The subtle difference between sexy and submissive

 (pictures from here and here)

In recent time, both David Beckham and Beyoncé have been featured in H&M's ad campaigns. David Beckham and his ridiculously well-shaped body have been showing off men's underwear and leaving a lot of women going "It's stuffed, right?! Is it? Yeah, it must be....but...well, is it?". Beyoncé, or "Mrs. Carter" as she likes to call herself by now, has been showing us the new bikini and bathing suit line for this summer. Both ad campaigns are fairly regular in terms of ad campaigns and they are, as it must be expected from an international multibillion clothing company, beautifully done. Where Mr. Beckhams pictures were all taken in a serious black&white and high contrast manner, Beyoncés pictures are flashy and very, very colourful. So far, so normal.
BUT, there is one significant difference between the pictures, and it gets apparent as soon as you put two pictures next to each other. David Beckham, a man known not only for his football skills but also for coining the term "metrosexual" is shown in a very manly, "testosterony" manner. Black and white, high contrast, a facial expression that doesn't say "cuddly teddybear" or "I want to cry in front of you whilst we both listen to Dido" but is rather snarling a "Don't fuck with me, buddy!" into the onlookers general direction. Mr. Beckhams cock is occupying - literally and figuratively - about 40% of this picture. Everything about it is confident, masculine and in charge. Beyoncés picture on the other hand shows us Mrs. Carter, shot from above, while she lolls lasciviously on an air mattress. Her mouth is slightly open, the view on her crotch only obscured by a small strip of cloth, her legs are slightly spread and her thighs are moist from the water. It is - undoubtedly - quite hot. Beyoncé is - also undoubtedly - a very attractive woman. But nothing, nothing at all about this picture says "I am confident. I am in charge.". Instead it reminds you of a woman spread out to be fucked. Not to fuck, but to be fucked! Just to be clear - I don't blame Beyoncé for this (I am actually pretty sure that her facial expression is supposed to show confidence), neither do I blame the photographer nor even H&M necessarily. Who do I blame then? The guy who picked the picture? The person who came up with the idea for this shoot? The man who invented the bikini? Well, society would be a good answer, but maybe a fairly vague one. But, essentially, it is ourselves we have to turn to and say "Do I want to live in a world, where a woman is apparently considered sexy if she is submissive?". Do I want to look at models, actresses and - in this case - the same woman that sung a song about girls running the world, looking like some dude just jerked off all over them?


  1. Why not blame H&M?
    They chose this kind of representation, they could haven chosen any other.
    They knowingly reproduce harmful gender stereotypes to make a profit.
    I think that is worth being blamed.

    1. I get your point, I simply meant, that H&M is just one tiny fish in a vast ocean of people promoting this kind of role perception. Of course they are to blame in a way, but they are simply playing the game, not making up the rules.

    2. They are not THAT tiny. They are everywhere and have the power to define how we'll dress this year.

  2. who to blame?

    well right, "society" is a word probably only used by people who haven't read a book yet. throwing shit at H & M indeed seems way better for at least that is something concrete you can talk about. and at that point I got to agree in a way with the other comment saying that they produce (in a very influential way) quite harmful stereotypes of how "men" and "women" ought to be. that really is worth being blamed. and in my eyes, this comment is right also in its generality. it is totally understandable that as a woman you are more interested in the way beyoncé is portraited, but I cannot really see how this is any worse or better than beckams cliché of masculinity - it pretty much is the same.

    I got to admit I am in general - I don't necessarily mean you - a little nerved by how a real big percentage of 'intellectual' women think about themselves as being helpless victums of a bad world being driven only by testosterone. looking at western europe in 2013 - as general as I am being now - that is one-sided bullshit. sexicm clearly isn't something that is beeing done "by men to women", it is a misuse of sexuality and sexual freedom. - however, coming back to the central question, I feel that a great deal of sexism derives from the fact, that sex and gender is presented or suggested in a pretty general way, although is is pretty different to different people. to me, that seems to be the real problem.

    because there is nothing wrong about being a fruitful lusty whore lying there waiting to suck it in and get willingly loveraped by someone you adore if that's want you want. it is only wrong to suggest, that "this is how it has to be", that "this is the only way" for everybody, the only right way of "doing it". and there is nothing wrong about being a muscleboned warhero motherfucker waiting to whip out your mean package in the same way if you do respect that other poeple are not into this at all and different anyway.

    these images could be the most beautiful ones if they had been shot for friends or partners. Problem is, they're spread around the world with this disgusting role model-force. - and becks and beyoncé do enjoy being ideal examples of "men" and "women". so fuck'em. blame them, too. to me, beyonce seems to be the most arrogant human being in the world anyway - and I remember her singing out loud "I want a soldier" back in the days of destiny's child. what kind of cunt is setting out an example like that.

    1. Since you wrote such a long comment, I feel like I have to tick off your points one after the other: Firstly, as I already said above. H&M are simply playing the game, not making up the rules. Of course you could argue that, since H&M is such a big company, they could attempt to change the rules, but that is a completely different discussion, I think.
      To your claim that sexism isn't something done to women by men, I have to say that I definitely disagree with you. Of course this is something mostly done to women by men, even though I won't deny the possibility that there are sexist women out there, as well. And how on earth could sexual freedom be misused? That goes directly against your own argument that a picture of a woman posing in a sexual manner for a loved one could be a nice and wonderful thing! Which I agree with you, it could be.
      But I don't want to blame neither Becks nor Beyoncé. Beyoncé is very outspoken about her views on equal rights for everybody, and Becks is a supporter of gay rights, and they both - in their own ways - have done a lot to promote healthy gender roles. And piling on celebrities is definitely not what I am trying to do here, and in this case, you completely missed my point. Neither do I try to depict myself as some sort of victim of sexism. If you read my entry carefully, I think you could see that.

  3. first of all, thank you for that extensive answer!

    you surely are right in emphasizing that H & M is just one of many players and the problem discussed cannot be reduced to the agenda of a specific company. But that doesn't mean, of course, they do not have responsibility. I mean I think I get your point about finding out where all the shit originally comes from ... but a global player like H & M is pretty much the best and biggest target in the world you can get, if you want to identify the evil you want to track down. you pretty much got it, I'd say. Besides, being a cheap-seller like that, they do of course finance themselves through child labour in Bangladesh and where ever else (irrespective of the fact that almost everything that H & M "designes" is simply stolen by less known designers) however: H & M is a huge player and being that, they do not just follow rules, they emboss how it's done in the global clothing business - althought they surely haven't invented it.

    and thank you for reminding me of beckams metrosexuality! I was one-sided about that. I'm now remembering again how I loved this dude for being male sex-symbol, who is at the same time "female" in some classical senses. really gave myself more confidence in behaving "gay" whenever I wanted to, I remember now. He surely had a great influence respecting that! I really had forgotten ... but well, on the other hand, he's kind of a cunt for supporting H & M, I'd say :) So there is at that, too.

  4. Anyway, let's turn to the point in which we really disagree. You pretty much explicitly said that sexism is something men do to women. Jesus Christ :) now we part. are you serious? You seriously want to tell me you don't realize that BY SAYING "sexism is only working against women" you depict yourself as a poor, female victim in a cruel men's world? you cannot seriously lack so much of reflection! :)
    women discriminate men's bodies and personalities in the same way as men do. Men are in the same way victims of sexism as women are. And in the ages of politically correct job-rates, you also have to see that - in some parts of our working environments pretty much, in others of course, not at all - persons of ridiculous incompetence can get jobs just because they happen to be non-male and non-white.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm NOT saying sexism is equal to both sides or something like that. I'm really not. But there is just a fundamental difference between having honest interest in "gender theory" or whatever it is you may call your subject and simply finding "some theory" that - by chance - happens to support your personal interests. Sadly it seems to me, that's not a rare thing among female intellectuals. And you seriouly wrote "I won't deny the possibility that there are sexist women out there, as well" Jesus Christ!:) I had to laugh at that.

    Moreover, I'm not really sure if "submission" is an adequate description if beyoncès look. she obviosly is playing a "female" role but I'm not really sure if you can adequately call that submissive. beyoncé is having as much power over her male and female viewers, is as much controlling them as becks does. she really is portrayed in a manner, that depicts herself as being a pure object and you describe that in an evident and entertaining way. but at the same time, that's surface, of course. because that same pure object of lust is dictating every thought of her uncountable admirers, making them buying her drinks, gifts, making them caring for her and supporting her, running afterwards her ... without her having to do anything at all. Beyoncé is not moving at all. Right, but that also means: She doesn't have to. You gotta see that side, too - ehereas that beckam-stereotype has at least to be a fighting superhero that acts superior. Anyway: "Women" are in the same way used to play a traditional role as "men" are and they surely both have their benefits (and they both suck for real men and real women, if they don't fit into it).

    And finally: even submission is not necessarily suppression. it's just not the same thing. the roles that you inevitably have to play in your working life, etc. are often submissive. but it really is inevitable to play them to some extend because you have to respect a lot of authorities to function socially, to some extend you gotta be submissive to your employer, your customers, the police in some situations, etc. you just have to stay aware of the fact that you are simply playing a role. - And last but not least: fucking. it's just not a politically correct thing (or at least: not necessarily) and if it is, I doubt that it's real. sexual submission can be of great pleasure and an act of love in the same way as dominating someone. and it is to a lot of people. and that doesn't mean they are subjects or objects in an act of suppression.

    OK :) this answer happened to become quite long! well. I'm not interested in getting into a "fight", I just really felt the urge to speak my mind. Thanks for reading, probably :)

    1. I honestly don't know what to say anymore, because unless you and I mean something inherently different when we talk about "sexism", or we simply couldn't disagree more. I could quote Simone de Beauvoir and Germaine Greer and Susan Sontag to you until the cows come home, but I doubt we would ever agree, so let's just agree to disagree and leave it at that. :)

  5. quoting someone saying something ain't necessarily understanding the matter :) and all the women you call for defense have been dead for a reason: they were born in times quite different from ours. that's my point, historically speaking. back then it kinda was politically legitimate to be one-sided because women really were massively suppressed and people weren't conscious of that. but the times, they have been changing in germany since the 70s. Alice Schwarzer embodies that development: she has had great earnings in 'importing' feminism, but - having stayed as one-sided, as biased and asexual as she was - she fails in understanding the present.

    in a nutshell: we do not live in the 60s anymore. and since you seem to see this differently :) we have to agree to disagree. - anyway, thank you for the discussion