Portrayal of women in fashion advertising has always had its ups and downs; it can be empowering or downright demeaning. I’ve always been a fan of the medium for creative ideas and aesthetics, but that doesn’t mean certain things should slide just because they look good, while that is still highly subjective.
Of course, this isn’t brand new information. What sparked this certain backlash is Yves Saint Laurent’s latest beauty advertisement shot by Terry Richardson, who I could, but won’t discuss further (I think we all know how that goes by now.)
The model, Anais Pouliot, looks superb and glossy and I already want the blue eyeliner she’s showing off, however, what’s really going on in this photograph is highly upsetting. Lounging in the pool, she stares up towards the camera with a playful look, except she’s not looking at us- she’s looking at a man, whose shiny black shoes, placed by her hands, indicate that he’s been at work all day and has come home to be met by his beautiful wife.
We’ve seen the whole “sexy woman idly waiting around for her man to come home” thing before (which should really be retired by now, even if they are merely ”playing” with the idea), but for a brand like YSL to put this ad out really upsets me, as they have always encouraged women to be strong and in control of their sexuality. That encouragement and all around awareness that the woman inside the clothes is what’s special is one of the main reasons I have so much respect and admiration for YSL.
Whether it was Richardson’s direction or the original intent for the ad, it seems very alarming to me that YSL would put out an image like this. Together, Pouliot’s striking glare and the crystal blue pool water make a very pleasing and strong image; why even bother with the shoes? This is a question I cannot answer, for I don’t understand why anyone should find them necessary in this strange world we live in. Like Yves Saint Laurent once said, “It pains me physically to see a woman victimized, rendered pathetic, by fashion.”
Whatever this resurgence of 1950s gender norms is all about, I’d like for it to go away, very far away.