I Am Woman, Hear Me Whimper?

25 Sep

What is non-verbal communication? Non-verbal communication is “communication that occurs when a stimulus other than words creates meaning in the mind of the communicator”. Non-verbal communication contains intentional symbolic behavior and is also, receiver-oriented.

For this week, I will be discussing about fashion advertisements and the non-verbal communication they employ. Let’s start with this advertisement from Relish.

Bearing in mind that non-verbal communication is receiver-oriented, what kind of message is Relish trying to convey here. Perhaps the intention was that Relish’s women’s fashion are good, it’s practically against the law. But I suspect that most who saw this advertisement would get the message that officers of the law (presumably the men in the advertisement are police officers) are within their reasons to assault these women. The lady in white is clearly being restrained while the other officer seems to be touching the other lady in an inappropriate manner. This brings in haptics, a type of non-verbal communication, which is the study of touch in communication. From this advertisement, it is clear that the touch is an unwanted expression of power.

What about these advertisements from Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein Jeans? Again, perhaps their intention is to portray their products, clothing, as something sexy and desirable judging from all the good-looking models being cast in the advertisements and their various state of undress. But it is important to remember that non-verbal communication is normative in interpretation, which means it has cues with socially agreed upon or culturally defined meanings.  The message that these advertisements are portraying, however, is that they are glorifying gang rape. Haptics can be applied to these advertisements as well. Clearly, we can see that the touches portrayed are an unwanted expression of power, seemingly restraining the women in a certain way. Proxemics, which is the study of space and distance in communication, can also be applied. It doesn’t seem that the characters in the advertisements know each other in an intimate manner and so it gives receivers the impression that the men are violating the intimate distance, or rather, the woman’s personal space.

In this Sisley advertisement, women are portrayed as “fashioin junkie(s)”, a play on the words “heroin junkie”. When people see this advertisement, they are first drawn to the women’s physical appearance. Dazed, disorientated, disheveled, with the lady on the left exposing herself. It gives off the impression that women who are attracted to fashion are, in essence, drug addicts. Perhaps Sisley is trying to convey the message that their fashion is very addictive but this is clearly not the way to bring across the message.

Women being portrayed in a negative light on fashion advertisements are not something new, but perhaps with newfound knowledge on non-verbal communication, the next generation of students who will go on to be the next generation of advertisers and designers will put an end to such sexist attitudes towards women in fashion. What do you think?

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9 Responses to “I Am Woman, Hear Me Whimper?”

  1. communications101123 October 1, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    i think that there are plenty of ways to get a message across effectively. Using sexist images are effective to a certain extent but I feel that the advertisers should look beyond that.

    • philyra91 October 8, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

      Hm, I think it’s pretty much only effective in terms of it becoming viral due to the bad publicity. Perhaps it might result in a temporal increase in sales but it definitely wouldn’t last.

      I agree with you, that there are plenty of ways to get a message across. After all, there have been so many advertisements that are both classy and tasteful. 🙂

  2. beatricehua November 5, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    I agree that the last photo you showed in your post didn’t really leave a good impression. I think the body language of the women actually tell a lot too. They are indeed junkies and not exactly good if children of a young age were exposed to this

    • Melissa November 6, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

      Absolutely! I’m sure children will be asking their parents what the girls are doing, and what will their parents say?? I’m sure the message of being addicted to fashion could have been portrayed a lot better.

  3. tanyouyi November 5, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Maybe the branding concept and social context might have changed, by then, I think there might be a possible slim chance for the next generation of advertisers and designers to put an end to such sexist attitudes towards women in fashion. After all branding plays a huge influential role in advertising; the concept of the brand itself is always portrayed through their advertisements and products. Take Sisley for an example, it placed much emphasis on communication within the Group, to convey a promotional message whose objective is not only to sell a product; it aiming to create an image and a life style differentiate certain individuals from the crowd, thus creating a possible reality, a fiction which customers dream about, but one in which they can identify and recognize themselves (Sisley Brand History). Thus, more or less from this objective, I could derive a message that it is trying to reflect today’s context perhaps? Coming down to the bottom line, the ads’ objectives are to portray the brand and appeal to the crowd, reflecting the desire of the crowd, thus, changing such concept towards women is only when there’s a change in both consumers’ attitudes and the image of the brand itself.

    • Melissa November 6, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

      Thanks for the insight!!!! 😀 😀

  4. purelyxc November 6, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    WOW WOW WOW being arrested never looked this good! HAHA.

    Heh, well, I guess they are not exactly ideal advertisements but then again, what more do they care about then to sell their products? They are just utilizing non verbal cues to a sexually-gratifying extent for the first two advertisements, and portraying their clothes to be addictive at the last advert. Though you might say that there are many means to bring across advertising messages, but in all honesty, and I believe I’m saying it for a lot of people, sex sells!

    • Melissa November 6, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

      You’re such a guy! 😛

      But it’s true what you say, about how “sex sells”. If the advertisements were mild and non-controversial, no one would pay much attention to them; so negative publicity is still publicity nonetheless. 🙂

  5. zaffy November 7, 2011 at 12:52 am #

    i hate how the first three ads portray that women are being dominated by men. and more than that, with such a sexual connotation! advertisers should seriously stop glorifying women as sexual objects, cus we are definitely more than that! i’m sure there are other takes they can opt to achieve the same, if not better advertising effect right?

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