The issue of sexuality in advertising has been raised in the last ten years (Brooke, 2010; Bradley, 2007; Phillips, 2005; Kent, 2005 & Levy, 2005), hence the concept of raunch culture raises the question of whether women are being empowered or victimised. This essay will discuss whether raunch culture represents a wave of new feminism, focusing on whether women’s sexuality is being celebrated in a healthy and empowering manner or preyed upon by marketing’s misogynistic and exploitating image of the good life laid out in various media forms, from billboards to sex videos to television advertisements and movies. It will also identify the role and responsibilities of marketers in relation to the stakeholders involved. Subsequently, followed by our reflection on raunch culture.
Raunch culture is defined as the ‘hyper-sexualisation of youth and in particular, female youth culture’ (Phillips, 2006, 17). Kent (2005) suggests that raunch culture is a ‘market driven’ approach developed during the 1970s and 1980s when pornographic conventions crossed over to women magazines, refelcting the producers’ aims, values and consumers desires. He also highlights that women were portrayed as assertive, even aggressive sexual animals, in active and dominant roles in advertising throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. Therefore, implicating as of the 21st century, raunch culture has evolved as a cultural norm, especially when ‘women are sexually liberated and personally empowered’ (Levy, 2005, 197). As Kent states, this post-modernistic culture has ‘enabled taboos to be transgressed through pleasing erotic imagery packaged as fashion not pornography’ (435). Thus, just like any other cultures (like hip-hop and rock-and-roll), it is simply just another subculture, which certainly does not represent the new feminism.
Under this culture, women gain freedom to do whatever they deem fit, based on their own decisions. They need not worry about misogyny or objectification. Via Levy’s (2005) interview with women (from teens to baby boomers), states that the new raunch culture is evident in achieving feminist projects rather than indicating the death of feminism. She also mentions that women are actively engaging in reproducing this culture’s mentality (Levy, 2005, cited in Swygart-Hobaugh, 2007). With the rise of films containing female super heroes, such as The Charlie’s Angels, who are usually scantily clad (Levy, 2005). It suggests that to a certain extent, women’s sexuality can be celebrated in a healthy and empowering manner. Furthermore, women may interpret this empowerment as a reason to wear whatever they like. Another example is Dolce and Gabbana’s billboard advertisement (appendix 1), featuring a women and a man in a sexual position, even though they have clothes on. It portrays the woman, as being totally powerless, as she stays in that very position. On the contrary, it depicts women who are willing to be the weaker gender once again. Women are being objectified and degraded, and this is not what the new feminism is about because it is unnecessary to show more flesh or be the skimpy superhero just to be empowering.
On the contrary, young women are indeed falling prey to marketing’s misogynistic and exploitative image of the good life through media, as these young and possibly naive women, are simply finding a shortcut to fame (Levy, 2005). There are real-life examples, supporting the statement above, such as, Paris Hilton, who was seen as the embodiment of raunch culture by Levy (2005; Bradely, 2007). Paris Hilton’s sex tape shot her to fame. Despite whatever means she took to not have the tape leaked, it sent the message that her way of shooting to fame was legit. Additionally, Paris’ fame is prevalent, with exception to the sex tape; she is marketed as ‘the’ party animal and socialite of Hollywood. The effects of Hilton’s fame brought raunch culture to the next level. It indicated that by being raunchy, it was the surest route...
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