'Terrible Portrayals'

By Jordan, Mark | The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), November 7, 2013 | Go to article overview

'Terrible Portrayals'


Jordan, Mark, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)


Among the images in "They say SEX sells but we're NOT buying it," a new exhibit exploring the objectification of women in the media that opens Friday at Splash Creative Ink, is the one that inspired the show.

When Deborah Clubb first saw the poster art for this year's Memphis In May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest last spring, she was aghast. Playing on the tag line "Smoke on the Water" (lifted from a 1972 song by the band Deep Purple), the image was a reworking of an existing '60s-era psychedelic rock concert poster except the Art Nouveau-inspired nude feminine figure at the center of the original was transformed into a curvaceous sow.

The equating of a woman with a pig outraged many in the community, including Clubb, the executive director of the Memphis Area Women's Council, a nonprofit group that advocates locally on a wide range of issues pertaining to women and girls.

"I couldn't believe it," Clubb says of her initial shock upon seeing the poster. "Not in 2013. Not from Memphis In May."

A flurry of articles and letters-to-the editor ensued. And although MIM ultimately softened the image, Clubb took a lot of heat from online commenters who didn't see her point about the pervasive objectification of women in the media.

"The comments were clearly from people who had not ever heard that there can be a connection between demeaning, degrading images of any set of people and potential violence against and demeaning, degrading treatment of those people," says Clubb. "There are sadly many times in our history around the world where (these kinds of images are) exactly what's been used to lead groups or nations into really vicious and violent behavior. We know it happens to women and girls from the ways we're used and depicted in advertising and other kind of media."

The organizers of "They say SEX sells " hope it can, in a small way, begin to combat those depictions. The idea for the exhibit was born out of conversations between Clubb and Women's Council volunteer Alex Dileo, a sophomore political science major at Rhodes College.

"I'm also a gender and sexuality studies minor, and that's where some of (my interest in these issues) comes in," Dileo says, "but really these aren't necessarily things we've talked about in the classroom so much as things I see everyday. My friends and I are always talking about how there's nothing in the media that looks like us and the lives that we live. We're really tired of seeing all these terrible portrayals of women when women are not truly like that."

With Clubb's blessing, Dileo curated the exhibit, which collects a series of highly sexualized images from national and local advertising and media sources. …

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