On Faces and Defacement: The Case of Kate Moss

11 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2007

See all articles by Ruud Kaulingfreks

Ruud Kaulingfreks

University of Leicester

René ten Bos

Radboud University Nijmegen - Nijmegen School of Management


This paper takes issue with what seem to be standard practices of at least some organizations that use models in their ad campaigns. These organizations know that many of their models have had drug problems but refuse either to tolerate this or to help them. Some organizations have, allegedly in the name of a responsibility for the health of their customers, rather opted for a firm condemnation of the practices in which models such as Kate Moss apparently engage. This raises questions about hypocrisy. The paper uses Levinas's concept of the face critically to describe what might be going on in the conflict between Moss and some of the companies she worked for. Moss is arguably understood by these companies as a role model who should not engage with drugs or street life. Against these more or less patronizing tendencies, the paper claims that it is not so much the face but processes of defacement that should trouble us from a moral perspective. The face, it is maintained, is not only ethical but also has a materiality. In opposition to what is maintained by at least some scholars of Levinas, art, literature and history have alerted us over and over again that the face is anything but indelible. Some examples from art show us the versatility and vulnerability of the face. The gossip and hype about what came to be known as the Kate Moss affair stands, it is argued, in a long misogynic tradition of defacement.

Suggested Citation

Kaulingfreks, Ruud and ten Bos, René, On Faces and Defacement: The Case of Kate Moss. Business Ethics: A European Review, Vol. 16, Issue 3, pp. 302-312, July 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=998355 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8608.2007.00501.x

Ruud Kaulingfreks (Contact Author)

University of Leicester

University Road
Leicester, LE1 7RH
United Kingdom

René Ten Bos

Radboud University Nijmegen - Nijmegen School of Management

Thomas van Aquinostraat 3
P.O. Box 9108
Nijmegen, 6500HK

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