Lingerie and bras are frequently used to heighten sex appeal and to even “enhance” certain female assets. Just as corsets were used and are still used to create a slim waistline, bras are used to create the illusion of the perfect bust. Drag queens and female impersonators aoften use lingerie and padding to give the illusion of plump breasts, thus creating an authentic illusion of femininity. But why is lingerie and nudity considered feminine?
A crossover in imagery in the 1980’s saw that high-class pornographic photography, such as Playboy’s, began to be used generally to sell products for women. Helmut Newton’s leather adorned nudes appeared in Vogue and David Hamilton’s photographs of naked pre-adolescents were sold in bookstores. Nudity and sex in females became all the rage but what’s more the “ideal” image of femininity was created. This made beauty thinking that followed crucially different from all that had preceded it. Femininity now meant naked flesh, breasts, nipples and pretty lingerie, qualities which still permeate mainstream culture today.
In Killing Us Softly 3 by Jean Kilbourne, she points out how damaging this change within imagery aiming at and portraying women really was and still is: “Women’s bodies continue to be dismembered in advertising over and over again, just as one part of the body is used to sell products which is of course the most dehumanizing thing you can do to someone. Not only is she a thing but just one part of that thing is focused on” [08.29]. And culture seems especially obsessed with breasts and are used to sell just about everything. Thus lingerie has become a vital instrument and marketing tool for selling products and is often used to accentuate female assets. As a result underwear and bras are considered the epitome of “ideal” femininity.
Advertisements often encourage women to “improve” or “change” their breasts in order to be more beautiful and attractive. Such as in the ad with the tagline, “If you’ve got it flaunt it, if you don’t create it”. And again we buy into it. But when is the last time you saw an advert aimed at men encouraging them to change their testes? That’s what I thought. Women nowadays even undergo surgery to enhance their breasts, the ultimate feminine attribute. This has been naturalized so far that we do not even recognise these images or motifs as being objectifying, hence the successes of lad magazines taking over newsstands, rich topless models and wonder bras which are enjoyed by women and men alike.
Lingerie and breasts are signs of “ideal” femininity so will be an interested prop to play around with when creating my own images. Capturing a boy wearing a bra with padding slipping out could be interesting (or too aggressive). Nonetheless, lingerie and bras signal femininity, so I feel encouraged to use such items as props potentially within my own photographs. Remember I am trying to prove to my audience that gender and gender “norms” are constructed with the capacity to be reduced to mere artificial and detachable parts. Underwear and bras are such items. Boom! Plus we all like breasts (obviously).
Please view my previous post: Sexualisation of Women for more info.