Lush and the instrumentalisation of violence against women

Another day, another oppressive ad campaign. This time, soap-merchants Lush decided to “raise awareness” about animal testing by putting on an “art performance” wherein a woman was tortured by a man. Graphically. In a shop window.

Now, this isn’t the first time women have been instrumentalised and objectified in an ad campaign, and certainly won’t be the last. What is interesting about this particular stunt, though, is that Lush clearly put some thought into it (unlike PETA, who tend towards the “let’s stick in a naked lady, and we’ll get more attention”). Unfortunately, their thought process was this:

It was a performance of violence (not violence against women) where – unsurprisingly – the oppressor was male and the abused was vulnerable and scared. We felt it was important, strong, well and thoroughly considered that the test subject was a woman.

This line of argument is summarised quite nicely by @NadiaKamil: “it wasn’t misogynist but -unsurprisingly- we had to use misogyny”. Both sentences appear to be diametrically opposed to one another, to boot. The first seemingly argues that the “performance” definitely was not gendered, which some defenders of the campaign have also been using. The second states that it definitely was.

And it was gendered; it doesn’t matter if the performer was playing the role of an animal. Violence against women is something that happens, and happens a lot. Each day, women are injured, raped and murdered. I don’t believe this is in any way the same as animal testing, but even if one does, this is not how one would raise awareness.

It is somewhat comparable to the awful adverts targeted at “raising awareness” of rape, which feature graphic depictions of violence which will somehow magically end rape. Such campaigns are triggering for the sadly vast number of people who have had similar experiences. The same goes for a performance involving the torture of a woman by a man in a shop window.

Lush’s stated aim of this action is to raise awareness of animal testing, because they’re very against that. Defenders of Lush have argued they do very good work to make sure that no animals were harmed in the making of their products. By raising awareness, then, Lush are implicitly inviting consumers to purchase more of their own products.

In other words, Lush are instrumentalising violence against women to generate profit for themselves. This may be entirely well-intentioned, but it probably isn’t, as Lush are a commercial company whose ultimate motivation is to turn a profit. They are capitalising on depicting a violent, every day occurrence.

There is also an issue of class here. Lush is a fairly expensive shop, charging ludicrous sums for a small phial of bubble bath. Maybe they are more ethical than other cosmetics companies, but few people can afford to purchase their products. The effect here may therefore be that many people, upon feeling shocked and triggered by the instrumentalisation of violence of women, feel a sense of guilt that they cannot reconcile as they cannot fork out a small fortune for something which is sold as more ethical.

Whatever the intentions here, there are some unpleasant effects from the campaign that must be examined and cannot be excused. Lush have used violence against women to promote their own products. This is never acceptable and ultimately serves to perpetuate the context in which this occurs.

 

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30 responses to “Lush and the instrumentalisation of violence against women

  • DickMandrake

    Also worth noting that the stunt implies that only men become scientists. Presumably, they felt it was “important, strong, well and thoroughly considered” that the scientist was a man as well.

  • oddbodd13

    Even if their morality isn’t profit-induced (and I’m not at all convinced that it wouldn’t be), they really haven’t thought the whole thing through. That the “subject” was a woman, clad in a skin-coloured body suit, was always going to open themselves up to all sorts of charges, from titillation to glorifying or trivialising violence against women. Using a human to represent an animal being abused in such a way is, theoretically, a very good reductio ad absurdum way of bringing the point home – but I feel that Lush have really screwed up in their execution of it.

  • Alex

    Lush are instrumentalising violence against women to generate profit for themselves … They are capitalising on depicting a violent, every day occurrence.

    Aren’t these two very different things you’re conflating? Depicting violence isn’t a bad thing in itself, and it’s certainly not at all the same as the violence itself. Obviously just being a depiction doesn’t necessarily excuse it, but it really depends on how it’s done. What was it about this depiction that you object to?

  • tristan

    Ironically, the reason Lush chose specifically to use Male-against-Female violence is probably because the vast majority of Lush customers would (I assume) be women. Perhaps they thought their female patrons would be less moved if the genders were reversed.

    • stavvers

      Absolutely. As with DickMandrake’s point above, there’s a lot of underlying sexist assumptions in the marketing campaign that I hadn’t noticed due to being outraged by the other bits.

    • EdinburghEye

      If Lush had used a man in a bodysuit being tortured/abused by another men (most lab animals are male) the anger / upset currently being expressed by feminists would look mild by comparison to the outrage expressed by both men and women at the idea of a man being leashed, gagged, and publicly tortured.Female pain is decorative; male pain is outrageous.

      • makomk

        Errrm… that seems unlikely given (a) the continued acceptance of comedy based around violence by women against their husbands, (b) portrayals of male versus female death and suffering in the media in general, including things like treating women as the main victims of systematic gender-based slaughter aimed specifically at men, and perhaps most importantly (c) the fact that PETA and co thrive on shock and outrage. If it would really cause more outrage to have a man being leashed, gagged and publicly tortured they’d have done it by now.

        (Why would things be this way? Stop thinking about the rest of the male population for a moment and think about what benefits the male leadership. They want to be able to send other men off to fight and die in wars that benefit the leaders, and genuine outrage at male pain and suffering would be a huge obstacle to that. On the other hand, the idea of the vulnerable woman who needs to be protected from evil men is a very powerful tool in coercing the rank-and-file male population to sign up and fight. We’ve seen it in wars from the US Civil War through both World Wars right up to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan in the present day. The problem is that people sometiles listen to the actual reality of women’s suffering.)

  • robotica2

    You are a complete idiot and have clearly completely misunderstood the basis of this campaign. The woman consented to everything that was done to her and was actively involved in the campaign. You are a moron. Do your research and get your facts right before undermining an excellent campaign.

  • dinotagged

    The majority of this writing is sensationalist, unjustified shambles. And before I even start I will state now that I don’t know how I feel about the Regent Street stunt, and probably come down on the side of being not that impressed by it.

    The assumptions you have made and the tenuous arguments you’ve created as a a result of those are ridiculous, even in light of me telling you, very simply, that your assumptions were wholly incorrect in the first place.

    You can call the stunt misogynistic, distasteful, unnecessary all you want. I won’t dispute that if that’s what you think and you clearly do. Let’s get some stuff clear though before I see any more of this misinformed crap about Lush be spread any further:

    1) Lush are running a campaign for the prevention of any more delay to the cosmetic’s directive bill passed, but not enforced, in 1993. They are gathering signatures and need to reach a certain amount in order to have any effect on the enforcement of this bill being delayed again.

    2) The ethical initiatives run by Lush -lose- the company money. They have a team dedicated to sourcing ingredients which are sustainable, and in a lot of cases help to sustain communities with they money Lush pay them. Do you understand? The ingredients and products cost more for their, yeah, wealthy Western customers because of how they’re sourced.

    3) Lush deliberately do NOT patent some of their products (like the soap, because palm oil, which is used to make most soaps, is an unsustainable resource) so that other companies can adopt the same recipes and ideas to make their products more ethical.

    4) It is a FACT, which I told you earlier, before you wrote this blog post, that Lush will go under rather than compromise on its ethical values. Go ahead and dispute whether this stunt destroys the entire ethics of Lush’s dedication to humanitarian issues, sustainability and the environment and animal welfare issues. They will collapse sooner than sell out.

    5) Lush does not advocate the boycotting of animal-tested products. It’s almost impossible to find out whether most cosmetics are animal-tested, because even if the products aren’t, the ingredients might be. Even if the ingredients aren’t, the company might buy other ingredients from other companies who test on animals. It’s a minefield and unrealistic. Lush knows this. Don’t make unjustified statements about what they do and do not believe.

    You don’t shop in Lush, probably (well clearly, according to this) didn’t know much about Lush until today, maybe the past couple of days, and have made wild assumptions about them as an entire company because of this performance. They are absolutely dedicated to their ethics, and have proved this year upon year upon year and do a hell of a lot with local charities, nationwide charities and worldwide charities. They are an incredibly supportive employed, actively supportive of mental health issues, physical health issues, are completely non-discriminatory of presentation. The products are consciously unisex, they employ a huge number of women in top positions and the list goes on and on.

    And you sit there with the audacity to do no research into the topic you’re writing about and say so flippantly how this is just an opportunity for moneymaking.

    This post is not about the Regent Street performance. I will not sit back and take this crap for a company, YES a company, how HORRENDOUSLY EVIL, who do -so- much. If I wasn’t so angry about the misinformation you’ve just spouted I would laugh at how wrong you are. And I’m prepared for you to derail this and ignore my corrections to your badly made assumptions, so go right ahead.

    • narrativeeschatology

      Look, Lush sell their ethics as part of what they do. They’re very clearly positioned as selling to upper-middle class conscientious people, and ethics are a big part of that. I applaud all the ethical things they do, but this does not make them above criticism. Lush are both motivated by altruism and by the profit motive. This means that when they play issues against one another, someone has to lose, maybe all of us.

      Do point out specific things that Stavvers got wrong, by the way.

  • Faintpraise

    This whole issue has been on my mind most of yesterday and today.

    Firstly- I am a Lush customer. I have been for a long time, and prior to that was a customer at Cosmetics 2 Go, the previous company owned by the person who started Lush, which sold similar products. I spend a *lot* of money there each year. I get a lot of birthday and christmas things from there, and a lot for myself. I also used to go to the Lush owned B Never shops which have now folded. I went on the forum and enthused about things, etc etc.

    I’m also an abuse survivor. Seeing the video, which I couldn’t finish watching, made me angry, sad, disappointed and nauseous. Mostly sad.

    Then I read the blog. THAT was where the anger got stronger. If they’d apologised, or shown some empathy….but no. They doubled down and basically said, “yeah we know some people have been upset by it, but…” and that feels like a massive slap in the face to me and everyone else who has been affected in this way. I am hurt by their actions and until they apologise or show some sign they Get It, I will not spend my money with them again.

    I’m not going to get caught up in spurious arguments about artistic expression and “but she chose to do it!!11!!” the bottom line is this: Lush put those images in a shop front and in their email without warning. The aim of the campaign is presumably to make those who don’t think about animal testing think about it. The result of this stunt is that people who are already against animal testing and Lush customers are WALKING AWAY. Because I’m not the only one. Mission accomplished?

    I’m probably going to cross post something like this at the f word too, similar arguments are being raised there…

  • Sandra

    Dinotagged I’m going to make a wild guess here and suggest that you might actually work for Lush. Just a hunch. For what it’s worth I believe you when you say that Lush lose money from sticking to their ethics and that their ethics are what is most important to them, more important to their business. It’s impressive that they can run a multinational company without ever compromising on this set of ethics and still make enough profit to stay afloat. I applaud the charity work Lush does and I don’t think that many big organisations can say that they do this.

    When you say ‘their’ ethics, about the set of principles by which Lush run their company, I think you must be referring to their no compromise stance on animal testing products. I think what has happened here is that their uncompromising approach to their set of ethics has meant that they didn’t see the atrocious consequences of this ad campaign. Lush were willing to overlook the idea that this could cause offence to anyone, or just didn’t see it, because they were so keen to achieve their aims of having the 1993 bill you mentioned above enforced in the UK. To another organisation, this ad would be seen as extremely UNETHICAL.

    Being a more ‘ethically’ minded high street chain than most does not give Lush the right to do what they want in order to achieve their aims.

    The issue of whether or not the artists performing the piece were actors, performance artists or paid monkeys is neither here nor there, I don’t care who they are. What bothers me is that someone in LUSH HQ, probably several people, have given this the green light. Those people now need to have a look at the effect their ad campaign has had on the people who have seen it and consider whether it has done more harm or good to their brand.

    I hope that Lush sees that this ad campaign is potentially extremely harmful to anyone who may have seen it. I hope that they apologise and take the images down, but I doubt they will.

    • E

      I’d be surprised if they worked for Lush. I used to be a sales assistant there and it’s hard to consider a company ethical which doesn’t offer sick pay, forces its employees to work under illegal conditions (during a cold snap, when our heating broke down, the temperature in the shop dropped lower than ten degrees celsius and stayed that way for weeks – minimum legal temperature for a workplace is 16 degrees), doesn’t allow its employees to join a trade union (I am not joking – I left underpaid by £200 which gradually built up over a year of work, and had no way of taking up a dispute), and pays minimum wage (if you’re in London, it’s living wage, but only since last year) and no benefits. For all the good work they do away from home, they don’t care about their employees at all and I have no idea how they get away with it.

      If I hadn’t quit working there for those reasons, god knows I would have left over this campaign. The hilarious thing is nobody even seems to know what it was really in aid of – the Fighting Animal Testing campaign, as far as I can tell from their website, is regarding a loophole in the Cosmetics Directive act which means that individual *ingredients* of cosmetics can still be tested on animals even if testing of whole cosmetics is banned. From what their website says, they’re trying to raise awareness of this because lots of people simply don’t realise it’s the case – so simply delivering fact would have been more informative than this stunt.

      If they’d apologised properly for putting triggering material IN A SHOP WINDOW, I could have let it go. Instead they’ve defended their actions and claimed magic intent, and while I’ve signed the petition they’ve got up on the website (because its intentions are honourable and valid), I won’t be giving them my money in future. They still owe me two hundred quid anyway.

  • kinelfire

    I worked for Lush; during that time they ran a similarly- motivated campaign against the Cosmetics Testing Directive. It took the form of shop staff talking to customers and collecting signatures on a petition. I can’t clearly remember, but I’m reasonably sure it was quite successful and raised a fair bit of awareness. Not all Lush customers are aware of their animal testing polices, as was demonstrated to me one more than one occasion.

    The way employees are treated though… Minimum wage for a level of loyalty that’s vaguely scary! I was ‘trainee manager’ (assistant manager) in my shop; for a 40 hour week I (and all other trainees – London staff got a little bit more) my salary was £12,500. Less than £1 over the legal minimum wage at the time. My store manager was pretty poor, so I ended up doing so much overtime that they had to start paying me for it. The same manager bullied me out, presumably because she didn’t like me, or had to have someone to blame for things she allowed to happen and she used my poor mental health as her method.

    I recall being induced to apologise to every single member of staff for, essentially, being ill and trying to cope with that on top of everything else. Humiliating barely begins to cover it.

    Head Office offered so little support that I felt I had no recourse other than to walk away (they lost a good person in me, even if I say so myself) and the fallout from that on my MH has been writ large in the last few years. Anyway…

    Back to wages – I spent a week in a shop not far outside the London boundary. The store manager was struggling to manage between her and her husband’s wages. Her salary was £16,000; again the same as all store managers outside London. My direct counterpart was living on credit cards because her/our salary barely covered her rent and only her rent. At least I managed to buy almost enough food for the month.

    There is a bonus scheme (in which sales staff could make up to £5/hour on top of their wages) but in reality, I sincerely doubt that many teams achieve that apart from possibly once or twice in December. Manager bonuses are paid on different criteria, and therefore harder to obtain.

    Google Mark Constantine on the London Living Wage campaign; what he does say is interesting, what he doesn’t even moreso, and it’s illuminating that he apparently seems to think it’s fine for the rest of their UK shop staff to struggle to make ends meet etc.

  • Sandra

    Hi Kinelfire and E,

    Fuck I knew they were bad but I didn’t think it was that bad! The reason for my remark on Dinotagged being possibly an employee is that I too have had a fleeting glimpse at the world of Lush from the other side of the bath bomb counter. It lasted two weeks and, similar to Kinelfire I was fired for some spurious reason. The manager said I wasn’t enthusiastic enough, seriously! I think it was more a case of my face not fitting. Although I love how she let me finish my morning duties of carrying 8 buckets of ice down a windy set of spiral stairs before firing me.

    I found there to be a strange atmosphere amongst the staff of almost ecstatic levels of enthusiasm for the products and Lush in general. The full time staff were spending their evenings chatting on a Lush members forum, presumably talking to customers and other staff. It seemed odd to me to spend all day doing something and then go home and talk about it online during your spare time! This kind of unquestioning devotion to a company, and the fact that as staff you had to be so unbelievably happy and chatty to customers was kind of creepy to me.

    • narrativeeschatology

      I found exactly the same when I tried out for seasonal staff with them! Their products are nice, and a good bath or such can help you feel better, but the level of enthusiasm they required meant that after half an hour or so I was seriously creeped out and ready to leave. It was like they were trying to have glittery bath bombs replace their staff’s emotional needs, and then sell that to everyone who walked in. I felt glad when I realised I was better off out of it and left.

  • Morgan

    I’ve always hated lush because my vegan friends recommend them so highly and their producs are so unaffordable. I would rather spend 50p on a bar of soap and give some money to an animal charity than spend a mint in a shop I /hope/ is super ethical.

    I think the clincher is the skintight-sinkcoloured body-suit (and the collar, which I found way more disturbing than the “science”). If you’re not objectifying women, why don’t you put some proper clothes on her? When a man drags a faux-naked woman into a public space by a collar THERE IS NO ARGUMENT THAT MAKES THAT OKAY. No-one should EVER have to point that out.

  • shiatsuhaddock

    I like Lush (the products I mean) but I found the performance disturbing and tasteless, just vile actually. It should be possible to believe in both human rights and animal rights (kindness is an absolute virtue IMO) but for me human rights trump animal rights – it seems that for a lot of animal rights activists and sympathisers the hierarchy of rights goes the other way. In my opinion this comes close to some sort of self-hatred, and is thus worthy of both sympathy and contempt, which is a complicated emotional mix to be sure…I also think this is why some people are baffled by criticism of the performance; they agree in a general way with the idea that women should not be treated in a way that violates their basic rights, but it doesn’t have the urgency for them that animal rights does and thus it is perfectly reasonable to use images of abuse and torture of a woman as a metaphor for the mistreatment of animals. “Yes of course it’s true that women are being abused and that’s terrible, but think of the fluffy bunnies.” The justification by the campaign manager Tamsin Osmond was certainly wrong-headed; “I am very aware and very sad that campaigning groups (and all sorts of other groups, industries etc) have capitalised on titillating images of women – or worse – on images and storylines that encourage the abuse of women. It is a depressingly simple way to cause a stir whilst reinforcing certain power structures. It is a way of generating ‘attention’ that both I and Jacqui condemn.” She condemns it, yet she did it. Saying loudly after the fact “look we were being ironic” does not absolve you from having been crass. The blogger below hits that particular nail on the head (as do you stavvers, and thank you for it).

    http://jezebel.com/5906010/does-this-anti+animal-testing-video-by-lush-cosmetics-downplay-violence-towards-women

    “But look, it’s sort of Occam’s Razor, y’all. If it looks like an American Apparel ad and smells like an American Apparel ad, and a certain sort of man will be masturbating to it later, does its self-awareness negate the fact that it’s perpetuating the same sort of titillation?”

    • Alex

      It should be possible to believe in both human rights and animal rights (kindness is an absolute virtue IMO) but for me human rights trump animal rights – it seems that for a lot of animal rights activists and sympathisers the hierarchy of rights goes the other way. In my opinion this comes close to some sort of self-hatred, and is thus worthy of both sympathy and contempt, which is a complicated emotional mix to be sure…

      This kind of argument is precisely why I was very wary about condemning Lush. The fact is, a lot of animal rights activists don’t believe we have to give way to feminism because humans are involved, and nor should we. Claiming that one cause should trump another is an utterly wrong-headed way to resolve intersectionality issues. It’s wrong to expect feminists to shut up about rape allegations because wikileaks is important, it’s wrong to pit the working class against immigrants, and fuck knows whether gay white people or straight Muslims deserve to win.

      It’s perfectly legitimate to call PETA or Lush out for objectifying women especially if (as seems to be the case here) they openly admit that they prioritised one cause over another. It’s maybe a bit more iffy to use terms like “dehumanising” or “treated like meat”. It’s definitely not ok to believe in a hierarchy of rights then get angry if your rights don’t come top, especially not if your complaint uses anti-progressive tropes like self-hatred, offers condescending “sympathy” or holds other activists in contempt.

      I also think this is why some people are baffled by criticism of the performance; they agree in a general way with the idea that women should not be treated in a way that violates their basic rights, but it doesn’t have the urgency for them that animal rights does and thus it is perfectly reasonable to use images of abuse and torture of a woman as a metaphor for the mistreatment of animals.

      You seem to be arguing that semi-simulated torture of a consenting human who was involved in the planning of the incident is worse than entirely non-simulated torture of non-consenting non-humans. Are you saying prevention of fictional abuse should trump prevention of real abuse, or does it all rest on who’s being abused?

  • shiatsuhaddock

    Alex – thanks for your response. You make some interesting points, which have make me think a bit harder about what I think and what it is I was trying to say. I take your point that placing rights in a hierarchy is both a poor way of arguing a case and a sign of simplistic thinking. You argue persuasively that it can’t lead anywhere good. And I apologise for my comments about some strands of animal rights activism being a form of self-hatred, it was poorly expressed, simple-minded and offensive. Also for the condescension you rightly detected in my comments. The fact that one cause is more important to me than another doesn’t entitle me to make such sweeping generalisations about the motives of other people who care about other causes.

    The woman who acted in the event was clearly consenting and indeed helped to design the event. That is irrelevant as far as I am concerned. I understand what you are getting at with this, it was a fictional episode in which everybody consented (except for the people on the street outside who just wandered onto it), while animals who are tortured for real do not give their consent, but I think it’s not a question of injured feelings Vs injured bodies and which is more important (which trumps which to use my unfortunate choice of phrase). The issue for me is that she and the Lush PR crew used images calculated to cause distress to those who may have suffered abuse, and they did it in a public place, and then responded dismissively to criticism, in a way which shows they didn’t really understand the criticism or the issues they had stumbled into.

    In her blog the campaign manager says “It would have been disingenuous at best to have pretended that a male subject could represent such systemic abuse.” I take this to mean that she understands that the power that this performance generated came specifically from the fact that many women are or have been abused and that she was using the realistic level of fear that generates to make her point; if she doesn’t get that, I don’t think it makes it any better. I think they chose not to use two men or a female doing things to a man because it would have been more obviously sexualised; so they objectified a woman instead.

    She said “The bodysuit was not attractive (however the mainstream media may have presented or written about it). The costume made her an anonymous test subject and stripped her of the accoutrements of sexuality or eroticism.” This contention that wearing a flesh-coloured suit (which gave the performer the appearance of being naked, with her gender concealed yet obvious) removed all erotic and sexual potential from the spectacle is risible; abuse and objectification ARE an act of sexualization (for abusers). For me the truly offensive aspect of it was that abuse by men on women has been made into a metaphor for animal rights. As you say, this is where they can be legitimately criticised, for giving primacy to one thing over the other. Just like I did. Thanks for calling me on it.

    • Alex

      I definitely see where you’re coming from, sorry if my tone was a bit harsh.

      The issue for me is that she and the Lush PR crew used images calculated to cause distress to those who may have suffered abuse, and they did it in a public place, and then responded dismissively to criticism, in a way which shows they didn’t really understand the criticism or the issues they had stumbled into.
      This is the basic problem: shock tactics basically rely on forcing people to see things without being prepared and there’s basically no way around the problem of triggering apart from just not doing it at all.

      I think they chose not to use two men or a female doing things to a man because it would have been more obviously sexualised; so they objectified a woman instead.
      This is what baffles me about it. I’d have thought two men, or the other way around, or even two women would have been less sexual. And with a bit of fake fur and some slightly larger scientist-gear, it would be very easy to mask both participants’ genders.

  • Lewis Skinner

    “I don’t believe this is in any way the same as animal testing, but even if one does, this is not how one would raise awareness!”

    It is. This protest/argument was about a perceptually “superior” being attacking a perceptually “inferior” one. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that the analogy is a good one. Being in our society are oppressed – be they chickens, cattle, women, blacks or homosexual men ()in – roughly – perceived decreasing order. It is society in general which is to blame – dare I say it, CAPITALISM – not men, or whites. The sooner we realise we’re all in this together against the cunts who claim to have been given a mandate to rule us, the better!

    Apologies if this is less-than-coherent. I have had a bit to drink tonight, but when I saw the post I couldn’t not post.

  • shiatsuhaddock

    I get that warning people exactly what they are going to see takes away from the shock factor and therefore a large part of the point of the whole activity, but I think the issue of people not having consented to see such images is not to be simply dismissed. There is a watershed on tv, there is a system of classification on films and games which show distressing content; I would say these are a good thing, even if they don’t prevent vulnerable people from accessing stuff that may harm them. I am not particularly easily distressed, but I have found some films unbearable, like Dogville, which I couldn’t watch to the end; at least I had some warning from the rating about what I might be watching though, and so was able to make a choice, and (however imperfect the system is) people who will be upset or offended by it are less likely to stumble across it because the classifications exist and are enforced, and you have to choose to watch them. Lars von Trier has a reputation and nobody has to watch his films, but anyone can be walking through the streets.

    Your other point is a tricky one, and once again I have had to rethink a bit.

    They specifically chose a woman being abused by a man, they felt it was the most appropriate dynamic to send the image of shock they wanted. Actually, thinking about it further, you are right that doing it with two men (for example) would have been less sexualised in the context of cis-gender (it wouldn’t have made the same sort of impact on me, a male hetero).

    I was trying to express the idea that what they were doing was predicated on the most common type of abuse, a man abusing a woman, and that they were tapping into the fear that generates by showing it happen (although in a hyperdramatised way). Every story is a metaphor, and works on two levels; one is the level of the surface story, one is the level of the message. Successful stories work well on both levels, unsuccessful ones fail on one or both. The message here was about animals being experimented on, the story was about a man abusing a woman. It is the prevalence of this surface story that gives the event its shock value; if they had shown a dramatisation of a man abusing a man or a woman abusing a woman, then as a surface story that might have had gay torture porn associations. This is what I was alluding to in my hasty characterisation, but it really wasn’t a good point (I was generalising, again, this time from my own sexual perspective). In fact what people would make of it would depend on what their characters and sexuality are: you can’t control the associations people make which are dependent on them, you can only control what you do, not what they make of it.

    But regardless of whether people would have seen a sexual element in a differently gendered display, I contend that there was a sexual element in the event they staged, and it was precisely that which gave the event its power. And though they explicitly reject the idea that they were perpetuating the sexual objectification of women, from the screed on the blog it seems to me that the writer may not understand what this means. She says the bodysuit was not “attractive” and therefore the performer was not sexualised. I think this is dense.

    You suggest that they could have avoided the issues I am raising with costumes, but if they had dressed up the man as an obvious scientist, then on the surface story level that would have just turned it into a torture porn story involving a scientist, (or possibly raised associations of concentration camps) and if they had dressed the performer up as an animal with lots of fur, if unconvincing it would have been titillating (furclad girl tortured by evil dentist?) or if convincing costume and makeup were used it would not have had the same power to shock (as the central shock value came from seeing a man torture a woman).

  • (Not so) Lush? « frustrationsofareformingecosinner

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  • Boner Killer

    Well, as a feminist and a fan of LUSH products i am revolted and disgusted by this “campaign.” This basically uses the very real issue of violence against women to try and protest animal testing and as you pointed out wonderfully, it is horribly gendered. How can they think that there is nothing wrong with a woman’s body being used as an engine to further their political views in regard to animal rights? PETA has done this many times, but I am shocked that lush would sink to such lows. Degradation against women will not decrease or eliminate degradation against animals.

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