Disembodied Women Take Five: Mouthing Off

According to the following posters, women have bright red mouths.  Wide open mouths with perfect white teeth.  That they can put things inside of.  See, women often have objects inside their bright red mouths, like golf balls or strawberries, that they’re usually biting.  And if they aren’t visibly biting anything, it’s implied that they’ve recently bitten something, what with them all sexy-licking the dripping blood off their–in case you forgot–bright red mouths.  Or maybe they’re just biting their own mouths.  Or maybe their mouths actually become food (bright red food, even). But if they aren’t biting anything, then the least those bright red mouths can do is stay silent.  In fact, looking at the posters in succession, one could even argue that all those bright red mouths (oh yeah, and the completely erased mouths) represent the silencing of women.  Who can talk while wearing an implied ball gag?  Or while eating?  Or when you don’t have a mouth?  Or when your mouth is, you know, really just a pair of red chili peppers?  Or if you’ve got a bloody knife pressed against it? Or if that shit is zipped shut?

As discussed in the other parts of this series, separating women from their body parts in media images subtly reinforces women’s status as commodities, or pleasure-objects, or victims, who aren’t valued as whole, and who are, as a result, denied their humanity.  And we all know, because we live in This Society and it’s 100% inescapable, that the representation of women’s mouths is all kinds of tied up in the mouth-as-vagina metaphor–with the accompanying requisite phallic cigarette and lipstick images apparently never getting old. (And I’d be thrilled to never have to hear the phrase “dick-sucking lips” ever. again.)  But if the mouth isn’t a vagina, then it’s a nonstop, life-ruining motormouth (ever hear someone call a man a motormouth?) that even Mr. Potato Head wants to slap the shit out of. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a look at the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head commercial that ran during the Superbowl.)  
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Molly Ringwald putting her lipstick on with her cleavage in The Breakfast Club is one of the most famous scenes in all of 80s film.  We’ve come a long way, baby!
  • Anonymous

    the rocky horror pic show one is actually men’s lips.

  • Yes, but this is still an example of disembodiment–even though the femininity is performed. Even a queer mouth is represented in constricted terms, sending the same message as the biologically female examples: a woman’s mouth is dangerous and meant for (a man’s) pleasure.

  • It is NOT actually man’s lips. If you watch any behind the scenes material for “Rocky Horror,” you’d know the lips on the poster (and singing, disembodied, in the opening of the movie) are both Patricia Quinn’s lips (the actress who played Magenta). While the singing voice in the opening of the film is a man’s (Richard O’Brien, who played Magenta’s brother/lover, Riff Raff), they used her lips.

  • lavinia!