There is an increasing trend for fashion houses to glamorise death. The obsession with beautiful dead women has seen a number of recent ad campaigns idolise death, murder and suicide in women’s fashion. Young girls are being told that you can even look sexy when you are dead.

Taking the theme of ‘dead women are sexy’, Gucci recently featured a new ad campaign shot in Marrakech which showed models lying lifeless in the desert sand.

More disturbingly are the more graphic ads which further suggest that the model’s demise has been the result of male violence. Ads like Duncan Quinn show a man in a smart suit who has clearly strangled a woman. She is wearing nothing but sexy underwear and is lying motionless on the bonnet of a car.

Another ad by Dolce and Gabbana (later banned in Italy) featured a woman being pinned down by a man while a group of men looked on (waiting their turn?) the scene looked like a gang rape, and yet it was actually selling shoes.

Author of Getting Real and Generation Next speaker, Melinda Tankard Reist is a long standing campaigner for the portrayal of sexualisation and violence against women in the media to be banned.

“All these images and messages make a mockery of global campaigns to stop the abuse of women. They feed violence, fuel violence and contribute to an environment which every day becomes more dangerous for women and girls” she said.

Now to suicide – The South Korean fashion label Lewitt recently engaged American photographer Ryan McGinley to make a video promoting their brand of clothing.

It featured Australian model Abbey Lee Kershaw and was apparently inspired by Alice in Wonderland. However the clip depicts Kershaw jumping from a tall building rather than falling down something. Her climb to the top of the building, hesitation before jumping and free fall as she tumbles down over the building all feature multiple changes of wardrobe.

But Alice in Wonderland wasn’t climbing a very tall building with the intent of throwing herself off, oh no, she fell down a rabbit hole and it was an accident.

Adolescent psychologist and Generation Next speaker Dr Michael Carr-Gregg commented that it seemed like an odd concept for promoting fashion to young women in a country that boasts one of the world’s highest female suicide rates. Odder still, given that seven models have committed suicide in the last 2 years (4 by jumping), including South Korea’s Daul Kim who committed suicide in November 2009.

The data showed that 18.7 out of every 100,000 South Korean women committed suicide in 2008 while suicide rates in other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries remained stable (source: World Health Organisation 2008).

Julie Gale, founder of Kids Free 2B Kids suggested calling for a protocol where these themes are not used. Just like newspapers have an ethic of not reporting suicides. She went on to say that the Advisory Group on Body Image set up by Youth Minister Kate Ellis in March 2009, should be looking into advertising which depicts acts of self harm such as suicide as glamorous and something to aspire to.

At the time of the launch she said “The Advisory Group will help to develop a new Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image, and provide advice to the Government on a national response.”

“Young Australians are telling us loud and clear that they are concerned about negative body image and the impact that it has on them, their friends and the community,” said Ms Ellis.

“This is a very complex issue and the Government believes the most affective approach is to work in partnership with the media, health sector, fashion industry and young people themselves to develop a national approach to tackle negative body image in a coordinated and targeted way.”

Melinda Tankard Reist, when talking about suicide and body image said “now Lindsay Lohan, soaked in blood, is showing us you can still sell yourself as a sex object while threatening to kill yourself.”

She added “self harm is the highest cause of hospital admission for girls aged 13 to 19 in Australia. Should it be treated so lightly? Should it be seen as something you do if you want to be seen as hot and sexy? Branding yourself with blood as some kind of artistic statement?”

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Dr Michael Carr-Gregg. Melinda Tankard Reist. Kids Free 2B Kids (Julie Gale)