We wanted to do a bruised-up Barbie shoot

Commenter Grace pointed out an interesting fashion shoot by the photographer Tyler Shields…

Photo of Glee's Heather Morris by Tyler Shields

Amusing, eh?

“Even Barbie gets bruises,” writes Shields on his blog, where he’s hawking 100 limited edition prints from the shoot.

More shocking than the photos’ light-hearted depiction of domestic violence, is the de ja vu factor. Haven’t we seen this before, like, a lot? Only a few weeks ago, we were talking about a Salon ad with a photo of a bruised model. And before that, a handful of high fashion campaigns featuring women being beaten, bruised, and impaled. Domestic violence, it seems, has become the surefire way to get your fashion spread to stand out.

“In no way were we promoting domestic violence,” Shields tells E! News. “We wanted to do a bruised-up Barbie shoot and that’s exactly what we did!”

A jokey smirky “playful” “ironic” bruised-up Barbie shoot.

Let’s see…How about a jokey smirky “playful” “ironic” bruised-up Bobby shoot, in which Bobby is a gay man who’s been beaten up by the local homophobes? Or one in which Bobby is a black man who’s been tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged? Would that seem like a good idea for a fashion shoot?

Ah but you see those are not domestic. Domestic violence is next door to a sitcom.


  1. raymoscow says

    The woman is tied up with an iron cord, with the iron itself held by a man’s hand. Looks pretty ‘domestic’ and ‘violent’ to me.

    Luckily this one is just fake, but it’s sad that some people think a bruised woman is ‘sexy’. See, she’s trying to smile, so it’s OK. (NOT)

  2. Trebuchet says

    The size of her waist is rather offensive as well. The black eye is just makeup but the malnutrition is real physical abuse by the entire fashion industry.

  3. AbnormalWrench says

    Before I read the title or the message, I saw the image. My first thought was, “what a witty mocking of traditional servitude of women’s role in society!”. And then I read the piece and realized, my immediate recognition of being handcuffed to an iron like a slave is not mockery in how over the top it is….it is exactly 180 degrees the opposite. It is an endorsement!

    I would be curious what tiny little sliver of people that would even vaguely see this as an endorsement, and what kind of bizarre fetishes are they trying to overcome?

  4. Dave J L says

    With boring predictability some of the comments on the blog simply don’t get it.

    “Who cares if this looks like glamorization of domestic violence? It’s a photoshoot, not actual domestic violence.”

    That makes everything ok, of course. It’s not real, therefore no possible harm can come from it. How can people think so superficially? Do they think society can be broken down into tiny separate elements which exist in a vacuum, never contributing to a wider culture?

    “There are no rules that need to be taken into account, there is no responsibility.”

    Same thing again. He’s an artist! It’s all about him! He needs to spend not one second considering his potential responsibilities!

    Now I think there aren’t areas that art (or indeed comedy) shouldn’t be allowed to go, but how artists deal with whatever subject matter is very important, and I find it hard to see these pictures as anything other than shallow fashion shoot-style images with nothing to say.

  5. ginmar says

    It’s funny how the comments make light of and brush off the reality of abuse. Where’s Bruce Gorton?

  6. sailor1031 says

    Well it’s more of that social intelligence stuff innit? Or rather a total lack of same. Shields and Heather Morris should be ashamed of themselves. But some of the comments on that blog indicate that they have a ready audience for this nasty stuff….

  7. says

    There were some pretty stupid comments at that post. Dave J L pointed out a particularly toxic one, which seemed to pretend that art means nothing. Another of the worst:

    how do u get violence against women out of these pics do u see a man or women in any of these picturesharming her? i see a arm of someone…everyone these days thinking that someone is being abuse…….ITS a PICTURE thats thats i like them my frist though was car accident just my thougt……

    However, I do think it should be pointed out that this photo shoot could in fact be a statement about the tragedy of domestic violence; that women are constantly expected to be cheery, and smile (Barbie, in fact, is incapable of anything else), even when awful things are happening to them. A narrative about domestic violence isn’t automatically in favor of it.

    I am not possessed of what the artists actually intended; but I do think it’s entirely possible that it was something pro-feminist. Neither Shields nor Morris seem interested in answering for it, though, which does seem to indicate that it was probably thoughtless trend-following, unconcerned with sexism.

  8. Bruce Gorton says

    You know I honestly thought this sort of sick shit was eliminated from our culture years ago? I know it is naive but I really did.

    And to see it there.

    Tyler Shields should be out of a job. This should be an albatross around his neck whenever he wants to get someone to buy his pictures.

    Is there some sort of campaign one can launch on this? I mean activism managed to get the “Too pretty for homework” shirts pulled. Is there anything similar one can do here?


  9. Bruce Gorton says

    Cross posted there:

    If you support this. If you defend this.

    You are sick.

    I have seen pictures of dead babies in garbage cans, I have seen photographs of people being burned alive. I am the guy they call on when it needs a strong stomach and what goes through my mind in each case is – the photographer wants to expose evil.

    This picture glories in it, and thus turns my stomach. Trivialising abuse is not right.

  10. Bruce Gorton says


    You have formed your opinion of me, nothing I can do or say would change it, and frankly, I don’t want you to like me. You’re an asshole and quite frankly there are better people here to talk to.

  11. Ophelia Benson says

    Good comments, Bruce.

    Don’t be cross with ginmar. I was confused about what you were saying. Consider it a matter of cross-purposes.

  12. Danie says

    Seriously, that is NOT funny.

    Not only is that a smack in the face to all women, it puts us down and belittles us. We are no longer tied to the kitchen sink (or even the ironing board). No matter what any mere BLOKE may think.

    That said, I spent 4 hours doing the ironing today, because I have been so busy lately I’d fallen behind. Busy, may I add, with my new job, which will end up earning me more money than I ever earned for a year’s work in my life before.

  13. julian says

    Are there any artist or people here knowledgeable in the field that might know what he’s getting at? I don’t want to be unfair but from my ignorant position this looks like the equivalent of a dead baby joke.

  14. Gabriel says

    I really love this photo set, as a set. It looks (to me) more like barbie rebelling against forced* gender conformity (which, I think, when forced, gendering becomes violence/abuse). Look at the whole set before blasting this one photo is all I am saying.

  15. Grace says

    “Even Barbie gets bruises,” Sheilds says. “We wanted to do a bruised-up Barbie shoot and that’s exactly what we did!”

    Fluid, a hair salon in Canada, also did a bruised woman shoot. The owners defended it saying people are getting ‘too sensitive.’

    And a Duncan Quinn ad for men’s suits has what seems to be a dead or drugged woman being dragged by a noose or tie around her neck:

    And gange rape is also funny:

    So, totally, violence against women isn’t trivialized AT ALL these days.

  16. ginmar says

    Come on, Bruce. Tell us all how you recognize that forced starvation of women is a serious problem but blah blah blah about men in fashion, how they suffer and they should be recognized—by women?—-and then do nothing but talk about men. Especially when the topic is women.

  17. Bruce Gorton says

    Ophelia Benson

    I think for the most part it was. I won’t be replying to anything ginmar has to post because frankly we have enough of a personality clash that I think it would just descend into a flame-war, which isn’t fair to the rest of the posters.

  18. ginmar says

    Has he ever successfully answered anything I’ve said? He hasn’t answered when it’s been proven he omitted so many facts it amounts to lying, he keeps trying to move the goalposts, and above all else…he protests that he walks the walks, when all he talks about is how men are abused by women….when male writers control the show. He never responds when someone proves him to be a cherrypicker of such an extreme that it’s dishonest. He’s never answered a single charge without moving goalposts and shouting about how he’s being treated horribly.

  19. Gabriel says

    Ginmar, so awesome to read your reply! Let me respond and know that I respect what you’ve said and challenge it with the spirit of being intellectually stimulated.

    Even language is a type of conformity. There can be a sense of kinship, safety, and community via conformity; and by conformity we could also call it a similarity in communication and identification, (a) shared worldview(s), if that makes sense?

    My own personal identity is genderqueer on a non masc/fem spectrum; however, I am not out to eradicate euro-centered genders within the “binary” (which is much more complex than just two as even masculinity and femininity encompass more than two gendersl just look at race, class, ability, etc and there are multiple masculinities and femininities according to… was it Judith Lorber? I don’t recall at the moment. So, yes, I think there can be gender without violence, just as their can be other identities without violence, per say. Though, there are many angles from which to debate the statement I have just made. I can acknowledge that saying “without violence” is only valid in some contexts revolving around the definition of violence.

  20. ginmar says

    Intellectually stimulated?! Hello, condescension. This is my life you’re talking about. Let me guess. You whine about how there’s no white history month in the spirit of joyous community college debate, right?

    Any time somebody responds with a preface that’s longer and more sincere than their recognition of sexism against women (half the world’s population) and/or violence against said women I know I’m in for bullshit. Sometimes the bullshit is pretentious and/or well meaning, sometimes it’s just bullshit. Reality doesn’t change; bullshit adapts. All of it’s designed to ignore a basic central fact:

    Men own far more power and prestige than women do world wide and they use that power to abuse, rape, beat, and murder women.

    Whining about genders and identities comes at several levels of luxury above trying to not get stoned for being raped, asshole.

    You’re wasting my time with pretense and top-of-the-pyramid luxuries.

  21. Gabriel says

    Ginmar, it was not my intention to be condescending. Nor do you know what color my skin is, what is between my legs now or in the past. I was sincerely moved by your challenge that all gender conformity could be violence. As a published gender theorist, I thought, even assumed, that you might participate in a conversation about various perspectives concerning gender and identity. I was clearly mistaken, and my response to your response was not appreciated.

    To your comment that this is your life I am talking about, did it not occur to you that this has also been my life, that I have a severe, gender-related, trauma history, and also, that I am not a man?

    As for half the world’s population being women, I will object and say that there are many gender systems across the world, most of which have been discoursively left out of conversations where I live (the US) (if this is news to you then there is my point). “Woman” is not one concept but many that differs by class, race, religion, ability, time in history, and geographical space. And beyond that there are more genders that just women and men and there are even people who exist without gender identification. The the assumption that the socio-historical context of the Euro-centered binary of “men” and “women” is in itself acts of cultural appropriation and cultural erasure. But even according to western scientific standards, there are a minimum of 120 sexes. How were only two recognized and given protections under US laws?

    So, when I say that I am aware of sexism and gender-motivated violence, I am intimately aware of these concepts as intimate as the first person.

    Stepping back though, I have hit a chord somewhere. Something I said previously may have made you feel that I was trying to invalidate your experiences. Just as I feel that most people aren’t even aware of my experiences because they aren’t necessarily those of a woman’s or a mans, your experiences are just as real and I apologize if something I said contributed to your feelings of marginalized.

  22. Grace says

    Is there any reason why my posts aren’t going through. Did I says something more offensive than Tom Martin?
    I give up.

  23. Bernard Bumner says

    Fashion revels in destructive imagery, but what else to expect from an industry that has turned a blind eye to sexual exploitation of young and vulnerable workers and the systematic promotion of body dysmorphia/exercise addiction/eating disorders as career development tools?

    Promotion and publicity at any cost for the sake of the profits and egos of the men in charge.

    I really love this photo set, as a set. It looks (to me) more like barbie rebelling against forced* gender conformity (which, I think, when forced, gendering becomes violence/abuse). Look at the whole set before blasting this one photo is all I am saying.

    Abused woman attacks abuser’s genitals after being beaten, bound, and attacked with a domestic appliance. This is not a story of glorious empowerment.

    In the real world:

    a) She ends up being prosecuted and punished, even though she perpetrated an act of desparate resitance after reaching breaking point. His abuse which precipitated the attack goes unpunished through lack of evidence/because he gets the sympathy vote/she feels too guilty to press charges.


    b) She attacks his genitals and he responds by maiming or killing her.

  24. Ophelia Benson says

    Grace – don’t give up! Your comments are good. That one got held because of links, that’s all; sorry.

  25. Gabriel says

    I had no idea, Bernard, that going for the genitals is a regularly occurring response to abuse. Once you mentioned it my brain latched on to a few media highlights. I’ve survived gender motivated violence in and out of relationships but never thought of going for people’s genitals; and so I wonder if the artist considered that at all. Possibly, possibly.

    I refrain from adding an absolute meaning to these photographs. I can nod and say “yes, there is a dominant culture that encourages images of violent masculinity activated against women and as such we have a vast reservoir within which scenes of violence against women are repeated ad nausea and from which people can interpret these photographs as abuse.” However, I reserve my absolute (<–keyword here folks) judgement knowing clearly that dominant culture frames might be dominant, but are not in fact the only frames from which to create meaning.

    As creating alternatives to popular arguments is an interest of mine and I have done this, I now exit this conversation as I have nothing left to contribute on that side of things.

  26. Grace says

    My comment went through, I didn’t know why the others went through with the link but these didn’t seem to. Sorry, I’m new here, it was getting a little frustrating.
    About this photo shoot: I don’t know why anyone would love them, to me they seem in keeping with the guy at Manboobz saying women cause violence against women because we know men will smash our faces in if we don’t know our place. These images are just part of the blatant threats used to keep women in line, they don’t seem to be about celebrating rebelling against gender roles unless they’re trying to show what happens to women who do.

  27. ginmar says

    Grabriel, I don’t care. I don’t care what your bona fides are, I don’t buy that you’re genuinely moved or what the fuck ever, all I care is that you think you have something stimulating and intellectual to offer me over the bodies of abused and murdered women.

    That’s some distance you’ve got from what you say affects you so deeply. Not to mention you think you’ve got something to talk down to me about.

    Those patronizing little lectures say a lot about how you view violence—and women.

    Don’t lecture me on women and gender roles and history, thanks. And that fake apology really sealed the deal. Nice try making it about me instead of about you.

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