Category Archives: Advertising

“Wingman”

wingmanPeople love to ask me if I think X is sexist.

Generally, if you have to ask, if not outright sexist, it’s probably inadvisable, tasteless, or easily misinterpreted. Sometimes something–an item, promotion, label, campaign–isn’t sexist when taken on its own, but contributes (often by accident) to reinforcing stereotypes or perpetuating inequality.

“Is ‘wingman’ a sexist term?”

Thus began this week’s trip down the Urban Dictionary wormhole that finished in my essay for Role/Reboot about the cult of the wingman, the origin of the term, and whether we can salvage it from the pick-up artist misogynists.Screenshot_7_30_14_3_49_PM

 

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Filed under Advertising, Gender, Republished!

Facebook thinks that I think I need to lose weight.

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Extra Inches! Simple Rules!

 

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Generic “Women’s Magazine”, “shocking” report, amazing diet supplement!

 

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“Surprise him with a new body!”

 

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“Weird” fruit! “Holy grail of weight loss!”

 

And yes, I have asked Facebook to “don’t show me posts like this.”

Related Post: You don’t get to choose your ads, the problem with online advertising.

Related Post: Can gendered advertising affect change?

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image

Hello, Flo

True story, when I first got my period, I was staying at my friend’s house for the weekend and I didn’t tell anyone. I compensated with toilet paper for my first three cycles before woman-ing up and confessing.

floHave you all heard of Naama Bloom’s new start-up, Hello Flo? Think Shave Club for ladies; get your tampons and/or pads shipped to you every month. I kid you not, a few weeks ago, my friends and I were talking about this exact idea. We were going to call it The Time of the Month Club and it was going to make us piles of money. Covers of Fast Company awaited. Oh well! You snooze, you lose!

Anyway, it’s all good, because Bloom’s thing is pretty legit too, especially because of the stellar intro video starring Camp Gyno:

Things I like about this ad.

1. Frank use of words like “vagina,” and “menstruation.” Euphemisms are fun and all, but let’s also teach girls that hey, this is your biology, and it is normal, natural, and cool. No shame in calling it what it is.

2. Did you see the Camp Gyno hand the girl a tampon and a mirror? How legit is that? Look at yourself! Figure out how your shit is put together! If girls get familiar with themselves early, they will only be better equipped to advocate for themselves down the line, to insist on partners who respect their pleasure, and to live without genitalia shame!

Related Post: Vagina art for vagina love!

Related Post: Why period sex is NBD.

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Filed under Advertising, Gender

I Get Pitches

When you blog, you eventually start to get emails from PR companies and folks that are just dying to offer you “fresh content” that “Google loves” and that will “titillate your readers”. Too bad it is all so ridiculous, because otherwise I’m sure my readers would love to be titillated…

Do you need to figure out how to get the opposite sex to notice you?

Do you need to figure out how to get the opposite sex to notice you?

Do you need an app that makes a miniature keychain book of your photographs?

Do you need an app that makes a miniature keychain book of your photographs?

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Do you need any assistance with hair below the neck?

Do you need anything from someone with the gmail handle celebritytweens@gmail.com?

Do you need anything from someone with the gmail handle celebritytweens@gmail.com?

Bah. It’s hard to convey to advertisers and PR folks that writing about beauty culture or the cult of celebrity does not mean you will write about their tween gossip or manscaping must-haves.

Related Post: Mixed messaging on the interwebz.

Related Post: Curve Appeal vs. American Apparel’s idiotic contest

 

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Food, Hollywood

Rosie in the News: Swiffer Edition

Uh oh, Swiffer is getting some social media flak for choosing the parody the Rosie the Riveter image for a campaign for their Steam Boost product. Here’s the image:

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Sigh. Look, we’ve been through this before, right? Advertising is the way it is because people respond to it. No company the size of Swiffer launches a new campaign without focus group approval. So the question is not why does Swiffer butcher historical imagery in service of sexist divisions of housework. The answer to that one is easy (because focus groups said it would work…). The more interesting question is, why does it work so well? 

Having not sat on the other side of this particular one-way mirror and not being a homeowning 35-48 year-old mother of 2.3 children myself, I can only guess. To many of us, the Rosie image resonates because it symbolizes a defining moment in women’s history when work outside the home became significantly more accessible. It’s historically significant, and reminds of us of the complicated intersection of propaganda and progress.

But it’s not just that to everyone. It’s meaning has been boiled down (by advertising and pop culture) to a simple message of female strength and capability. It says “I get shit done” and “I don’t need help,” and “I am competent.” In that sense, it’s easy to see why women whose sphere of responsibility is their home would be attracted to an image that projects that confidence. They don’t care that, as one twitter commenter wrote, it “pisses on the legacy” of the original image.

Those were the women in the focus group. Not us. Do you buy things with “steam boost” in the title? Yeah, me neither.

Related Post: Rosie in the News: Alfred Palmer edition

Related Post: Rosie in the News: Rivets and Rosebuds

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Filed under Advertising, Gender, Media

Dove: Pioneer or Panderer?

dove_wideweb__430x327I must admit, the first seven times someone emailed Dove’s ubiquitous new ad campaign, I got a little weepy and emotional. It hit all the right cords, all the soft, vulnerable spots that most women (and many men!) hold deep about their appearance. My nose is too big. My eyes are too far apart. My chin is too pointy. My forehead is too high. My X is too Y.  It takes all those “toos” and flips them, revealing with a clever gimmick how much we underestimate our own beauty. Here, just watch, it’s easier than explaining it:

It’s good advertising. It’s memorable, it’s shareable, it makes you feel warm and fuzzy. I literally feel prettier simply by watching it. Maybe I should go buy some Dove products….

Hold up.

It’s a testament to how compelling this video is that I didn’t bother to put on my critical hat and unpack this bad boy a little. I was so distracted by the swelling music and the teary eyed attractive-but-not-too-attractive people that I forgot that the broader implications of this video are hella problematic.

The blogs Jazzy Little Drops and Eat the Damn Cake do a great job of breaking it down, but here are a few of the key issues:

1. Beauty is still #1 – As the participants in the video experiment articulate, how they feel about themselves as friends, employees, partners, as human beings is affected by how they feel about their looks. This might be true, in the technical sense that many people do feel this way, but it’s not okay. We attribute all sorts of “good” qualities to those that possess certain desirable traits, and all sorts of “bad” qualities to those that don’t. This campaign does nothing to undermine this correlation, but rather reinforces it. As one participant says, natural beauty “could not be more critical to your happiness.” Is that really the message we want to send when we’re pushing “Real Beauty?”

2. Only certain things are beautiful: Namely, anything thin. The positive descriptions of body parts are pretty narrow, “thin nose” and “thin chin” = good. Round face = bad. Freckles = bad. Forget the racial connotations (are thin noses the only good noses?), what we see reflected in the commentary is not that beauty standards should be widened, but that more people meet the arbitrary requirements than we think. Congratulations, you’ve made the cut! Should there be a cut? Well, no… but there is, and you made it (phew! you’re not one of the ugly ones), so bravo for you!

3. Speaking of race….: As Jazzy pointed out, people of color appear on screen a total of 10 seconds. Yeahhhhh, like that’s not reductionist. Do you remember the story about the black newscaster with close-cropped hair who got fired after responding to a viewer who told her to “wear a wig or grow more hair?” The idea that one certain thing–long, straight hair, for example–is objectively beautiful is preposterous. All you have to do is watch Jessica Simpson’s VH1 show The Price of Beauty to remember that what you think is beautiful isn’t necessarily the standard everywhere. Jeez, how arrogant can we get?

So where does that leave us? Where does that leave Dove? I’ve been skeptical of those folks for a while, ever since someone clued me in that their parent company, Unilever, is also the parent company of Axe (maker of body spray and terrible commercials).

The goal of this ad is not to change beauty standards. It is not to diminish the importance we place on beauty as a measure of woman’s worth. It is not to remind the universe that the way you look does not determine the kind of person you are or the value you add to the world. The goal of this ad is to make you buy more Dove products. Period.

Related Post: Why is it okay to put 16-year-olds in lingerie ads? It’s not.

Related Post: Models without make-up.

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People

Sports Bra Challenge

Wish I lived in New York so I could attend the Sports Bra Challenge. This sounds so fun and it is so in line with my feelings on exercise and self-confidence. The moments when you’re actively trying to take care of your body should be the last time you should be feeling self-conscious or insecure.

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I don’t usually exercise in just a sports bra. I would tell you that it’s for some practical reason that I don the requisite t-shirt or tank, but 9 times out of 10, the truth is that I’m just embarrassed. I’m often one of the bigger girls in yoga or at kickboxing and stuff shakes when I move around, you know? There’s a little extra around the middle that jiggles when I get going and it’s easier just to cover it up.

Every now and then I do go to yoga in just a sports bra, usually because I forgot a top. At first, all the mirrors psych me out and I get distracted by the softer parts of my anatomy and how they may or may not be hanging over the band of my yoga pants. Eventually, though, the zen of yoga kicks in. The focus it requires to move my body through the air with any mindfulness is enough to make the mirror fade out. Then, usually, there’s a moment where I’m holding some posture I find difficult, and I catch a view of myself sweating and starting to shake, and I look super strong and super focused and the roll of belly that has folded as I twist is suddenly, obviously, completely beside the point.

For me, the point of something like the Sports Bra challenge is to remind myself the reason that I exercise. It is not for the other girls at my studio, nor for the dudes running on the lakeshore, it’s for me. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I can do things. It is the enabler for many other things I want to do, like take more walks, hike the Inca Trail, attempt to surf, live in a fourth-floor walk-up.

One of my least favorite celebrity-spotting trends is the criticism we level at women (and shockingly it’s almost always women) about how unkempt they look when they exercise. No make-up, the horror! Sweaty ponytail, oh my! Stretch pants and a bit of cellulite, alert the media! Except, we actually do alert the media. It’s like they don’t understand that constant exercise is the only way these stars stay in the shape we expect them to stay in, and that mascara and hair gel are not the best gym accoutrements.

If you are exercising, then you are an exerciser, whether you look like one or not. You have no obligation to look like anything for anyone, ever, but you especially have no obligation to look like anything for anyone when you’re explicitly devoting time to self-care. Wear what makes you comfortable and able to focus on why you’re there in the first place. If that’s a hoodie and sweatpants, that’s fine. If it’s a sports bra and shorts, do you girl, whatever gets you out here and keeps you moving.

Related Post: Wait, is that an average sized fitness model?

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image