Look at this woman.
She’s beautiful, isn’t she? Absolutely perfect. Her glistening body is taught, toned, and slicked with oil. Her delicate fingers are decorated with vivid red fingernail polish, and her supple, teasing, skin has been airbrushed to an inhuman smoothness. This bronzed goddess is open, inviting, and eager. Her hands gently caress her own skin, seductively moving towards the area between her legs.
So what’s wrong with this picture?
Yeah, that’s right. She doesn’t have a face. And the area between her legs is just barely masked by a Tom Ford perfume bottle.
As obvious and degrading as the bottle-placement is, the facelessness is worse. Our “perfect woman” could be sobbing her eyes out, scowling, or even asleep and we’d have no idea. This woman isn’t a woman at all, she is simply a body in a world where bodies are sold in the name of consumerism every day.
Outside of any conscious analysis, the picture itself is, admittedly, striking. The colors and style make an immediate impression, particularly the image of the woman’s red nails against the flesh-tone of her skin. The teasing quality of the two-paneled design is almost hypnotic, creating a spell-binding pull to see what, exactly, is being promised at the bottom of the ad.
So the ad is successful in grabbing audience attention. Does that make it right?
No, it doesn’t. It’s not just the objectified women who suffer, either. Sexist ads such as this one do as much harm to men as they do to women. Men who are put off or intimidated by the overt displays of impersonal sexuality glaring out at them from magazines are made to feel like they aren’t real men–and spend years constructing personas that mask their deep fear that their masculinity just isn’t masculine enough.
That’s really the point of this ad. It’s telling men that they aren’t enough. Because if they were real men, they would already have the faceless body waiting for them in bed. Because if they were real men, they would want that faceless body. How to become a real man? Tom Ford cologne. Wear Tom Ford and that woman will come to you–and what’s more, you’ll know what to do with her once you’ve got her.
And what of the women? What does this ad say about us? No real woman can live up to that fantasy. First off, how many real women do you know without faces? Putting forth the idea that a woman’s value can only be found in her over-sexualized body is unforgivable, and sets gender equality back decades. According to Tom Ford women aren’t enough either, not pretty enough, not sexy enough, not feminine enough.
I can’t help but think of the woman who posed for this picture. Is she proud of her work for the Tom Ford campaign? Which is worse, for her to feel pride or for her to feel shame?
We live in a world where we can be perceived as simply bodies, both men and women, a world where our skin itself can be branded and processed and sold. It is important for all of us, as individuals and as companies, to keep our selves and our integrity intact. As a society, we have passed the point where promises of meaningless sex and the objectification of the female body can be used as an advertising tool. Conscious, intelligent messaging that promotes positive change in the world is our only hope for a future where perfume is purchased because of how it smells and attraction is based on soulful eyes and sparkling conversation.