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Fashion and Violence

Have you ever looked at an image in a magazine that at first glance is shocking, painful and slightly uncomfortable and then after a while becomes acceptable because you become desensitized to the original emotion?

I for one have been guilty of brushing vivid images aside but how much of my apathy is tolerating the passive projection of others suffering especially if the images contain some form of violence ?

Just because I am afforded the luxury of buying a fashion magazine, does it make it acceptable for me to be inundated with graphic images of women photographed with violent physical injuries such as: facial acid burns, viciously torn out piercing, deep flesh wounds under a caption of "Victim of Beauty"?. Is this really what I should be accepting as fashion or art ? Do I respond by agreeing with the author who emphasizes the seemingly harmless promotion of make-up.Or as the recipient of the image do I express my disapproval of the vicious brutal appearance of these women, which clearly screams violence! Specifically – violence against women.

In the first place, these images were designed with a preconceived idea to evoke some form of emotion.  Therefore I am allowed to be angry and concerned about the impact of these images. The questions I should be asking are: do these women seem victimized? In which case the answer is yes because they have sustained some horrific injuries. For me, I feel that the greater danger is the impact of the after life of such  images! With any image that can be stored and viewed countless number of times it is absolutely vital to have a conscious awareness of the culture that image may create which may or may have not been the original intention of the image. But the reality is that an image can serve to change the perceptions of the future and therefore impact the future adversely or for the best. Is it acceptable then to have a legacy of images showcasing mutilated women solely for the purposes of fashion or art ? Almost everybody would agree that that is atrocious because it is condoning abuse, victimization and violence of women.

I feel it is morally concerning when Vogue Homme magazine’s front cover page, pastes a female model being choked whilst suggestively being caressed. This provocative image titillating an act of "passion" is rather very disturbing because it is a devious manipulation to boost sales. On the other hand who is the target audience and what message is this image projecting? From a young women's perspective does it allow me make an informed decision on whether I should or should not be choked within the confines of a relationship ? As a young man, do I assume that all women like to be choked and if so how much choking is acceptable?

This lack of accountability is staggering especially when choking accounts for 11% of domestic abuse. This is not to be considered lightly as an expression of passion but rather an act of violence. It is a shame that such prestigious magazines continue glorifying the objectification of women, which directly and indirectly perpetuates violence against women.

Ultimately I feel that as a recipient of an aggressive abusive image, I do not want to be in the position of condoning another woman’s suffering. I cannot displace my guilt on an image when I allow the objectification of the subjects. These women are subjects to the magazine shoot or the agent that pays them but where is the empowerment if I the reader view them as an object/ victim? Therefore we all have a duty to respond not as passive observers but as impassioned viewers with zero tolerance to violence!

Mwansa Makubalo

Mwansa Makubalo is a 25 year old Zambian female, currently working with Evangelical Alliance Wales as Research Assistant on violence against women and anti-trafficking issues.   If you have any comments on the article, email Mwansa on


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