Sex Sells - Until This Happens


Sex Sells - Until This Happens

During the development stage of Daniel Thompson Beauty Inc. there was a round table discussion, amongst the creative and business teams, about what type of model we would use in our print campaigns. I remember sitting at the table while a dozen very intelligent and very passionate people discussed the pros and cons of various face shapes, skin tones, ethnicities and ages for our "look."

I listened carefully for about half an hour, never interrupting (which is rare for me), and after I heard all the debates about what our "face" should look like I asked one simple questions: "Why do we need a 'face' at all?"

It stunned the people, surrounding the table, into silence.

At this stage of my career, I had worked for three major corporate cosmetics companies, was a former executive for the largest spa group in Canada, and had developed 14 lines of cosmetics for various dermatologists and spas. In every instance I had to determine what type of woman (body, face, etc) represented these brands and would provide the right sex appeal to make the consumer desire the products. I even remember a campaign I created where images of various female body parts were put into shadow boxed images and stacked on top of each other. Literally, a butt, a shoulder, a thigh all photographed and taken out of complete context - this was to sell a body care line. Quite literally we had created a campaign where a woman's body was disassembled and reduced to its parts. It never set well with me,  and in fact it was the last campaign I ever created for that product.

That brings me back to the round table question:  "Why do we need a 'face" at all?"

Truth is we don't. And we shouldn't. To this day DTB Inc. does not use any images of any woman or any part of a woman to promote or sell our products. The product can sell themselves — we don't need to resort to objectification of the female form to create a desire for our products.

And here's why I, as the co-founder, creative director, and President of the company, maintain this mandate:

Objectification of women is a societal ill which erodes the sociocultural identity of women. The more we accept objectification as part of our public discourse the less women have actual equality to their male counterparts. Before anyone counters this with "well men are just as objectified, and isn't objectification just appreciating an attractive person (as in "oh she's very beautiful")" let me dispel some myths:

1.  Male objectification is an entirely different phenomenon, and in fact does not create the same societal impact as that of female objectification.  In the cases where male objectification is blatant there are two very important factors to remember:  a) self confidence is not eroded in men the same way it is in women due to their gender being represented in an objective manner and b) in the majority of uses of the male form, as an object for advertising purposes, the images are homoerotic - as in used to directly market to men.  Advertising using the male form to advertise products to women is actually very rare.

2.  Sexual desire and sexual objectification are not the same thing. Sexual desire is normal and healthy and requires two (or more) people clearly expressing their desire for each other, consenting to any and all sexual activity. Sexual objectification is based in oppression. Sexual objectification means that one person determines what they want sexually and the other person is required to perform to those standards, regardless of their own desires.  

3.  Appreciating beauty is not the same as objectification.  We can appreciate beauty without reducing a woman to her parts and simply seeing her as a sexual object.  Saying "oh she's very beautiful" neither demeans women nor reduces them to body parts.  Objectification is the exact opposite of appreciation:  reducing a woman to her body parts is direct misogyny.  Objectification dismisses any thoughts, emotions, opinions or intellect a woman may have thus dismissing her value as a human being.  Men do not experience this (as a majority rule) because there is no system of sexual  oppression which effects men in the same way.   

Female objectification has real psychological consequences, which the majority of men do not experience through male objectification:

When experiencing sexual objectification a spiral beings where immediate self objectification occurs. This self objectification then leads to appearance anxiety, diminished internal awareness, body shame, and then anxiety of physical safety. These responses can then manifest as disordered eating, depression and sexual dysfunction.  For a majority of women these are daily experiences directly correlated to the objectified images of women which are seen en masse in advertising.  While it is true there are many images of male objectification in advertising they are rarely directed at women (usually directed at other men) and the psychological response is completely different due to what scholars call the "male gaze."

After I explained to my creative and business team why we were not going to use a "face" to advertise our products the entire discussion changed direction as to how we can help women remember the parts of themselves they forgot were beautiful, our entire company direction became focused around our tag line:  You're already beautiful, cosmetics are just for fun.

So when I am asked why I don't have a "look" or a "face" for my brand (and trust me many a talent agent and model agent has tried to get me to use one) I simply respond:  "because demeaning women is never a choice for me."

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