I like reading feminist writing. I’ll totally admit it. I like it and it angers me and it depresses me and it makes me think. That’s good writing. I was thinking recently about the topics that I write about on this blog and I realised that I write a lot of topics about issues that relate to me as a woman. Stuff like relationships and body image and pressures of society. I even had a moment of wondering if I do too MUCH of the whole ‘women are beautiful! We don’t have to diet or be perfect or conform to some sort of ideal! We’re awesome!’ thing. Was this blog turning into…GASP…a feminist blog?
Don’t worry, I’ve decided it clearly has not. This blog is and always will be just me babbling away into the ether about whatever crosses my mind or is currently occupying my life. But I’ve also decided that I AM a feminist at heart and that I am totally and completely happy with that. I like reading Jezebel and Feministing and Shapely Prose. I like what they talk about and that it challenges my mind a little bit more than it normally is challenged. Sometimes I feel like my brain is starting to atrophy now that I’ve finished my masters degree and I usually come home and watch tv most nights. So to actually spend time thinking and pondering different topics, I like that.
Feminism is a funny thing though. It seems like recently it’s become something that nobody really wants to admit that they are, even if they agree with the ideals. From my (admittedly limited) view of things, it does seem like the idea of feminism has been hijacked by the media view of what a ‘feminist’ is. They’re either boring Jessi Spano types who are whiny and can’t take a joke (and inexplicably then date A.C. SLATER?! What was THAT about? Stick to your morals lady!) or militant women with very short hair who demand that women have careers and refuse to have children. Neither of these, obviously, are true. I like to think that feminism is more about demanding equality for women in all areas, even with things that aren’t obviously oppressive. It’s about recognizing such things as portrayals of women in movies and television, how ideas and expectations of women in our society are marketed. What are the underlying messages? It’s about the implicit messages not just the explicit ones. It’s about stuff like advertising. Specifically, it’s about the very strange lengths ad exects will go to in order to sell their shit. Enter stage right: the new ‘Fling’ bar. This is a new chocolate bar that is being introduced at the moment. It’s ‘low calorie,’ looks like a twix bar and actually contains shimmering Mika to make the whole thing sparkly. Oh, and surprise surprise, it’s being targeted at women.
I mean honestly. A candy bar that comes in a pink wrapper and is LITERALLY covered in sparkles? THAT is your fantastic new idea? Because apparently women won’t buy chocolate unless it’s low calorie and PINK?! Oh, and also wrapped in a convenient tampon-esque wrapper, so nobody has to know that you actually eat chocolate. How embarrassing would that be! Mother Jones describes the advertising strategy (initially promoted in Australia) far better than I ever could:
The PR packages that went out to media outlets contained sheer T-shirts that read “Try It In Public,” equating the act of women consuming sweets in front of other people with being as taboo as committing sex acts in front of them. Couple this with the oppressive pinkness of the campaign, and one is left wondering when marketers will figure out that in order to make women buy things, they do not have to, literally, shove sparkles down their throats.
This is what feminism means to me. On the surface this campaign seems innocent, if a bit inane. But I think it is ALWAYS important to look at the messages advertising send. It makes me very unhappy that apparently a multi-million dollar advertising campaign decides it’s totally acceptable to reinforce the idea that women should be ashamed of eating chocolate. IN PUBLIC no less. Saying ‘your boyfriend doesn’t need to know’ about a damn chocolate bar not only is saying that a) a boyfriend should care about what his girlfriend chooses to put in her mouth but b) that the very idea of eating chocolate is shameful enough that you should keep this information from him. Presumably because he would dump your fat ass for even considering eating anything except salad and water in order to remain attractive FOR HIM. I mean come on. But what kills me about this is that these are HUGE, EXPENSIVE campaigns. So seeing something like that, there’s always going to be that little voice that says, ‘well, it wouldn’t be all over the televisions and magazines if there’s not a tiny bit of truth to it? RIGHT?!’
I hate that little voice.
For me, feminism means knowing that voice exists and knowing that is it full of crap. Because it is. Advertising is crap. The majority of what it is selling has no correlation to my life or anything in it. I don’t WANT a diamond for my birthday, or Christmas or any other holiday, except maybe if I get married someday. And I especially don’t expect an expensive gift just because it happens to be February 14th and my boyfriend has been told he must buy me something expensive or I’ll be unhappy and therefore might withhold sex. Because why ELSE would I want to have sex with my boyfriend other than after being bribed with material goods? The idea that I’ll send my boyfriend to ‘the doghouse’ for buying me a shitty gift? Please. That’s just insulting.
Actually, the funniest thing about that commercial (other than my blinding rage at JC Penny) is that one man was apparently sent to ‘the doghouse’ for buying his girlfriend extra RAM for her computer. My initial response? ‘Wow, what a great gift! Making my computer faster so that I can open even MORE programs all at once? That’s love.’ Obviously I am not JC Penny’s core consumer audience. I’m pretty ok with that.