Posted by: Andrea | February 17, 2009

The f word

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.


Responses

  1. Is it bad that stuff like this makes me laugh? I kinda wish I was *evil* enough to be in advertising…these marketing ideas are so rediculous, even I could come up with them! Ugh. Stop the insanity!

    Oh, and I would like to add that even if I was embarrassed to eat a chocolate bar in public (which I’m not), wrapping it up so it looked like a tampon would NOT make me feel more comfortable wipping one out and chowing down. I’m just sayin’…

  2. Another article actually said that maybe this tampon-esque wrapping was possibly to keep other people from stealing your chocolate. You know, someone searching through a purse looking for snacks wouldn’t necessarily grab it first. In which case…possibly genius! Camouflaged chocolate! Of course the fact that they come standing upright in boxes, singly wrapped just SCREAMS tampon. Not something I want when considering chocolate.

  3. Very interesting…. I think you raise some good points. From my own experience, I can say that a lot of women definitely give feminism a bad name. They’re sort of like those black people how racist and stupid white people are, because they’re too primitive to comprehend the notion of hypocrisy or irony.

    A lot of women seem to wave the banner of feminism to promote sexism against males, justify their own particular deviancies, or as lesbian activists.

    I’m opposed to oppressing people based on gender or justifying insults based on people’s anatomy… Unfortunately “feminism” is more about male-bashing, and a notion of female supremacy, which although laughable, somehow is more accepted in society than skinheads with a notion of white supremacy are.

    When a feminist walks down the street wearing a man-bashing shirt, and gets punched in the face by a man, who hits her just as hard as a black guy would hit a ku klux klan member, then I’ll say we’ve made some progress in society. Afterall, we’re going for “equality” aren’t we? You don’t get to have things both ways.

  4. Ah yes…because women go rooting around in their girlfriends’ purses on a regular basis. And when they come across CHOCOLATE, they eat it!

    Hey, it’s better than one of those crushed after dinner mints from the local Olive Garden…

  5. Wow I think I just fell in love with you a little bit. I hope that’s ok.

  6. Hee! That’s totally ok! And coming from you Shannon, who I bow down to in respect to issues of last-name-changes, also a compliment.🙂

  7. Interestingly Bud, you’ve kind of proved my point. Feminism is NOT about male-bashing or about promoting women as superior to men. It’s about acknowledging that our society it not equal, that women just don’t have the same freedoms and opportunities that men do and trying to do something about it.

    I’d also never say that anyone getting punched in the face by anyone else is progress.

  8. Well, I agree with your sentiments, however, I do think that no group of people will ever truly have “the freedoms and opportunities” of another group, so long as they conform to group identity, either by choice (in the case of political or religious affiliations, for example), or by anatomy (in the case of gender).

    For example, I do not have the freedom or opportunity to give birth directly. Should I then demand that women be deprived of it (Afterall, it’s such a “curse”, and everything, anyway), in the name of equality?

    I know you are probably thinking this a silly example… Let me give you a real-life one. In Canada, where there’s been more gender “progress” than in the U.S., women applying for the military are held to lower standards of training and physical ability. The amount and intensity of their mandatory screening is reduced by about 50%, since it’s understood that women simply have less physical prowess. Those standards were set for a reason, one would assume. If I male falls short, they aren’t bumped in for the sake of “equal opportunity”, they’re crossed off the list. More sexism under the guise of equalization.

    I think ultimately, until we stop identifying ourselves as groups, we will all have rather meager amounts of liberty.

    My example about the punching was mostly to inflame passions to make a point, but nobody took the bait.😉 I’m not a violent person by nature, but there’s definitely times some people deserve to be hit. I, for example, if struck by someone, will strike back. I’m not a pacifist, and nobody gets a free shot. I’m equal opportunity. I do think you’ll find throughout history what society calls “progress” was indeed accompanied by violence, including the issue of women’s “rights”, which was and still is (in the eyes of the state), the right to work and slave like the male wards of the government do. Sure, everyone has the “right” to work and pay taxes, especially if it’s in the arms factories while the men are off dying in some bullshit fratricidal war that never needed to happen. Isn’t freedom great?😉 Unfortunately women in those times missed out of the privilege to die for their government, but in the future that will change.

  9. Look, women and men will never be physically equal. They just won’t. But giving men and women the same opportunities that take into account their differences is what I would argue for. ‘Equal’ does not mean ‘exactly the same.’

    Women’s rights are also about much more than work or salary. It’s about feeling safe. About being able to do or say or wear whatever I deem appropriate without suffering any additional consequences than a man would. It’s about being able to watch television without having women’s bodies presented as objects to sell products. It’s about so much more than just making sure there are the same amount of men and women working in an office or dying in a war.

  10. Why market lo-cal toward women? My thought: because women are – smartly so – more diet-conscious than men. It’s a consumer fact. Now whether this is because we are concerned about our looks for MEN or our looks and health for OURSELVES is a matter of an individual woman’s brain. I like to be cute for my boyfriend, but I like to look and feel good for me, when all is said and done.

    So I’d be tempted to buy anything pink and sparkly and lo-cal, yep. I like sparkles, but that’s not because I’m a girl. I think it’s because I am part raccoon.


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