<The Gender ADs Project>

 

Legs as Framing

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<Background: A common visual technique utilized in music videos, movies and advertising, is the use of women’s legs as framing devices for a scene or shot. An example from the documentary Dreamworlds II is a framing shot of a woman’s legs in the video Dirty Diana. In addition to the use of the legs, the woman’s vagina is emphasized by a light that shines through her legs. In the world of advertising we note many examples of objectification that rely on the use of legs as framing. I recently conducted a web search using the key words "women's legs," and this particular beauty tips site came it. The site includes images, interestingly looking very similar to the ads here, that classify two types of women's legs: "long" and "sexy." As well, the following text accompanies the site: "Besides their eyes and breasts, women's legs are a primary target for men's visual inspection. Men highly value those which are very long, with beautifully shaped calves, but not too muscular." What is my point is discussing this site? Well, clearly, there is a visual similarity between the images on the beauty site (which is not related to advertising). This should speak to us about the mediated nature of advertising. Advertisers are not just selling products, they are selling life and, in this case, a form of biopower. Here, women (and men) are directed in the proper techniques of shaping one's legs, as well as how to use them (or frame them). The beauty site text on women's legs gives us the lowest common denominator: "women's legs are a primary target for men's visual inspection." Another site, uses the headline "Keira Knightley's leg jealousy" and addresses the actresses' feelings about other women's legs, suggesting a competitive biopower in which women's body parts are compared to one another. So, if anyone doubts the presence and power of this particular advertising trope, just do a web search using the phrase "women's legs."  The Ads: Note that all of the examples use women's legs as a compositional element of the ad. Image 22 was marketed at two audiences-one African American, the other European American. Discussion Questions: (1) Are there similar depictions of males' legs in advertising? If not, what reasons exist for this disparity in how women's legs are presented as compared to men's? (2) What explanations can be given for the advertisers' focus on women's legs? Is this a form of sexualization? Or are other reasons behind this focus? (3) Conduct a web search using the phrase "women's legs." What did the results of your search indicate? >

 

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<presented by Scott A. Lukas, Ph.D.>