We know there’s sexism in Hollywood – but why is the industry removing women’s faces from posters and pictures?
New York based stand-up comedian, musician and writer Marcia Belsky has started a tumblr page to shed light on the fact that women are being beheaded by marketing campaigns in Hollywood and the media.
Her tumblr is called, “The Headless Women of Hollywood” and it highlights many images of sexualised women without any heads.
Belsky tells SBS that the project was inspired years ago from a combination of things that she learned at school regarding gender, pop culture and advertising.
“A professor shocked me when he showed me decades of images from advertising and television where women's bodies are fragmented into consumable and sexualised parts,” she says.
She explains that the continuing dehumanisation and fragmentation of images we see of the female body does have an effect on women.
“When we are depicted and cast as only bodies, we internalise that our primary value is our body above all else. We are set clear standards for an ideal, and women who don't match that ideal are made to feel their bodies don't exist, or that their bodies do not have sexual appeal. And women whose bodies do match the ideal are told their bodies are interchangeable and primarily meant to be consumed. It's lose-lose in terms of how we view ourselves and how others see and treat us as women,” she says.
Images from Belsky’s school days stuck with her and as the years went by she kept seeing pictures of, “decapitated women everywhere,” most prominently in film and television.
“When I would point it out, people would mostly dismiss it or not grasp the prevalence of these images of dehumanised women,” she says.
The artist says it’s hard to get into all of the problems Hollywood and pop culture have with women, which is part of the reason she chose to make the topic of her blog so specific and visual.
“Ultimately, [the media] do it because the numbers prove that this type of marketing works, and still works, very well. Objectification of women sells, and as long as it sells, they will keep selling it,” she says.
But the importance of putting an end to this sexism goes beyond the simple objectification of women.
“There’s a cultural element, in my opinion, that goes deeper,” Belsky says (much of this opinion is explained in the About page of her tumblr blog). “It’s the ingrained thought still permeating that women are, first and foremost, here for sexual desire and the purpose of men,” she says.
The blog stems from the fact that, mostly, our society is numb to these images. While not all women on posters or in pictures are fragmented or objectified, too many are.
Through her tumblr page Belsky hopes to create visibility for these headless women. She wants people to notice when they see a woman who has been disjointed and she wants girls to be taught how to look at themselves and decide their own value before considering their value to men.
“I want to make women laugh and talk about how these images affect us, and for men to laugh and to believe us when we say we are still often viewed as pieces of meat,” she says.
Belsky doesn’t ignore the removal of men’s heads in some images either. On her blog she addresses male headless images and talks about the difference between them and the ones we see of women.