“Woman in a pink dress and high heels” by Rikke V. Pedersen


The self-made metaphor illustrates the silhouette of a woman in a pink dress and high heels (the woman is not pregnant). The woman is outlined with black color and no details. She leans with one hand on the stroller and bends one leg a little. The stroller is more detailed but still roughly outlined. In the stroller is a pink stiletto shoe and on the side the text “my precious” appears. The intentionwith the image is to make a twist on women’s relation to shoes and emphasize a form of materialism. It is possible to turn the image into an actual ad for a shoe brand by showing a logo or a specific shoe, but that is not the case in this essay. The image should be viewed as a witty way of understanding women and shoes. There is a conviction that women love and are addicted to shoes which the image relates to. Furthermore women’s shoes are often valued in a way that other materialistic things are not – the shoes make the outfit. Shoes are often displayed almost as art and nursed more than other clothing items. The cultural context has an impact on the metaphor which will be discussed later on.

The image is identified as a metaphor and the three crucial questions by Forceville (1996, p. 108) are applied. The target of the metaphor is the shoe and the domain is baby, which gives the format ‘shoe is baby’ [yes]. The source domain is not illustrated but is apparent because the shoe is placed where the baby normally would be – in the stroller. The bended leg highlights the shoes that the woman is wearing which cues the metaphor, because it emphasizes the importance of shoes. The format is not reversible (‘baby is shoe’), because then the woman would be wearing babies on her feet which does not make any sense. If the format was ‘baby is shoe’ then the role of the stroller seems unnecessary, because the focus would be on the placement of the babies on the woman’s feet [yes]. Even though the source is not directly represented, the connection to the source is clear, because of the connotations of the stroller – when there is a stroller there is a baby. The text “my precious” supports the ‘shoe is baby’ format because it indicates a relation between the woman and the shoe. It is thinkable that the“precious” relation would be connected to the pregnancy of the woman, which is not the intention. But the emphasized role of the shoe in the stroller and the woman’s shoes lower the risk of misinterpretation [OK]. More so those the rough outlines contribute to put focus on the shoes, since the woman is not detailed and therefor does not acquire unnecessary attention. “Baby” as a source domain has several features: youth, innocence, pure, children, love, life, unique creation and more. In order the narrow down the intended features, all elements in the image must be considered colors, shapes, placements, pictorial context and text. The only colors (besides black) are the vague purple stroller and the bright pink shoe and dress. The colors function as cues in order to understand the metaphor – the attention should be made on the stroller, shoe and dress. The pink dress is a connotation of femininity and the shape of it indicates a young and modern woman. The femininity cues the connection to the conviction on women and shoes. The shoe is placed where a baby normally would be which emphasizes the mapping between shoe and baby. Same connection would be made if the woman held the shoe in her arms in the same way you would hold a baby [Indeed]. The woman is turned towards the stroller which supports the connection between her and the shoe. The image illustrates a verbo-pictorial metaphor (vpm) by the terms of Forceville because the source domain is somewhat rendered both pictorially and verbally (1996, p. 148). The verbal text “my precious” indicates a close relationship and emotions like love, affection and adoration which means the verbal element contributes to a correct (the intended) mapping of the baby features [But I think for most people would work even without the verbal text – and without that text, it would be a purely pictorial metaphor]. From the concrete emotion further mappings are possible such as: women treats their shoes like they treat their babies, women love their shoes as much as they love their babies.

The metaphor is multimodal and uses the modes of visuals and verbalization – picture and text. My lack of design skills limits the selection of modes. It is possible that the metaphor could be designed into moving images and sound for example a woman walking with a stroller in a park (because the park is often full of women with their babies in strollers), the sound of her stilettoes clicking is present, she bends over the stroller and says my precious and it is revealed that there is a shoe in the stroller [yes]. Another possibility is to make a twist on the license plates for strollers[1], where instead of a common name it could say precious and the same meaning of the metaphor would still occur. It is only the imagination that limits the possibilities of design in different modes, but it is important to be aware not to lose the intended meaning of the metaphor. The space of design and creativity depends on how acknowledged the source domain is in terms of recognition and connotations. Babies are very recognizable and therefore it is possible to broaden the metaphor in different modes and media without losing the intended features and mappings. The metaphor was identified by all my viewers even without the text which supports its wide character [indeed, that confirms my hunch]. One viewer explicitly identified the stroller and the shoe as the two terms, when I asked him to explain his recognition of the metaphor. Even though babies might be a broad source domain, it is thinkable that the relation between women and shoes are not as widespread everywhere and cultural context might differ in the interpretation for example in countries that is not as materialistic as the West. Women’s relationship with shoes is not biological determined (like with babies), but it is invented in the spirit of consumerism.

[1] I am not sure they exist in the Netherlands, but license plates on strollers in Denmark are quite common. The license plate hangs in the front or on the side of the stroller and carries the name of the baby [I have never seen them here – but “strollers”.


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