As far as the politics of art and conveying meanings and messages are concerned, however, women, it would appear, are often on the receiving end of conceptual constructions or deconstructions, and general influences necessarily afforded by society, culture, and art. And no art form is capable of eliciting the most influence and affecting generally accepted social constructs and norms, than that of advertising.
Of course, while most hardly regard advertising as an art form, but instead a field or medium which peddles products and ideologies through art, which is one aspect of it; the manner by which advertising makes use of art is perhaps, to a certain convoluted degree, one of the most crude but simultaneously honest as well.
Honest because its audience, or the general public on the receiving end of such art are aware of its intentions, aware of its function to peddle or sell whatever product, philosophy or worldview they are tasked to peddle at the moment. Unfortunately, this awareness doesn't always translate to lack of vulnerability and unaffectedness on people's part. As previously mentioned, women are often on the receiving end of influences and constructs, as far as characteristics, roles, and unavoidably, stereotypes of the supposed weaker sex are concerned.
In recent years, the prescribed image of what a woman is: how she should look, should feel, should think, should necessarily conduct, behave, engage, and apply herself within the family, other social institutions, and society at large is greatly dictated and shaped by commercial advertisements present in television, the radio, magazines, the internet, newspapers, and virtually the whole of mass media. While the stereotypical view that women are generally emotional and fragile has ceased to become breaking news, similar concepts and standards of what a woman is persists through commercial advertisements.
Advertisements which define women based on her physical parts, as opposed to her ideas, convictions, what she has the capacity for, and what she can actually do, how she works, and a myriad other things which comprise her as a human being. In commercial ads for clothes, perfumes, accessories, and so on, for instance, the aesthetic is given the highest regard, and women are reduced to the crudeness of waist lines, bust sizes, and weight, among other things.
While one could argue that the opposite sex are also on the receiving end of such attacks on identity and gender, and that the same premise applies to men; the prescribed standards and social constructs on women are far more predominant and palpable as evident in every magazine cover, billboard, and television commercial which runs in public view on a daily basis. It also appears especially and particularly evident in the images which follow, images which appear in public view across the globe under the heading of advertising.
It doesn't take a radical feminist perspective to realize and be conscious of the reality that something is infinitely wrong and contrived with the way women are being defined and depicted in advertising. Advertising not only coaxes peple into buying prodcuts they supposedly need, it also influences and conditions views regarding normalcy and what should and should not be deemed acceptable, in terms of how people should look, think, and behave in society.
Women in turn, are encouraged, if not obliged to be beautiful, to assume the “responsibility” of being aesthetically pleasing by losing weight, having smooth skin, full lips, big breasts, however fake or artificial, in order to fit into the mold of what advertising deems “beautiful,” which every “normal” woman is expected to assume and become. Both the stereotypical domestic housewife and working career woman are affected and subjected to society's concept of the ideal woman.
Despite the manner by which some form of art, mainly photography in advertising, affords a view of women which serves to demean and disparage them, there exists other art forms which depart, if not, largely contradict the contrived ideology and perspective that was previously discussed concerning women. Such opposite, and perhaps, positive constructs and view on women are evident in the philosophy and art of Barbara Kruger.
The American artist famous for her conceptual art which weaves and incorporates words and images together in seeming subversive and opinionated collages affords individuals who view her art, a refreshing perspective on relevant social constructs which affect every individual. Kruger's art interestingly comes across as the negation of commercial advertising. What she evokes and communicates through her art is the presence of social constructs which exists and abounds inescapably in the society we live in and belong to.
Kruger presents these constructs and creates satirical or mock interpretations of the realities which every individual is immersed in. Kruger's perspective on what constitutes a woman is made evident in her collages and illustrations which depict women, for instance, incapacitated by pins stuck across their body, concluded by an ironic message written in bold text in the middle of the illustration which pronounces, “We have received orders not to move” (Untitled 1982).
And another of a woman's face split vertically in two parts, one perfectly distinct and ideal, and the other muted in negative art, aptly entitled, “Your Body Is A Battleground. ” Kruger's photographs and illustrations present social constructs in a tone and platform which effectively conveys her aim to deconstruct them.
The manner by which Barbara Kruger's art differs from that which is presented in advertising exists in the reality that Kruger, as an artist, and as a woman is communicating and expressing an extension of herself, her ideals and perspective on women and how they are portrayed are translated into the aforementioned art forms, whereas commercial advertisements are products of a market which intends to peddle an “ideal” version of women, one which exists as a facade, and in less organic and realistic forms.
Ultimately, as Barbara Kruger has already aptly put it, every woman's body is a battleground, women should not only be aware of the roles, standards and definitions being set regarding who or what a woman should be, but also take necessary steps in challenging and breaking free from these constructs. If not for every woman's sake, then for individuality, and the preservation of it.