FRENCH GOVERNMENT RAPS FASHION ADS
Byline: Alison Beckner
PARIS — Women on all fours tied up in rope. Women greased up and covered in dirt. Women being crushed under the foot of a man.
These depictions in advertising have landed some of Europe’s biggest fashion houses in hot water with the French government, which this week issued a report that lambasted them for portraying women in violent or degrading circumstances.
Nicole Pery, France’s junior minister for women’s rights and vocational training, unveiled her findings at a news conference that she opened by holding up some of the images. About 100 “transgressors” were cited, almost all them fashion firms. Among Pery’s top-five “most shocking” advertisers were Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior and Sisley. One of the Ungaro ads featured a woman on her hands and knees, on a cube with ropes tied around her arms and body. Christian Dior’s spring 2001 ad campaign contained two offensive images: of a sweaty, greased-up Angela Lindvall and a rear view of another scantily clad female model. Finally, Sisley was faulted for an image of a woman, covered in grass and dirt, straddling a man whose hand is creeping into her underwear. Other brands on the hit list included Chloe, Versace, J.M. Weston, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent for its Opium and Paris fragrances.
Pery said the study was prompted by a glut of “porno-chic” advertising that she considered “humiliating and degrading” to women or that show a lack of respect for human dignity. Some, she said, depict “violence against women or sex-based discrimination.” The report criticized “images of bodies that are dirty, bound, represented in animal postures; the appearance of bruises and allusions to rape or domestic violence, whether comically or not.”
Advertising in France is subject to little regulation. Most advertising agencies belong to the Bureau de Verification de la Publicite (BVP), which defines a code of ethics to be followed by advertisers. Though the BVP monitors television ads closely, many print ads are overlooked. Additionally, as many fashion-related ad campaigns are created in-house, they are immune to the BVP’s guidelines.
Pery said negative depictions of women are a reflection of and influence on our society. She stressed the importance of judicial modifications and encouraged greater discourse between advertisers and consumers. “It is necessary to provoke a debate and provide ideas. Responsibility is stronger than censorship.”