Tue
Apr 17 2012 11:00am

Hey, Everyone — Stop Taking This Picture! (No, I Mean It.)

So, the most recently released image of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises kind of got me worked up. The moment I saw it I think I said something to the nature of, “If I have to see one more woman posed with her behind in my general direction, looking smouldering-ly over her shoulder, I’m going to punch someone in the face. And you two [my Tor.com officemates] should be worried, since you’re the closest people at hand.” My co-workers generally prefer a non-violent environment, so I decided to work through this the only way I know how: with lots of photographic evidence.

It’s not that we all haven’t noted how prevalent titilation is where women in the media are concerned, but this pose in particular is everywhere. And why should that be?

Well, it typically does a good job of showing off all of a lady’s assets for one. And I’m sure if an actress isn’t quite so curvy, showing off her posterior (wow, how many synonyms for “butt” will I have to use in this?) sounds like a good way of ramping up sex appeal. It’s also a pose that tells you, in no uncertain terms, “I’m here for you to objectify me. It’s okay, you don’t have to feel bad about it.”

Now, there is no problem with women being sexual, of course. But when you begin to see certain trends over and over, it’s not hard to figure out who is the benefactor of the imagery. Also important to note, this doesn’t happen to men with anywhere near the same frequency.

And it happens all the time. Observe:

The latest offender in the long line. Does anyone believe she has any experience firing a gun when she’s got her heel popped like that? She’d fall over from the kickback. And that’s ignoring the heels altogether (which you have to do in these situations).

 

Interestingly enough, after general derision across the internet for this poster (well, this one too), most of the new Avengers images featuring Black Widow look a little tougher. Maybe they noticed?

 

From what I’ve been able to find, this is the first promo shot of Gwen Cooper where she has ever been posed this way. The interesting part? It’s for Torchwood: Miracle Day, just last summer. Meaning this is specifically American marketing at work here. Great job, Starz.

But this isn’t a new trend, my friends, oh my goodness, no. For more proof, scroll on down.

 

You know what, I loved X-Men: First Class, but Angel had to have been the most poorly-executed, infuriating character in it. (Which is unfortunate, seeing as she’s the only woman of color in the film.) Her whole “I have a back tattoo that turns into wings, so I need to be partly naked in order to release them” was pretty sketchy to begin with, and then they took this promo shot on top of it, as though the tattoo-wings justify the pose.

 

Speaking of justifying: this was the most prominent frame of Megan Fox in the Transformer’s trailer at the time of its release. But it’s completely legit, you guys! She has to be in that position to fix this motorcycle. It’s more comfortable that way. And the camera would only fit here to shoot her from this angle — it’s a crowded cycle yard.

 

Oh, look. I’m shocked this was in the promo stills for Tomb Raider. Shocked. And then I look at her posture and my knees start hurting (also my lower back).

 

This one isn’t even lit properly for Aeon Flux’s purposes. Is she practicing yoga?

 

We don’t even see her whole face. Oh, but she’s got two guns. I get it. That makes it okay, of course. And to think, Sarah Connor was actually better about their portrayal of women in most cases....

 

Well, it’s not as though I expected much from this movie in the marketing aspect (or any other aspect). But this one gets special points for having some sort of essential strap following the curve of her derriere. Nice.

 

Noteworthy — this is Elektra’s poster for Daredevil. But the posters for Elektra itself didn’t cop to this. Wonder what the thinking was behind the change up? (It unfortunately didn’t help the movie’s content or box office pull, and no Marvel or DC ladies have helmed their own movies since.)

 

One more time, Jennifer Garner! Aren’t you tired of seeing the picture above? (This one is special — she actually has to grab her butt to make sure you’re paying attention. Thanks, there.)

 

Amy Pond doesn’t quite pass muster here either. She’s not aiming for the sexy pose on this one, but it’s sort of silly that the first New Series companion wearing a short skirt gets her caboose showcased in the initial promo poster.

 

Even Joss Whedon’s women don’t escape this entirely. It’s not intentionally provocative (Zoe is thankfully standing like a real person with a spine), but it’s still that pose.

 

And again. (Though there are worse posters featuring Echo. You know the one.)

 

Wait, Padme’s here? Ugh. I quit. I freaking quit. And she’s all beat up from that arena (to strategically show off her midriff) too. Gross.

 

Oh, no. Not you. Uhura, not you too. (Why is she holding her arms that way? Is she practicing ballet positions?)

 

Wait a minute... here’s an example of the exact opposite at work. I know, I know. The horror of Bella Swan. But problems with Twilight aside, she’s not doing the pose. In fact, she’s not doing much of anything besides standing there looking pissed off.

Could it be because the movie in question isn’t marketed toward men? I’m thinking... yes.

 

Then again... I would like to point out that I googled “urban fantasy cover” and this was the second image to come up. The first didn’t even have the woman’s face. Slightly more perplexing in that woman are the primary readers of urban fantasy. Is this a wish fulfillment thing? Because it’s not fulfilling any particular wish I have.

There’s only one solution, since I don’t see Hollywood backing off this model any time soon: I want equal billing for male backsides.

 

Cowboys & Aliens did us the favor in their teaser poster (they don’t bother showing Daniel Craig’s face either), but I think this is perhaps my favorite example amongst the slim pickings for guys in the dreaded pose:

 

Yeah, Riddick. You’re looking fine. Show off those goggles, baby. And those... curvy blade things.


Emily Asher-Perrin has that Cowboys & Aliens poster directly to her left. She never stares at it. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

253 comments
Sandy M.
1. Sandy M.
Agreed, agreed! I am so tired of this being considered acceptable. It is not acceptable.

Have you seen this parody of the poses? http://kevinbolk.deviantart.com/art/Avengers-Booty-Ass-emble-270937785
Sandy M.
2. Improbable Joe
Yeah!

And the waitresses at Hooters don't actually like me, no matter how close to me they sit or how many times they call me sweetie!
Gerd K
3. Kah-thurak
I sometimes wonder... IS outrage actually some sort of hobby?
Sandy M.
5. Aneru
Thank you! I complained about this ad nauseum when the American Tron:Legacy posters were being released. The most frustrating part is that foreign marketing of these same movies don't use the "over the shoulder" pose nearly as much.
Bridget Smith
6. BridgetSmith
Strangely enough, I think putting Amy in that pose is something of an attempt at modesty. If they'd put her on her back like the Doctor, limbs akimbo as they are, we'd have a straight shot up her skirt. Also, I sort of love how it looks like the Doctor is reluctantly falling backwards into the vortex, while Amy is heading into it, ready for adventure.

Great rundown of how even the good shows/movies with great characters do this. I suppose it's because the marketing team is separate from the writer and director, and as we just saw with John Carter, that's very often a good thing. But it does mean that they don't necessarily understand why we like these characters or that we will still go see the movies without them being treated as sex objects. Like The Dark Knight Rises has no other selling points.
Sandy M.
7. Helen G
Emily, you didn't get the memo, hon!

Your only value as a woman is your sexual attractiveness to heterosexual men. OF COURSE butt kicking sci-fi heroines are posed for maximum visibility of their ass-ets, no one is going to care that Zoe can kill you with her pinky if she doesn't have a great ass!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
8. tnh
Kah-thurak, I'm sure you didn't mean to imply anything rude about Emily
Asher-Perrin or her article.

Emily, you can find that pose of Uhura's all over comics, where it's usually exaggerated to the point of unreality. In both real life and in art, it emphasizes the bust line.
Gerd K
10. Kah-thurak
@tnh
Not really rude, I would hope. I am just a little bewildered by the article. So much ado about so little of substance - and really, the Tomb Raider picture? If this doesnt capture the essence of that movie perfectly, then what does?
Sandy M.
11. ThankYouThankYou
Wow! This is the best article on this site EVAR! I had to read it three times it was so good! Please do a follow up with more pictures.

Seriously though, I do see your point, and yes, those films are marketed towards men, and yes, it is effective. A marketer's job is to sell the film. So blame men, not marketers. Alcohol marketers sell alcohol by showing attractive people having fun drinking alcohol. They don't sell alcohol by showing what happens after a night of fun and debauchery: accidents, pregnency, abortions, puking, breakups, photos you regret, videotapes of you ripping your boss floating around the internet, drunk driving, death.

Marketing is about creating and providing fantasy and wish fulfillment. In a pre-internet porn society, a pretty woman staring into the camera with passion used to be enough for a man, but I'm afraid that just isn't the case anymore. Most men are not moved by such things because of what they've chosen to put in front of their eyes on a consistent basis. Marketers have to up the ante, and in general, a woman showing of her assets, staring back at us over her shoulder with a "come hither" look screams "follow me into the bedroom" into our subconcious. Its effective, uncreative, fast, and cheap.
Sandy M.
12. StrongDreams
The midriff-baring monster fight in AotC was not George Lucas' only crime, but it's one of the more base. I wonder if he had the posters in mind when he shot that scene. And what in Crom's name is hanging from her belt?
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
13. tnh
Kah-thurak, I'm aware that those pictures don't bother you. The trick to understanding this article and its thread is to notice that quite a lot of women are bothered by them, especially when we keep seeing the same shot over and over and over again.
Sandy M.
14. Sticky Keyboard
No complaints from ME!!
Sandy M.
15. Svenn Diagram
I find that looking at pictures of attractive women in sexually prov0cative poses is stimulating. I think this is true of many people. Until such a time as that is no longer true, you may find your cri de coeur will go unheeded. I hope this does not cause you undue dismay.
Ian Gazzotti
16. Atrus
@11: I would say the reverse, blame marketing and not men - or, more in general, blame the patriarchy. "What men want" and "what women want" are social constructs, not something hardwired in our brains or genes.
Personally I wouldn't go see a movie simply because the main guy struts his butt in a poster or has a 10-second shirtless scene; it would be an added bonus but not a tipping point.

I would also go the opposite way about the internet bit. In an era where free porn is just a click away, the only reason that sexyness in a movie poster is important is because of repression and sexual frustration - aka, men who know that said porn exists but can't/won't look at it and so finds some sort of release in this kind of imagery.
Sandy M.
17. N.S.
Great article. There's one that immediately comes to mind, too, that was left off. Pretty much any poster with Sienna Miller in it from the first G.I. Joe movie. For 6 months I was convinced it was solely a movie about her but in leather. Then I found out it was the G.I. Joe thing.
Rich Bennett
18. Neuralnet
wow! I have never noticed the thing hanging from Padme's belt before.. WTF is that? I am not sure I want to know. LOL - good article, way to call out the marketing guys.
S Cooper
19. SPC
It's also such a passive pose - the woman isn't doing anything but looking at you looking at her. All these action women should have better things to do! Shoot people! Kick down doors! Why must our action movie posters be so lacking in action?

So is there a male analog of this pose showing how big and scary they are? (The power fantasy vs. sexual fantasy question)
Sandy M.
20. JoeNotCharles
The irony here is that all of these are objectionable EXCEPT for Catwoman. Because unlike the other characters in this list, being a sexy vamp has been Catwoman's schtick from day 1, so it actually makes sense for her (the character, not the actress) to pose like that.
Sandy M.
21. alea_iacta_est
I was going to make a post to the extent of 'But isn't it a really badass pose as well?', but halfway through the article I found I'd stopped reading and was just looking at all those behinds, which pretty solidly proved the point.
Gerd K
22. Kah-thurak
@tnh
Obviously one can be bothered by a lot of things. If this is something to get enraged over seems dubious to me though.

If you can accept a film like Tomb Raider - which is pretty much about a woman with large breast running across the screen and doing nonsensical things - why bother with the poster?

And out of curiosity, I just typed "movie Posters 2011" into google and looked through the first 5 pages of results - the pose apears in maybe 14 out of ~300 picures - if you count the Smurfs, Puss in Boots and two times Red Riding Hood where you see only a red cloak. 3 of the pictures feature Chris Hemsworth of Thor in slightly different poses, one a male actor I dont know and one is the Cowboy vs Aliens Picture shown here. So that leaves 5 "real cases".

By the way: The pictures with male actors dont bother me either. I wouldnt know why. And how Anne Hathaway in knee high, high heeled boots and a clinging leather suit can not look sexy on any conceivable movie poster is beyond me.
Sandy M.
23. solarsister
Wow, the male privilege and complete deafness to any perspective other than their own is swarming in the comments to this article. Why am I not surprised?

To the gentlemen who think it's funny to joke in the comments about how much you're enjoying these pictures, consider tnh's comment again and try thinking for a minute about how women are CONSTANTLY bombarded by pictures of other women posed in deliberately provocative ways for the sole purpose of making men drool. Then think about how often you as a man are forced to look at pictures of other men posed in similarly provocative ways for women to ogle. Are the two comparable in scope? No? Why do you suppose that is?
Sandy M.
25. SeeingI
I totally agree with you on this issue, it's a really annoying trend. It's the sort of thing that most straight men never really notice, because it panders so effectively that they don't realize how contrived, insulting, and downright ridiculous looking these poses are.

Just a point of order, though, the shot of Gwen Cooper is from "Children of Earth," not "Miracle Day," so for once Starz is blameless.
treebee72 _
26. treebee72
Urban Fantasy covers drive me up the wall!!! Why are they creating covers for the male gaze when it's a female driven market?
Jeremy Hanke
27. jlhanke
Emily, I will try to word this as diplomatically as possible. I think you definitely have a good point and anyone with eyes should admit that movie/TV/music/anything marketing objectifies women. This is because sex sells - especially when the product is geared towards the "male" eye, like most action-type movies are (I use the quotation marks to highlight that this is a generality and that women certainly can and do love action movies - even action movies objectifying women).

However, I think the sheer level of outrage you're showing here is a bit over the top. First off, I'm gonna throw out the Transformers (actually, that shot's from Transformers 2), Tomb Raider, Aeon Flux, Sucker Punch, and Elektra shots for this discussion. This is not because they aren't objectifying - quite the opposite: those movies were basically giant exercises in objectifying women as sex objects with some other plot points thrown in (unless you subscribe to the "Sucker Punch is really a subversion and feminist in message" camp. Which I don't.).

As far as the other shots - so, what you're saying is that women should never be allowed to look over their shoulders? Especially when holding a gun/weapon? Or even to the side? It just seems to me that you're going a little over the top. There is an element of objectifying in all of these shots (except maybe the Zoe and Amy Pond ones, but we can agree to disagree on those), but I'm not sure what you want. Should we not allow promotional materials to show anything other than a woman's face, because ANY pose could be construed as objectifying?

I think the bigger issue in all of these cases than the POSE is the OUTFITS that most of the women are wearing. I have more problem with the fact that all bad-ass women in movies/TV must be wearing skin-tight catsuits, skirts that barely cover the butt, midriff-baring attire, leather, or some combination of the above. Would any ACTUAL ass-kicking action heroine wear attire like that? I would personally think the pleather would be binding or get in the way of movement, and the barely-there outfits sure don't offer any protection.

If you're going to dress women with the intent of sexualizing them, it doesn't matter WHAT pose they take - it'll look provocative. That's why the Twilight picture is different than the others, and to a lesser extent, Zoe and Amy Pond - they're the only ones wearing sort of sensible clothing.
Sandy M.
28. snoman
Atrus, looking at butts and breastes is hardly "social constructs, not something hardwired in our brains or genes." Just about every male primate is hardwired to look at female behinds. There is a strong hypothesis that human breasts evolved to resemble behinds as our ancestors evolved a more upright stance and the ability to mate face-to-face--no other primates have the fatty deosits aroung the mamary glands that humans have. In short, behinds and breasts are inherently eyecatching and right or worng marketers take advantage of it. They also take advantage of other things that cuase a strong (ussually sexual) response like the color red (Red cars go faster right?), shiny things (Leather. Chrome.)

These are hardly social constructs. They are mesurable reactions that are valid across cultures and across speicies! The important thing is to KNOW when you are being manipulated and realize that in the REAL WORLD people more than just a collection of stimuli and responses.
Sandy M.
29. wiredog
OTOH, Starbuck:
http://www.kateesackhoff.com/store/KS_PSTR_BSG_SAMPLE.jpg
treebee72 _
30. treebee72
Well, it didn't take long for the 'It's ok because the men fold like it, so you little ladies just need to calm down and stop being so hysterical' comments to start flowing.
Kyle Motsinger
31. Urstoff
It's not so much that it's morally objectionable as it is that it's just really creatively lazy.
Sandy M.
32. snoman
I wonder how many men have blown their brains out (metaphorically and literally) over the decades because they "only" have average jobs, average bank accounts, average strength and courage. Madison Avenue may treat women as sex objects, but they also treat men as success objects. Don't drive a cool car? Loser! Don't have a big house? Loser! Not a bad-ass, bad-boy? Loser! Not a perfect dad? Loser! Not a sports fan? Loser!
Sandy M.
33. Nexist418
The irony of being outraged over movies, books & the like for selling fantasy is delicious.

The reason the pose is sexy is that the women are sexy. The idea is that they are doing something and you caught their attention, not that they are casually standing around in that posture for hours or days.
Bridget Smith
34. BridgetSmith
@28 snoman: There's another argument that breasts developed to keep from suffocating infants. Other primates have protruding (prognathic) faces, which keeps the nose back from the mouth and allows an infant to nurse on a flat surface. Human infants, with their giant brains and flat faces, would suffocate in the same situation, so they need a surface that curves away from their mouths.

Obviously there's no way of proving any of this, and obviously there's also a sexual component to it which will draw the attention of those attracted to women. My point is: evolutionary theory does not validate misogyny, and ignoring every point about a female character other than her body certainly counts. (As does discounting the fact that women are annoyed by this trend, especially as we go see these movies too.)
Sandy M.
35. SF
@34 BridgetSmith: I may be misreading snoman's post in 28, but I think if you look at his last sentence, he's more or less in agreement with you. I don't think he's trying to say that evolutionary theory validates misogyny when he say: "people are more than just a collection of stimuli and responses."
Deana Whitney
36. Braid_Tug
@ 27. jlhanke
I like the point you made. It's the outfit that really sends the message over the top.
As when you play pool. You have to bend over to take your shot. The reaction you get wearing a mini-skirt is very different than the reaction you get wearing baggy jeans.
But any pose that is overdone, is un-imaginative on the markers part.
Tucker McKinnon
37. jazzfish
solarsister@23: PREACH IT.

And it took a whole 32 comments before "no seriously what about the menz"? I'm ... pleasantly surprised.

Jim Hines decided to try replicating some of the poses found on urban fantasy covers, with painfully hilarious results: http://www.jimchines.com/2012/01/striking-a-pose/
Sandy M.
39. jere7my
Is this fundamentally different from the men in open shirts on the covers of romance novels?
Bridget Smith
40. BridgetSmith
@35 SF: I got the impression that his point was that this sort of marketing works because of an innate desire in men, so it was fine to use it. And while I basically agree that our physical responses to attractive bodies are not actually social constructs, the ways we use those responses are, and the fact that evolution has made us want to have sex with each other doesn't mean that we should only advertise female characters through sex.

But hey, I could be misreading it too.
Sandy M.
41. snoman
Bridget, I guess you did misread me because I essentially said exactly what you just said @40!
Sandy M.
42. SF
@40 BridgetSmith: I think he was reacting to someone earlier who said that male response to these images was an entirely social construct.

I agree that what he was saying could be read the way you've read it, and that people who make those sort of arguments, using evolutionary biology/psychology as an excuse for misogyny, say similar things, but I think that his second paragraph pulls it away from that (or at least tries to).

Agree with what you say with regards to advertising and female characters.

Back to the original article, I've found this to be a good essay on the subject, with regards to depictions of female comic book characters:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/02/21/she-has-no-head-no-its-not-equal/
Sandy M.
43. snoman
Jazzfish, manipulation and emotional bullying is wrong no matter who does it to whom. And yes I have known a man--and a good person despite his gender--who killed himself for not living up to society's stereotyped standards for men. Maybe he was weak for giving in, but isn't that just part of the stereotype too? The strong, stoic, hero?

I had an angrier, nastier post prepared but Tor.com does not desrve that.
Liz Bourke
44. hawkwing-lb
I have to admire the classic blinkered chauvinism on display in some of the comments here. Sex sells. Well, when it's selling to men. When it's selling to women, well, that's just too funny, ain't that right, boys? No need to take the little ladies into account at all! It's not like they control their own money these days or anything!

@Emily Asher-Perrin:

The comparison with Twilight is really pointed. Of them all, that's the only one that looks in any way real. (It even makes me feel almost charitable towards Twilight.)

Your post reminds me of Jim Hines' one on his blog a while back about cover images in urban fantasy. The double-standard is alive and well. Worse luck.
Sandy M.
45. Ragbold
For me as a man, the interesting question is now, why does this kind of marketing create such an outrage. This is something that is done for a long time and not really "new".
Advertisment often objectifies men and women in ridiculous kind of ways. But is this really something to be upset about?

Just for the sake of the argument I googled for Paranormal Romance covers. Just the tip of the iceberg:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_mf96PLJPBjc/TFa5FGPlz8I/AAAAAAAACIs/uTNFEiqUlp0/s1600/51rQzLkFbAL.jpg

http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1291145043l/9794983.jpg

http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/8/2011/06/medium_kiss_of_snow.jpg

http://nikkibrandyberry.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/primal-bonds-by-jennifer-ashley1.jpg

http://shapeshifterromance.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/savagehunger.jpg

http://www.harlequin.com/media/images/books/0112-9780373618750-bigw.jpg

http://www.booksavvybabe.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/archangels-blade.jpg

http://www.loridevoti.com/wp-content/uploads/guardianskeepWEB.jpg

This genre is obviously directed at female readers and does quite the same. Similar poses, shirtless, muscular guys. Sometimes even the head of the guy is missing.
So, this kind of marketing seems to go both ways. When I drive to the supermarket I pass like 3 shirtless, ridiculously muscular guys posing for perfume, body lotion etc. And it's not directed at me. It's directed at women to buy this stuff for their men, cause they might not buy it for themselves.

Now for the main difference. I'm in no way offended by all those shirtless guys, who look way better and more athletic than I ever have or will be. It doesn't bother me at all, if some woman really objectifies about those guys, says their cute or rrrrr's by looking at them.

What's really interesting to me is, that per se, I'm as a male am depicted as a stupid, horny moron, who isn't able to identify sexual advertisment, when I see it and gladly partakes in the submission of women's rights by looking at these pictures.
I don't think that we're that shallow/hollow.

That aside, I agree that the depiction of women as sexual objects happens more often in our society than the depiction of men. All in all, the real question is, if this depiction is affecting us in a negative way (creating disrespect for the other gender, creating false expectations of the other gender etc.)
Emily Asher-Perrin
46. EmilyAP
Hey all! Thanks for all the discussion and comments going down, and for those who are simply enjoying the pictures... well, that makes sense! These pictures were created for your enjoyment. So there's that.

@Kah-thurak - I agree, Tomb Raider is awful. The reason the picture is there is because it illustrates the film contributing to a trend, which I find relevant even if the film's content is garbage. And of course Anne Hathaway is sexy in the getup - but she would have been sexy no matter how she was standing and they still chose this ridiculous pose. And that is what's disappointing.

@jlhanke - You're right, the outfits do make the poses even more ridiculous. As for the others that you don't think fit the bill, I think the point that stands in this situation is that the pose is so prevalent. The desire to use it again and again comes from that prevalence. And as a woman it begins to wear on you, especially when (as I pointed out) men are not being shown in the same way anywhere near as often. Which is ridiculous, because women like men's behinds too.

(As for the "sex sells" comment, there have actually been studies done to indicate the exact opposite; Buyology is a great book to read where this subject is concerned. It seems that when you show a sexualized person, what the consumer remembers is that person alone. So say you were advertizing a car with a sexy woman on it - people will remember the woman, not car. If you're showing Angelina Jolie in hotpants, that's what people will remember. That might sell your movie if people see a poster in front of the theater, but they might forget what movie it's for if they simply come across the promo shots somewhere.

@snoman - Good points about how men are expected to be acheivers to a ridiculous degree. As for the anthropological points on how men are hardwired (which we could go on about forever, as there are many schools of thought surrounding the subject) that doesn't mean that advertising has to cater to that and that exclusively. It's not just a problem that women are constantly being marketed this way, it's that men don't play in that equation equally at all. Hence all the lady butts, and only a couple of man butts.
John Adams
47. JohnArkansawyer
I wish I had access to a e-text of John Barnes' Mother of Storms. There's an on-point passage taking place in the mind of the man on the reality show honeymoon in Hawaii, recalling his wife shooting him this pose when they first met. I can't recall whether the narrative text surrounding it says it's a pose learned by or taught to every girl growing up in America. I think it's the former. In any event, perhaps that quote might indicate this is a concern of Manly Men as well as those with terminal cases of girl cooties. Does anyone have it at hand?

(Yes, I'm gently mocking some of the posts of participants in this discussion. Try not to take it too personal, guys, or too gently, either.)
Ian Gazzotti
48. Atrus
snoman@28: It might be because I'm a gay man but I don't buy into that. What you like and what you want are two very different things. As humans we're used to go against our instincts every single day. When we do follow them it's because society, or the louder voices of it, say it's OK to - or even a very good thing.

So no, liking breasts and asses might be a hardwired reaction, but if your interest in a product is proportional to how much eye candy they put in its promotion, society is to blame just as much as your genes.
Jenny Kristine
49. jennygadget
" This is because sex sells"

women's bodies = / = sex

This is not that complicated of a concept. If it was "sex" that was being sold, and not the male gaze, there would be a lot more variety in these posters. And no matter what caveats you try to claim later, presenting "sex sells" as the initial response to a post that is about the male gaze - not "omg! teh sex" - is either missing the point or willfully ignoring it.

"- especially when the product is geared towards the "male" eye, like most action-type movies are"

First, in what way is urban fantasy, in particular, geared towards "the male eye"?

Secondly, the circular argument that more men like action/genre movies, therefore the movies and marketing for these movies must be geared towards the male gaze, needs to die in the flames of the female audience driven success of Twilight and The Hunger Games. In other words, are you all sure you got the cause and effect correct there? Because recent evidence suggests otherwise.

(also your concern regarding the level of annoyance is noted. I cannot speak for all wimmins, but for me, henceforth all outrage shall be toned down to acceptable levels. /sarcasm)
Emily Asher-Perrin
51. EmilyAP
@solarsister - Thank you! And yes to all of those things.

@wiredog - BSG is so much better with those promo shots than anyone. Starbuck usually looks like she's about to take you out. Farscape is pretty darn good about it too. Every time I couldn't add someone to the list I gave a silent "thank you." :)

@lb-hawking - I love that Jim Hines post! And you're exactly right; it almost makes me like Bella Swan because she just looks so aggravated that she had to pose for the shot at all. And the idea of being sympathetic toward her in any way terrifies me.

@Ragbold - As to whether or not this is effecting society in a negative way, I'm willing to give a resounding yes on that account. In the recent Lego Friends kerfuffle, studies were brought up where they showed how negatively a small girls' self esteem is impacted by seeing media like this. It only takes one thirty-second commercial to do it. Now imagine a lifetime of it.
Sandy M.
52. snoman
Emily, et. al: For god's sake read my actual post!!!!!! I NEVER said it was OK because it was based on biological responses!!!! I never said it was even effective way to actually sell a product. All I said was it uses primate biology to get attention (just like shiny things and bright colors do). I SAID is was manipulative and that we should be aware of what is going on. Emily, for the record I am as turned of ethically and artistically by this kind of advertising as you seem to be.
Chris Meadows
53. Robotech_Master
This reminds me of a line from the song "Red River Valley" which always tickled my Dad: "Would you leave her behind unprotected?"
Ian Gazzotti
54. Atrus
Ragbold@45: the difference is that the athletic and muscular guy, while nice to look at, is still a male power fantasy, while no intelligent woman would ever want to fight in a catsuit and heels. False equivalence.
Vincent Lane
55. Aegnor
Men are much more affected by visual sexual stimuli than women are. This is driven by evolution. That is why you see more women in such poses than men. Because such poses work on men much better than they work on women. That isn't to say that visual stimuli don't work at all on women, just not to the same extent.

If it did work as well on women, you better believe that you would see a lot more of it in advertising. Advertisers are definitely interested in attracting female attention so they can sell products to them.

Anyway, there are three ways to fix this.
1) Change a basic and ingrained (over millions of years) element in the nature of the male gender.
Not likely.
2) Change the culture to make such poses taboo.
Possible. Examples of this you can find in countries such as Saudi Arabia. One primary way to instill such a taboo strong enough to counter #1, is to somehow punish those who use such poses. That punishment would be anything from beatings (such as in Saudi Arabia and the Taliban), or social ostricisation as was done in more "civilized" societies in history.
3) Using government power to make such poses illegal.
Not likely, at least in the U.S.

So I guess my point is that solutions to this issue are likely worse than the problem itself.
Liz Bourke
56. hawkwing-lb
(Also, I am moved to wonder why jlhanke @ 27 is reading such a high level of "outrage" into the initial post. Pointing out obvious things in an entertaining fashion counts as outrage now? I shall have to note this for future reference.)

@Emily Asher-Perrin:

And the idea of being sympathetic toward her in any way terrifies me.

I don't mind sympathising! That poster, though? That poster makes me identify with her - which yes. At least a little terrifying. *g*
Jeremy Hanke
57. jlhanke
@46 Good points Emily - I may not be the best informed on marketing and advertising in general. However, the issue at stake here is mostly movie/TV/book cover advertising, and I would argue that Buyology point is less true (in my own experience, at least) when it comes to those types of media. Yes, sexualized ads for products tend to get the actual product forgotten, but I think sexualized ads for movies/TV/books might be more effective. However, as I said, I have no research to back that up, so I could be totally wrong - that's just my experience.

@ 49 jennygadget
This is why discussion is difficult on internet threads (to me at least) - you seem to be misreading my point because I tried to be concise. We're all talking about generalities and stereotypes here. My point was saying that it's not surprising that this is the industry norm. My comment about marketing to the "male" eye is ripe for misinterpretation, hence the caveats. Obviously, that's a generalization. I state specifically that it's not true in all/most cases. However, would you try to argue that the Transformers shot, Aeon Flux, Tomb Raider, etc shots above are NOT geared towards the "male eye"? And that "eye" does not even have to actually be male - it's just a way of stating the general stereotype being portrayed here.

Twilight is a different animal than the other examples here. The Hunger Games to a lesser extent, but I do not believe in ANY way that female audiences do not love action/genre movies - my sister actually complains that her husband doesn't like action movies and so she doesn't get to watch the movies she likes! I merely was stated that, in general, those types of movies are MARKETED more to the "male eye". Cases such as Twilight and The Hunger Games, which have an existent, predominately female audience, are not the same as things like Tomb Raider, which had an existant predominantly male audience.

@56 - Maybe I missed the sarcasm meter a bit, I'll grant you that point. However, she does joke about hitting her coworkers at the sight of such poses, which (if we want to REALLY start a big fight) would NEVER be accepted as humor if she were male.

I don't comment much on internet threads specifically because instead of humane discussion, these things always seem to descend into this kind of mean-spirited spats. I guess I just don't like people having to belittle me while disagreeing with my points - note the difference in tone between your comments on my posts and Emily's @46.
Tucker McKinnon
58. jazzfish
snoman@43: I'm sorry for your loss. These are very real problems. They're problems I struggle with myself.

They're also not the point of the original post. Bringing unspecified problematic depictions of men into a discussion about specific problematic depictions of women (and men as well, see the last couple of photos) comes off sounding a lot like "men's problems are the REAL problems here."

aegnor @55: Or change the culture by calling out blatant sexism, supporting equality, and generally not treating women like second-class citizens, until such things are seen as throwbacks like unto Thomas Nash's racist political cartoons of the 1800s. CRAZY I KNOW but it just might work.
Liz Bourke
59. hawkwing-lb
@Aegnor @55:

Men are much more affected by visual sexual stimuli than women are. This is driven by evolution. That is why you see more women in such poses than men. Because such poses work on men much better than they work on women. That isn't to say that visual stimuli don't work at all on women, just not to the same extent.

Citations, please? And uncontested citations, at that?

This is typical evo-psych confusion of biology and acculturation. (The fact of the matter is, we can't know what biological baselines are without the intermediation of surrounding culture. So pretending that advertising exists in a void doesn't wash, imo.)

If it did work as well on women, you better believe that you would see a lot more of it in advertising. Advertisers are definitely interested in
attracting female attention

Not necessarily true. Advertisers are also products of their culture, and advertising as a medium tends to revert to using conservative (in the sense of pre-existing and resistant to change) narratives as a default.

(In this case women's bodies = sex = sales. Conversely, to them, men's bodies =/= sex or vehicles for female or gay male sexual potency. It's the male = active, female = receptive frame that's part of the damn problem.)

They repeat what has worked in the past rather than think outside the box and actually appeal to real people.

Like me. Who like to see action films. Especially ones where women are not reduced to their constituent body parts in the name of marketing.

My solution's a lot more simple than yours. Easy fix! Use realistic poses! View women as your customers/clients/patrons too!

(Not merely tools in your narrow marketing box.)
Jenny Kristine
60. jennygadget
snoman

Your single bit of evidence does not refute Altrus' main point that all this crap is not hardwired in by genes. Even assuming the hypothesis you give is correct (which is questonable), certainly the fact that we do not mind that those poses look painful and awkward - and that there are so few images that cater to the female gaze - are both very much the result of social constructs. And that's just a start.

It's great that you came to the same conclusion that it is all bullshit,
but starting off by saying that it is most definitely NOT social
constructs was possibly not the best way to make your point? To people that are constantly told - quite recently by Newsweek! and a poltician against equal pay even! - that their lower economic and political status is all a result of evolution, baby.

Aegnor @ 55

"Men are much more affected by visual sexual stimuli than women are."

Again, cause and effect: I think you may have the order a bit mixed up here.

On a completely unrelated note, does anyone know where I can get Queer as Folk at an affordable price?

jlhanke @ 57

Exactly how am I misreading "diplomatically as possible" and "over the top"? And in what way is several paragraphs concise? Or repeating inane ideas like "sex sells" being diplomatic? Being diplomatic would mean not front loading your comment with tone arguments and refraining from explaining things that Emily clearly already knows - and using loaded language to do it.

sex = / = women's bodies. If you believe this, then your comment that marketing objectifies women because "sex sells" was awkwardly worded at best. And anyone that arrives at that interpretation is hardly doing so because you were being concise.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
61. maestro23
The argument that this is all hardwired and intractable is nonsense. We are not our instincts, for one thing; and I can say with damn-near absolute assurance that the marketing departments for these franchises did not have a moment of "Gosh, I was gonna do a full-front shoot where she had power and agency, but then I had her turn around because I just couldn't help myself." These are choices that are made deliberately - meaning the choice can also be made to cut it the heck out.

Look, I am male, and I can assure you in no uncertain terms - putting it delicately because to be more prescise would be, um, inappropriate and TMI - that I am not nearly high enough in the Kinseys that the charms of a female backside are lost on me. (And no one is saying that it should be otherwise.) But this trend makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Because, consider the Avengers - what makes them interesting? Tony Stark's a mad genius trying to balance his altruism and his self-interest; Thor's a god discovering his humanity; Cap's a hero who belongs to another age; the Hulk is a man of reason who only gains strength from embracing his id. And Nick Fury's muhfuh'n Nick Fury. And, really, the most interesting thing you can highlight about Black Widow is how good she looks in those trousers? Really? Come the hell on.

I am not extraordinary or exceptional, to be able to get this. I am not unusually enlightened. This is not hard.

(And as with the Diversity in D&D conversation, I'm increasingly convinced that the degree to which champions of the status quo dig in their heels and and dismiss this as an issue is an indicator of how big a problem it actually is.)
Sandy M.
62. Lesley A
There's been a recent trend in the covers of historical fiction books for "faceless women" - you get the period dress (with as many sexy curves as possible), but the picture is cut off pretty much at the neck. Who reads historical fiction? An awful lot of women - who know that there's more to historical women than a body with no head.
There is no corresponding trend for "faceless men" on historical fiction book covers.
Jeremy Ward
63. stormcrow27
Ironically, based on the studies, sexually-based marketing doesn't sell any better for entertainment then it does for Heinz 57. What does sell is the impression that it does, which is all marketing is trying to do for entertainment, create an impression that it exists. For the workplace, is that a horrible picture to decorate your wallpaper/cubicle/corporate issued propaganda device (I mean ph0ne) with? Yup, but no more then using half-naked pictures of Taylor Lautner, Nathan Fillon, etc the same. All of these movies are being marketed towards the teenage/fanboy/ male wish empowerment crowd, (which most comics are anyway, witness the insane gratification DC has undergone with the 52 reboot).

Sexual objectification cuts both ways. Men just don't appreciate or process it as much because women have been only really been allowed in the last 100 years, give or take, to define any role outside of sexual appeal or motherhood. It took feminism and the refusal of women to be defined by those things for men to wake up and check what they're doing. However, it's going to take about another 100 years before women have enough economic power to control marketing for the genre film part of the industry.

Also, on the other side, could we get some normal/ugly looking GUYS in romantic comedies? Even the dorky ones have some rugged appeal that makes me want me to slam them into the nearest post, just to break that perfect chin. And yes, as an adult heteroxsexual male, I have seen many, many genre films with female action stars, romantic comedies, and male action stars. It's kind of hard to compete with the handsome, romantic, successful stereoptype who rejects the heroine but then comes back to her after some form of absurd realization that he missed his one chance after she flies off to Anartica to research fish sounds as romantic art. No more break the mold pixie girl garbage either! If I wanted to be programmed to go after some horrible anime romantic substitue in the form of Zooey Deschannel, let her at least act with some semblance of normalcy.

For urban fantasy, ALL of it is wish fufillment, either gals or guys. Who doesn't want to be a liberated, empowered, SPECIAL person engaging in exciting duels via magic, transformitive power, etc., finding that one true sweet creature who will answer your dreams for your ideal mate, or several. I haven't really read many that don't have the main character as some beautiful man or woman (or creature), other then maybe the Dresden Files, and that poor guy can't catch a break with his so-called love matches anyway.
Ian Gazzotti
65. Atrus
snoman, I don't see anything offensive in Jenny's post, surely not nought to warrnt calling her "miserable".
And though it was not in your intention, "it's this way because nature" has always been the excuse of choice of those who want to deny rights. No one has ever asserted rights, agency, power, equality or anything positive "because nature", so those words tend to make us go in red alert. It's instinctive, you might say.

(btw, why has my comment #54 disappeared?)
Sandy M.
66. HeWhoComesWithTheNoon
I will make one contrary point without attempting to refute your message - you cherry-picked posters that prove your point, didn't use any sort of objective statistics to back up your assertion that "too many" posters use this pose.

I will also say that while some of the posters (most assuredly the Angelina Jolie) are no doubt excellent examples, some (the Amy Pond) are pictures where a woman happens to have her back turned to the camera (or artist, as I don't think that one's a photograph, exactly). I don't see any objectification in that one at all.

That said, it's an interesting article, and I find it especially so because I had never thought about it before. I do tend toward the more moderate opinion that marketers do it because that's what they think men want to see, and in a very oversimplified traditionalistic way, these movies are geared more toward men. It's silly to pretend women don't like them too, but in general stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason.

Also I would float out the point, based fully on anecdotal rather than empyrical evidence, that straight women are more likely to be aesthetically pleased by a sexualized feminine form than straight men are by a sexualized masculine form. Basically a lot more straight women will look at that picture of Scarlett Johannsen and say "great ass" without any outrage than men will do the same for Vin Diesel.

Some interesting points have been brought up in the comments, discounting the "har-har I like butts" comments. But I will say that this excerpt from #11 is much more unabiguously offensively sexist than anything in the originaly article.
In a pre-internet porn society, a pretty woman staring into the camera with passion used to be enough for a man, but I'm afraid that just isn't the case anymore. Most men are not moved by such things because of what they've chosen to put in front of their eyes on a consistent basis.
John Pigott
67. AbEnd
Fashion magazines with their overwhelming female readership feature more sexually explicit poses than the images selected here. If Lego Friends can damage girls, where's the outrage surrounding Vogue or Cosmo? Google Image "vogue provocative poses" for examples.
Sandy M.
68. grantimatter
I can buy that this marketing is built on a foundation (flimsy or not) of primate psychology - look! eye contact! buttocks! chimp porn!

What I'm curious about is why nearly all of the female figures are wearing black. An attempt to reduce them to living silhouettes? Higher contrast against a light background?

Both of the male examples are in shades of brown... and it seems like the canonical beefcake romance covers feature white shirts, don't they? (The first male figure with an over-the-shoulder pose that comes to mind is James Bond, who typically wears a black tuxedo, but not skin tight and probably... probably... signalling something different.)
Sandy M.
69. snoman
Atrus, if I said "Bilology makes us like the effects of heorine because heroine molecules fit neural receptors in our brans." Would you accuse me of advocating drug dealing??? Would so say that by pointing out that fact that I was condoning and applauding what drug dealers do to their clients in the name of making money?

Male primates are "programmed" if you will, to like female behinds because it was an effective way to get sex--and we all come from a long line of people who got sex. I stand by that statement. That absolutely DOES NOT mean that I think it is ok to use this innate response to sell a product or get attention any more than I think its ok to use addicition to make money. (As a graphic designer I have asked clients NOT to use GoDaddy for registering their websites because I find their advertising so offensive.) I think this kind of marketing that depersonalizes women (and the other kinds of marketing that depersonalizes men for that matter) are bad for civilization and not prticularly effective in the first place. (Sex doesn't sell, it just gets attention. But so does a whinny child.)

I also stand by my anger at Jenny's post. She put words and intentions in my moth that were never there to begin with. Intentions that went contrary to the point I was trying to make even when I sateted it flat out. I do apologize for losing my (electronic) temper however.
Emily Asher-Perrin
70. EmilyAP
@52 snoman - Then we're all in agreement on that one - yay!

@Aegnor - We live in a culture where women are not expected to be sexual, or at least as sexual as men. I agree with lb-hawkwing here - the advertisers themselves come in with their own biases, which would likely indicate to them that this same marketing would not work using men in the photographs. And... I find that fairly hard to believe when you look at the cover of nearly every romance novel cover a bookstore has on the shelf. Women seem to enjoy objectifying men just as much.

@maestro23 - To your parenthetical: yes. Absolutely. And thank you. :)

@HeWhoComesWith... - To be fair, I did begin the piece by stating that my evidence was going to be purely pictoral. And I would think the volume here alone speaks for itself....
Vincent Lane
71. Aegnor
hawkwing-lb@59
Citations, please? And uncontested citations, at that? This is typical evo-psych confusion of biology and acculturation. (The fact of the matter is, we can't know what biological baselines are without the intermediation of surrounding culture. So pretending that advertising exists in a void doesn't wash, imo.)
Googling on this subject to provide citations, while at work, could prove problematic. I'll have to get back to you on that. But we CAN know what biological baselines are. Or at least a fairly close approximation. We look at what is common across nearly all cultures, what is common among primates most similar to humans, etc.
Not necessarily true. Advertisers are also products of their culture, and advertising as a medium tends to revert to using conservative (in the sense of pre-existing and resistant to change) narratives as a default.
You don't think advertisers want to appeal to women? Billions are spent in advertising trying to appeal to women.

jazzfish@58,
Or change the culture by calling out blatant sexism, supporting equality, and generally not treating women like second-class citizens, until such things are seen as throwbacks like unto Thomas Nash's racist political cartoons of the 1800s. CRAZY I KNOW but it just might work.
The things that you mention, sexism, supporting equality, not treating women like second-class citizens, are more complex than simple ingrained reactions to external stimuli. Those are, in fact, cultural issues. You can change the culture of a society to be less sexist. You cannot, however, change the culture to prevent men from reacting to visual sexual stimuli. You can take the approach of certain religions, and instill in people that such reactions are dirty and wrong. And you may be successful in that. That still wouldn't prevent prevent people from having those reactions, but they would immediately feel guilt and shame about having those reactions, which would likely affect the effectiveness of such images in advertising, as they would be associated with negative emotions, which isn't usually what you want when selling a product.

That is not to say that individuals can't control such reactions, much like a firefighter can control the urge to flee a burning building, or a soldier can overcome his instinct to flee a battle and instead advance in the face of fire. It takes intinsive training, repetition, and physical and mental preparation.

Instilling something like that on an entire culture would require extensive indoctrination camps, as many would not likely volunteer for such training. But really, even something like that is bound to fail on the wider cultural scale.

So...back to my original point, the only way to prevent such poses are the ways outlined in my post above (though I would modify #2 to include my point above about instilling shame on the viewer).
Jenny Kristine
72. jennygadget
Lesley A @ 62

YA had a recent trend of this too. My interpretation of it was that it was a response to the male gaze - without being comfortable breaking away from it. It's not a coincidence that all the women shown in the post are looking at the audience. It's really important that they are both sexualized and focused on their assumed male audience.

As disturbing as it was, I rather saw the headless girls on YA covers as a way to signal to girls that yes, you are sexual objects and we aren't going to question that, but you can tell this book is for you because the girl in the cover isn't focused on the people looking at her. If that makes sense?

Also, sometimes it's rather like the covers for Ally Carters books: in comparison to the bulk of images of women's bodies, the focus is on the clothes and what that suggests about the character's personality, not on her body parts. Like, we can see enough of her body to know that she is white, thin, and conventionally pretty? but her breasts are not emphasized and her legs are mostly not shown; what we see above all is the uniform.

Considering what she is wearing and what the book is about, the focus on the uniform rather also acts as a kind of secret code to readers. Yes, the cover is mainstream enough to not rock the boat (and still reinforces lots of problematic ideas), but we know what's really going on inside and what that uniforn represents. The Gossip Girl books rather did this too; the covers were all anonymous, thin, and conventionally pretty teen girls - who were also almost always white, rich and laughing and being friendly to each other. Sadly, the books didn't really undermind the class and race implications (as far as I know), but - as awful as those books are - the contrast between the plots and the covers acted as a sort of commentary on how teen girls are expected to act versus the fact that they are real people that are not always nice.

This trend of headless girls seems to have been mostly blown away by the wave of YA paranormal romance. The covers for these books are problematic in many ways themselves, but I note arguablely less so than the bulk of covers for adult romance novels, and also unsurprisingly less focused on male bodies than adult paranormal romances (for not always good reasons).
j p
73. sps49
Many women often dress to call attention to certain areas. Advertising and/or Hollywood just goes a bit farther toward unreal. Like they do with everything.

My question is always "Who are the Cosmo type magazine covers trying to attract?" I appreciate those covers, but know the magazine isn't written for me.

Thank you for the article, EmilyAB. And the pictures.
Vincent Lane
74. Aegnor
maestro23@61
The argument that this is all hardwired and intractable is nonsense. We are not our instincts, for one thing; and I can say with damn-near absolute assurance that the marketing departments for these franchises did not have a moment of "Gosh, I was gonna do a full-front shoot where she had power and agency, but then I had her turn around because I just couldn't help myself." These are choices that are made deliberately - meaning the choice can also be made to cut it the heck out.
You misunderstand the argument. It isn't instinct that drives the advertisers to use such shots. It is the drive to make money. It is instinct that plays a big part in why such advertisements are effective. The advertisers make a deliberate choice to take advantage of that.
Sandy M.
75. alea_iacta_est
In regards to 'males are biologically programmed to respond heavily to sexual stimuli', or whatever the exact wording would be.
I recently saw a documentary of sorts about women in muslim countries who did not wear headdresses because they felt it inhibited their freedom (it does, let's not get into that). What I found of particular interest was the response of the men to these women. All of the women had stories to tell about men who randomly tried to feel them up on the streets or other public places. In an interview, one man explained that if he saw a woman who was dressed 'inapropriately', he would probably not be able to stop himself from trying to have sex with her.
The interesting thing in this is that this behaviour was not caused by the men not respecting the women, or thinking they deserved it. These men honestly couldn't stop themselves from responding in such a way. It is, as the interviewed guy said, simply how men's brains work.

So now I ask the men in this thread: Do you have to fight the daily urge to assault women because they are showing their hair? Is it a hard struggle to keep your instincts in check? Of course it isn't. You don't have those urges (and if you do you should probably talk to a doctor about that). With which I'm just trying to say that the way society views sexual instincts in men (and probably in women too) is of massive importance to how they actually experience it. If they are told their entire life that women must cover up entirely, because the men can't control themselves otherwise, then that is actually how they experience it. Then they literally can't control themselves.

Would it be a far shot to assume the same can be said about western society? If men are told all their lives that they have an inherently high sex drive and want to see sexy women everywhere, could that possibly influence how they actually see themselves? Doesn't seem all that unlikely to me.

NOTE: Obviously the real issue is much more complex than this, but I'm trying to make a point and it would have been detrimental if I had to go into all the nuances and other factors to this behaviour.
Sandy M.
76. Improbable Joe
I find it funny that all the guys talking about how cool these pictures are totally missed my earlier point about the waitresses.

Guess what, guys? Those pictures and those poses don't exist because marketing people like you and want to give you what you want. They exist because marketing people think you are really stupid and childish and easily manipulated out of your money. And too often they are dead right, and you can blame evolution or society, or you can take a little responsibility for yourself and be a little less stupid, childish, and easily manipulated.

One of the often-missed points about feminism/anti-partiarchy is that it isn't a zero sum game, and often helps men as well as women. Movies and TV are better when the creative types have to do more with female characters than get them to stand funny and jiggle occasionally.
Rose Fox
77. rosefox
I'm amazed that no one has yet linked to http://thebrokebackpose.tumblr.com/ , which has been chronicling appearances of the "who needs spines anyway?" pose for quite some time.
Sandy M.
78. Tumas-Muscat
@ 63. stormcrow27

That's why I liked Scott Pilgrim and could empathise with him. He was a not-especially handsome geek with his own defects, much like myself. As one reviewer stated: "We can’t be Superman ... but we might just be able to squeeze a Scott Pilgrim out of all of us."
Sandy M.
79. madiW
Quick observation: I 100% agree with not putting every single female character in this sort of pose. I'm as tired of it as any of you. Crazy Action Girl Non-Booty Poses would be awesome and I hope they happen everywhere soon.

But can we stop doing the "Ouch, my knees/spine/intestines/etc hurt in sympathy!" thing? Especially when these are photos of human beings doing these poses. True story: I tried doing these poses after reading the blog about how ridiculous Rob Liefield is. I am 5'2" and 130lbs and I've never done a bit of yoga. I didn't break anything. You're not seeing a master contortionist in these pictures, is what I'm saying.

In summary: tired of the cliche poses, equally tired of people saying they're physically impossible. Carry on changing the world for the better.
Sandy M.
80. rashkae
That Avengers poster you linked to was my favorite. They actually had to turn her around away from the action the boys are facing so she could assume the position.
Thomas Jeffries
82. thomstel
If this article had been about how high a percentage of movie posters are using the orange/blue trick to appeal to people, we could have just sidestepped the whole sexism issue. :p

That being said, can we all just agree that:
- Marketing _can_ easily just be about making people "buy a book for its cover"? (Obviously it is much more.)
- Some people do in fact "buy books for the cover".
- Hence, that sort of marketing succeeds to some degree.
- Ergo, it continues.

Nothing there is changable. It's a business for those looking to trick you into the tickets sales as much as it's a business for those two are truly trying to get you in the seat by the product's merits.

The thing that's changable is how each person reacts. If you disagree with it, don't see the film and let people know how manipulative the marketing is coming across to you (as Emily has done here, or I might have done to a smaller group of friends, etc.). You know what we, as readers and listeners get from that?
a) Enlightenment. If I've never really thought about it before, I now realize that there's more going on that what I was aware of. I can factor it into future evaluations of movies, books, etc.
b) Denial. If I don't agree with the sharer's opinion, evidence or conclusion, and that's cool. No one said we all have to agree. (I think this sort of marketing is pretty low-brow, but still admire the fine posteriors, and then I feel guilty for it. Yes, that means I'm pretty low-brow. I'm working on it.)
c) Agreement. I'd been seeing the same trends myself and was getting pretty tired of it too. Yay justification!

What's not helpful at all:
d) Absolute #1 - "all men are pigs and should be slaughtered like them".
e) Absolute #2 - "the patriarchy is all your heads, you crazy she-devils".

This being an internet conversation doesn't mean we shouldn't be civil. Please?

That all being said (it ended up being a wall): Thanks Emily. You hit me with the "enlightenment" stick, as it was something that I've not noticed myself before. And curse you for making so that I won't be able to unsee it from now on. :)
Vincent Lane
83. Aegnor
Improbable Joe@76,
Umm...who all is talking about how "cool these pictures are"? Are we reading the same thread?
Guess what, guys? Those pictures and those poses don't exist because marketing people like you and want to give you what you want. They exist because marketing people think you are really stupid and childish and easily manipulated out of your money. And too often they are dead right, and you can blame evolution or society, or you can take a little responsibility for yourself and be a little less stupid, childish, and easily manipulated.
All advertising is about manipulation. They are using whatever manipulative tricks they can to sell their product. And you are right that people need to take personal responsibility. I, as a person, can take personal responsibility and not be manipulated by such advertisements. Getting all of society to do the same thing is a whole different animal though.
Liz Bourke
84. hawkwing-lb
@thomstel #82

What's not helpful at all:

d) Absolute #1 - "all men are pigs and should be slaughtered like them".
e) Absolute #2 - "the patriarchy is all your heads, you crazy she-devils".

I admire this really seriously excruciatingly helpful introduction of strawpeople to the discussion! Smooth segue, very smooth!
Emily Asher-Perrin
86. EmilyAP
@madiW - Actually, the reason why I made the comment about my back hurting is because I did try a couple of the poses out myself... and in order to thrust by behind out that far, it did hurt my lower back. And I'm fairly nimble. I would never make the pain claim lightly. :)

@DiscordianKitty - I'm pretty sure I never suggested that the way to make this better would be for women to look more like men. I would prefer that strong women were allowed to look strong, however!
shawn keeling
87. longerwaves
I too am sick unto death of that pose on book covers. I might be missing out on some good stories, but I can't even hold one of those book's in my hand. There must be at least 50 different book covers with some chick on the cover in tight leather pants with her backside to us and looking over her shoulder, possibly with a gun in hand. I started noticing this trend about a year or two ago, and it has only gotten worse. The main offenders I believe are 'Urban Fantasy" and/or "Paranormal Romance", but really it has gotten to the point that I believe the next book from GRRM will have Daenerys standing in that pose, maybe with a dragon on her shoulder! Blech!
Sandy M.
88. DiscordianKitty
@EmilyAP And they can't look strong because they're posed in a half turn that makes them look sexy too? Really? The only pose you claim to be ok with is the one not marketted at women - where Belle looks like a highly annoyed teenage boy.

I dunno. I had enough male church leaders trying to tell me i needed to hide the fact that i'm a woman. Cover up. Never show leg or clevage. I don't need fellow women to throw a fit every time they see a girl posing in a way that - let's define sexy pose here - shows off the fact that she is definitely female.
Jenny Kristine
89. jennygadget
EmilyAP @ 86

Yeah. I've never tried those exact poses? But what the photographers used to tell us us do for our individual soccer pics* (once we reached puberty) was awkward and uncomfortable enough - and also involved way too much twisty spine. I don't, like, need to put my hand actually in the flame to feel that it's hot.

*what the hell is it about physcially strong women specifically that requires they must be put in submissive poses? It's almost like there is a theme here or something...
Sandy M.
90. DiscordianKitty
What exactly makes these poses submissive? And are we really ignoring the fact that all the male counterparts to these ladies - the Thors and Batmans and Aragorns - are also presented as sex symbols? Glistening rippling muscles etc?
Sandy M.
91. Auntie.Ir0ny
Suggest you read this pose differently: as in nature, the more powerful turns its back on the less powerful, and I'm making sure you see me dismiss you. Take back the bootie; revel in the power of the posterior!

Also you forgot the grand history of the pose, Betty Grable! http://pdxretro.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Betty-Grable.jpg
Thomas Jeffries
92. thomstel
hawkwing-lb@84:

I'm sorry to say it, but I saw quite a bit of these strawmen throughout the discussion so far. Maybe not in whole, but at least an arm or a leg here and there.

I think you missed the point, or my radar dish is fried and I took your statement the wrong way. Either way, sorry to have tweaked a nerve. It wasn't intended.
Emily Asher-Perrin
93. EmilyAP
@DiscordianKitty - I don't really think it's fair to say that Bella looks like a teenage boy in her poster. She looks a lot like a teenage girl to me - I'm sure I can find very similar pictures of myself when I was 15 or so...

And I'm not saying any of these women should not have a butt or boobs at all. But it is very important to consider why these pictures are created in the first place. And it's not for women to feel empowered by them. If you feel empowered looking at them, that's just fine! It's the context in which it was created that is bothersome to me.
Jenny Kristine
95. jennygadget
Discordian Kitty @ 88

Trust me, I know all about assholes thinking I don't cover up enough, especially as a teen. With our culture and my size breasts, it was sadly inevitable. And I join you in telling them where they can go.

There is a difference between sexual and submissive, though. The soccer pics I was telling you about? Not like they would have ever suggested we take them in just our sports bras. But somehow, it made sense for us to be lying on the ground instead of standing up assertively? For a sports pic? Personally, I'd much prefer they let us have the choice of taking them sans jersey (which the adults would have freaked over, despite how often we played that way) and nix the bullshit about telling us to lounge on the ground with the ball.

The women in these pictures are not simply being sexual (which is an entirely different complaint that I will set aside for now). They are powerful women who fight who are shown looking behind them at the audience. This is an incredibly vulnerable position and not one that people who are about to go into combat would prefer. It's also a pose that is extremely common for female action heroes and extremely uncommon for male ones.

As counter examples, here is Power Girl. She's hardly not showing her breasts, etc. But neither does she not look ready to kick ass; she is assertively looking at the audience face on and challenging anyone to try to take her.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/ce/Power_Girl.png

And here is a promo pic for Lost Girl. Bo is sitting down and showing plenty of cleavage and still manages to like someone you wouldn't want to mess with.

http://www.fredfm.ca/userfiles/image/silk.jpg

And lastly, here is one of the iconic images of River from Firefly. It's not unproblematic itself (not the most stable pose there, River), but at least it's different and her weapons are somewhat approaching a "ready for fight" position, so that she looks dangerous as well as sexual.

http://img1.tvloop.com/img/showpics/07/6f/l355420510000_1_30054.jpg
Mordicai Knode
96. mordicai
Emily is this a challenge? Are you trying to see if this post can get more comments than my "controversial" Modest Proposal For Increased Diversity in D&D?

Unsurprisingly, I totally agree, & you made the argument visually much more succinctly than I think I could with words. I will say-- I bought a set of those Riddick riddickulous knives for a Player in one of may campaigns, & gave his Character a set of magic items to match.
Sandy M.
97. Sandy M.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the January 2012 "Booth Babe" report the BBC did about the Consumers' Electronics Show. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16533289
The voiceover is a hilarious juxtaposition of ironic commentary with the video of attractive young women, some clad only in a towel.

{rant}With pervasive sexualization of women, the overriding message is that the only important role for women is to be displaying a sexy body for male audiences. She is not a potential customer, not a hero, she is a commidity. Yeah, there are sexy-toy-boys decorating romantic fiction, but that trope is mostly confined to that genre in North America. The female A&T pose is all over the place, even on genres with mostly female audiences.

So, don't tell me that "it works for men and only for men, if it worked for women, advertisers would offer equal-opportunity sexploitation." I'm pissed that I don't get to see my share of man-candy. {/rant}

(Rant tags mean that I have no intention of providing citations or stats. Deal with it.)

Blantant anti-ethnic humor has been driven out of (most) mainstream media. Someone may even have said "It's culturally-based, we are hard-wired to laugh at this. It would be foolish not to continue advertising with these popular characters."

And somehow that was accomplished without re-education camps. How can you be so obtuse? Is it deliberate?
Emily Asher-Perrin
98. EmilyAP
@jennygadget - Great pic examples there! I love Power Girl.

@mordicai - Well, you know, I couldn't let you have all the fun. ;) Also, I would love a pair of the curvy Riddick knives. Lady Riddick cosplay? = awesome.

@Sandy M. - I join you in the rant. Where's the man-candy?
Melanie S
99. starryharlequin
Basically a lot more straight women will look at that picture of Scarlett Johannsen and say "great ass" without any outrage than men will do the same for Vin Diesel.
Which I'm sure has nothing to do with the fact that gay is more of an insult for men than women (among people who believe it's an insult at all), nor that being called unattractive is much more of an insult for women than it is for men (among people etc).

For those who are saying that people wouldn't market so strongly to men if it didn't make economic sense to do so, I recommend Jennifer Kesler's article on why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test.

And as a queer woman, let me say: I like looking at those posters in a purely aesthetic sense, but they sure as hell don't make me want to see the movies. Maybe I'm just weird, but I got to see movies for the story, and all this tells me about the story is "woman poses to look good to other people." Which is pretty boring, as far as plots go.
Sandy M.
100. Earl Rogers
I'm calling grandfather clause (and I don't mean GrandSanta). Anne Hathaway is playing Catwoman, who even way back in the 1940s was played up as being sexy and vampish. It's kind of a defining trait of the character.

(Hey, at least they don't seem to be using Frank Miller's "bored hooker" origin.)
Tyler Durden
101. Balance
I guess that I'm in the minority when I say I believe that a woman's feminity gives her strength. I agree with Kitty at 88. Let me add the disclaimer that, yes marketing does objectify women. However, not all women agree with the majority of ladies on this forum. That somehow this objectification is damning to the female gender. I have the luck/pleasure of have quite a few female friends who do their Jillian's, spend their time in the gym, and eat right. Hard work and nature has blessed them with a beautiful figure. They do poses like this on their own. They do poses like this just among themselves with no men to manipulate them. They are PROUD of their feminine features. They should be. They have worked hard to look like that. They are just as proud of being able to rock climb well, of getting that new promotion, of being completely self supportive. These are not fluff brained morons taking care of their bodies because men told them too, they are sucessfull women who look like this because of an effort and disicipline not all women can adhear to. Hell, go out on Halloween. Those women chose to dress like that. Not for me or some other dude. It's because they spend a lot of effort to look like that, and they have every right to display it proudly.

Now, knowing women who are sucessfull, who do take charge of their lives, including their figures, I'd have to say these posters are spot on. If catwoman was real, and looked like that, and could do all the shit she can do, she would pose that way. She can kick your ass, while showing off hers, because she's proud of it. Because she is proud of her feminity. She doesn't have to downlay the fact that she is sexy, she displays it. She flaunts it. If you don't like it, try and make her stop. I bet you lose.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
102. maestro23
Aegnor @74: Leaving aside for the moment the studies cited here that sex* in advertising doesn't make much difference in profitability, it elides an important matter: it's superfluous to most of the things being discussed here. The Avengers doesn't need ScarJo's shapely bottom to entice ticket sales; it's the frickin Avengers, for Heaven's sake. You could put Black Widow in an artfully billowing burqa and the chubby nerds** would still line up around the block for this movie, some of us probably twice.

And you know what other imagery put buttocks in seats several times over? Ellen Ripley with a BFG. (You can be sure that if that woman ever looked over her shoulder, it wasn't with a coy come-hither and a cocked hip.) Making Sigourney Weaver into a pinup would have added nothing of substance to the Alien saga - and it adds nothing of substance to the Avengers, or Doctor Who, or Firefly, or Star Wars, or the Batman trilogy, all of which are engines that run on entirely different materials than eye candy.

(Which is not even to say that it could never be appropriate to do this kind of thing, because Tomb Raider? Sure*** - hey, that probably is what half the crowd is showing up for. But when that image is this ubiquitous - when the publicity for every third genre movie looks like Tomb Raider - then it's about something else, which whether it means to or not, sends the message that a woman, no matter how heroic or capable or smart or badass, needs to succeed as a lust object above everything else.)

The "but sex sells" argument goes into play as if it's the only thing that ever works, and that's clearly not the case. I'm not a big fan of the way the word "gratuitous" gets pulled out every time someone gets uncomfortable because of sexuality showing up in something, but in the vast majority of cases illustrated here, it's exactly the right adjective.

(And also, what Improbable Joe said @76.)

*By which of course we mean "women sexualized in a fashion to reward the male gaze" - and if that's all there really was to sex, I'll take the black, thanks.
**Among whose number I proudly count myself.
***Though I will say that one of the things I really liked about the Tomb Raider movies is that Angelina Jolie managed to elevate that character beyond just cheesecake, in a couple of films that would have been easy to phone in as fanservice held together by discount plot tape.
John Massey
103. subwoofer
About Bela... well, let's be honest, she doesn't do much of anything in any of the movies... I'm hoping that doesn't carry over to the upcoming Snow White adaptation...

As far as the Cat Woman picture, perhaps they are showing that the costume has no tail;)

::flees for safety of bunker::

Woof™.
John Massey
104. subwoofer
::Pokes head out of bunker::

IIRC in X-Men, the male "Angel" went around without a shirt. I don't remember any fan outrage at that. Also in that series when the X-men were suiting up, I do recall a comment about the lack of spandex and form hugging outfits that are so readily depicted in the comics.

On that note I do always get honked off in shows like Laura Croft or Resident evil where the female leads dress the least prepared for serious butt kicking. At least Laura had a decent pair of boots, high heels are the most ridiculous invention ever. How can anyone run in heels? I wear cowboy boots from time to time and let me tell you, I could not outrun a zombie in them.

If I was a hero, the first gear I would have is a helmet, followed by body armor, a la Batman. No putzing around with flashy looks, something that saves my hide from things that go "zing" at my skin would be in order.

::and back in we go::

Woof™.
Sandy M.
105. buba
I did see this as a problem until you pointed it out.. but really I am still ok with it. :-)
James Kopsian
106. FesterBestertester
For some reason I keep thinking of "The Man with Three Buttox " (Buttoxen?) sketch from Monty Python.
Sandy M.
107. Minch
This is too funny, I actually had a rant to someone about this EXACT topic two days ago while looking through a random gossip magazine. Every single picture looked forced and rediculous. Good rant, would read again.
Mordicai Knode
108. mordicai
Wait, so the counterpoint is "well, misogyny exists, so what are you going to do?" Or "sometimes men are sexualized (but not really objectified, & I'm going to pretend I don't know the difference)"?
Sandy M.
109. TXM
I can't say that I'm at all threatened or upset by these. The most annoying thing is that they're all so similar that it may as well be one movie poster/book cover.

I'm much more tired of being told that, as a woman, I'm a victim of a relentless marketing conspiracy designed to destroy my self-esteem. Really, I have a very healthy ego, no body issues, a strong sense of self and independence. I don't need Dove or anyone else telling me that it's okay to be ugly, because that's just rude. If you don't have anything nice to say, stuff it.

As far as the posters not representing the characters... gee, yeah. I mean, Black Widow is such a complex, multi-dimensional character, in fact, all the Avengers are. No, they aren't, and taking Black Widow as your role model is as weird as taking Iron Man as your role model. As far as kids looking up to them as heroes or role models, it's probably their parents' job to explain to them that they aren't real, so they might want to find another role model. Maybe the problem is that we confuse escapism and fantasy with validation and reality.

I definitely wish that the objectified bodies in media were equally split between genders, but I'm not sure that I can complain about women being objectified when I'm happily objectifying men. (Yes, I know, asymmetrical power, etc etc. I'd still feel like a hypocrite.) Fantasy males who might as well not be real, and who I don't care to get to know personally. I don't want them to be real. I know plenty of real men, who aren't perfect, but who offer me something extremely valuable that imaginary fantasy hunks can't - that they're real. From my personal discussions with men (purely anecdotal evidence, I know), it seems that they feel the same way about these fantasy women. Some men are different. They're assholes.

Conversation Piece is a really good movie, full of excellent actors, but it would still be languishing in my to-be-watched list if I hadn't seen a still from it of Helmut Berger naked in the shower. I basically watched it for his ass. He had a really, really great ass.
Vincent Lane
110. Aegnor
Sandy M.@97,
Blantant anti-ethnic humor has been driven out of (most) mainstream media. Someone may even have said "It's culturally-based, we are hard-wired to laugh at this. It would be foolish not to continue advertising with these popular characters." And somehow that was accomplished without re-education camps. How can you be so obtuse? Is it deliberate?
You had to add that last sentence, didn't you? I'll ignore it and not attack you personally in return.

You said it yourself in the above paragraph. Anti-ethnic humor is "culturally-based". Sexist humor is culturally based as well. But what we are discussing here is a mixture. The advertisers using this to manipulate men is culturally based, but it is done to take advantage of something that is somewhat hardwired. Racist advertising was popular decades ago, because we as a culture liked it and it worked. If we as a culture still liked it, advertisers would still be doing it. We, as a culture, changed. Men, however, will always have the ingrained response to visual sexual stimuli (speaking of men in general, individuals will vary...some are asexual and obviously aren't impacted, and some just don't have that same visual response). This is true across cultures.

Getting rid of it would be much more difficult than affecting a cultural shift over decades. This is because it would take significant, and recurring effort. Racism requires a cultural effort to remain in place (not necessarily true of xenophobia, which is something different). Parents indoctrinated racist attitudes into their children. The society as a whole assisted in that indoctrination as well. Removing that cultural indoctrination prevents deep seated racism from being instilled in children.

A boy raised by wolves, or in an isolated environment would have no concept of deep seated racism. You take that same boyand wait til they reach a certian age, and they will most likely have that "ingrained response to visual sexual stimuli". Each new child would have to be indoctrinated as it isn't something instilled by culture and society, but by genetics and instinct.
Joe Vondracek
111. joev
I'm pretty sure that all of those photos/images were approved by Adam Friedberg himself. Which explains a lot.
Vincent Lane
112. Aegnor
maestro23@102

I don't really disagree with anything you say in this post. Whether "sex sells" is an interesting question, but it is somewhat of a separate question than what I was getting at. Advertisers are trying to manipulate that ingraned response, but as I said before, that can backfire due to cultural issues. In some more religiously conservative people, it may result in guilt and/or shame, maybe leading to anger and revulsion. None of which are things an advertiser is looking for. They are skating a fine line. If they dressed Anne Hathaway up in a thong bikini in that same pose, I guarantee you that it would trigger those negative reactions in more people. So they skate the line trying to maximize the genetically ingrained positive reaction, while minimizing the cultural ingrained negative reaction.
Vincent Lane
113. Aegnor
mordicai@108
Wait, so the counterpoint is "well, misogyny exists, so what are you going to do?" Or "sometimes men are sexualized (but not really objectified, & I'm going to pretend I don't know the difference)"?
1) I think you don't really understand the counterpoint if you think that is what you think it is. I suggest you go back and actually read the thread this time.
2) Are you seriously saying that men aren't objectified? If so, that is just boggle worthy...
Cait Glasson
114. CaitieCat
Wait, so the counterpoint is "well, misogyny exists, so what are you going to do?"
mordicai @108, I think that would be slightly more reflective of my experience as a feminist blogger as: "well, misogny exists, bitches, so what are you gonna do? No one can change that shit. And btw, go make me a sandwich."
Sandy M.
115. JoeNotCharles
Yes, sex sells. Addictive chemicals also sell - more directly than sex, in fact. We don't shrug and let people sell soft drinks secretly laced with heroin, because that would be bad for society.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
116. tnh
Aegnor, as far as I know, the biggest difference between male and female reactions to visual erotica is that men have, on average, a clearer understanding that they're getting turned on. Women are a bit more muddled on the issue, but that's easily explained as cultural indoctrination. Othewise, their objectively measured reactions are comparable

===.

A general observation: How come when people are blaming this or that social pattern on evolutionary pressures, the subject of sweating never comes up? If you want to talk about evolutionary responses, H. sapiens has a good claim to being better at sweating than any other mammal on the planet. Seriously. We're virtuosos. The theory is that being able to cool off by sweating was a huge contribution to our stamina when running down game on the plains of Africa. Thus, more sweating = superior food-gathering abilities = better chance of survival = (more attractive?).

I wait to hear this discussed every time evolutionary biology gets mentioned, but somehow it never comes up.

===

Maestro23 @102: I love the concept of "discount plot tape."
Leaving aside for the moment the studies cited here that sex in advertising doesn't make much difference in profitability, it elides an important matter: it's superfluous to most of the things being discussed here. The Avengers doesn't need ScarJo's shapely bottom to entice ticket sales; it's the frickin Avengers, for Heaven's sake. ... And you know what other imagery put buttocks in seats several times over? Ellen Ripley with a BFG.
Oh, you betcha. We don't even have to invoke Rule 34. If you know where to look in the right magazines, you can find ads selling videotapes of topless young ladies firing automatic weapons. Those have been around for quite a while.

What sex sells is sex. But even if sex did sell other stuff, we'd have to ask why they aren't employing the obviously superior attractions of women toting really big guns.
(You can be sure that if that woman ever looked over her shoulder, it wasn't with a coy come-hither and a cocked hip.)
My personal test for these positions:

1. Can you imagine Elizabeth I of England letting her portrait be painted that way?

2. Estimate what would have happened to a male courtier who suggested it.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
117. maestro23
tnh, I think I'd like to dare the Internets to make that a Thing. As in, "That publicity shot of Zoe Saldana totally flunks the Queen Bess Test."
Emily Asher-Perrin
118. EmilyAP
@Earl Rogers - A few have made the comment about Catwoman - this isn't about her. She was a springboard. Yes, Catwoman is sexualized, but the point of this particular piece is that she's being sexualized in a way that lots of other women are. It's the volume, not the characters, being discussed in the piece.

@Balance - Sexuality and femininity are not the same thing. And that's great for your confident female friends. But plenty of attractive, successful women don't feel that way. And frankly, young girls rarely feel that way. And they will see these films, and they will lament the fact that they don't look like these women. Having a cool, confident group of friends does not negate the damage that this sort of imagery can do; it just means that some women are not bothered by it. Which is great, but not universal. In addition, the women you know (and the ones who go out on Halloween for that matter) have lived in a world surrounded by this imagery - of course they make those poses on their own and show off. They know those poses and body types are considered "sexy" because it's embedded in our media everywhere. In addition, there's a specific reason why Catwoman wants to be sexy... and it's not because she's proud that she's hot. It's the old "sex as a weapon" hat.

@TXM - In all honesty, I'm not trying to tell you that you specifically are a victim of anything. If these images don't bug you, that's great! If you want more men to objectify, let those studio execs know so they start showing them to us! But it's unfair to write off the way other women are affected by it based solely on your own lack of issue with it. As you pointed out, it is asymmetrical power. And that's wrong no matter how you cut it. As to whether or not any of the Avengers should be role models and the like, many of us had heroes from film, books, TV, and comics growing up, and that's okay. That's what fiction does for a lot of people. There's nothing wrong with asking that fiction live up to a higher standard for us, that our heroes have more substance.

@JoeNotCharles - Like that time when Coca-Cola actually had cocaine in it? ;)
Sandy M.
119. Sandy M
Oops sorry aegnor, the obtuse comment is a direct quote from the Shawahank Redemption, a movie from the nineties with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. I tend to use it too much.

It's more of a tag line meaning face-palm despite being amongst company likely to retaliate, than being an ad hominem comment on debating tactics. Because, it's really never best to assume that malice underlies the other party's actions.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
120. maestro23
TXM @109: The trouble is that there is in fact a relentless marketing conspiracy designed to destroy the self-esteem of women. To echo EmilyAP's remarks, you have my great admiration for finding a way to not be the victim of it; a large number of other women (and, hey, lots of men, too) have not found it nearly as easy to shrug off. I think this is a "bootstraps" issue: the ability of a minority of people to come out ahead of a stacked-deck system isn't an indicator that everyone could if they just had the right attitude. (And I'm not accusing you of saying that. Only observing that it's easy for that to be the message received, whether intended or no.)

I don't really see a lot of emphasis on role models in the issues raised here; "representation" covers that, yes, but there's a whole lot more under that umbrella. Of course Iron Man isn't a "role model"; he's a neurotic, arrogant, overprivileged alcoholic with commitment issues and an inflated sense of self-importance, who manages to be a hero anyway. (I don't know if that makes him "complex" - a judgment I leave to more learned heads than mine - but I think it sure makes him interesting.) No, you can't really sum that up on a movie poster, but what the posters do emphasize is strength and power and shiny chrome and heroic angles. And this is for a character who, whatever else he is, is both sexy and sexual - aspects that only get foregrounded when it's the Hot Chick of the team.

I'm with you that "objectification" is a tangled web of subjects. Gazing lustily on each other isn't going away anytime soon, and nor should it. Since we're talking Marvel movies, there's a good reason there are so many shots of Tony Stark with his pants off or his shirt open; Robert Downey Jr. is a beautiful man, and the audience is invited to appreciate that. And one of the things I thought was neatly done in Thor was how much screen time Chris Hemsworth gets as the half-naked eye candy and lust object in a way that the women don't.* But, again, as blantantly fanservicey as these examples may be, they're secondary to everything else that's going on with those characters and their stories. And they certainly weren't the focal point for advertising either of those films.

Relevant to this discussion in general, I think, is an insider perspective on some related issues: Ashley Judd's awesome takedown of the media dissection of recent changes in her appearance. RTWT, but here's one excellent money quote:
That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it.
*Intentionally, anyway. My lemur brain would like to think that the sight of Kat Dennings in hipster specs was a present meant just for it, but rationally I must accept this as a probable coincidence. There, how's that for shallow and objectifying? :)
Sandy M.
121. DiscordianKitty
@jennygadget

I agree. There is a difference between sexual and submissive. This pose is not submissive. Her back is turned towards the audiance and that's a vulnerable pose? Come now. Be serious. We can easily argue that she is impossible to sneak up on. Whereas in this poster, batman is looking down. OMG, he's not keeping his eyes open! He's so vulnerable! http://imgs.abduzeedo.com/files/misc/paulo/batman/20.jpg
If you think catwoman is somehow submissive, try attacking her. She'll have that heel in your eye and that gun to your head before you can blink, and she'll look sexy while doing it.


Of course the pose is commen for females and not for males. Females have a different body structure to males, and they are considered sexy for different reasons. Females have curves that males do not, and this pose shows off their curves. Males, on the other hand, have rippling arm muscles, and you will often see poses of them in positions where their arms are best shown off - a pose you'll never see on a female. Again, have you seen Thor?

@EmilyAP To me, Bella looks indistinguishable from a teenage boy, as she is posed and dressed in a way that a boy could be posed and dressed in. Neither would look sexy. Both would look like they belong to some sort of neutral gender. How this is preferrable to proudly showing off the fact that your body is different to a boy's and you're not ashamed of this fact is beyond me.

But let's discuss Bella now.

What we have there is a female with no expression, no personality and no strength to her character at all. Instead of having any worth, whatsoever, she seems to spend her entire time being tragic and loving boys. I don't think anyone for a second thinks she is a "strong female character" or a good example to our girl children, yet she is not posed in a way that is appealing to men, so that's somehow magically better than a poster of an extremely strong and badass character posed in a way that is also extremely sexy.

Generally I have two points.

1) Strong women are sexy. Sexiness is also as empowering on a woman as strength. A woman who is posed sexilly is a woman who is showing off the clear evidence that she, as a female, has a different body to a man, and she is proud of that body and celebrates it. This doesn't make her submissive. Catwoman would never have to run after a man to try make him love her. Catwoman can take her pick from men who are lining up. Why? Because she is sexy. Catwoman would never be beaten into submission by a man. Why? Because she is strong. The "submissiveness" you're seeing in this pose is in your own head.

2) Hollywood and comic books are not picking on women. They are filled with beautiful, overly-sexualized people, male and female, straight and gay. They will near always show us the perfect specimins of each, and present them in ways that show their physical assets off best. Get over it.
Sandy M.
122. DiscordianKitty
One more point, on the feeling intimidated thing.

I feel intimidated just reading @Balance's and @TXM's comments. They are so much more eloquent than I am. They're gifted at writing, and this gift shows through even when they're commenting on a blog. Does this mean they should shut up? Or write in such a way that they're not showing off what I don't have so that I don't feel bad about myself?

Um, no.

Marketters and Hollywood will always present us with characters who are sexier, more intelligent and stronger than we are. Even if they don't, we will still come across people who are sexier, more intelligent and stronger than we are. Instead of constantly complaining about it, we should learn to not feel intimidated by it. Admire others for what they have achieved, whether it's a hot ass or a brilliant carreer. Recognize certain fictional characters for what they are - idealized and overemphasized, over-perfected versions of real characters.

As a young girl, my brother once told me, "No matter what you do, or what you're good at, someone, somewhere, will be better than you or will have done it already." It was one of the most valuable lessons I learned.

Stop comparing yourself to the impossible or unachievable, and stop whining every time you see someone show off what they've got. Instead, if you really want to achieve something yourself, either work for it, or learn to live without it. Don't begrudge those who have it.

Also, stop treating teenage girls like they're fragile flowers who must be protected from the world. Teenage girls are quite capable of learning how to be strong, confident and yes, even sexy if that's a goal they want to achieve, but wrapping them up in cotton wool and telling them to ignore the meanie advertizing industry isn't going to help them achieve anything more than a victim complex.
Mordicai Knode
123. mordicai
This is just lots of people attacking individual trees & ignoring the forest. This is an example of the systematic way women are portrayed as objects. When you look at any single example, you can find ways to excuse it...which is why Emily provided dozens. Hey, I'm a straight guy. I like pretty women. I like sexy women. & I think there is a place for cheesecake-- I usually point to the Gail Simone run on Birds of Prey for an example of this done well, written by a woman, natch-- but the kicked here is that cheesecake is the default portrayal of women. This isn't a series of isolated incidents, this is a pattern of how mainstream media tells us women are meant to be portrayed.
Sandy M.
124. AlanMorlock
Though one can arguethat we are biologically wired for sex, what we find to be sexually attractive what we hold as the sexual ideal for each gender is heavilly affected by culture. What is considered physically attractives is NOT a cultural universal around the world or throughout time.

Go look at paintings of 17 and 18th royalty. The men often look very feminine by todays standards both physically but also in terms of style. (High heels were first worn by men).

By they're own standards however, that was the height of masculinity.
Sandy M.
125. Archergal
It's not just book covers. I started following a fashion blog not too long ago (Tom and Lorenzo) and I was really surprised at how many times the actresses and models are shown in this kind of pose. I actually hadn't noticed it (I'm fashion-clueless) until T&L pointed it out and asked "Why are they taking pictures of women posed like this?"

After that, I saw it everywhere. :(
Jenny Kristine
126. jennygadget
tnh @ 116 That was awesome.

maestro @ 117 I vow to rise up to that challenge.

DiscordantKitty @ 121

I would actually say that Batman is looking more vulnerable there than superheros are usually are. cuz, you know, it's Batman - and the first in the recent Batman reboot at that. He's supposed to be all tortured and "woe is me!" The fact that he is looking down and off to the side and not agressively is very much meant to convey that and provide a deliberate contrast to the most recent movie before it, Batman and Robin. The difference is that this is not a trend. It's a fairly isolated picture that work specifically because of the contrast it provides.

As far as women's curves go, I will point out that both men and women have butts (perhaps I am an outlier in being a hetero woman that likes men's butts? but I doubt it) but only women have breasts, and while you can see some of the women's breasts in these photos...they are actually not shown nearly as clearly as in some of the examples I provided. So, I call bullshit on the point (only) being to try to show women as sexy sexy sexy.

The pictures that the phtotographers kept taking of my teammates and I, lying on the ground with the ball, year after year? That was not the most flattering pose for teenage girls dressed in short shorts and bulky soccer jerseys. There was something else going on. (And I assure you that we were not the only teen girls who had to deal with this shit for our athletic pictures.) There is something else besides sex at play in these pictures as well, no matter how much the women in them are portrayed in a sexy way.

Lastly, I do not intend to sneak up on any of the women in these pictures, and woe to the idiot who does. That doesn't take away from the fact that exposing one's back is a mark of vulnerability in a fighter, and that female fighters are constantly marketed this way, and male ones are not. If all I knew about them was what I could see in the photos? I would have no idea how dangerous they are. This is not true of most male action heroes - even the Batman example you gave also emphasizes his bulk and stealth - and he's only looking a different way, he's still in a fairly aggressive pose aside from that.

"Marketters and Hollywood will always present us with characters who are sexier, more intelligent and stronger than we are."

Actually, this is rather my point. I do expect them to be smarter than I am. Which is why I can't figure out why they keep being portrayed in posters as practically TSTL.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
127. tnh
Discordian Kitty, I'm pleased to see that other commenters are responding to your ideational content rather than your attitude or tone, but the next time you say something as gratuitously offensive as "stop whining", you will get unpublished.
Jane Patterson
128. jeliza
A few thoughts:

As a lady who likes ladies and dudes... I have to say these do nothing for me (and I like porn just fine, thanks). Because what I see is how unnatural and painful this pose is (no, really, as a former model, I can assure you lower backs, necks and sometimes shoulders are not happy in this pose.) I have NEVER seen a woman do this in real life who wasn't doing a burlesque routine, even when they were being intentionally flirty and come-hither.

And the idea that someone who is "ready for action" would stand in a position that would be hard as hell to shoot/fight from is stupid.

I would also like to note that hot men with bare chests on romance covers are objectified, but NOT UNREALISTIC. It is a position that shows their power without doing anything out of the ordinary besides being shirtless.

And to go on to the urban fantasy covers topic, I read a lot of it ... and unless I am buying an author I already know I like, these days I pick new ones to try out by not having stupid poses or outfits on the cover. No exposed belly, no ridiculously high heels. I want my kick-ass women plausible.

Also, there have been a number of studies suggesting this isn't actually effective advertising, even for men -- people notice the sexy, but don't remember what it is advertising; maybe it works better for movies...
Emily Asher-Perrin
129. EmilyAP
@DiscordianKitty - The fact that Bella isn't showing off her curves and that makes you think she looks like a boy is a separate issue. Femininity is not simply having curves; women come in all shapes and sizes, and suggesting that a woman who dresses in a way that you find masculine (which is odd to me, since practically every teenager I knew dressed in hoodies and jeans) is somehow being presented as a boy is discomfitting to me; if someone told me that I was masculine for wearing the same attire, I'd be pretty unhappy. If someone told me that the less curvy women I knew automatically looked masculine, I'd be pretty unhappy about that too (and so would they).

This also isn't about Bella's character. I dislike Twilight very much, and have nothing nice to say about the character. This is about her physical representation. And some people might actually find that poster of Bella sexy - but she didn't have to display herself the same way to reach that effect.

In regard to intimidation: people writing comments on a website and the sexualization of women in media for male benefit are not the same thing. All intimidation is not equal. Teenage girls are not fragile flowers, but they deserve to grow up in environments where their bodies are not hypersexualized wherever they turn. As I said in the beginning of the post, women being sexual is not a problem. But living in a world where the ways in which women are sexual is dictated by culture (a culture created predominantly by men) effects women on a daily basis. Not every single woman, but plenty of them. Also, suggesting that women who are not confidently "sexy" simply toughen up and deal with it is pretty cruel. Especially when the pervasiveness of sexualized women in culture is much more damaging than people who intimidate in other capacities; by being intellectual, etc.

Fiction doesn't need to be idealized. Many people enjoy watching characters who look like average people.


@ jeliza - Being a woman who is in the same boat as you (I like ladies and dudes too), I completely agree. And thank you for the link! I was mentioning those studies above, but I didn't have the a place to direct people too. :)
Sandy M.
130. stormcrow27
Cheesecake will fade to beefcake as the gender shift in population and wealth occurs. Most likely it will evolve into both as alternate modes of sexuality become more accepted, and the older generations die off from scurrilous pictures of high-heeled women performing jump kicks into undressed men on stallions.
Is this bad overall? No, it's just human.


Hmm, that could be the start of a new urban fantasy. Evil demons, posing as undressed men on stallions on romance novels, are seducing men and women. Only, the power of high-heeled werewolves/mages/vampires/unicorns/dragon/lumberjacks (of either sex) can stop them. Equality in motion picture entertainment won't come around until they start producing movies based on everyman/woman comics like Y the last man or JLA-The home care years.
Mordicai Knode
131. mordicai
130. stormcrow27

Wait...but you get that endemic sexism in pay & hiring practices is still the norm in America, where women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to a man in the same position, right? I mean, it is lovely to say "this will all sort itself out once utopia takes hold," but things don't magically happen like that.
Clark Myers
132. ClarkEMyers
#126 If all I knew about them was what I could see in the photos? I would have no idea how dangerous they are.
Maybe so. I’d suggest that folks who play video games, see related movies and read graphic novels and vampire novels and such that are graphic but not graphic novels would read the pictures as conveying a message of a certain type of dangerous character in a certain type of action movie/print medium here – as opposed say to Judi Dench in character as M who is as dangerous in fact as any. Likely enough the target audience for the pictures here is in reaction against something (or what’s the appeal of X-Men?) and so mannerist by intent.
Mannerism encompasses a variety of approaches influenced by, and reacting to, the harmonious ideals and restrained naturalism associated with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and early Michelangelo. Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities. Emphasis added. Wikipedia
Certainly for The Avengers (as I suspect for most any movie ultimately derived from the super hero graphic novel/comic book) much of the set design work for interiors is deliberately mannerist in a form traceable to the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and other such early innovators.

One might as well argue that the selection of weapons and carry rigs – which varies from unrealistic to impractical (cf. much of Stallone’s prop climbing gear in Cliffhanger in silly combinations)– demeans the model as stupid and vulnerable by implication however well chosen to convey the action movie image.

Certainly an aesthetic preference for naturalism is entirely defensible – and the worldview is much more realistic but socialist realism just may be an artistic dead end.
Sandy M.
133. VoiceofTJ
Here's a thought, lets release a poster/photo that we think will sell the most tickets. So that we can pay everyone who worked on the movie. So that they can buy new cars and homes. And stimulate the economic growth of the world, thus pulling us out of our global recession. I'm exactly the oppisite, I support the booty shot; nay, I demand it! And if you disagree, you're not just un-American, you're against world progress.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
135. tnh
VoiceofTJ, is that an example of Poe's Law, or a parody of it?
Corkryn Williams
136. MadCow21
"But problems with Twilight aside, she’s not doing the pose. In fact, she’s not doing much of anything besides standing there looking pissed off.

Could it be because the movie in question isn’t marketed toward men? I’m thinking... yes."

It seems far more likely that she was instructed to do the pose and simply failed to execute, as she seemingly does with all stage direction.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
137. tnh
Interesting theory, but it's not something we can know.
Emily Asher-Perrin
138. EmilyAP
@VoiceofTJ - ...Everyone who works on film and TV shows are paid before the project makes money. What ticket sales do is give the studio money to make more films. And if everyone only gave their money to films that presented women in a less objectifying way, maybe studios would start spending the money made from ticket sales on films with three-dimensional female characters that more women could relate to.

As for "world progress" - let's just say that we clearly define that differently. I define it as treating people equally.
Tyler Durden
139. Balance
@EmilyAP and tnh

Well I must say you ladies make a mighty fine argument. In fact, I agree with you on the issue of the marketing power prevalent in western society. You ladies made me step back and think about what we were actually discussing.

For myself, and I’m going to add DiscordianKitty and TXM, (smack me down if I’m wrong) I think we are just coming at this problem from a different angle. I was discussing women I’ve known, Kitty and TXM were discussing themselves, but we were all discussing a methodology of dealing with the problem. While you ladies, and others, were attacking the source of a problem, that for us, our solution had conquered.

Edited: That is to say, I agree with your arguments, you just went further inception on my ass.
John Massey
140. subwoofer
Hmmmm... I hear what folks are saying... mostly, but keep in mind I'm a guy... yes, I know, nobody's perfect...

Anyways, I would like to see the playing field a little more equal... well a lot more equal, my daughter is growing up into this world and I want it better for her, not worse. So many things in modern pop culture make me want to put up parental blinders and hide my child away for the next 100 years or so. Every time I hear Ms. Manaj on the radio with the hook line "higher than a MF" I die a little inside. And this is a woman that has said she wants to have kids, a bunch of them. How will she explain those lyrics to them? There are too many things that bombard us with a warped view of how things really are.

That being said, I have to wonder how much both genders buy into certain images and stereotypes. For instance, in my household, I'm not the one that watches "America's Next Model something something", my wife does. There are a whack of Cosmo type mags on news stands portraying a certain female image... I don't think many guys have subscriptions to them. Of course there are trade rags like Maxxim and stuff, but I'd like to think that the people that read those eventually grow out of them.

Also, gone are the Homereque role models of yesterday for guys. Nowadays every man has to work out for 5 hours a day just to have the body that society expects them to have. With the exception of Will Farrel and maybe a small handful of character actors, it makes headlines when a male star "lets himself go".

For me it is a pity that we can't take people as they are and if they are doofs, well, then they are doofs no matter what they look like. It would be nice if we stopped judging books by there cover, then again, this is a book blog site so we are already preaching to the converted.

Woof™.
Melanie S
142. starryharlequin
DiscordianKitty@122: I'm not intimidated by the fact that these women are sexier than I am; I'm angry that so many marketers think being sexy is the most important thing about them. And even that might not be a problem, if that wasn't held up by every other kind of media we're exposed to, as well as many interpersonal interactions. This is not an isolated issue.

As a more general comment, this thread neatly illustrates both halves of the usual response to feminist pop culture criticism: say something is a problem and give a few examples, people say you have cherry-picked; say something is a problem and give many examples, people say you are looking for things to get angry about.
Sandy M.
143. Mbourgon
What about all the current Urban Fantasy novels, which all seem to have That Pose?
Sandy M.
144. Captain France
"Blame the men!"

Right. It has nothing to do with the women allowing/encouraging people to photograph them like this (or just photographing themselves) for attention. Scroll down your facebook newsfeed and count the number of "camera pointing down, conveniently showing off the cleavege and duck lips" poses you see.. taken by girls.

Take some responsibility for you gender instead of blaming mine for everything.
Sandy M.
145. XO Tigh
144. Captain France

I agree wholeheartedly with this article. I didn't read an outright balme on men, as it seems is usually the case, but I definitely see it very much implied.

I'm kind of sick of the pose too, but maybe it's because I'm disillusioned and get the same reaction when I see the overly used "sexy lip bite" or duckface, or whatever idiotic pose is trending right now. It makes the subject one dimensional and at this age I've long beaten my hormones into submission.

I'd liek to underscore the topic of Marketing, (as seen in some other *ahem* "moderated" debates of late).

I blame money as the chief driver behind poses like this. Sex does sell, despite it's detractors, and our basic, carnal needs are marketed to as if John Berger himself were at the helm. Blaming one person or another seems short sighted when it's the direction money flows that's to blame. Anyone selling something will tell you: "Pimping aint easy."
Sandy M.
146. Maenad
There is something I believe nobody has brought up so far. This relates to the difference between the male and female characters depicted in this pose.

Look closely at both Craig's character and Riddick. Do you notice something? Both of them are depicted _in motion_. Craig is striding (broodingly?), while Riddick's pose can be read as something like 'Here I go!' or 'Follow me!'.

Then go back to the women. Elektra is posing, not striding - you can read this from the way the muscles in her legs are depicted. Amy is seemingly falling. Megan Fox's character is fixed on that bike. The rest are self-evident.

Out of all of them I could possibly buy only Black Widow as someone who is in the process of kicking butt, or just about to be engaged in it. It is the way she is gazing off screen that suggests that she is facing a threat and has turned towards it; which is reasonable enough. The public here is an implied spectator rather than an addressee, and it is evidently assumed that the said public whould more happily contemplate Black Widow's posterior rather than following the actual fight as it unfolds.

Interstingly enough, the alternative picture of Elektra linked in the article has more kinetic energy in it (but it has its own problems).

In other words, it is not just the pose that is problematic, it is its execution too. These ostensibly dangerous women are represented in sexy _static_ positions. It is not only that their bodies are emphasized in these posters adove their skills, smarts, personalities; it is _how_ they are emphasized.

These images fail to represent heroines them as _SOURCES OF ACTION_, nevermind what actually happens in the films. While Riddick is quite obviously inviting the audience to follow his progress and to join in his adventure, what do the women in these posters invite you to do? Ogle?
Mordicai Knode
147. mordicai
145. XO Tigh

Re: "Pimping ain' easy," I guess maybe the point is that women aren't sex workers to be exploited? I mean, people love to say "sex sells," but it isn't sex that is being sold, it is women. If it was sex, there would be a parity &-- despite a few beefy exceptions-- there isn't. Women don't equal sex...that is the part that shows how deep the objectification runs.

(Yes I realize we're basically agreeing, I'm just spring boarding off your comment.)
Sandy M.
148. Truth
The most ludacris and deceptive part of all those photos is the modern idea that 110lbs skinny woman is any kind of a warrior... no matter how many pistols you give her. That is the real fantasy. If anyone can provide factual evidence of such a women, I'll be sure to acknowledge it. The only 007 woman I ever heard about brought a terrorist into a CIA base and got herself and everyone she was in charge of killed. Why? Because she and her subordinates were too frightened to go outside the wire to do their jobs.
Mordicai Knode
149. mordicai
148. Truth

Yes, it is much more plausible that a dude could turn into a green monster that defies physics than a tiny lady be able to karate chop some people. Wait the opposite of that. Bruce Lee was 5'7" & like 120-140 lbs, & for some reason people are willing to believe he's a bad ass...
Emily Asher-Perrin
151. EmilyAP
@Balance - I appreciate very much where the various arguments are coming from, and thank you for listening in return! :) (If only all the internet worked this way....)

@Captain France - There is cause and effect at work here; women do take pictures of themselves this way. They do it because they've seen women posed this way their entire lives and have been informed that it's attractive by society. But women were not the first people to take pictures of themselves in provocative poses - men were. It has been going on for thousands of years. For most of human history, professional artists were predominantly male, and they spent a great deal of time drawing, painting and sculpting nude women. Men have essentially been dictating female imagery for millennia. If you don't believe you're contributing to that aspect of culture, that's all well and good. But claiming that women want to be portrayed and thought of as sex objects on a regular basis (just because some of them choose to pose sexily for pictures, or take those pictures) is demeaning to the plethora of women who don't.

@Maenad - Yes! Yes, thank you! Action and movement are a huge part of this portrayal, you're absolutely right. Thank you for making the point.

@Truth - Women are very capable of being physically threatening, but are often shown enacting violence in highly unrealistic ways. The recent action flick Haywire showed a deadly woman taking men down left and right. The actress was a martial arts champion and as a result, the fight scenes were incredibly realistic. Women can take care of themselves, but are usually depicted doing so on film in ways that defy physics. It's unfortunate.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
152. tnh
Captain France, the article is not about you. It's about a specific way the entertainment industry has repeatedly depicted women. You weren't consulted about those decisions, of course, so you can't be held responsible for them.

Truth, if you're questioning the concept of small but fierce female warriors, I can testify to their existence. I'll never forget riding the NYC subway after midnight in the 1980s, when the subways were nowhere near as clean or as safe as they are now, and having a fully-armed female transit cop come through the door at the end of the car. She had obvious muscle, but she was not a big woman. (She may have been shorter than I am. I didn't stand up to check.) However, you know that body language some police officers have? The kind that says "Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for I am the toughest SOB in the Valley"? She had it. That woman could have stared down Batman.

I only got to see her patrolling that train, but I've never doubted that she was a match for anything that turned up.

There's been a lot of talk in this thread about female attractiveness. I have to say that if you're a nervous subway rider in a three-quarters-empty car at one in the morning, a tough little Hispanic policewoman can be a thing of beauty.
Alana Abbott
156. alanajoli
Was going to mention Jim Hines's post as well, but I see @Jazzfish linked it back in comment 37. I don't see a link to a similar post by blogger Anna http://genrereviews.livejournal.com/371367.html. She did male and female poses to show the difference in how much more naturally men are posed.

Which I think is one of the things that's different in the images that @Ragbold said back in comment 45. Paranormal romance covers usually feature a man in a sexy pose, but a natural one. To get the boobs & butt pose, models and actresses either have to contort their spines or rely on Photoshop to touch it up afterwards. Because, really, who thinks that any of these photos are 100% true to life? (Maybe the Catwoman pose, due to the era in which it was taken...)
Sandy M.
157. CPN
The problem posed ;-) by this article is that this specific pose makes women feel objectified and should not be used. Maybe the solution is to find a new pose. My challenge for everyone who views this as a problem is to come up with an alternate pose that can not be objectified, but still sell tickets.

If this makes me sexist so be it, but if you take a picture of a woman from the front, I'm going to notice breasts. If you take a picture from the back, I'm going to notice the butt. From the side, breasts & butt. From above, cleavage (maybe butt too, depending on where the camera is). From below, vagina.

I am open to the non-objectifiable pose that still draws me in, but I don't have an angle in my head that has a woman in a poster that will avoid objectification in someone's eyes. I encourage you, please take the challenge seriously. Come up with your own artist renderings if this doesn't exist yet or post links to examples if they do.
Alana Abbott
158. alanajoli
Oh, wait, that's the new Catwoman image? I didn't recognize Hathaway behind the mask. I thought it was a period piece. Good on them for achieving that look, I suppose.
Mordicai Knode
159. mordicai
157. CPN

I mean, I guess there is the option that you could also look at a woman & not immediately size her up as an object? Just brainstorming here, though.
Sandy M.
160. Daniel R. Robichaud
This art irritates the heck out of me. It really makes me appreciate artists like Tim Bradstreet, who are masters at rendering confident, attractive characters who can totally kick your butt. The poses are less awkward, and the pictures actually tells stories (I recall Bradstreet once saying that his preferred images took place either seconds before action erupts or in the aftermath; unfortunately, I can't place the source. Arg.)... They incorporate sexuality instead of abusing it in such a shameless way because they offer more than glamourshots snapshots. Most of the images in the original post exist in a weird sense of stasis, offering no sense of character, story or action. Arg.
Sandy M.
161. Bampf
Dare I point out that articles like this get to have it both ways? The posters are shown for us to either oggle or tut-tut at, depending on how virtuous we are feeling, but either way the website gets the clicks.

It reminds me of TV news programs where the anchor/host sentoriously informs us of some shocking scandal, and of course they must show you the pixelated video clip, and the talking heads tell us how depraved it all is, and here's that clip again in slow motion!

Or the variation where they show the skin while they ostensibly make fun of it. (Sandy M posted a link to one the BBC did.)

Maybe I'm being too cynical when it comes to this particular article. But I can say that I came here following a link which promised "a long list" of women in the ridiculous pose, and SOMEHOW I knew that there'd be a large full color picture for every single one of them.
John Massey
162. subwoofer
I was looking for this earlier to support what I was saying... er public perception and such in regards to positive self image vs. negative self image, ladies, you are not alone.

Woof™.
Sandy M.
163. XO Tigh
147. mordicai

Re: "Re: "Pimping ain' easy," I guess maybe the point is that women aren't sex workers to be exploited? I mean, people love to say "sex sells," but it isn't sex that is being sold, it is women."

I was being facetious. but allow me to spring board off your comment. Saying that they are being exploited absolves the women posing in these pictures of any accountability, which I do not agree with. They are pimping themselves.
Sandy M.
164. XO Tigh
I'd also like to raise the question:

Why is it that the image of a sexy woman has to be counteballanced by the fact that she can kick you ass? Wha the hell does that have to do with anything?

I mean, yeah women are sick of being objectified. But then isn't this objectifying them just in a different way? That they can beat the hell out of you? That's just swapping the typical female objectification with the typical male one. Idiotic.
Emily Asher-Perrin
165. EmilyAP
@CPN - The sexualization of these images is not simply based on what bits you're seeing. It has to do with activeness vs passiveness, attire, realism, posture, etc. A woman facing you, looking serious/dangerous, strong, not holding herself in a way that is damaging her spine, this would eliminate many of the problems that these images pose. It isn't simply body parts at work here.

@Bampf - I can understand why you'd assume the more cynical side of things, but speaking as the person who put this piece together, I want to be perfectly clear:

I didn't write this to give anyone a thrill.

Am I dismayed that some people simply clicked in to ogle women? Of course. Am I suprised? Hardly. This topic is genuinely frustrating to me and I'm attempting to show it for exactly what it is. I used pictoral evidence to make the point because that's the way you make a visual argument. The fact that the article "has it both ways" as you put it, ultimately can't be helped. Your point is valid, but that isn't the intention behind the piece. Please take that into consideration before making accusations.
Emily Asher-Perrin
166. EmilyAP
@XO Tigh - It's an interesting idea that someone with the ability to kick ass might be viewed as a different kind of objectification. However, if we take that as an argument, it's still ultimately a different can of worms: a women who is kicking your ass is objectified for being strong and active, rather than pliant and submissive. It's a big difference in the end, when you take into account that most of history shows women as the passive gender.
Sandy M.
167. Kerensky97
First, I love this article so don't get me wrong!

But why are people so shocked/outraged about this? Movies whos key demographics are horny 18-30 year old males are using sex to draw them in?! Stop the presses, the world must know!

I'll bet money that the ad executives making these posters are not only aware about the objectification of women portrayed but have probably had the exact same discussion as the above article. They would probably even agree that it's overdone blantant objectification that they feel morally opposed to and would never let their daughters be shown in such a way.

But when flashing some ass on the poster could mean a few more millions at the box office do you think they care? And in the same vein how do you think the actresses feel about such images?
I'm sure they feel a little upset about being turned into a sex fantasy but are well willing to keep doing it as long as it keeps the high $$$ acting jobs coming in. Personally I believe Johansson's career wouldn't exist otherwise, I have always loved her in movies but her rise to the a-list coincides with the amount of skin she shows on camera. Is she wrong or just cashing in on her assets while she can?

It may not be right but welcome to reality, it's a gritty dark place. Just be glad you're in a land where this is the worst thing we have to complain about.
S Tieh
168. infinitieh
All I know is, when there's a promo pic with these poses, I know the movie/book in question is not for me (probably why I watch so many kids films - but not Twilight!).
Sandy M.
169. XO Tigh
166. EmilyAP

True. You see the passivity being thrust onto men these days too. There are tons of commercials for house cleaning products where men are beign outsmarted somehow. Men lying on the couch. Men being lazy. Men not acting.

Acting isn't "good" and passive "bad". Not every woman wants to be able to kick someone's ass. The passive - active dichotomy, while prevalent, is symptomatc of something else which is to my mind at the heart of the issue - the narrowing of the dimensionality of a person, packaging traits into things that are easily commodified. Women who pose for these pictures are playing to that commodification.

The photographers and the ad revenues and the media buys and the agencies that purvey and peddle these images are gears in a machine following the dollar at the end of the string. When there is no longer a market where images are tools that sell, this issue will go away.
Emily Asher-Perrin
171. EmilyAP
@Kerensky97 - I think some people are sort of stuck on this idea of shock/outrage that you're mentioning. In the interest of clarity, shock was not what motivated this piece. I'd say it was more... exhaustion. Exhaustion with these identical images over and over. And any anger is more directed at the fact that nothing is being done to change it. My hope is that the more we site these things, the more we call them out for being as problematic as they are, the more chance we have at changing it, changing culture over time so that ad execs don't automatically go this route because they think they'll make more money. That's why it's important to talk about.

@XO Tigh - I would never try to make the case that passive = bad and active = good in general. My issue with passivity is that it is the default way women are presented and has been for countless centuries. As a result, many women believe that they're supposed to be passive. Psychology has found that women are less confrontational often because they are raised believing that they should defer or be "peacemakers." Society at large has as big a role in this programming as upbringing. Many women today (myself included) enjoy seeing active women because it's still practically a taboo in our culture. It's the imbalance I'm trying to address in all of this. The imbalance is the issue, not the portrayal all on its own. It's the sheer volume of these photos and others like it.
Sandy M.
172. XO Tigh
@ 171. EmilyAP

"As a result, many women believe that they're supposed to be passive."

"Society at large has as big a role in this programming as upbringing."

"The imbalance is the issue"

I agree. But rather than swinging the pendulum in the other direction to change the dialogue, I'm proposing that it's the pendulum that's the problem (sorry I'm being vague here). Presenting different archetypes will just rub someone else the wrong way, since it's all subjective. I'm all for a moratorium on the butt shots, but that's not going to solve the bigger issue.

Images in media will always be short of the truth because they are images, and can't walk or talk. When our media evolves, we will enjoy more complex characters which are hopefully closer to the truth (one reason why I enjoy reading).

"Many women today (myself included) enjoy seeing active women because it's still practically a taboo in our culture."

While this is true about the world in general, I'd disagree when talkign specifically about western media. Female activeness is actually sponged up into their sexuallity and then cellebrated. "Great ass and can clean a Beretta? Sign me up!" Men just take it as another cornichon in their sex sandwich. It's like a punch in the jaw is just the price of admission to see women "play" badass. It's sad, but participating in that kind of charade dishonors the actual badasses like the transit cop mentioned above.
Sandy M.
174. cate p
Wow. I'd never really noticed that before. But now it's gonna REALLY annoy me O_O
Dan Layman-Kennedy
175. maestro23
Putting the brakes on these images may not solve the bigger issue, but - to borrow a metaphor I've seen used elsewhere recently - a sick patient isn't usually concerned with underlying causes; they'd like the symptoms to go away, please, and the sooner the better. If the underlying causes can get treated, so much the better (which is why physicians are concerned with them, and rightly so), but the actual suffering in the here-and-now also needs to be addressed as part of responsible medicine.

Fortunately, it's not either-or. We can do both.
Emily Asher-Perrin
176. EmilyAP
@XO Tigh - I think we're simply speaking to separate issues here. Which is a-okay! Media at large certainly perpetrates a lot of falsehoods; I'm of the opinion that some falsehoods are more harmful than others because of what they imply about the group they are representing. Hence my beef with this specific imagery. So I understand where you're coming at the problem from entirely and think it's an interesting discussion to have - but at the end of the day, I don't find every type of objectification to be equally damaging. And that's the angle I'm attacking it from.
Mae Ost
177. Maenad
@172. XO Tigh
"Great ass and can clean a Beretta? Sign me up!"
Do you understand what you have just said? This is what you are using as an illustration of a typical response to the idea of the 'sexualised female activeness'? You could have said anything. You could have said 'great ass and an excellent shot' . Anything. But you have chosen cleaning a Beretta?

I have a serious question. Can you try to go back to the moment you were composing that sentence and articulate what made you pick this kind of imagery?
Dan Layman-Kennedy
178. maestro23
Maenad, not to speak for XO Tigh, but cleaning a Beretta and cleaning a bathroom are not at all the same sphere of thing. The knowledge of how to not only point and shoot but properly break down, care for, and reassemble a weapon implies an intimacy with the instruments of violence that levels-up badassery. And it's one of the things that's traditionally consigned to the Real Guy skill list, so not a dig or diminishment at all.
Sandy M.
179. XO Tigh
176. EmilyAP

*fist bump*

177. Maenad



What maestro said. Come on... cleaning? You're going to jump on that? What's next, I'm not allowed to say cleaning because "thats OUR word"?

*bows and exits*
Mae Ost
181. Maenad
178. @maestro23

"The knowledge of how to not only point and shoot but properly break down, care for, and reassemble a weapon implies an intimacy with the instruments of violence that levels-up badassery."

I am well aware of that. My point is rather that XO Tigh had chosen this image as an illustration of sexualized 'activeness'. Knowledge of how to clean a Beretta or ability to do so does not mean that the character gets to use that knowledge during the narrative, or to use the gun for that matter. In other words, by using that kind of phrasing, XO Tigh chose to represent female badassery through a state rather than action. So we are back to the same old passive/active dichotomy.

Imagine a picture of someone cleaning a gun. By itself, without any other context, this picure is unlikely to tell you if this person is/was/going to be using the weapon, or be engaged in any other action. By itself, it would not communicate action/potential for action. Unlike, say, a picture of someone taking an aim.

In other words, we are back to a static representation of female activeness. Which, in my view, is a problem.

In addition, being able to 'care for' things is a traditional female attribute in our (Western European) culture, and thoughout our history iconographic representations of women disproportionaltely favoured nurture- or care-related imagery. By calling up 'caring for' imagery when speaking about heroines, one inevitably taps into that.

So. Consciously or uncosciously, XO Tigh had chosen to summarize female activeness via a phrase that has implied static and nurturing overtones. (Ironically, in the light of the images that have started this discussion, the phrase is very fitting, actually: an example of how to reify an action female in a non-threatening way.)

I am still very much curious to find our how aware XO Tigh was of what he was doing. Since he appears to have left the thread, I would like to ask whether you yourself would have picked a similar phrase to characterize a badass action hunk. Say, 'iron muscles and can clean a Colt'. Y/N? Why?

Earlier you have said that
If the underlying causes can get treated, so much the better (which is why physicians are concerned with them, and rightly so), but the actual suffering in the here-and-now also needs to be addressed as part of responsible medicine.
Well, both this kind of imagery and this kind of language perpetuate damaging stereotypes. Language may be a subtler influence, but it is also more pervasive.
Sandy M.
182. JJWeil67
Sorry to jump in here. Maenad, I have to respectfully disagree. I'm not really getting that at all from what he said (and it seemed like a mocking sort of scenario anyway)... but cleanign a gun is somehow nurturing?

Examine your angle here: you were the one to jump to cleaning being a predominantly female thing. Besides, cleaning is by definition an action, not a passive state.

Awesome article, by the way. I always laugh when I see this kind of stuff in movie promotion. I can't stand how they all have to be carrying a gun that fits in your purse, too.
Sandy M.
185. mr. awesome
I see no problem with objectifying people who I will never meet or interact with. It's wrong to objectify people in your everyday life because that precludes interpersonal relationships, but when interpersonal relationships are already impossible then it makes sense to get whatever enjoyment you can from the beautiful girls in the movies. I don't think there's any problem here.

There might be a problem if it could be proven that these types of poses encourage men to view literally all women, specifically the ones in their daily life, as sex objects. But that doesn't seem likely. I know it doesn't happen to me, although I certainly ogled at these posters. It might happen to others but I don't see any reason to think that would be the case.

If someone would articulate why pictures like these decrease utility rather than lobbing across an ad hominem or whatever at me, then I would like to hear that claim. But I don't want to get yelled at.
Sandy M.
186. mr. awesome
Also: insofar as part of the problem here is apparently that this doesn't happen to men as often, why isn't the solution to just support more sexy pictures of men?

That seems like a solution that women would on the whole support.
Emily Asher-Perrin
187. EmilyAP
@mr awesome - The way women are portrayed in media does affect the way both men and women view women in the actual world. It's part of the reason images like this create such an uproar when they are presented.

As to your second comment, if you read the end of the article, that's exactly what I asked for!
Sandy M.
188. mr. awesome
"The way women are portrayed in media does affect the way both men and women view women in the actual world."

That's an assertion, I was asking for some form of evidence on a broad scale. I believe some effect probably occurs, but I believe it's probably not very significant at all and probably not extremely widespread. People don't think of supermodels and actresses and everyday people in the same way.

I know that in my personal experience I don't treat women like objects, although I'm viewing the same commercials that everyone else is. I compartmentalize.

Also, we know that in countries with commericals that objectivize women, women tend to have more rights and better welfare anyways. That's probably to some extent an effect of wealth, but it also is some decent evidence that commericals don't have very much of an effect on everyday interactions.
Sandy M.
189. heathere3
In case you haven't seen it, there's a rebuttal for the marketing folks, run by a male friend of mine:
http://womenfighters.tumblr.com/

Women in reasonable armor! :)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
190. tnh
Mr. Awesome, the effects of media portrayals have been extensively studied. If you're concerned about evidence, look it up.

What I'm not aware of are studies that demonstrate a positive correlation between countries in which a higher percentage of total commercials objectify women, and countries in which women have more rights and better welfare. Got a cite on that?
Sandy M.
191. mr. awesome
Regarding your oddly specific query about "a higher percentage of total commercials objectify women" I don't believe there is any correlation. However this request obscures the issue. I'm not talking about relative percentages of objectivizing commericals to not objectivizing commercials, I'm talking in terms of total volume relative to population. Total volume is what's relevant - if a country has two commercials each year and both are objectivizing, that wouldn't translate into misoginy under either of our theories. Unless you're making ludicrously strong claims, which I don't believe you are.

There is definitely a correlation between countries with lots of TV ads (with lots of objectivizing) and lots of womens rights. Western culture has lots of both of those things. The fact that the TV ads haven't precluded a strong force for women's rights should be decent evidence that the TV ads aren't having a very large impact. It's far from definitive, but in the absence of any actual studies showing otherwise I'm still confident in my initial belief, especially given my own experience.

I'm making strong intuitive claims and reference to experiences that I assume everyone here shares and reference to well known facts about Western cultures. You're making references to vague studies that I can't actually find when I do online searches. I do not understand why you are still so confident in your belief. Please question that belief.

Please mention a specific study comparing the objectification of women who aren't known to the subject vs. women who are personally known to the subject. Alternatively, please make arguments about why men percieve supermodels and their secretaries in the same way.

I think the belief about commercials skewing our everyday perception about women is widespread, but I don't think that belief is actually true.

I also feel like your last question was meant to be snarky and I don't like that because I'm trying to have an actual discussion. If that is not the case then I apologize for this, but I feel that much of the comments have a similar tone (on both sides of the debate) and that these tone problems are precluding rational dialogue (on both sides).

Note: The "please" requests are meant to be answered by anyone who wants to, not just TNH. Also, I am willing to downgrade the probability of my general beliefs if someone shows me an actual well done study which answers my questions, I'm not just trying to throw challenges at your argument because I'm some sort of bigot or anything like that, and I hope that people remember that when they're addressing my points.
Sandy M.
192. mr. awesome
I'm not a real member so I can't edit the comment above.

I realized that this may be confusing to some people.

"There is definitely a correlation between countries with lots of TV ads (with lots of objectivizing) and lots of womens rights. Western culture has lots of both of those things. The fact that the TV ads haven't
precluded a strong force for women's rights should be decent evidence
that the TV ads aren't having a very large impact. It's far from
definitive, but in the absence of any actual studies showing otherwise
I'm still confident in my initial belief, especially given my own
experience."

To clarify, the fact is definitely true, but the deduction we make from the fact is not definitely true. However, the deduction is fairly sound, and does constitute some evidence for my claims.
Dan Layman-Kennedy
193. maestro23
Maenad, I cannot for the life of me tell if you've adopted the Poe role in this discussion by accident or design, but, as a wiser fellow than I once said, "The Internet is phenomenological." I must therefore, with apologies, decline to engage.
Mordicai Knode
194. mordicai
Guys, I can't even. I can't even. I used up all of my "respond in a reasonable & measured tone" tokens for the week, I think. You're on your own, I can't wade into this without headdesking myself into oblivion.
Nadine L.
195. travyl
Hey EmilyAP
I just read your great and funny post above.
Shortly afterward I read Irene's post of the Darrell K. Sweet WOT covers and looking at them, I think tor supports your demand for equal billing for male backsides.
Look at the cover of A Crown of Swords - that pose of a male character.
Teresa Jusino
196. TeresaJusino
@EmilyAP - I love this post and the way it highlights the HUGE imbalance in the way male gaze is catered to more than female gaze.

It's funny, because before I even got to it, I immediately thought of the Daniel Craig Cowboys & Aliens poster. :) I loved that poster. I'd never been so in love with someone's back in my whole life. HOTNESS. And yes, we need more of that. Less Riddick. :)

But yes, sex sells. The problem isn't using sex to sell things, in my opinion. The problem is that sex isn't used equally to sell things. Somewhere, somebody got the idea that only men like/want/need to be appealed to sexually. Um, I call BS. :) But seriously, I would have less of a problem with the photos above if the equivalent for men were used. Because it's not just about appealing to women, but gay men, too. After all, they don't want to be looking at Scarlett Johanssen's butt either!

However, I will say that I'm sure that there are plenty of lesbians who love the photos above. Let's remember that who sex sells to doesn't always fall down a gender divide. Though, the fact that lesbians get more eye candy than gay men is in no way intentional, I know.

But the bottom line. Equal-opportunity ogling, please. Straight men aren't the only people on the planet looking to be turned on, and they're not the only ones spending money. I will always love Edward James Olmos for his focusing in on male genitalia when he directed The Plan. :) And if you haven't heard Katee Sackoff tell this story, you should. It's hilarious.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WA5c4QHZLU
Jenny Kristine
197. jennygadget
TeresaJusino @ 196

"However, I will say that I'm sure that there are plenty of lesbians who love the photos above."

Possibly? But I would like to note that most of the women I know that are attracted to women (exclusively and otherwise) still have serious problems with not just how common such images are, but also the way that they focus on women's bodies as a collection of parts - often to the detriment of any attempt to convey personality or story - and the way that women who fight are, in particular, so often shown with their backs exposed to the viewer.
Sky Thibedeau
198. SkylarkThibedeau
I missed this the other day but I was going to say the good old Bodice Rippers of which I was never a fan always have a bare chested Fabio or some other specimen of Grade A prime Male adorning their Covers.
Sandy M.
199. Sleestak
Sandy M.
200. pld
What a great read, though it makes me sigh with sadness that for another generation of women - and men - this is still a topic. As I age these images have become more offensive. Not because of my feminist ire, my own fading youth and beauty...that would be too simple. The message is so much bigger and it impacts how women are treated and received in virtually every aspect of their lives and careers. And it tells young men that it's ok to objectify and reduce women to less than, that you deserve the hot chick that comes with that car, beer, or deodorant. Yes, you dude...buy our stuff and can get this! It's your right! Never mind that the T&A are attached to a real human being.

If you think this doesn't play itself out in corporate America and the role women play please think again. This impacts your career and your access to power - and should you stake claim to it you better be aware of how to play your role within this system. If it were not so important you certainly would not see Madonna and others in desperate attempt to retain the look of youth. It sells, and it sells women - or should I say sells them out.
Brandon Lammers
201. wickedkinetic
just wanted to point out that I find it HILARIOUS that we've got half the people on this thread agitating for equal time (we want more objectified men to balance out the objectified women) and the other half talking about the evils of objectification in advertising....

sadly, i'm thinking homophobia might be a big contributor to the issue of sexist entertainment marketing- as well as lazy cultural intertia: the need to keep doing things the way they've always been done - or worse, the need to copy everything a successful movie does because i'm sure the reason Transformers made a trillion dollars is because of the objectifying posters... it is sad that we (or at least me) are so numb to these images that I don't think twice about them. yet - if the actress in question is one i'm particularly fond of, this sort of advertising would work for me - I would recognize her, think 'oh she's got a new movie' and consider trying to see if at some point.

this whole discussion leads me to the abject horror of life as one of these hollywood peoples. its easy to say they asked for it or it comes with the territory - but knowing that if you gain as little as 5 lbs. and hit the beach, the tabloids are going to call you fat and pregnant and maybe an alchoholic as well. and if you decide to have children, you need to hide and not be seen in public until your picture can be shown with the headline 'amazing bounce-back from pregnancy' instead of having to answer to the comparisons to all those other hollywood mommas who look better than ever a few weeks after delivery.... and their careers are dependent on this stuff - hollywood sees these anorexic-types as normal and you have to play the game to get the work.... ugh...

my original reason for commenting was to say that the pose shouldn't be the issue but pathological objectification regardless of pose, but maybe the increasing prevalence of this pose over the last few decades is an indicator of us becoming more anally-fixated as a culture, in the old Freudian yin-yang of anal vs. oral fixation - butt hey - what do I know...
Emily Asher-Perrin
202. EmilyAP
@mordicai - I really don't blame you, but thank you for trying! ;)

@travyl - ...That is hilarious. Thank you for that.

@Teresa Jusino - Aw, but I love Riddick! (No really, I kind of do. :)

As for lesbians... I'm a bisexual woman, and I don't find these posters attractive in the slightest. Because for me, it doesn't matter that these women are attractive in the abstract. I look at these posters and think about what Hollywood and marketing are saying about women (which means that they are inherently saying it about me because I'm a woman), and they become an instant turn off. So I wouldn't feel comfortable speaking for lesbians without their input. Don't forget, these women are being presented through "male gaze"... I would be reticent to assume that lesbians prefered looking at women through the same lens.

As for the "sex sells" argument that we keep coming back to... it simply isn't true. Countless studies have proved the exact opposite. In fact, Jeliza @128 gives a link to that effect, and I recommended that everyone pick up a copy of Buyology which showed the same findings. Sex sells sex. That's pretty much it.

@wickedkinetic - I feel you on the comment about Hollywood peoples. I practically cheered aloud when I read a comment by Jada Pinkett, setting everyone straight and letting them know that the only reason that she got rid of baby weight so fast was because she had lots of money and an army of nutritionists and physical trainers. She wanted to make sure that all women knew it was not normal, and that they shouldn't hold themselves to such ridiculous standards. Love her for it.
Sandy M.
203. SodyPop
Love the aritcle! And it's so true. It seems us Classy Women have to fight for equality with the law, corporations AND entertainment.

Also, here is a great tumbler to ease some of the sci-fi/fantasy unrealistic pain: http://womenfighters.tumblr.com/
Sandy M.
205. Darnia
Here are a couple more on-topic opinions from men on this subject:
A martial artist and contortionist talks about how ridiculous some female comic characters' positioning is:
http://justsayins.tumblr.com/post/14957660366/this-needs-to-stop-and-let-me-tell-you-why
And SciFi author Jim C. Hines hilariously tries to imitate poses from the covers of SciFi novels:
http://www.jimchines.com/2012/01/striking-a-pose/
Sandy M.
206. hyperbeeb
While I agree with this, I will point out that the Torchwood shot used here was actually used for Season 3, Children of Earth which was filmed and released in Britain, not America
Sandy M.
207. crispy
Lol. This article was hilarious. There must be something wrong with me. I never noticed this before.
David McCready
208. neiana
So images of a woman somewhat or generally clothed but in that particular pose is perfectly evil (where the movie, tv show, whatever is marketed towards men) but the opposite, where the man is half naked, toned to being highly irregular and generally looking "hunky" (or to me, dirty) is perfectly acceptable?

I know there's a word for this but I'm too tired to remember the correct synonym of hypocrit.

quick edit: I'm referring to things obviously and specifically marketed towards females. For instance nearly all romance novel covers, movie posters that show the movie is purely a romance for the girls (and not a rom-com for the couples), etc.
Sandy M.
211. brijazz
I'd rather my kid see a clothed butt than a gun.

I can almost hear the chant now: "Buns, not guns! Buns, not guns!"
Mordicai Knode
212. mordicai
211. brijazz

I'd rather my kid see a clothed butt than be eaten by the rancor!

Wait, that...is a crazy false equivilency! Emily didn't write about rancor monsters eating people at all. Oh hey! Neat, that works for your comment too; Emily didn't write about gratuitous guncrime either!
Sandy M.
214. Isochronous
I agree with you on most of these, with a couple of exceptions. The Doctor Who one is not something I personally would ever classify as "objectification" - she's really in profile more than anything else, and though she is wearing a miniskirt, it's a pretty modest one for this day and age. And I'm pretty sure the promo shot of Angel from X-Men:FC would need to show her back, since without those tattooes it would be pretty much impossible to tell who she is supposed to be. Her outfit is a bit skimpy, I'll admit, but it's possible that they just needed it to be short to show that the tattooes went all the way down onto her legs.

All the rest of them... yeah, that's pretty blatant.
Sandy M.
215. jennygadget
neiana @ 208

"For instance nearly all romance novel covers..."

You must frequent very different bookstores than I do. Granted, you get more covers with just bare-chested gentleman now than you did a decade ago, but the bulk of romance novel covers still lean towards landscapes/flowers, pictures of women only, and pictures of men and women together, in wich the woman is usually in state of undress herself, and the man is almost always in a dominant position.
Sandy M.
216. stormcrow27
Ok, if we're opening up the floor for enabling equal objectification, then I vote for all members of any cast for a movie, TV show, or random documentary, have to take the same screen shots so no one feels left out by not being truly objectified. This includes any marketing and brand executives who become associated with the show. Now everyone is equally mortified or happy, since they've become presented to the grand public in the name of soothing our collective guilt of 50,000 years of female opression.

Or, we can go with action shots of more actors that play up the movie's story, plot, and potential market appeal, and then no one feels objectified. And we're following that trek, we might as well have actors that better represent the tendencies of America, then the idealized versions these type of movies, novels, and entertainment present. The first thing that needs to go.. High heel boots on women and men fighting anything, unless they're all cowboys or bikers. I'm still attempting to figure out how Catwoman is going to fight anyone with those heels on. The second thing that needs to go is this damsel or man in distress obesssion we still have. Ultimate case in point-How about the half-naked pirate being captured by his or her crew, outwitting them all, and then getting swept up by a chastened love interest FROM the crew.

In addition, those half-naked men and women have to cold as the Artic winter, even with all of that wild love flaring under their tempting poses.
David McCready
218. neiana
@215: "and the man is almost always in a dominant position."

Which seems to be the case for the story inside, or so I'm told is often the case. I've only ever read two but since we're discussing the covers and not the books... I don't like the covers mentioned in this quote any more than the covers in my original comment. Nor do all fantasy and/or sci-fi cover have a variously clothed female with the pose mentioned in this article. If you're nitpicking my use of "nearly all" then enjoy the semantics victory a moment and realize the cover of a romance novel is just as bad for women, if not more so, and easily one of the worst objectifiers of men short of non-heterosexual romance covers.

I mean, sure, the pose is ridiculous. It doesn't get me interested in purchasing the product, or watching, or even "looking into it". The Riddick movie poster above may have been a subtle presentation of the idea of the movie psychologically but I don't remember the plot enough to comment for sure, but the rest are just dumb, so I completely agree with the idea of please stop. It's just, there's a lot LOT worse - this is just pointing out a few pesky insects in one room while there's a bee hive in the kitchen.
Sandy M.
220. Jess the girl
I have to say, this has been one of the more interesting discussions I've read online in a while. However, I have a few things to say considering the frequency romance novel covers are brought up.

#1 The headless torso developed as part of the industry's covers due to a backlash from romance readers about the pictures of the characters not matching the description of the characters in the book, especially hair/eye color. Readers would develop their own mental images of the heroes and didn't like having that mental picture of the hero's face constantly forced to fit a "Fabio" mold. Hence the headless character was born. It is falling out of style now, in favor of using a wider variety of male models to actually reflect how the hero looks in the book, but the headless torso on both male and female characters still lingers a bit. I suspect the publishing companies enjoy reusing the art since that saves money, and the more vague a character can look, the more covers that image can be slapped on.

#2 People keep mentioning that sex sells sex, well, hello? Romance novels are sexy! Not all romances get the hunky beefcake treatment, and "tamer" ones will have more modest covers. Look at the Amish themed romance novel covers, for example. What bothers me about the women in the action movies posing like this is that outwardly Hollywood is telling me that the movie is supposed to be about action and violence. As a woman, I want to see the women portray action and violence, and then if you really want, you can maky sexy a side point if you must. My problem is that none of these poses show action and violence, they only show passive sex. This tells me as a woman that I'm not allowed to be the actual Action hero, I've been reduced to passive sex. I have to say, I want to be the hero, and that kills the soul every time I see it.

#3 The thing I find hilarious about the whole "Well look at romance novel covers" argument, is this thread has shown more respect for romance novels than any other outside of the genre media portrayal of romance novel covers ever. I love how all of a sudden romance has genre cred when you want to use the covers to make a point. Fess up boys, what do you really think of romance? Simplistic and formulaic mommy-porn? (Oh gee, where have I heard that?) Now, what I'd really like to know is how many people come up with these opinions about the genre based on actually reading a wide variety of what the genre has to offer, and how many are based on looking at the covers and the fact that they are "for" women. So, what that tells me is that gratuitous use of the female body idealized for the "male gaze" equals a valid and relatively respected way to sell a summer blockbuster, but as soon as we all take a gander at the one visual haven for the "female gaze" we meet derision, especially from men. I find that extremely interesting in this context.

So, I vote for leaving romance novel covers out of the discussion and finding a more valid point to try to stand on.
Jenny Kristine
221. jennygadget
neina @ 218

I'm not nitpicking, I am saying you are flat out wrong. Saying "nearly all" romance covers have bare chested men on them is like saying "nearly all" flowers are red. Just because it's common enough to not be rare does not make it common enough to be anything approaching a majority. Semantics that may be, but it's hardly nitpicking.

My point about the women on the covers (and how they related to the men on the covers) was not with regards to whether they were better or worse than the posters above (O.o) but because you were drawing equivalencies between the two types of marketing with regards to how they portray the opposite gender from their (assumed) market and yet the truth is that romance covers are just as likely to show sexualized images of women as they are of men - while the opposite is very much not true of the movies and television shows discussed in the article. (despite the fact that they arguably have a more gender neutral audience). tldr, images like the ones above are NOT (only) about who these products are being marketed to.

"realize the cover of a romance novel is... easily one of the worst objectifiers of men short of non-heterosexual romance covers."

That's...not exactly a difficult thing to accomplish? I mean really, who do they have as competition?
Sandy M.
222. amongthegoblins
Wow, the number of condescending mansplanations in this comment section is off the charts. I also think the overuse of this stupid pose shows a stunning lack of originality on the part of the poster designers. If you can't find any way to draw attention to your promo materials that doesn't involve shining spotlights on the leading lady's T&A, then probably you don't have the chops for the position you're in, anyway. Just think of the number of gunfights and explosions in an average action movie! You could depict the heroine engaging in a gun battle, running for her life, stunt-riding a motorcycle, jumping out of an airplane... but instead you choose to make her look like an untalented pinup girl?
Sandy M.
224. questionman
Question: aren't women attracted as well by these kind of posters ?

Not trying to justify, just asking. Because it seems that the women I know enjoy looking at other women as well. So maybe that the designers don't feel like trying something else, as it works for both genders. And I believe that the balance between men and women among cinema goers is around 50/50.

Or maybe 50% of the audience is really put off, but silently pass on it?
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
226. tnh
Questionman, if you'll read the thread, you'll see a long list of women explaining that they feel dissed, alienated, and disappointed when they see posters like that.
Anthony Pero
227. anthonypero
@tnh:

It seems to me that women who would be attracted by submissivness are not the type who generally would be posting on this thread. That is, of course, the entire problem with anecdotal evidence. The people we know and respect will generally have similar views on certain topics, even if those views are in the minority.

Now, that being said, I realize the poster was asking this thread, and you were simply responding to him, informing him that the women of the thread have spoken rather loudly on the subject already. So the rest of this is not really directed at you.

This thread, however, is not necessarily indicative of women in general, especially where general audience movies are concerned. Women who read genre (the audience of this site) are a small subset of the general population.

Please note I'm not saying that the opinions on this post do not reflect the population at large, merely that anecodotal evidence from a small subset is not a good or accurate way to determine the attitudes of "women in general."
Mae Ost
228. Maenad
@maestro23 193
Maenad, I cannot for the life of me tell if you've adopted the Poe role in this discussion by accident or design, but, as a wiser fellow than I once said, "The Internet is phenomenological." I must therefore, with apologies, decline to engage.
Hm. I have to wonder about your reaction.

XO Tigh's comment reads like a textbook example gender-schematic processing.

And yet you seen to be saying that I am being over the top and/or taking the piss. Is there something I am missing about XO Tigh? About the context? Or is it that the place I am coming from is so alien to you as too seem ridiculous?
Mae Ost
229. Maenad
double post
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
230. tnh
Anthonypero, the subs I know don't like it much either. It's the difference between choosing a role, in their own time and context, and having others try to impose a role on them wholesale.
Gerd K
231. Kah-thurak
@tnh
How exactly have we arrived at the conclusion, that these pictures are meant to impose a role on anyone? I get that some people perceive that somehow some sort of role is imposed on someone (obviously not them, because then they wouldnt argue about it), but the statement, that these pictures were made to do this is taking it to far. The pictures were made to sell movies.

From my perception this debate - and in a way this sort of debate - is way to self referential. Statements are made and founded with the conclusions drawn from themself. And then somehow Scarlett Johansson on the Avengers poster is looking submissive. With that "One more word and I will kick your teeth in" stare and these guns. Submissive.
Mordicai Knode
232. mordicai
231. Kah-thurak

Because...that is how culture works? Because the transmission of gender roles & gender policing is part of the crappy legacy of
hierarchies based on gender? I mean, that is...how it...works? Context effects things.

Heck, if you were an alien looking at these, you would say "ah, these are the...what do they call them...fe-males, the not-males, the non-dominant half of their population. You can see because they focus on the secondary sexual characteristics, & they display lordosis. Bleep, blorp."
Gerd K
233. Kah-thurak
@mordicai
So how is Daniel Craig dominant in the Cowboys and Aliens poster, but
Scarlett Johansson is not in the Avengers poster. Explain.

The showing off of an ass is not making someone submissive or dominant. It makes most of these pictures look slightly stupid, but that's it.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
234. tnh
Kah-thurak, as the initial post and many of the subsequent comments made clear, it's the way the thing is displayed, not the thing itself.
Sandy M.
235. Ruth Madison
This month Cosmo had an article about how to do this pose yourself and why it's the sexiest pose posible, etc. So, expect to see it a lot more! :(
Gerd K
236. Kah-thurak
@tnh
Again, this may be clear to you, because it has been you position all along. That is what I mean by self referential.

To me the term "submissive" does not fit here and the claim that these pictures are meant to impose anything else than "go see that movie" has the dubious scent of a conspiracy theory to me.

I see only two things that you can base your dislike of these pictures on:

a) there still are more women displayed in a sexual way to sell things than men. This is actually true, but if things keep changing at the same rate they have for the last few decades, it will be gone in another ten years or so.

b) personal taste. One can obviously like or dislike whatever one wants. But this is not really a strong case for demanding something to stop.
Sandy M.
238. Kauket
@37. jazzfish: Nice link to Jim Hines trying the cover art poses.

You may also enjoy Men-Ups (Men Photographed in Stereotypical Pin-Up Poses): http://www.petapixel.com/2011/10/04/men-photographed-in-stereotypically-female-poses/
Sandy M.
240. Emmy
It's a very flattering angle >_> I totally agree with the fact that women who are supposed to be badass superheroes are often portrayed with their sexiness as their ultimate power wich is kind of silly, but in the example of catwoman, she is actually a hero (or rather antihero/villain) who uses her sexuality against men as a classic femme fatale so portraying her any differently would go against her character, then they could indeed use some more creativity with her pose, I agree.

I think it all boils down to what you are trying to show about the character. The 'alias' poster for example feels completely out of place with that pose, just plain riddiculous while the Aeon Flux one doesn't feel that bad to me because the original character is often portraid in that style which adds to her character.

I don't agree that this is mainly to appeal to heterosexual men. As a woman I find many of these characters attractive as well and just because something is portraid and showed off as sexy doesn't make them an object. If their only role is to be sexy and they have no personality outside of that, yes, but many of these characters do have lots of personality and this pose actually shows that attitude very well.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
241. tnh
Emmy, this loops straight back to Emily Asher-Perrin's original question. Whatever you say about the individual characters, the eventual conclusion will be that they are all very different -- so why are they all shown standing in the same pose?

Kah-thurak, I'm not arguing with you. I don't have a position. For some time now, what I've been saying to various people here has amounted to "Please notice that this is already addressed in the thread."

You're repeating yourself. Let it go.
Mordicai Knode
242. mordicai
233. Kah-thurak

You are missing the forest for the trees; heck, not even the trees, but specific leaves. Emily does a wonderful job visually representing a trend, a systemic portrayal of women. The fact that there are men in the same posture but in different context-- or some examples of women that you feel don't belong-- doesn't argue against the institutionalized posing of women as objects. Even if we grant your objections & eliminate Black Widow as a data point...the rest stands.
Gerd K
243. Kah-thurak
@mordicai
Why is the context of the Cowboy vs Aliens Poster different from the Dark Knight Poster (if we forget about the cat ears beeing ridiculous for a second)? This point is not exclusive to the Avengers poster. It fits for most of these.

I dont argue that women are displayed in a sexy way more often then men right now - though this does not mean that they are "objects" to me - but there too much beeing read into this. A lot if this is seeing what you want to see, because you believe it to be true.

@tnh
Yes. But saying something is true because it was allready said before is not very convincing. But having said that, you are too good in the role of a neutral arbiter in these threads for me to try arguing with you when you dont want to.
Mordicai Knode
244. mordicai
243. Kah-thurak

I think your argument's biggest problem is that the sword cuts both ways. You could easily argue that your thesis supporting the status quo-- that predominantly portraying women in sexual poses is "sexy" & not "objectification"-- is your own pre-existing bias confirmed by your objections. The difference being that Emily has provided a pretty wide range of evidence in support of her case. I find that much more compelling, from a rhetorical position. Like all social science arguments, deductive arguments are hard to come by, but I find Emily's to be rather convincing. I will however encourage you to find evidence against it! Maybe an infograpic of movie posters, with different poses-- split by gender-- in them? I know, ugh, homework.
Sandy M.
245. KEGGERS
Now that you have brought it up....yep Cookie cutter poster poses. :\

Personally....I like that Crouched down ready to spring on ya...kind of look! Vin Diesel does it very well! rrrrrrrarrrrrow! ;D
Hey, sex sells.... I don't think that's going to change any time soon. But it would be nice if they'd just mix it up a bit. :)
Sandy M.
246. eilidhdawn
I just wish marketing would remember that there are females that buy their products also and would include us more often

For every shot of come hither ass for him there should be beefcake for her

there would probably be less complaints if things were more equal
Mordicai Knode
247. mordicai
Everytime someone in this thread says "sex sells," all that does is emphisize the point. "Woman" do not equal "sex." When you act like "women = sex," that is the objectification working.
Sandy M.
248. Metachaos
I don't know, Emily. It seems that those last two posters don't go far enough. Those pants don't cling enough and are still functional for action heros and I don't see any glorious huge-pectoral under tight shirt action going on. You can't even really see the crease under Vin's butt!

Oh, wait, you say that action posters featuring men are supposed to derive their appeal from the strength of the man and his ability to function as a hero, instead of his sexiness? Damn. I was hoping I'd be able to get some female gaze action going on!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
249. tnh
Ah, yes, the pictures men think women ought to find sexy. Anybody here remember Playgirl magazine? The men who owned it didn't trust their female editors to pick the all-important foldout photo, and instead picked it themselves. Result: the majority of Playgirl aficionados were gay men. The owners were picking the closest male equivalent of the photos of women they found sexy. Since the visual tropes were still male-oriented, they attracted a male audience.
Cameron Tucker
250. Loialson
@sub

Your comments helped express how I feel about this in a much more humorous fashion, so thank you :)

And does anyone else here, male or female, feel that the solution lies not with making sexual objectification EQUAL among men and women, but with realizing that objectifying anyone, under any condition, is unhealthy? (note my issue is not with sexuality itself, but making a person into an object of sexual lust)

It feels wrong to me to say:

"This is happening too much among women. This is causing self-confidence and warped self-identity crises. So we should balance it out by making more men do and have the same problems" (and consequentially the same self-confidence and Identity crises).

If this type of conditioning is something bad to do to women, how in the world does it make it right to do the same to men?

Maybe if we would just stop sexually objectifying each other in general (female or male), and treat each other with decency and respect with the basis of: we're individual human beings, value each other for who we each are, rather than looking at others as objects.

I feel that would help solve so many problems.
Mordicai Knode
251. mordicai
250. Loialson

Right...I wish people could understand that there is a difference between "sexy" & "sex object," & that therein lies the rub. It is just a good old fashioned classic example of how sexism hurts EVERYONE, both the target of sexism-- women-- & the perpetrators of it, men. I don't want sexy characters tainted by objectification!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
252. tnh
Loialson, I agree that the hypothetical equalizing of disrespect and objectification would do no one any good.

My own take on it is a bit different from yours. I think that published images will always include instances of sexual display and objectification, because pornography is one of the art forms that human beings enjoy and produce. Unfortunately, our society refuses to acknowledge that impulse, so we never acquire a healthy, clear-headed view of porn, and we never just let it be. Instead we run through cycles of embarrassed denial, compulsive fascination, and self-loathing rejection of it, none of which are terribly sane states of mind, and we get it mixed up with all kinds of other stuff.

If porn had a clearer place in our world, it would be easier to get it to stay there. Instead, it seeps into everything. Not recognizing and acknowledging its existence frees it to turn up in all kinds of inappropriate places, and keeps us from talking about it in concrete and specific ways.

Mainstream comics are Exhibit A for this problem. The Comics Code didn't keep superheroes from turning into naked bodies painted bright colors, or stop the exaggeration of those bodies' sexual characteristics. Over time, the sexualization of comics art has passed beyond "parodic" into "bizarre". There are entire blogs devoted to the subject.

I was asked once at Valiant how we could make the comics more appealing to a female audience. I said, "I can tell you, but you won't believe me." They said no, really, they wanted to know. I said to stop drawing women in that awful position where they're arching their backs, sticking their butts out, rotating their shoulders way back to throw their chests forward, and standing on tiptoe. If you're female, seeing women depicted that way immediately tells you that this publication isn't aimed at you. The guys at Valiant said naaaaah, can't be right, women are just drawn that way because it makes them look more attractive and graceful. I shrugged and went back to work.

I can tell you exactly what's up with that pose Emily Asher-Perrin collected so many examples of. It's the real-world version of the boob-and-butt (a.k.a. T&A) pose that's endemic in comics. Its only purpose is to excite prurient interest, because real people don't move that way. The sole difference between the photographic versions and the comics is that the photo versions are possible for the human body. The comics versions are not, as demonstrated by author Jim Hines, martial artist and contortionist Ils at Justsayins (twice), and by the readers at Stay in Bed and Grow Your Hair. (Fellow Valiant editor Madeleine Robins and I used to fantasize about what we wanted to do to artists who drew women that way.) What this endlessly repeated pose says to the potential reader or moviegoer is that the character's butt and breasts are the most important thing about her. If you're female, you know that message isn't meant for you.

Want to see another repeating position? Look at this. In theory it's a superhero team relaxing after a big fight. The men and the one underage girl are in varied and characteristic positions. The adult women are all striking the same stiff, stressful, unnatural pin-up pose. Those are supposedly three different characters, but when you see them posed like that, you know they aren't -- not really.

This has been a long comment thread. Readers have come up with all kinds of justifications and arguments for that pose Emily A-P collected: what's the matter with showing women as sexy; you're just trying to make everyone be PC; it's being used promotionally, and sex sells; et cetera. I honestly believe this conversation and conversations like it would be much clearer if we could say things like "That isn't just 'women being sexy'; it's a standard T&A pin-up pose, and you know it. And yes, it does bother us to constantly see supposedly active, self-motivated female characters reduced to formulaic pin-ups."

That kind of clarity would also help with conversations about marketing. When we're told that sex sells, we could reply, "Well, actually, no -- not if you're advertising this to potential customers of both sexes. Women can spot a standard pin-up pose a mile away, and are turned off by advertising that implicitly excludes them."

So yeah, I think there's always going to be a little objectification. But if it were just something that happens in porn, it would be one thing, one limited thing. We wouldn't be constantly having it served up to us in everything from entertainment to advertising. We wouldn't get told that this way of looking at women is normal, unavoidable, built into our species by a million years of evolution, and just the way the universe works. It might even happen that lazy marketers who dished it up in inappropriate venues would get told to knock off the porn tropes -- the notes on the ad campaign clearly said it was being marketed to a different demographic.

I could live with that.
Clark Myers
254. ClarkEMyers
Those are supposedly three different characters, but when you see them posed like that, you know they aren't -- not really.
Agreed - that said why can't that be the message of the pose - one more iteration of the same character? See my comment above that none of the named characters pictured above is M just as the weapons shown are props and not proper tools. Judy Dench as M is posed and surrounded by different props. Agreed that published images will always include instances of sexual display and objectification Is there room here for a useful distinction between erotica (freely discussed) and pornography (less freely discussed)?

Nymphs and satyrs (fantasy genre graphics?) have certainly inspired endless discussion (Reubens et. seq.). Perhaps like much other genre a way to bring topics to the table disguised. Colleges aren't going to put Realist - or Hustler - centerfolds in their museums and tout that to alumni but there is plenty of discussion of related subjects in the genre form as frex:
Williamstown, MA -- Join Michael Cassin, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute director of the Center for Education in the Visual Arts, during the Thursday, June 10, Looking at Lunchtime Talk as he discusses William Bouguereau’s (1825-1905) famous painting Nymphs and Satyr (1873). The painting was acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark in 1943, but before that time it had a very interesting, and somewhat unusual, history. Admission to the 12:30 pm gallery talk is free with general museum admission. Attendees may purchase food from the courtyard café or bring a bag lunch to enjoy before or after the presentation. In Bouguereau’s painting, a group of nymphs has been surprised, while bathing in a secluded pond, by a lascivious satyr. Some of the nymphs have retreated into the shadows on the right; others, braver than their friends, are trying to dampen the satyr’s ardor by pulling him into the cold water-–one of the satyr’s hooves is already wet and he clearly wants to go no further. Bouguereau’s working methods were traditional; he made a number of sketches and drawings of carefully posed human figures in complicated interconnected poses, linking them together in this wonderfully rhythmical composition.
Sandy M.
255. Book Goggles
In all fairness, in Dollhouse Echo was essentially a female prostitute for most of her engagements with her clients. She might have been uploaded with a personality that would "love" or "like" the client and maybe the clients would have feelings for her beyond "I wanna bone you", but pretty much they were paying for a living RealDoll that they could tailor to their needs, so the uber sexualized pose is sort of accurate.

That aside, it's just frustrating to see that women are more used as sex objects than actual characters in many movies. They're almost always eye candy and love interests first, actual developed characters second. Even some of the better developed characters suffer from this. Hollywood seems incapable of writing in a female character that isn't boning or trying to bone someone in the movie. Even in the Jurassic Park adaptation they decided that rather than write in more character building for Dern's character, they had to introduce her as the main character's girlfriend. Never mind that it was largely unnecessary for the movie and that they could've just shown her to be a skilled and intelligent woman. No, she had to be the love interest in order to be worked more into the movie. (Although I do love that movie, mind you.)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
256. tnh
ClarkEMyers:
Agreed - that said why can't that be the message of the pose - one more iteration of the same character?
I guess you're not familiar with the X-Men. Those are Psylocke, Rogue, and Dazzler: three very different characters. If they're three versions of the same character, then that character has been squashed into "generic female, made to be looked at." Which is, of course, exactly the problem we've been discussing.

Onward to that long quote about Bouguereau's Nymphs and Satyr.

Bouguereau was a very significant painter, well worth studying, technically proficient as all hell, etc. etc. etc. Of course, what he's doing in that painting is using a classical reference to give a slight veneer of respectability to a picture of nekkid babes* cavorting with a self-insertion satyr, because paintings of nymphs are always an excuse to paint nude babes, just like Martyrdoms of Saint Sebastian are an excuse to paint comely male nudes,** Leda and the Swan is an excuse for lubricious interspecies canoodling,*** pictures of the Penitent Magdalene frequently zero in on exactly why she had so much cause to repent, and Temptations of Saint Anthony are almost always an excuse to paint really cool skiffy monsters; so unless you're so distracted by the whole Fine Art thing that you can't see the images for what they are, it hardly bears mentioning.


__________________
*Here he is at it again, the old reprobate.
**In the earliest depictions of Saint Sebastian's martyrdom, he was an old guy with a beard. It didn't take long for him to morph into the yummy hunk of cheesecake he remains to this day.
***Seriously -- I left out the hardcore NSFW examples. ... The exception to this rule is Leonardo da Vinci's version, which was more about showing off his technical chops.
Sandy M.
261. Baramos
How about "quit taking this picture unless it is of Catwoman because Catwoman's sex appeal is like legitimately half the point of her character". I can see you being angry if it is unjustified but this is Catwoman we are talking about, her feminine wiles are what allows her to get the drop on many of her enemies.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
262. tnh
Baramos, since other female characters' habitual tactics aren't reflected in the way they get depicted, I doubt that Catwoman's tactics are the reason for her sexualized depiction either.

You haven't read the thread. A comment almost identical to yours was posted clear back at #20. Go catch up.
Sandy M.
263. elfinity
I've stumbled onto (into) this discussion tonight and tried to read through all the comments, but there are really so many, so maybe I missed this point, if it has been made (in which case I apologize).

However... Every time I read "Yeah, but, really, sex sells," all I can think of is how all these conventional wisdoms are not usually true. I mean...
Before Lord of the Rings came out, what was the conventional wisdom? That epic fantasy does not gather wide audiences. That girls wouldn't go see it (and that particular point got duly disproven by the amount of hobbit slash on the interwebs). It's not for nothin' that several major studios passed up on the project, but boy, did they get proven wrong.
Pirates were a pretty much unfashionable dealio at the time Jack Sparrow sauntered into the public consciousness. The amount of kid pirate party themes now? Yeah.
The problem is, a lot of marketing types are pretty rigid about what they will glean off data. I am a graphic designer and you wouldn't believe how much crap the marketing will insist on being true with blatant evidence to the contrary.
They have their stereotypes ("girls don't read/watch fantasy" and "guys are pretty dumb and without T&A won't pick up a book") and they work them. I think both of these are really offensive to both men and women and yeah, it's the patriarchy at work, not so much the genetic hardwiring - otherwise, in Europe, they'd be resorting to the same crap (which they don't, even in more "loose" societies.)

The offending pose is actually simply the most efficient - you get to see both T and A. That way, you can hit both "demographics" - the ass men and the tits men (because, you see, men only like either one, never a combination or something else entirely). There are more poses that are sexy (obvy), but this one is just the most "marketable".
Also? If Catwoman was sprawled out facing the viewer, she'd be REALLY looking at you, and thus be more intimidating, and we don't want to miss THAT demographic (plus, we'd be missing the ass men demographic, which we can't afford to do).

Oh, and lastly - to those guys who can't see why women are getting all worked up... I'm actually not originally from US, so I used to not quite understand the racism, and why the blacks kept complaining about lack of black dolls and characters in the movies... until I had to live in a predominantly black area and send my kid to a predominantly black school. When suddenly we were a minority, I felt a lot less confident and a lot of stuff just didn't relate to us, so now I better get how it must feel to be not white in a white-oriented culture.
So, until you can walk a mile in some stilletos (or at least mary-janes), please stop with your "what's the big deal" comments.
Sandy M.
264. James Gilbert
Emily, I think you'd enjoy this. Someone just posted on Twitter a parody of the Avengers where all male characters were posing like the female ones:

@helenlewis Love this meme RT http://twitpic.com/9i8dcn

Highly amusing!
Sandy M.
266. Bruce McGlory
its more thana little depressing, and intensely embarassing, that in 2012 some in my half of the species STILL has not grown up out of the "hurhur boobies" stage of development.

It makes me glad to be a gay man, because that means not having to spend ANY time around these useless little turds.

I'm sorry, women of the world. You can come sit at the Fag Table when you get sick of them.
Sandy M.
267. JulieJ
Great post. I'm a month late & I'm not sure if this has been linked elsewhere in the comments -- but you reminded me of Jim C. Hines'
hilarious exploration of female poses on fantasy book covers. Of course the butt-flaunting, sultry-shoulder-look pose is featured.
Sandy M.
269. female figure competition
Great article, I really enjoyed, very intresting, and there are some very nice point which is very useful in daily life. I think women are just drawn that way because it makes them look more attractive and graceful.
Mordicai Knode
270. mordicai
269. female figure competition

Well, even if I grant that axiom, maybe there should be female characters where their grace & attractiveness are not their defining elements?
Sandy M.
271. Sarcastic Sid
Good article. It reminds me of another I read a while ago about how Denise Richards, in a promotional shot for the movie Undercover Brother, not only struck the same pose, but had her rear end digitally enlarged as well.
Sandy M.
273. Llama
@63.
"Also, on the other side, could we get some normal/ugly looking GUYS in romantic comedies? Even the dorky ones have some rugged appeal that makes me want me to slam them into the nearest post, just to break that perfect chin. And yes, as an adult heteroxsexual male, I have seen many, many genre films with female action stars, romantic comedies, and male action stars. It's kind of hard to compete with the handsome, romantic, successful stereoptype who rejects the heroine but then comes back to her after some form of absurd realization that he missed his one chance after she flies off to Anartica to research fish sounds as romantic art."

I wasn't going to wade into this because it seemed pointless, but are you KIDDING ME?

RomComs that skew more to the Com side are almost always populated by funny-looking, loser men who inexplicably attract a smart, accomplished bombshell in spite of the fact that they aren't successful, aren't mature, and need her to help them grow up. There's Something About Mary, Knocked Up, Garden State, there are so many I can't name because I don't really like most American comedies- but there are so many.

Ugly Guy, Hot Wife is a trope. It's one of the most ubiquitous tropes in sitcom history. Almost as universal as The Couch. Fat or just sclumpy, middle-class idiot with attractive to really attractive wife who is smarter and usually comes from money.

Think for a second: have you EVER seen the reverse of this? EVER? Some stunningly goregous man with an even average-looking woman? No. You don't see that. When it's supposed to be the girl-next-door or the nerdy type getting the guy, it's just a super-model beautiful actress with glasses and mousy hair.

I don't have a problem with the idea that people of different physical attractiveness levels can fall in love (and they certainly do in real life), but the media is saying repeatedly and loudly that while men can be loved for their personality or skills, women cannot.
Sandy M.
274. Kayna
You're right about the Cowboys and Aliens poster being particularly apt. Just look at how those chaps frame his booty!
Sandy M.
275. Krishna_B
I don't mind when women are given these poses in Romance novels (I don't read romance novels), but I do mind when my heroine is given such a pose. I'm as much of a consumer of fantasy as males are and if I was the creator of said character I would be upset with the artist who chose to give my heroine this look of incompetence. I would be upset if the artist transformed my heroine into a passive sex object.

Snoman, stop with the shoddy evolutionary psychology. If you have a study, link it. They are part social construct, partly innate, as with anything in psychology. If you travelled outside of your own country once in a while you would notice that sexual emphasis changes. Feet and napes are sexualized in ways they are not in the western world, butts and breasts become less sexual.

And snowman, what Atrus meant is that often the status quo was justified by saying things such as "Women have smaller brains and therefore they are inherently more stupid and are prone to hysterics". You can find boatloads of RECENT studies by neuroscientists and evolutionary psychologists using bad science to justify mistreatment of women. Instead of using hysterics to justify treating us like emotional children, we now use the myth of PMS. If I had a dollar for every time a man asked if I was PMSing because something made me feel an emotion strongly I would be a rich fucking woman. There is so much bad pop science accepted every day by the public it makes me want to scream.

Persuasive appeals to reason (i.e. sex sells) have been shown to be BAD for marketing because you remember the stimulus and forget the message (you remember the babe and not the brand). We are not sex, we are people. Marketing us like we are sex gets us treated like we are sex.

But continue to mainsplain this away with your male privilage in the comments section.
Sandy M.
277. Nathanael Rouillard
It's worth noting that it's apparently less noticeable when men are in the position on movie posters, because if I google image search "over shoulder look poster" it looks like there are more results for men in that pose than women.

Usually less twisty though.

The thing about the pose is that it's a dynamic image due to the multiple points of interest that it draws lines towards (and no, I'm not talking about the butt - although I'm sure that's considered a nice bonus in poster selection). You look where the person in the poster is looking, you look in the direction that they are facing. You look where they are pointing their weapon.

The problem isn't the pose. It's with over-use of photoshop, and the accompanying lighting.

Oh, also when the pose looks contrived. Which, let's be honest, is most of the time.

In the Avengers box cover, it's Ironman with the butt-shot angle. Ironman 3 posters that I've seen have been RDJ and Warmachine in that pose, although the lighting is to make it look dramatic rather than sexy.

I say this, because I love the pose. Riddick looks like a total badass in that picture.

However, when a woman is put in that pose it is usually noticeable because they've made it look unnatural, and have usually sacrificed the strong-badass aspect of that pose in favour of emphasising the curves and feminity.

Everybody loses.
Sandy M.
279. Cricket
Captain America is a Strong Female Character too.
Sandy M.
281. Arielle
Which is exactly why i love Kill Bill: main female character, a fighting "superhero" one, with absolutel no "oversexiness" in there, just a pissed off lady ;)
Sandy M.
283. R.C.
Oh, I get it.

You are saying that, when depicting fictional characters in a visual medium, we should STOP depicting immediately-recognizable visible characteristics of them (e.g. visible signs of health and fertility), and START depicting invisible or hard-to-depict characteristics such as intelligence, sense of humor, kindness to strangers, self-control, and the like.

Did I get that right?

Listen, folks.

It is silly to make comparisons to men turned back-asswards, and complain that the lack of equivalent poses indicates injustice. Women as a whole have only minimal interest in such things because they aren't strong indicators of what human biology "programs" a woman to look for in a mate.

If you want to make a realistic comparison, you have to draw comparisons to the types of things that the female brain is biologically drawn towards. These would be signs of high testosterone, the confidence of high-status, strong ability to provide (wealth), the thrill of "courtship" activities, and a happily-ever-after ending.

So the real equivalent to the buttward photos of female characters is not buttward photos of male characters. It is, in a nutshell, a mix of James Bond and the stereotypical attributes of male characters in romantic comedies. Men are drawn by "eye candy"; but women are drawn by "rich/powerful/exciting man falls in love with me and a whirlwind of romance ensues" storylines. "Brain candy," if you like.

So, let's prohibit the butt-shots. And let's simultaneously outlaw "50 Shades of Gray," all movie posters depicting a man in formal wear, and every Sandra Bullock or Meg Ryan movie ever made.

THAT'S equivalent.
Sandy M.
285. GuestyMcGuesterson
What a great collection of sexy pictures! Thanks, starts my morning off right!

Anyhow, you're off base on Amy Pond and zoe from firefly. The rest are sexist as hell, those two are body length shots. Lots of actresses have attractive asses it would be difficult to take a picture of them that wasn't a straight on shot without including some curves in it somehow. Why not go waist up? Well sure, but often (like with Amy Pond) a clothing choice says a bit about the character and the picture is less effective for not showing the rustic western style pants or the skirt with big ol' boots.
Sandy M.
286. Max Brandt
Hmmm, I think it's time for a new a pose for promo shots and better poster art. Sadly, gone are the days of Drew Struzan's exciting movie poster art that captivated interested movie goers. No longer do movie posters capsulate what and who you'll be seeing, just who is the main star. Honestly, movie posters these days are quite boring, I don't care how hot the main actress is, they look more like glamour shots for the actor. Hollywood says, forget the plot, the characters and the action, check out actor so-and-so's butt. How sad it's sunk to this level.
Sandy M.
287. Bimbus
Consider that the only reason I clicked on the story was because of the picture.
Sandy M.
288. chrisjpostle
Has anyone mentioned the Hawkeye Initiative yet?
http://thehawkeyeinitiative.com/
Sandy M.
289. LeannaXKCD
Wow. Do you think you might be taking this to it's logical extreme? While many of these pictures are a problem, you seem to be suggesting the only acceptable angle for an image with a woman is from the front. You've forbidden profile view completely under any circumstance despite it being distinctly different from looking back from the rear as well as casual, totally non-sexual poses where a woman is looking behind herself (like Gina Torres as Firefly's Zoe).

I wish you had focused on images that qualified as offenders. Your point about unnatural and forced posing for sex appeal was lost when you started complaining about any angle that fails to hide that women are in fact female shaped- highlighting perfectly innocent images with natural poses and reasonable clothing and claiming there is sexist intent.

People will dismiss the validity of the issue because you take it to an unrealistic extreme and make feminists look bad. Which is too bad since the Daredevil, Alias, and Lara Croft images are especially troublesome- and that Suckerpunch image was just traumatizing.
Sandy M.
290. 917
FWIW, to a professional, guns don't have "kickback," they have 'recoil.' A kickback is something a dirty politician takes on a project.

If you want your point to be taken somewhat seriously about how you're an authority on how dangerous that pose is to her ankles and balance, at least use the proper terminology...
Sandy M.
291. Ella Lohan
Have you never heard of something called "art"? These pictures have positive space and negative space in them. They are catering mainly towards a teenage audience, and yes, to males. I am a female artist who does draw sexy sometimes too. I don't always agree with it, but the female body is something beautiful, especially the behind. Admiring art isn't always sexual.

I don't feel that many of these images are really sexist. They are the director conveying a comic book pose into real life. Which as you know, doesn't always work. But this is movie art. If you don't like it, don't watch it!
Sandy M.
292. Steven Hansen
I'm not understanding why butt shots are unacceptable. We all have a butt. Hollywood is always going to find the most flattering ways of shooting people--it's what they do. Our butt is just like any other part of us, it's not better, nor no worse. It's used to walk with. Many consider it attractive. Without attractiveness, our society would be very different. I think it's the nature of humanity itself that you object to. That's a tough thing to change, nor would we be better off if somehow you could. Perhaps you should just accept that humans have butts and those butts are frequently photographed?
As far as objectification goes, yes, there are other parts of us than butts. There are other body parts, there are parts of our minds and souls. They're all important. If you're fixated on one, true, you might miss another. But from what I see, you're buying into the fixation as much as anyone. If you fixate somewhere else, and avoid your glutaphobia, you'll be a happier person.

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