Anne Dellinger


I saw the woman's eye first, even before the breast, which is the focal point for many observers. She stands almost squarely to the viewer's gaze in the New York Times Magazine, only partly contained by the page. The top of her tilted head is lost from the frame as well as the body beneath the crotch. Her hands open a dark jacket, revealing the middle half of the chest above a belt with a shining metal buckle - CK in a circle. The right breast bears a round dark mark. The model's left eye has been blackened, probably both by makeup and shadow. While the breast mark is ambiguous, for me it signified a wound. For all these reasons, the ad for Calvin Klein belts first troubled, then offended me. It seemed to suggest that one pleasure of owning the striking belt would be to strike a woman with it. I tore the page out, meaning to object. I rarely notice fashion or advertising, but I believe some boundaries are breached at a society's peril. By seeming to tolerate the battering of women or the sexualization of violence, we damage our culture and countless individuals. I thought the Times, a cultural bastion, had crossed a dangerous line. I might not have written, though, except for a front page story in the Times three days later, describing the aftermath in Togo of Fauziya Kassindja's flight to avoid genital mutilation. The story recounts the exile and homelessness Ms. Kassindja's mother endured as a result of aiding the escape, which led her eventually to apologize to the patriarch who ordered her daughter's marriage and mutilation. The contrast between the Times' treatment of women in its news coverage and advertising was too great to ignore.

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