Advertisers distorted portrayal of women as needing products to feel and look beautiful distort our realities.
Graduating from high school in 1977, four years of college, workforce in the early eighties, reader of The Women’s Room…. I raged about how advertisers, TV shows, and movies target women. Weary in the 21st century, I shake my head, How have advertisers not changed their approach to women over the decades?
Anyone who knew me in my ardent feminist days forty years ago, knows how I felt then and still feel about advertiser-bias toward women.
I knew our young women were in trouble the time I said to a female drafter (yes, used to be draftsmen), in humor, that a man-door into a building should be called a people-door. She jumped down my throat about being one of those horrible, obnoxious feminists. Twenty years my junior, I thought: Chickadee, do you really think you could do your job without feminists having opened up that field?
Today’s rant, in particular, is how commercials portray women:
- Talking to our mops
- Loving bathroom cleaners
- Being the only adult to care for sick kids
- Needing eye lashes that look like black widow spider legs
- Colored eyelids that look like a Crayola box did a home-run slide onto our skin
- Eyebrows tweaked to pencil thinness and arched so far onto our foreheads that I marvel and think: How do they do that?
In other words, women are still earning less than men ($.80 to the dollar), but still expected to shop and display ourselves, in the various roles of our lives, as if we had three times the amount of money and double the amount of time needed to look perfect.
A Quick List of a Few Costs Unique to Women:
- Mascara – $10 – $30
- Eye shadow – $10
- Morning and evening face lotions – $25 each every 6 months
- Special eye lotion – $15
- Shampoo, conditioner and shine in a bottle – $15 each … that just covers my head! My husband gets whatever shampoo is on sale and doesn’t use the other stuff.
This recent tirade is brought on during a relocation of my bathroom items into my husband’s bathroom. (Separate bathrooms = the key to our happy marriage—this works for me and water-everywhere-man.) He’s leaving for a week, so I’m taking advantage of his empty bathroom in order to paint mine. A mirror fell off the door, gouging the wall. Fixing the hole meant I could finally change the color. While I haven’t been unhappy with my husband’s wall-color choices since I moved in, soft-buttery cream throughout the house lacks the vibrancy and warmth that I need.
Must. Have. Color.
Hence my desire to have a bit of deep Tuscan orange on the bathroom walls to accent the sea-blue photographs of Wales displayed there.
Anyone who has witnessed me painting anything large or small has seen the utter lack of neatness that I have while so doing. Once when my siblings and I painted multiple rooms in our parents’ home, they applauded my attentiveness to edging and ability to smoothly get the ceiling rolled. However, applause was held when it came to the mess that is me. Invariably paint wound up everywhere. I don’t know how it happens, it just does.
A million years ago in Red Lodge when I painted the outside of my little house on Word Avenue (great place for a writer to live), I wore a set of my brother-in-law’s clothes overtop of my own. When I was done applying a coat of primer and two coats of paint to the house and garage, his t-shirt and jeans could stand by themselves because of the amount of paint I’d gotten on them.
But dang, my property looked good.
That’s the explanation for the full move from one room to the other. There was no way I could simply toss a drop cloth over the vanity medicine chest, and toilet, paint, then access the items I need on a daily basis. No, it had to come out so I could thoroughly tape, newspaper and drop cloth every available space. This is when I realized I have too much stuff. And I’m a low maintenance woman!
The Female Products I had to move
- Dish holding: mascara, eyebrow pencil, hair clips and eye shadow I haven’t used in six months.
- Containers holding: cotton balls, Q-tips, bobby pins, face powder
- Goop for my curly hair days (2); goop for my straight days (2)
- Spray to make my hair shiny
- Other hair spray to hold it in place
- Hair dryer
- Flat iron
- Special, sister-Jackie-made soap for face washing (from medicine chest)
- Face lotion
- Two toothbrushes (one regular and one electric)
- Dixie cups
- Body lotion
- Magnifying mirror (hey, I am over 60)
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Body soap
- Face soap (from shower)
- Razor and shaving cream
- Shower cap (for all the days I don’t want to deal with my curly/straight hair)
- Nail polish in case I feel like repairing my toe job (so this also means polish remover, toe separator, manicure set)
Do you see where I’m going with this? Alex is leaving on his trip. His shaving kit contains: yes, a razor and shaving cream, deodorant, a hairbrush, floss and toothpaste. That’s it. He’s good to go.
I can’t even change bathrooms with that little amount of stuff.
Do I need each of these items? That depends. Frankly, I don’t care anymore what my hair looks like. Half-way down my back or three-inches short, I have never, ever been able to control my crazy red—now multi-colored as I refuse to dye it any longer—hair. (My Uncle D always asks me what my hair is doing—now.) Standing at the mirror, doing the finishing touches, maybe adding some hair spray … I look fabulous. Leaving the house, I get in my car, drive to my destination, check the mirror before I get out and, What the heck happened? The hair is out of control again.
My ongoing battle with trying to tame my hair is the complete definition of insanity.My ongoing battle with trying to tame my hair is the complete definition of insanity. Click To Tweet
As Women in our Society, Advertisers Brainwash Us into Thinking We Need
- Painted toenails (I sometimes do this because I think they look funny when they pop out from beneath bedsheets in the morning– making me laugh).
- Laquered fingernails (not me—ever).
- Eyelids in various colors (rarely me).
- Dyed hair (me until three years ago).
- The latest fashionable clothes (not me).
- Perfumes (not me as the bottle I bought four years ago finally ran out).
- Body washes, creams, lotions, you can add to my list … that we need these things in order to be beautiful, taken seriously in the workplace, catch a man, be successful…
Whatever the current programming is.
Do We Have to Succumb to Advertiser Bias?
No longer dying my hair, I love the variety of colors this red head has revealed: blonde, black, strawberry red, white, grey, silver. I cut it off and had it short for several months the way so many 50+ year old women tend to do (and don’t they look incredible!), now it’s half-way down my back again. It’s a positive to save money on hair color and time at the stylist (I miss you). Also, I don’t need six different goo’s/sprays to use on it or special color-keeping shampoo and conditioner!
Don’t fear, I’m not going “granola” and letting my mustache grow in or not shaving my armpits. I like being a woman and looking feminine. But following these requirements can be poverty-inducing. Alex pays twenty bucks for a great hair cut at the local Italian barber every six weeks. Most women pay a lot more than that and go far more often—only for a cut.
What do Men Think?
I have yet to meet a man who told me blazing red lips or fingertips were the things that made them fall in love with their woman. That if he caught her dancing with her mop and glowing with pride over a shiny toilet, he swooned. What men have told me it comes down to is the woman’s personality, beliefs, morals, ethics, and life plans that they share. Not whether or not she matched her shoes with her purse and coordinated her eyeliner with her eye shadow.
The above spewed forth from radical me, I have to stop for one minute and acknowledge that there are women who color their hair for the fun of changing shades every month. There are women who put on dramatic eye shadow and look positively dashing—making a statement they want to make. Some women love fashion and wear the latest clothes with the panache of Cher in a Bob Mackie dress. To you I say: You go girl!
To Advertisers Pounding Women with Inferior-inducing Commercials, I say: Stuff it!
If doing these girly girl things makes YOU happy and brings YOU daily joy, then I support your doing it. It’s when we do these things because of societal pressures that I call foul.
When I put my bathroom back together at the end of the week, I’ll examine each item and see what I need in order to look presentable to the world at large, what I like having in my cupboard, and what can get tossed out never to be re-purchased!
What about you—succumb to those advertisers or do you find yourself rebelling a tad more every day?