say it's not great to see American Apparel challenging the accepted image of a sexual woman. Perhaps I'm being uncharitable. After all, their new ad campaign features a 62-year old lingerie model, Jacky O’Shaughnessy. Sure, if we're being cynical we can accuse them of shameless publicity-mongering. It's clearly working, too; Ms O'Shaughnessy's work is all over the web right now. The fact that a woman above the age of 30 being snapped in some overpriced pants is deemed so newsworthy just points to the lack of exposure afforded to older women.

In my opinion, this dearth is just another example of sexuality being expressed from a masculine point of view - women are only sexual as long as they are young, fertile, and fit into the sex-object aesthetic of the societal male fantasy. Whether American Apparel's motives are truly altruistic or purely commercial, they've finally brought up a topic that's in need of debate, and for that - well done!

American Apparel aren't the only brand to embark on a new campaign this week. Over at Agent Provocateur, drudgery-chic meets schoolboy fantasy thanks to photographer Miles Aldridge. With apparently no consciousness of the skin-crawling feeling that his words induce, Aldridge claims that the photos are “a childhood dream come true, where I drop by unannounced on a school friend to find his mother home, hoovering the kitchen in just her lingerie.” Because nothing says "Happy Valentines Day" like a schoolboy's wet dream, right? Agent Provocateur have done nothing more revolutionary than build a photo campaign on the sketchy storyline of a seventies porno.

Aldridge is keen to stress, however, that "Agent Provocateur wouldn't be worn by a meek woman under the thumb of anyone." Sadly, the irony of trying to appeal to strong female consumers whilst perpetuating a tired stereotype of the slutty housewife seems lost on him. Sarah Shotton, the brand's creative director, argues that the campaign "mimicked the ‘perfect housewife’, but showed her in an altered, almost humorous light to highlight the absurd notion of the ‘perfect woman’."

Sarah, if you want to explode the myth of the 'perfect woman', you're welcome to come round to mine on a friday night and take a few snaps of me in my sausage-dog onesie with flecks of chicken korma on my chin. But making a woman look as mannequin-like as possible, then dressing her in black lace and getting her to lean seductively over an ironing board - that's not the way to explode a myth, my friend. 

So, between American Apparel animating their mannequins with pubic wigs and Agent Provocateur as good as turning their model back into a mannequin, I'm confused - are we allowed to be human now or what? 


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