marketing towards women
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf is the talk of lip at the moment! Despite it pretty much being required reading for Feminism 101, I only got around to reading The Beauty Myth this past weekend. There have been arguments that feminism and feminist theory is too deeply welled in academia, and that it can be hard for a layperson to delve in and understand everything. First, second, third wave feminism, texts, history; it can all be a little overwhelming and sometimes, not easily accessible. It would be privileged of me to insist that anyone can read texts, because not everyone can – some are only available through university databases, which not everyone can access. And, for some, the language itself is confusing and difficult to understand.
Luckily, this book is neither inaccessible nor confusing. It really resonated with me. It is more than ten years old, but so much of the discussion within it is still completely relevant in 2012. Maybe even more so.
The Myth discusses how women feel forced into “maintaining” themselves and how products marketed towards women prey on their insecurities about their bodies – too fat, too thin, eat too much, don’t eat enough, eat the wrong things, eat bad things, have wrinkles, have age spots, have cellulite, have oddly shaped breasts, lips are too small, lips are too big, eyes are too “squinty”, waist is too large, feet are hairy, etc etc ad nauseum. It reminded me of this parody commercial I recently saw from the UK comedy, the Mitchell and Webb show.
That, in under a minute, sums up the differences between advertising geared towards men and women. And women get it practically as soon as they exit the womb, right up until we’re on our death beds.
All of this isn’t to say that I think women who wear makeup, or choose to get cosmetic surgery are wrong. I completely believe in body autonomy and I’d be a hypocrite if I derided women for either of these things. I wear makeup and enjoy playing with it. You will pry my lipstick from my cold, dead hands. I haven’t entirely ruled out the idea of cosmetic surgery for myself, although it does scare me a little, I will freely admit.
What I have a problem with is the way these things are marketed to women: as essential. As, if you don’t use makeup or don’t cover your “flaws” there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. You’re sloppy. You’ve let yourself go. You just don’t care about yourself. I’d argue that caring about you is protecting yourself. By acknowledging that sometimes, yes, you do fall prey to advertising and buying into the myth, but you recognise it and either choose to ignore it or choose to challenge it. I think awareness of the insidious nature of marketing towards women is an important first step in dealing with that marketing and the feelings it brings up – discussion and talking about the marketing is another important step on the way to combating it.