An Open Letter To All Those Connected With CW's "America's Next Top Model":
I'm writing to express my visceral horror at the March 21 episode of "America's Next Top Model," in which women were made to transform themselves into murdered corpses; that is, to make gunshots, electrocuted limbs, beaten faces, strangled and decapitated necks, and even a body whose organs appear to be stolen seem beautiful and sexually suggestive.
ANTM might argue that of course they don't want to see women dead, of course murder isn't beautiful, of course the challenge was intended as theater and fantasy, of course it isn't meant to be taken literally. Perhaps that's why the show hastened to say that the murders were committed by other models, as if that made the bloody images seem light and carefree. Oh, those silly, competitive gals! How funny.
But such a stance is so naive as to be laughable. It ignores the powerful (and obvious) context that the show operates in: a context in which women are brutalized everyday in such high numbers as to be no longer shocking. And that violence is closely tied to women's sexuality. Now, I might complain about our society's relative indifference. But ANTM made it clear that it's not just a matter of not caring about violence against women, but rather, such violence is actually seen as glamorous.
Thank you, Tyra Banks, for showing me exactly how hated women's bodies are.
No, I don't think your viewers are going to turn of the TV and head out to murder women. But cultural images like yours bear enormous weight. They normalize real images of hurt and dead women, so that they seem less alarming. Desensitized consumers of these images are far less likely to take action. And so, rather than take responsibility for your considerable influence, ANTM has chosen to contribute to the phenomenal problem of violence against women.
For a show that posits itself as fundamentally aspirational for millions of young women, the "dead model" stunt was unconscionable. To try to make the violated bodies of women a turn-on for viewers is disgusting.
I particularly fear for this episode's emotional affect on your viewers who have personally experienced terrible harm to their bodies.
The CW: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tyra Banks' production company: email@example.com
Tyra Banks' "Fan Mail": firstname.lastname@example.org
Sprint/Nextel (ANTM's sponsors): email@example.com
Sprint/Nextel's Director of Consumer and Business Communications, Laura Lisec: Laura.m.Lisec@sprint.com
Cover Girl cosmetics: Click the “Ask CG” section at the bottom of the page. Click the “E-mail Us” tab on the next page. This will bring you to a form where you can enter the appropriate information.
Proctor & Gamble, parent company of Cover Girl cosmetics: Click “Contact Us”, a small grey colored link at the bottom of the page. Under the “Contact Us” bullet point on the next page, there will be a link instructing you to click there to e-mail them. This will bring you to an e-mail form where you can enter the appropriate information.