“Faceless Females”, society and how women’s bodies are consumed

fortysevenlegs - 2012

My main grrrl Sam

In the last year I have been through a lot and it has been awful and traumatic. In the process of recovering I’ve had to do a lot of thinking and what I’ve been thinking has been making me angry so I’ve been channeling that anger into this project that I am embarking on which is (tentatively, SO tentatively) titled “Faceless Females“.

I’ve been trying to find articles on this, because I am sure that I have seen it explained better somewhere else before but google is just giving me links to very strange porn and hentai so I’ll try this myself

(To me anyway) The Faceless Female is a cultural trope employed heavily in advertising, porn, and basically all kinds of media where female bodies (especially naked or scantily clad ones) are used. On one level this refers to the tendency in media to show women, sexualized ones, as just a body which is then basically used to sell something. The faceless female is a visual example of the way our society has turned the female presenting body into a commodity that can be used and consumed. The face can actually be featured, but it is not the focus. This contrasts with men in advertising and media who are presented as whole people with autonomy over their own bodies, while women are commonly shown as just a body, or even reduced further down to a single body part.

image & lovely commentary from ad-busting.tumblr.com

Before you shit yourself, yes I know that there are plenty of women with faces in advertising. Yes, I know that there are artistic and commercial reasons for choosing these photos. No, I don’t think there is anything wrong with pictures of butts and shit (I love them so much). What I have an actual beef with isn’t the practice on paper, it’s the pervasive objectification of the female body in society and how our media not only ok’s this, but encourages it. Every day you are inundated with hundreds of images of women’s bodies that have been changed, enhanced, packaged, filtered through the male gaze, and marketed to you. While it may not necessarily be the initial cause it is definitely a symptom of this pretty fucked up society we live in.

The faceless female is a cultural trope that we absorb and accept very early on, which leads to us also absorbing a lot of fucked up shit:

  1. It dehumanizes women by constantly presenting the female body as a sexual object ONLY instead of presenting it as a small piece of an independent person with feelings, goals, thoughts, etc.
  2. It presents the female body as a product, a commercial object that only exists to be consumed and used (literally objectifying women)

This inevitably leads to generations growing up and understanding that the Female as a body is different to the Female as a person, and the Female as a body is an object that has no rights of it’s own. The Female As A Body has no autonomy, is an object that we are taught can be used by anyone. The Female As A Person is taught that she is completely independent of the Female As A Body and that she has to strive to not be read as that. She is also taught that if she shows her body that she is giving up her rights as a person and whatever anyone else does or says in response is her own fault, that they are the obvious consequences.

From early childhood we are ingrained with the idea that our bodies are completely independent of our minds, that our body is just something that happens to be connected to our brain. Our bodies are not ours and many times we will be taught that we are incapable or unworthy of making our own decisions about our bodies. We are not taught about consent, about each individuals autonomy over their body. We are not taught to ask before touching someone. We are not taught proper consent in an every day context. This coupled with these images inevitably leads to what I like to call casual rape culture.

(again, to me) Casual Rape Culture is the normalization of small every day attacks on a person’s individual rights over their body, space, clothing, etc. that ultimately culminates in rape, murder, and violence

This includes things from that relative that forces you to hug them to that guy who grabbed your ass in the club and then is baffled by your negative reaction. From that person who keeps on casually touching your arm in conversation to your parents telling you you can’t go out dressed like that to that  person who thinks that you’re extreme reactions to their inappropriate contact is “hilarious”. All of these small infringements aren’t so bad on their own but together they create a culture that normalizes  the idea that your body is not yours, your body is an object, and if you protest then you are laughable, weird, or just a TOTAL BITCH.

So right now I am taking a lot of photographs of women with the hopes of having a series that visually explains and criticizes this concept.

It’s a lil ambitious

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