Art 302: Quiz #6

Referring to highland rape, rape is a horrific act, why are magazines allowed to romanticize it and put it in advertisements?

I am not aware of advertisements that romanticize and sell rape.  Rape remains a horrific act and I highly doubt any company would wish to be affiliated with such a brutal offense.  McQueen’s collection was certainly not marketing rape as a desirable product, and I think this question shows a complete lack of understanding about the meaning behind his collection.  It clearly stated in the text, Desire and Dread, that this collection was viewed as “aggressive and disturbing”( pg 202). This is a apparently a common misconception, as McQueen informed the public, “people were so unintelligent they thought this was about women being raped—yet ‘Highland Rape’ was about England’s rape of Scotland”(Vogue).  His goal was not to celebrate the “genocide” (pg 202) of his ancestors, but to bring to attention the horror and brutality of his origins.11-alexander-mcqueen-highland-rape-fw95

Also the term romanticism is misunderstood here. It refers to the late 18th to the mid 19th century artistic and intellectual movement of Romanticism, which broke away from the order of Classicism and “emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental.” This was a huge part of McQueen’s design process, as confirmed by the Met Museum…“[this] darkness came from a deep romanticism—the darkest side of the nineteenth century…He was deeply political as a designer … McQueen’s collections often were so hard to watch is that they often channeled our cultural anxieties and uncertainties, and that was very much part of his raison d’être . McQueen was also inspired by the romanticized obsession with nature—“with its uncontrollable power, unpredictability, and potential for cataclysmic extremes—offered an alternative to the ordered world of Enlightenment thought”(Met Museum).The point of romanticism is to explore “all that stuns the soul, all that imprints a feeling of terror, leads to the sublime” and that is exactly what McQueen did. He “uncovered what as a society we are really afraid of, as well as he himself wasn’t scared to shock people and create disturbing collections” (Highland Rape)

Is it possible for clothing to provide the type of protection McQueen tried to create by making women look “so powerful no one would dare lay hands on them?

Since clothing can be perceived as a type of language (How Successful is Communication via Clothing pg 109-135), clothing can become a type of armor for women, yet undesirable attention will still be received from society.  Fashion has been linked to power and is used to distinguish the “boundaries of sexual difference”(Entwistle, 39). Power is traditionally associated with men, so for women to aspire for power through dress would be to break away from “conventions of gender [and viewed] as potentially subversive and treated with horror or derision” (Entwistle, 35).  For McQueen, this female power lay in “strong uncompromising and aggressive sexuality…a femme fatale, the woman whose sexuality was dangerous, even deathly…male desire would always be tinged with dread” (Dread and Desire, 204).  He wanted people to “be afraid of the women he dressed” (Dread and Desire, 206). The femme fatale is a” fearful representation which configured female sexuality as perverse, even deathly, and which echoed fears about the social, economic, and sexual emancipation of women at the turn of the century” (Dread and Desire, 204).  In everyday life, I believe this femme fatale is represented by any women who discovers her liberty from social oppression and exudes this power as confidence.  Any women that realizes her power is a threat in a “mans” world. A femme fatale is not necessarily the leather and fear clad dominatrix that walked the runway in McQueens shows. Desktop3 The frightening women in our society could be the flappers, the androgynous pant suits of the 40s, and the power suits of the 80s, all which represent the freedom of women and their intrusion into male spheres of society. Desktop4Women are challenging “tradition and displaying their acquisition of sexual equality”(Entwistle, 53). This doesn’t make women frightening or repellent in the way of deathly sexuality as McQueen designed, but repellent in their freedom and equality of gender. There will always be undesirable attention for women who break away from their traditional and passive roles.

“A free woman in an unfree society will be a monster” (Dread and Desire, 209)

Are the opinions of the viewer or designer a more correct interpretation fashion?

Neither.  Fashion viewed as an art form gives it the same ambiguous meaning, giving the viewer/artist/designer freedom to interpret as it moves them.  Art is meant to be a two-way street the process of creating a work of art has the same importance as the process of viewing the art.  Each infuses it with meaning and purpose.

Fashion relies on “well-established stereotypes” and a meaning that is “rigid, self-evident, and rather stereotypical” (How Successful is Communication via clothing, 119)Fashion acts as the “visible form of our intentions”, “the insignia by which we are read and come to read others, however unstable and ambivalent these readings may be” (121). Designers can play into theses stereotypes to market to a certain audience. However, as indicated by the above question, fashion can be misinterpreted or then can be a huge variance between the intention of the designer and the response of the viewers.

Highland Rape-Alexander McQueen
Highland Rape-Alexander McQueen

Why is it appealing to sexualize or eroticize fashion?

Because sex sells. It feeds our lusts, our fantasies. In both articles, Adolescence: Identity, Fashion and Narcissism and Fashion, Lifestyle and Psychiatry, it discusses how so much of society defines beauty as identified by your outward appearance. There is a lot of pressure to be beautiful, young and desirable, in order to feel self-worth in society. Sexuality becomes an attribute to strive for. Fashion plays up these carnal desires, in ways subtle to explicit.

28-tom-ford-ad-banned-in-italy-2008-controversial-fashion-ads 10tell600.1 tom-ford


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