Friday, March 6th, 1998
C/o Details Magazine
New York, NY 10012
Dear Mr. Caruso,
I would like to bring to your attention the advertising campaign your magazine used for the March 1998 issue of Details. To my horror, “The Accidental Killer” featured the use of dead female bodies as mannequins to display fashions from many different clothing companies. It also made me extremely uncomfortable to see well-known celebrities endorsing such an obviously misogynist attempt to gain publicity.
Not only does there seem to be a lack of female intervention into the creation of this pseudo-movie, there seems to be an almost complete exclusion of people of colour. The one time there is a non-white person on the “set”, this man is portrayed and stylized to resemble an exploitative pimp. This man is unrepresentative of people of colour in our society.
Your pseudo-movie also excludes people who are homosexual, old, or even dis/abled. The characters in the shoot are very heterosexual. The killer himself goes out of his way to maintain sexual relationships with two women.
This pseudo-movie glamorizes death. It uses death to sell clothing. This is not an androgynistic death, but solely the death of women. We see them lying on the ground in contorted positions with blood running out their mouths or heads. We see them lying alone and alienated in morgues. There is no respect for these dead women. They are on display, to be gazed at by all the people your magazine is circulated to. We do not feel pity for them. We instead, notice that the clothing they are wearing comes from Couture Givenchy or Dolce & Gabbana. Have you ever seen a victim of a violent crime? Being a victim is definitely not as glamorous as you portray it. You make it seem trendy and this is an irresponsible attitude to have.
The killer himself shows no remorse for the destruction he has initiated. His first taste of murder only piques his appetite for it. He is not punished by society; no, actually, he rewarded by it with the highest honours for “acting” available in America. He uses women to gain his own twisted publicity, much like your magazine is doing. He uses the murder of women to gain power and self-confidence.
This parallels the reason why men kill women in real-life, especially their own wives and lovers. Are you aware that 30% of women murdered are done so by their husbands or lovers? Have you seen the numbers of women sexually assaulted by men? I have. I work for an organization on a university campus that strives to make students aware of the issues concerning personal safety and acquaintance sexual assault. I have seen first hand the destructive attitudes that face women.
I have no idea how you could have made this fashion shoot more acceptable. Maybe it would come with an examination of your attitude towards women. Maybe an apology is necessary. No matter what you do, however, you have lost my trust. I will no longer purchase your magazine. Nor will I buy products from any of the companies featured in the shoot. My organization has begun a letter writing campaign against this kind of portrayal of women by the media. We will be notifying our local newspapers, television news studios, campus media, and the companies advertising in your magazine. I personally will spread the word about this terrible demonstration of misogyny and encourage my friends, family, and co-workers partake in a boycott of any organization associated with this pseudo-movie. That may include missing a Billy Zane movie, or throwing out my Calvin Klein jeans, but whatever it takes, I hope that our actions provoke you to review, correct, and improve the ways in which your magazine represents women.
I use the word misogynist because any undertaking that defiles and degrades women, such as in your advertisements, is very androcentric and anti-woman. I notice that the story was written by a man, directed by a man, photographed by a man, and produced by men. If women were included in the decision making aspects of this “movie”, I’m sure this photo shoot would have been much different. Instead, it is their dead bodies you admire, not their qualifications and professional abilities.
In closing, I wish to reassert my outrage at your trivilization of violence against women. I think it is a deplorable way to sell clothing. You do not present your readers with any positive role models. You tell your male readers that their degradation of women is acceptable and that they will see positive results of their abuse. You tell your female readers that they are nothing more than sex objects and clothing mannequins. I will be expecting a response to this letter, or further action will be necessary.
Safer Campus Peer Educators
University of British Columbia
Ralph Lauren’s Response:
May 7th, 1998
Senior Vice President
Worldwide Communications and New Projects
Dear Ms. Ingram,
Thank you for your recent letter regarding the March 1998 issue of Details magazine. I wanted to take the time to clarify the situation for you. The image you refer to is not a Ralph Lauren advertisement. They are our garments used in a magazine’s editorial pages. These pages are styled by the magazine with no direction from our company and we have no editorial control of the process.
We do realize our responsibility as a global brand and our products, as well as our advertising, reflect a respect and appreciation for the women who wear our clothes. You should also know that much of our philanthropic work has been dedicated to the betterment of women’s’ lives, like our commitment to the Nina Hyde Breast Cancer Foundation and the Network for Women’s Services, a legal aid organization for domestic violence victims.
I hope this addresses your concerns and that we can continue to count on you as a loyal customer.
650 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Giorgio Armani’s Response:
July 20th, 1998
Dear Ms. Ingram,
I am writing to respond to your letter of April 14th concerning the editorial feature in Details Magazine that includes clothing from the Giorgio Armani collection.
I feel it is important to explain that the article you cite in Details is not an advertising campaign, but rather, editorial coverage that is controlled by the publication. Our part in this process is simply to fulfill a request from the magazine to borrow merchandise. Since we are not given advance information regarding the content of the story, we have no prior knowledge of or authority over how the clothes are used. In this regard, I can confirm that it was not our intent to contribute to a negative image of women.
We regret that you have come to associate Giorgio Armani with violence against women. I can assure you that we take great care to choose images that reflect popular culture but that do not promote violence or sexual aggression. We participate on a regular basis in charitable campaigns that support non-violence. Finally, we strongly believe that over the past 25 years, Giorgio Armani has contributed significantly to establishing a strong positive image of women.
Director of Public Relations
Giorgio Armani Corporation
114 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011