‘Tits out girls’: but this is M&S

In May the store Marks & Spencer wilted under the power of Web 2.0 as a Facebook group protested against the increase in price of DD bras. In a classic PR strategy, M&S sought strength out of weakness and admitted its mistake with an ad campaign of a shapely, large breasted torso with the copy ‘We boobed’:

boobs

Recently a new campaign, linked to the company’s 125th anniversary, has drawn upon the ‘we boobed’ image; however this time the image of the breasts is not linked to the mistake they made and only shows the breasts, no torso:

1_4a28fe0304268-workTop

This overt fragmentation, and sexual objectification, of the female body was examined by Laura Mulvey in her classic ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1975) where she stated that the ideological function of this fragmentation was to portray femininity as something abstract and mystical. While men are usually represented as part of their environment, the eroticized close-ups of women serve to define them not as individuals, but as fragmented beings who exist only for the male gaze.

Given that the original ad was primarily aimed at women (with large breasts) we can adapt Mulvey slightly and suggest that these images are also for the female gaze. They are intended to represent an ideal for women to aspire to; an ideal based upon sexual attraction. Women are defined by how they look and not by what they do.

The copy of the second ad, ‘quality worth every penny’, can also be linked to the body and by using the discourse of sexual commodification we can see that women are being encouraged to prostitute themselves: be sexually attractive and get a desirable (high-earning) male.

(adapted from Image and Representation, Nick Lacey, 2nd edition 2009)

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