Although Sisley-Paris is a cosmetics company, the whole of its 2001 ad campaign seems to target heterosexual males and exudes misogynistic sentiment and values for women to emulate, which caused me to be extremely critical out of disgust and outrage. The photographer’s decision to place Josie Maran in a barn and have her drink directly from a cow relegates her to the status of an animal. This photo in particular, wedged between similarly offensive images, suggests she is wonton in action, uninhibited in desire—unrestrained by civilized values and morals. It is in man’s best interest to tame her and “wean” her from animalistic impulse.
Infantilism manifests itself in the model’s styling and pose. Josie is shown in braided pigtails, which are characteristically childlike. Her makeup is kept bare with emphasis placed on clear, bright skin to signify youthful radiance. Most importantly, the focus of the image is on her grasp of the teat which is a symbol of nubile dependence and bolsters Kilbourne’s claim that sex—the only thing that matters—only belongs to the young and beautiful.
Her pose shows she is not only aware of a heterosexual male gaze (Berger 27), but she commands it and is the embodiment of wonton desire. The cow’s teat is phallic. Her squeezing it represents a craving for sex. Milk represents semen and her sly, seductive gaze suggests she is fully aware of its sexual implications. Unpasteurized, dirty, unsafe milk is dripping from her mouth—suggestive of her extreme sexual limits. Bordo states, “Women’s desires are by their very nature excessive, irrational, threatening to erupt and challenge the patriarchal order.” (206) Although it is in man’s best interest to tame her, the advertisement suggests she wants to dominate men, evoke their primitive instincts, and throw away all of man’s progress towards civility.
Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight. Berkeley University of California Press, 1993
Jhally, Sut, dir. Killing Us Softly 4. Screenplay by Jean Kilbourne. 2010. Film.
Jones, Amelia, ed. The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. New York: Routledge 2003.
Full ad campaign