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

 

Related Post: Dating while feminist

Related Post:  Dating should not be a meal ticket

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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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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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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?

Related Post: What if you don’t look like a runner?

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Sunday Scraps 99

sunday99

1. TAVI: 16-year-olds have no right to be so cool and self-assured. This kid says everything I figured out ten years later about media, feminism, stereotypes, yada yada yada.

2. HEALTH: This American Life is on a roll. Killer piece about the huge upward trend in Americans filing for disability. Why? When? How did this happen? Better question, what do we do it about?

3. ADVERTISING: Sociological Images uses the interesting case of Rolling Rock beer to discuss the appropriation of working class iconography by upper class cohorts for the purposes of “seeming real.”

4. ROMANCE: Nick Offerman + Megan Mullally = Forever. THEY ARE THE BEST, and lucky us, NYMag compiled a history of their love.

5. POLITICS: Just for kicks, cats that look like politicians. Or politicians that look like cats?

6. LGBTQ: Really thought-provoking essay for BuzzFeed about the importance of gay porn, by gay porn performer Connor Habib.

Related Post: Sunday 98 - Marriage in China, mean girls, George Saunders and his editor, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 97 – Writing with a gender neutral name, Cindy Gallop, Anita Sarkeesian, etc.

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Why is it okay to put 16-year-olds in lingerie ads?

This is Gisele Bundchen at age 16 in a Macy’s catalogue:

Gisele

(Via Buzzfeed)

This makes me extremely uncomfortable. I think it’s a pretty twisted world we live in when a fashion director dresses a teenager up in fishnets and a velvet bra to try to convince other women (presumably Macy’s catalogue-receiving women in their 30s and 40s) to buy this underwear.

Selling clothes is always an exercise in aspiration. Wear this and your thighs might look slimmer! Wear this and hunky men will drape themselves all over you. Wear this and you’ll want to go to the gym! Wear this and other women will admire your style! Whatever you want to happen will happen if you only for the love of God buy these clothes!

What’s so bizarre about using underage models is that the aspiration you create in the minds of your consumer is impossible to fulfill. 30-year-olds will never look 16 again. Instead of building a vision about looking and being your “best self” (what brands like Dove do with campaigns like Real Beauty, manipulative in its own way), this ad creates impossible dreams. And what strange dreams to have!

See? Ann Taylor uses extremely attractive but age-appropriate models

See? Ann Taylor uses extremely attractive but age-appropriate models

You would never use a 16-year-old to sell a power suit, right? Because women who want to look powerful don’t want to look juvenile. They want to look attractive, and sleek, and put-together, but nobody aims for “junior prom” when they want to rock an interview.

But when you’re trying to look sexy (as anyone who is purchasing fishnets and velvet pushup bras likely is), looking youthful is part of the aspiration. We’ve conflated “adolescent” with “sexy” for so long that it seems natural for a teenager to model underwear the way it would never seem natural to put her in a skirt suit. That’s kind of scary, and we’re still doing it.

I feel like every party here is wronged in some way, the 16-year-old model who’s been tarted up, the rest of 16-year-olds who don’t look like this model and are intimidated, the 39-year-olds flipping through this catalogue and wondering why a girl their daughter’s age is being used to sell them underwear, any men who might catch a glimpse and lust after her, however briefly, not knowing she’s not even legal, teenaged boys who end up with bizarre expectations of what women wear under their clothes (hint, it’s usually not this).

Who wins? Macy’s, probably, if this ad sold a lot of tights. Sigh. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.

Related Post: But how old is she really?

Related Post: Bras for 9-year-olds

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Gender, Sex

Model Behavior and a Train of Thought

MODEL-MORPHOSIS - T Magazine Blog - NYTimes.com

Model Hannah Gaby Odiele for Marc Jacobs

Confession: There are few things I find more engrossing than model “before and afters.” There’s a whole genre of this stuff, with variations like “Celebrities without makeup!” and “They have cellulite too!” and “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” and I can’t pull my eyes away.

The example above is from the New York Times Magazine in a series called Model-Morphosis (It’s interactive! Yippee!) but here are a few other examples from the blog I Waste So Much Time

Supermodels without makeup.-2

Supermodels without makeup.-1

Supermodels without makeup.I think the word “engrossed” is the right one. It’s not “fun” per se, to sit and parse the appearances of beautiful people looking less beautiful, but I do find it some twisted combination of mesmerizing, fascinating, horrifying, reassuring, and enlightening. I see pictures like this and in quick succession I think:

a) Wow, she is not attractive

b) That was mean. Stop judging.

c) But like, really, that is all make-up and hair and lighting and photoshop…

d) Maybe I could look like that with make-up and hair and lighting and photoshop?

e) Hold up. Why do I want to look like that?

f) This is fucked. Why is our standard of beauty so far outside the spectrum of what actual humans look like?

g) I want no part of this.

h) Except… look how much bigger her eyes looked like when they added mascara…

i) Maybe I should invest in some good mascara

j) But why are big eyes a good thing? What’s wrong with the size of my eyes?

k) THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE SIZE OF YOUR EYES. YOU ARE PERFECT

l) Except not as perfect as they are… with make-up and big hair and lighting and photoshop…

m) But if people don’t know about the make-up and hair and lighting and photoshop…

n) Then they just think that these women are abnormally beautiful,

o) Which they are not, because they are just normal looking humans.

p) What does it mean if we think these women are normal?

q) It means we start doing things like shaving our jaw bones

r) and getting eyelash extensions

s) and injecting collagen into our lips.

t) That shit is scary.

u) So…maybe it’s okay if everyone knows that this not what they really look like?

v) So… maybe these “before and afters” are actually kind of an educational tool?

w) We should teach media literacy in schools. There should be warning labels on magazine covers.

x) I hope I don’t have daughters

y) That’s a really sad thing to say.

z) I hate everyone and we are doomed.

Related Post: Average-sized fitness models. Who knew?

Related Post: How old is she really? Underage models.

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Gender, Media