'It's in His Eyes': The Negotiation and Interpretation of Masculinity using the Dolce Et Gabbana's 2005 Print Advertising Campaign
4th Workshop on Interpretive Consumer Research, EIASM, Marseilles
3 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2009
Date Written: April 26, 2007
The concept of 'masculinity' has over more years received increased attention within consumer research discourse suggesting the potential of a 'crisis of masculinity', symptomatic of a growing feminisation, or 'queering' of visual imagery and consumption (e.g. Patterson & Elliott, 2002). Although this corpus of research has served to enrich the broader gender identity debate, it is, arguably, still relatively underdeveloped and therefore warrants further insight and elaboration. The aim of this paper is, therefore, to explore how masculinity is represented and interpreted by men using the Dolce et Gabbana men's 2005 print advertising campaign. The rationale for using this particular campaign is that it is one of the most homoerotic, provocative, and well publicised campaigns to cross over from the 'gay' media to more mainstream UK men's magazines. Masculinity, and what it means to be 'masculine', manifests itself within particular ideological, moral, cultural and hegemonic discourses. Masculinity is not a homogenous term which can be simply reduced, and ascribed, to those born as 'male' rather than 'female'. One may exhibit different degrees of masculinity or femininity, depending on social-cultural situation regardless of biological sex (Eagly 1987; Putreve, 2001). Fischer and Arnold (1994) suggest, for example, that masculine and feminine identities are 'orthogonal' rather than 'bi-polar' concepts, entangled and enmeshed together in a dialectical relationship. Therefore, it is more appropriate to consider multiple masculinities, which are plural, transient and ephemeral. As Askegaard (1991) maintains socio-cultural identity concerns' questions such as "who are we and who are the others?" and "how are we related to each other?". Advertising images, and imagery, attempt to answer some of these questions, through the continual negotiation of both individually and culturally accepted masculinities. Masculinity is not merely a 'visual' concept but advertisers have begun to represent 'visions of masculinity' to entice male consumers (e.g. Schroeder & Borgerson, 1998; Schroeder & Zwick, 2004). The portrayal of masculinity through the representation of male body has emerged from that of the muscle bound, rugged, 'cowboy', the stereotypical 'heterosexual masculinity' of the 1960s, to the 'New Man' of the 1980s: a more sensitive man who is in touch with his 'feminine' emotional side (Patterson & Elliott, 2002). The 'New Man' has been recently reinvented, taking the form of the 'metrosexual male' - the 'straight' man who dresses 'gay' - which is increasingly been used as a marketing ploy to target products, particularly clothes and cosmetics, at younger men (Simpson, 2002). This, in turn, has led to increased men's participation in the wider cultural arenas of consumption as well as encouraging visual consumption where 'men gaze at men' (e.g. Patterson & Elliott, 2002). A convenience sample of sixteen in-depth interviews was conducted with self-identified 'straight' men, between the ages of 18 and 24. Within the interview context, each respondent was asked to construct of collage of their masculine self ideals using images from men's magazines. Following the logic of 'photo-elicitation' and 'auto-driving' (Heisley & Levy, 1991), respondents were then given a copy of the Dolce et Gabanna print ads, which they were asked to describe in detail. Our findings would suggest that, for these men the visual images contained within the ads were largely rejected as representative of a singular, hegemonic, notion of 'masculinity'. The men voiced varying degree of distaste of the use and representation of the male models displaying interest and intrigue in each other in various state of undress with little, or no, reference to women within the ads. These models were not axiomatically considered as not being 'masculine' but were defended as "definitely not being 'gay'". A further concurrent theme was the continuous need for the men to demonstrate and reinforce their own masculinity by discursively 'proving' themselves as heterosexual men. Our tentative conclusions argue that masculinity manifests itself in not only what is included in the ads, and what is not, but also, more importantly, in the intangible spirit or character of the visual imagery. This masculine spirit is expressed visually via physical body image, but more insightful interpretation of masculinity is embodied within body language and gaze, as illustrated in Figure 1.
Keywords: Dolce et Gabbana's ads, masculinity
JEL Classification: M37
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation