Monday, December 1, 2008

Making the A List Means Abusing Women

How do you know when you have reached the top of your game?  How do you know that you have been placed in the category of the elite?  When you get to display violent, racist images of women like some kind of trophy in your office. Pirelli is a tire company that each year produces a calendar which it hands out to those that it deems the creme de la creme.  This years images can only be described as disgusting. They are located below the jump and are not safe for work.  They also have the potential to trigger those who have experienced sexual assault, so please use caution in viewing.

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This is our post feminist, post racial world.  There is the claim that we have moved beyond the need to fight for liberation but if images like these can be created as some form of reward clearly we have not reached the point where we universally believe that all bodies matter. 

H/T Sociological Images via Hoyden About Town


52 comments:

Queers United said...

This is so so disturbing, I don't even have words to express how disgusting and creeped out I am. This "calendar" completely objectifies women especially that black women, those pictures are horrifying.

brklyngrl said...

Wow, wow, wow. Wow. I'm stunned to cursing. How long before the "it's an artistic commentary on racism and sexism" excuses start?

AR said...

I don't know if it's just me, but the images, indeed the entire post, are above the jump, on your blog's frontpage.

Rj said...

Utterly disgusting.

Anonymous said...

I think is very good art work! I've seen similar pictures in National Geographic.

-Ben

space said...

Looks like success is still seen in terms of colonialism and mercantilism.

Arum said...

Ben, are you seriously claiming that National Geographic carries rape imagery? Because that's what a lot of this is.

I'm astounded, some of those pictures went way beyond your bog standard racist, sexist dross, and right into "real rape 'n' torture" porn. And this is mainstream? What the hell is wrong with people? Why would anyone want this stuff on their wall?

T. R Xands said...

How long before the "it's an artistic commentary on racism and sexism" excuses start?

When I took advanced Art, one of our most important lessons was to be able to see & explain the artistic quality of just about anything. And I felt like doing that for maybe ONE picture, but...those are just disgusting. There really is no commentary to be made with them, nothing positive anyway. I wasn't ready for any of those even with the bold red warning.

A couple of them would actually be kind of nice calendar fotos if they weren't so horribly misogynistic and racist. I really want to know what the photographer(s) who took these pictures were thinking and what the models thought of them.

Anonymous said...

Arum,

We have to be very, very, very careful when looking at instances where art intersects with popular cluture. Now I never said that National Geographic carried rape imagery. What I will say is that when I was kid, I saw some pictures of people that had the golden rings around their to stretch their necks as some form of a beauty standard in that particular culture. I, as a child told my parents that it looked like torture. We should be very careful about what we are reacting to until we have some kind of a perspective of what's actually going on. Pictures like the ones posted here often provoke knee-jerk responses without any kind of thought.

-Ben

Valerie said...

Ben, if you seriously cannot see the difference between a woman choosing to get neck rings and a woman being threatened with a chainsaw/ gang rape imagery, you just aren't trying.

Anonymous said...

Valerie,

They way I see it, the neck rings actually are REAL and involve REAL people in REAL life situations. The necks rings actually, physically produce changes the bodies of the women wearing them. I was under the impression that these photos were a display of art, meant to go on a calendar. If the people are REAL and are actually being raped, then someone needs to contact the authorities.

-Ben

Valerie said...

Ben,

You may want to rethink the deliberate obtuseness thing. It doesn't make you sound as clever as you seem to think it does.

Anonymous said...

@Ben - Yes, there is a difference between staged "art" and a REAL sexual assault. The issue here for me is the implicit messaging. The images in this calendar are created for A-listers as defined by a luxury goods company. The images in this calendar eroticise racism, violence against women, sexual assault, and colonialism.

Pirelli distributes these calendars to strengthen their relationships with their best customers (or prospective customers.) They wouldn't send out something like this unless they felt their intended audience would enjoy it.

So the implicit message is this:
1)If you are a successful, desirable customer, Pirelli deems you worthy to receive this calendar.
2)Pirelli has selected you for this elite group, and believes that members of this group are likely to enjoy eroticized images of subjugated women and people of colour, being subjected to violence and oppression. Therefore:
3) Pirelli believes that successful, desirable customers will appreciate eroticised images of violence against women and POC.

The issue is not that the models in the images were themselves victims of violence. The issue is that real women and POC are victims of violence every day. Twisting these tragedies to make sexy marketing material is what I take issue with.

Let's also not forget that making something look sexy or artful is a tactic to legitimize it. Images like this imply that violence against women and POC is acceptable and, on some level, desirable.

nia said...

Thanks for the trigger warning.
This nonsense is just one of those typical fetish-styled, racist, colonial-themed fantasy pictorials done mainly to excite white elitist types like Vogue fashion editors and fashion designers.

What makes it offensive is that colonialism remains such a painful part of Africa’s history. They could have at least TRIED to be realistic and included a couple shots of white men stealing land and raping and killing African men, women AND children.

It has all the usual boring clichés – clothed white women at the center, African ‘natives’ at the backdrop and as savages, and black women only allowed to be displayed upfront if they are being violated in some way. All artistically captured no doubt by some over-privileged ‘artist’ who doesn’t have a CLUE about the African continent.

BTW, the neck rings mentioned earlier are worn by some women mainly to signify marital status and wealth, not beauty. And that is a whole other issue in itself!

Anonymous said...

I had a suspicion from yesterday that Ben was a troll. Confirmed. Don't engage.

All I can say is that this is a horrific clusterfuck of violent racism, sexism and classism.

Waiting for someone to jump in with free market excuses...

T. R Xands said...

Ben, are you trying to say that just because the photos were staged (therefore the models aren't really getting tortured or anything silly like that) means we shouldn't be troubled by the imagery? It sounds like that's what you're trying to go for--and please correct me if I'm misreading you--but that thought is really troubling to me. Just because it's fake doesn't mean we shouldn't be bothered by the message in it, like what Anon 1:55 above me is getting at.

Also the comparison between the women with the neck rings & these pictures just isn't there for me. Those women have the neck rings as part of their culture, and these are frankly disturbing pictures of women appearing to be gang raped & chased by wild animals. I'm really not seeing it either...

Anonymous said...

Valerie,

I'm not going to respond to your personal attacks.

Anonymous #13,

Thanks for a well thought out and reasoned response. You've hit the nail on the head. The problem is that it is distasteful and offensive to some while others enjoy it.

As for using/manipulating art so as to legitimize what is being represented, that again maybe distastefull as well, but it is up to the individual consumer behave themselves towards others.

Nia,
Thanks for the correction on the meaning of the neck rings.

-Ben

L Martin Johnson Pratt said...

as i look at this i am reminded of Sean Combs ad with his naked daughters it saddens me that Black Women are constantly used as sexual type themes or laborers in households cant the black woman be the CEO, Scientist, Preacher

Anonymous said...

T. R Xands,

It's okay to be bothered by the images. I'm concerned about what happenes next. Much like the Christian-Right, some people would like to ban things just because they don't like them or because they find them offensive. Is that where you are going?

-Ben

ILUVBlackWomen said...

http://www.thecocktailcafe.com/fashion-in-the-city/vogue-cover-diddy-and-his-twins-photo-shoot/ Disgusting but when i tweeted about this i got 60% who said nothing wrong with pic or maybe it was that i SAID MR COMBS is disgusting pervert that needs his butt BEAT :) lol anyways imagery is so powerful NO ONE can deny that when you see pics of the power couple Barack and Michelle vs Whitney/Bobby vs Will/Jada vs Flava/New York - Pictures and Images convey a message that is UNDENIABLE! Whats that saying a picture is WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS!!

lindsay said...

It just doesn't make sense to me why Pirelli considers those images calendar appropriate... I'm honestly mind boggled as to why they were chosen/taken in the first place.

Although, after looking around on the website a bit, they haven't done any better in years prior. The 2008 calendar exoticized East Asian women (who mostly look to be White women in Asian-face), although it doesn't even border on the rape scenes in this year's calendar.

MBR said...

This is my problem with these pictures and themes... The models agree to it. Now iluvblkwomen - I was one of the few who chimed in on the Diddy pics and I still feel the way I did back then. But when it comes to these type of "artistic" expressions, I just wonder when will women just say "no."

But like the video vixen, the porno queen and the stripper from down the way... so long as there is a dollar to be made someone will stoop that low to get it; no matter how high they are told to climb.

Tafari said...

I think all of the images are distasteful & I would not display thins in my home or anywhere else. Pirelli really fucked up with this one!

nia said...

Besides the sexist and racist imagery, it's also disturbing to see the photo of the animal carcass between the two women. Many African nations experience severe droughts and food shortages on a regular basis. It is not uncommon to see animal carcasses or bones by a roadside or in a village. So are they even eroticizing humanitarian crises now?

SistersTalk said...

Thanks for the tip!

Betsy said...

Who, exactly, are these disgusting, hateful, horrifying calendars distributed to, if I may ask? The creme de la creme of what?

Renee said...

@Betsy they distribute them free of charge to their "A list clientele" as a thank you. They also gift them to potential customers. They are not making any money off of the calenders but I still find the whole thing a disgusting mess.

Anonymous said...

hmmm...

I may be totally missing it, but I've looked at each of these photos in turn a few times, and the only ones which seem to reflect the sort of imagery you're suggesting are the ones of the black woman who is very "moist" looking with all the arms/hands/pants around her.

Now, while I agree that anyone who is the victim of a sexual assault may be a bit "triggered" by these images, I do not think that they suggest rape or assault. I think that they suggest that the photographer really has a thing for damp black women.

I guess I feel like with all the battles we could choose to fight, this one really falls short: and I agree with Ben that they are similar to NatGeo photos, except that NatGeo photos are usually journalistic in nature as opposed to fine art.

There are a LOT of "fine art" images which are similar in that they objectify women, but again... you say there's a rape theme going on with these photos, and I totally disagree.

Renee said...

You are quite blind if you do not see the link with sexual assault that images convey. I see no need to explain the obvious.

Arum said...

Ben, your arguments are confused.

Firstly, you're comparing this to images of real Africans going about their daily business. But this is a parody, a sexist, racist parody of Africans. See the nasty, spear-weilding men man-handling the bare breasted woman? Oh, how normal this is in African villages.

Then you argue that this is okay precisely because this is acted, no-one was actually harmed. Yet sexist, racist parody of real people is harmful. Portraying Africans as loincloth-clad rapists is harmful. Portraying African women as victims of men and animals is harmful. Hey the stupid African chicks are scared of the big-fella-with-floppy-ears. Him run real fast. Me run fast in me tribal bikini. Watch me implants bounce. For fuck's sake.

Then there's the whole 'but you're just like the Christian right' crap. Firstly, no-one has called for this to be banned. Secondly, I'm British. Promoting hatred is illegal here. This counts as promoting hatred - hatred of women, hatred of Africans, purely for the titilation of white men. This is poisonous. You want a copy? Presumably, you'd have to be way higher on the social scale for you to get one. Tough shit babes, you can only dream.

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

There is something suspicious about these pictures? Dare I say black face or photoshopped? I clicked on the Pirelli site to see if I can find the models’ names and look for them in other places. Almost each photo allows you to click on the photographer, model, and location. Yet the two photos that are in question will not click on to a model’s name. So far the model’s listed are Daria Werbowy, Isabeli Fontana, Lara Stone, Emanuela de Paula, Mariacarla Boscono, and Malgoisa Bela, but none are credited to be the model in question.

Anonymous said...

Arum,

It's really simple. Freedom of expression is legal here. Rape and torture are not. The photos are not rape and torture. The photos are someone's expression of creativity and art, albeit disgusting to some, but not illegal.

-Ben

Arum said...

No-one has said they're illegal in America, Ben, or even in the UK.

However, you are defending someone's racist and sexist 'creativity and art'.

You're right, it really is simple. Either you are okay with pretend images of black women being raped, created for white men to wank over, or you're not. I'm not.

deBeauxOs said...

Ben, if a luxe business produced a calendar with 'arty' staged photos of men being castrated, painfully pierced, raped and subjected to various indignities it would be gross even if glamorized à la Vogue magazine. Some men might call it sexist, violence against men, and so forth.

In a world where million of girls and women are IN REALITY subjected to physical atrocities for the purpose of titillating men or satisfying their sadistic impulses, it would seem to me reasonable, humane, and compassionate to expect that such violence would not be celebrated as this calendar does in its imagery.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say in response to comparing these obviously sexualized and demeaning photographs to work in National Geographic, the photos in National Geographic, while they are taken through a Western lens, are images of real things! I have read a fair few Nat Geos in my day and seen a lot of breasts, but the Nat Geo photos are not OF breasts, they are of PEOPLE, and there is usually an accompanying article about these HUMAN BEINGS (not sex objects) and some relevant struggle or story. In Nat Geo, it is not only art, but it mostly captures real life. The images in this calendar are the result of staged photo shoots that show terrorized women and perfect breasts. The only connection I see between these photos and photos seen in National Geographic is that there are topless women. However, the context is totally different, because the calendar photos show some violent, embellished images of women in some "exotic" place where the savages are dominating them. While there is occasionally shocking material in a Nat Geo, it is from a journalistic point of view. What that calendar is is porn: it is people being warped into some sexual fantasy, and to compare that to a Nat Geo is so close minded.

Anonymous said...

The point of the National Geographic example was to show that it too can be found to be objectionable to a certain crowd. People have different tastes. I hate to resort to cliches', but its different strokes for different folks and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As long as no one is talking of banning this type of stuff, then I'm fine with it.

-Ben

Anonymous said...

Ben, to even bring "banning" into the equation is (as others have mentioned) disingenuous and only serves to obscure the legitimate critique (which you're either lying about not "getting" or are too dumb to get). We're not talking about banning (how would that be achieved, exactly?), but one thing that marginalized groups can do is hold companies, organizations, etc., accountable (via direction of our patronage and money elsewhere, or via verbal condemnation of this apparent longstanding "business practice")for their choices to promote and support racism and misogyny, let alone to hand it out as a gift on a silver platter to members of some perverse elite boys' club they have created. Given your apparent ignorance of every aspect of this topic, I don't see why you're continuing to post.

Faith

Anonymous said...

Faith,

That was not very nice of you, but that's okay. It's typical. Blogging culture is centered around everyone having the same opionion. Everyone has to have the same opionion on a topic and anyone who thinks differently is chastised or run out. Look, I like the photos, I find the work artistic and thought provoking (which I believe good art should do) and I would likely purchase one.

-Ben

Anonymous said...

Ben, what thoughts do these pictures specifically provoke in you? Because I think for most others here, those thoughts are of assault and rape and battery and fear and terror. If those are the same thoughts you have, why on Earth would you WANT those thoughts? If they're not...I'm sorry, you have a frighteningly skewed view if you're having good thoughts looking at these images. You need to take a step back and look at yourself objectively if images of naked women being assaulted provoke nice thoughts in your mind.

And you keep saying, it's art, it's art. And you talk about us wanting to ban stuff when no one had mentioned that, you take it to an extreme. So let's take it there - what if, instead of grown women (and of course, "grown" in the modeling world often is still young), these were pre-teens? Or children, toddlers? Would it still be "art" to you? Would you still want it on your wall? If so, then I seriously do not know what else to say except hooray for you, you've succeeded in making strangers on the internet disgusted with you. If not, then why can you recognize some images as being "bad" or "wrong" and not others?

Anonymous said...

Not only is this calender disturbing, demeaning, and outright gross.....it's ugly.

Who designed this thing? The photos are all clumped together, with random illustrations and effects. The poses are also ridiculous.

If I were one of those elephants, I would have trod on the photographer. :]

Let's write a letter of complaint to Pirelli, instead of arguing on a blog. :D

Rj said...

Ben is a troll. I've been following him since a while ago on all of Renee's MRA posts. Engaging with him is a waste of your breath.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #39,

Look, I'm not about to be coerced into conforming to some fake psychotic social standard that says that I should feel bad about myself for looking at a photo and not seeing rape or who knows what ever else is in someone's mind that is seeing what I don't see. That is just busllshit. You people are no different than southern rednecks that get all pissed off about some museum in New York that has a photo of the american flag draped around a toilet. Your social standards should not dictate what everyone else HAS to SEE or THINK about a particular given piece of work. And to sickly suggest something like child pornography which you darn well know is illegal is disgusting of you.

Good bye and good riddance.
-Ben

Blackamazon said...

**is just stunned*

Octogalore said...

Wow. Way to offend (putting it lightly) anyone who isn't a white dude.

Looking at http://www.pirelli.com/web/governance/board-dir/default.page, they seem to have an all-male management, with one exception. I imagine the "Calendar Club" members are male-run as well. One more reason I don't buy the "here's the new boss, same as the old boss" justification for why more women in positions of power isn't a biggie.

hexy said...

And to sickly suggest something like child pornography which you darn well know is illegal is disgusting of you.

Uh... Ben, no-one used the words "child pornography". It was simply suggested that children replace women in these images. YOU'RE the one who has apparently been filing these images as pornography.

Angel H. said...

I think I just threw up a little.

Rj said...

Hey Renee,

I'd like to share with you that Dear Ben left your blog and came on over to mine--WHICH IS ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND RAPE--and left this comment:

Ahhh, inforamttion on this site may be offensive? You can be offensive but I should feel bad for looking at Pirelli calendar photos because they are offensive?

-Ben


Me no publish bullshit comments from trolls

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