Off With Her Head: The Headless Woman’s Place in Art and Ads

Could it get any cuter?

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deviantART / rgt
deviantART / rgt

A model leans back on a white chair, red minidress hugging her curves, stiletto heels propped in the air, Santa hat perched on the stump of her neck. “Happy ‘Headless’ Holidays from rgt!” the anonymous photoshop artist writes over the decapitated woman — one of many displayed on rgt’s DeviantArt online profile.

Thursday, The Daily  Dot reported on the visual world’s latest fetish, er, trend: Photoshopping the heads off women. Images of seductive, headless models prostrated on beds, clinging to stripper poles, tanning on the beach, or sitting on a stool with Chihuahuas skulls replacing their own populate DeviantArt’s digital gallery accompanied by comments like “that is true feminine perfection!” Because heads only lead to mouths which lead to talking, and who needs that.

Although there is an element of artistic digital dexterity in these images, it is hard to ignore their basic element of objectification. While some could be making a cultural statement, others (with names like “Headless Hot girl twenty-whatever does X sexy thing”) are clearly for aesthetics.

headless woman art

deviantART / ozim479

Even if this problematic trend is labeled new, it actually has a long history not only in art but in mainstream advertising. There’s a history of images of headless models peddling products that get okayed up the corporate chain of command and turn into expensive international campaigns, as the images below demonstrate.

BMW sexist ad headless woman

BMW

tom ford sexist ad headless

Tom Ford

Lynx ad wash me sexist headless

Lynx

mercedes sexista ad women headless

Mercedes

Celine ad headless sexist

Celine

According to Ms., “Headless women… make it easy to see them as only a body by erasing the individuality communicated through faces, eyes and eye contact.” They’re sub-human. Interchangeable. Beautiful objects whose thoughts and feelings can’t be dismissed–because they don’t have them at all.

13 comments
aroth
aroth

So someone found the NBM (Natural Body Magic) fetish and jumped to conclusions. It is not about objectifying women, there are countless more works in this category that the girl's head is just detached and somewhere nearby, or she's split at the waist like the magicians trick, and various other states of detached body parts. its just a weird fetish developed in people...

DannyboyO1
DannyboyO1

Crazy article. Author goes looking for a weird fetish, finds it, and thinks it "means something". And that the internet comments might mean something newsworthy. They're internet comments on fetish imagery. You don't go to an S&M club and act shocked at the latex. "Foot fetishists really into shoes!" isn't a moving headline.

But the worst? Telling the folks who are into this fantasy that they're wrong for their fantasy. I don't care what gender or body type a person favors. This is a quite unattainable standard of beauty... and purely for fantasy. How many people have pictured themselves with some celebrity like George Clooney or Christina Hendricks? That's only slightly more realistic a fantasy... and yet it gets a pass because it's normal... and all it means is that they think that actor or actress is attractive. They have a thing for blondes or redheads... or that perfect salt & pepper hair with a deep voice and strong arms. This is another harmless fantasy about a relationship that's never going to happen.

It is so very not okay to attack someone on the basis that their favorite thing (so long as no one is harmed without consent) is wrong. It's at the heart of every bit and type of queer bashing. Or the hubbub between people who chose different video game console brands. It's human nature, but so's overeating and yelling in traffic... and we don't pretend that's good for us.


Hardly a new thing, anyway. Google image search for "silent woman tavern". There's some old places that use similar imagery... to attract clientele that want to drink, have money to drink... and that overlaps nicely with family men who want a bit of peace of quiet. Now those have an element of misogyny... although they'd consider it more of a battered husbands shelter, I'm sure. It's an old joke, that is.

DanBruce
DanBruce

TIME seems to be running quite a few articles written by headless women lately.

litdstudios
litdstudios

Hasty Conclusion comes to mind when looking at this. It goes from some pictures of the group to ads. Makes sense.

litdstudios
litdstudios

This sounds like Faux News looking at Video Games, with the same kind of conclusions.

GuoLiang
GuoLiang

This sounds like a feminist whine.


The phenomenon simply reflect what men have always wanted. Male sexual attraction IS objectification, everything else is an afterthought. Guys who tell you different are liars or dishonest with themselves.

MelissaHancock
MelissaHancock

@GuoLiang If that's the case than I guess we should all just be a bunch of feminist lesbians and leave people like you to play with themselves.

MatthewGunselman
MatthewGunselman

Most people inevitably objectify other people sometimes, but treating an entire sex of people as objects instead of humans is unethical and dehumanizing. It promotes rape culture and the idea that women are disposable and less than men. Do a little research and educate yourself on the issues.

Cabaedium
Cabaedium

@GuoLiang I feel bad for any women you date. It's possible (and healthy) to be attracted to the person, did you know that? You kind of sound like a rapist.

litdstudios
litdstudios

@MatthewGunselman you do realize the article is sort of connecting the dots where they shouldn't to come up with said conclusion? The poster takes one particular artist's pictures, then links them with random ads that you obviously shouldn't take seriously.


No one in the group the art is from thinks that all women are objects.

MelissaHancock
MelissaHancock

@Cabaedium I think I'm in love with you & Matthew! =) But unfortunately it's back to the feminist lesbian lifestyle for me since according to GuoLiang male attractions not really worth my time. Shame. =/

litdstudios
litdstudios

@MatthewGunselman The reason I brought that part up about people in the group is because if you want to show examples, you'll want them to be more valid. Showing someone like RGT's art, then going to awful magazine ads most likely found in some generic sports magazine and saying there's this mass misogyny is called Hasty Conclusion.


  While I would say that some impressionable people (see: dumb) would look at these and think of women as objects, more intellectual people like you and I will just see the people behind the ads as desperate idiots trying to make a quick buck from said impressionable people. 

MatthewGunselman
MatthewGunselman

I didn't say the people in the group think women are objects, but the images they create treat women as objects. Their images relate to the obstruction of women's faces in advertising which helps reinforce the idea that a woman's body is the only relevant thing about her. As I said, that indifference to the personhood of women promotes rape culture. I want to point out that I'm NOT saying that these artists or even the advertisers are creating ads with the INTENTION of treating women as objects, just that the images they do make work together to form a troubling trend that has broader implications besides just aesthetics or the goal of selling a product.