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.