Tag Archives: male gaze

outline – lesbians in fashion advertising

This was an outline for a paper I wrote about the usage of lesbian imagery in fashion advertising.
queer women in fashion advertising:

  • based on the target, portrayal can differ
    • target of men:
      • highly sexualized
    • target of (straight/mainstream) women
      • sometimes sexualized, sometimes not
    • target of lesbian women?
      • less common, sometimes more sexualized
  • usage:
    • seem edgy, controversial, sexual
      • “modern”, lesbian chic
      • usually in higher fashion stuff
  • women displayed:
    • thin, white, young, “feminine”, “attractive” (shaved legs, etc.), sometimes short hair but sometimes not
    • “In the Cosmo world, the lesbian is white, beautiful, financially successful, young, and well dressed” (LESBIAN CHIC 12)
    • Ciasullo argues that most mainstream representations of lesbianism are heterosexualized through the emphasis of hegemonic femininity demonstrated by the femme body and dehomosexualized through the suppression and downplay of sexual desire between two women, ultimately sanitizing any homosexual residues.
    • wearing the same clothes, similar appearance (twins?) (called “doubling” (beyond 152))
    • almost no appearance of butch/androgynous women
      • “Ciasullo argues that such portrayals seem to work to annihilate the butch. Like the midriff, then, the ‘hot lesbian’ seems to rest on multiple exclusions, and in this case those excluded are precisely those with visibility in establishing lesbianism as a political identity: women who reject a traditionally feminine presentation.” (BEYOND 151)
      • portrayal of bisexual women?!
        • rare, mostly for male pleasure fantasy of FMF threesomes.
  • how they are shown:
    • touching each other, looking lustfully/suggestfully at each other or out at camera
      • distinctly different than how gay men are portrayed (yayyy misogyny and objectification)
    • “One similarity, however, was that the women in the ads were perceived to be heterosexual women who “dabbled in” or “experimented with” a same-sex sexual encounter. This observation is congruent with Duncker’s (1995) argument that the separation between lesbian lives and the representation of lesbian sexuality is unequivocal” (lesbian chic 21)  (reference to katy perry?)
    • “Given the relative absence of lesbians in mainstream media, lesbian chic images contribute to representations of ‘lesbianism’ may serve as a distorted source of meaning for how society constructs lesbianism” (lesbian chic 21)
  • difference in how interpreted
    • men are more likely to interpret it as homoerotic, while women might interpret it as close friendship (adrienne rich – lesbian continuum?)
  • how is it SUPPOSED to be read?
    • women perceive lesbians as attractive to men / male gaze
    • women want to be attractive to male gaze
  • discuss process of women consuming women – women embodying male gaze (fuss, marcus)


 Beetham, Margaret. A Magazine of Her Own? Domesticity and Desire in the Woman’s Maga- zine, 1800–1914. London: Routledge, 1996.

Ciasullo, A. (2001) `Making Her (In)Visible: Cultural Representations of Lesbianism and the Lesbian Body in the 1990s’, Feminist Studies 27: 477—508.

Fuss, “Fashion and the Homospectatorial Look,” Critical Inquiry 18(4), 1992,

Gill, R. (2009). Beyond the ‘Sexualization of Culture’ Thesis: An Intersectional Analysis of ‘Sixpacks’, ‘Midriffs’ and ‘Hot Lesbians’ in Advertising. Sexualities, 12, 137

Higonnet, Anne. Berthe Morisot’s Images of Women. Cambridge: Harvard up, 1992.

Marcus, “Reflections on Victorian Fashion Plates,” differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 14(3) 2003

Perry, Katy, perf. “I Kissed A Girl.” One of the Boys. Capitol, 2008. CD.

Reichert, Tom. Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising (CTC Press), Fall2001, Vol. 23 Issue 2, p9

Rich, Adrienne. “Compulsory heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” Blood, Bread, and Poetry. Norton Paperback: New York 1994.

Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai. “Assimilating the Queers: Representations of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Mainstream Advertising.” Advertising & Society Review 11.1 (2010). Project MUSE. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu/&gt;.