Random Things–The Things My Readers Bring Me

1.  Kleinheider upsets my breakfast by emailing me this link to Cynthia’s post about this crazy ad that is supposed to encourage you to eat Brazilian yogurt.  Sincerely, if I looked like that naked, I would have Chris Wage on speed dial, just call him up and be all like “Wow, have you seen how great I look naked?  Don’t you want to come over and take pictures of me?”

2.  Another of you emailed me a baby Viking helmet.  If I knew how to knit, I would so be all over the baby Viking helmet.  Coble!  Is it possible to make one of those in “world’s biggest head” size?

3.  I know some of you grouch, “Oh, why does B. put up with those conservatives?  Why can’t Tiny Cat Pants just turn into Tiny Cat Pants Full of Turds We Can Fling at Conservatives?”  But look here at Lee and tell me, can’t you, just a little bit, see why, though I tease, I can’t help but love them?

Argh.  I’m sorry.  I just can’t get past one.  Maybe it’s just the whole incident from last week, but I’m rubbed raw about this idea that, if I appear in public, my appearance is up for public judgment.  I certainly believe that people will find whatever they find sexy sexy and that there’s not much use in asking folks not to look at each other and ponder each others’ fuckability.  That seems like a universal human pastime.

But it’s that next step that just pisses me off–that because we all like to look around and wonder about the fuckability of the bodies we see around us, we have the right to be surrounded only by bodies we find fuckable, and, if confronted with bodies we don’t find fuckable, we have the right to announce our verdict.

In simpler terms, it irks me that there’s this idea that men hold the standard for what women’s beauty is and that it’s y’all’s job to enforce that standard AND that, if we don’t want to be publicly humiliated by whichever man appoints himself judge that day, we should take care to internalize the standard and hold ourselves and other women to it.

I mean, look at the slogan of that ad, “Forget about it. Men’s preferences will never change.”  Don’t ignore the beauty standard and just learn to be comfortable and take delight in your own skin or you will never be chosen by a man.

Shoot, there’s a lot there to unpack, but let me just point out, again, how revolutionary pleasure can be.  There is a photo of a beautiful woman taking pleasure in herself (leaving aside for the moment the issues with portraying women as if we all ought to be available for public consumption) and an ad campaign is designed around the notion that we dare not emulate her or not man will ever love us. 

Look at her. 

That’s insanity.

Edited to add:  I just want to reiterate how weird this is.  We are, presumably, supposed to want to be loved by men in order to be happy.  Here is a picture of a woman who appears to be happy.  We are supposed to identify with her and decide that, rather than being happy with how we are, we should deprive ourselves in order to look good–be unhappy–in order to get a man so that we can be happy.  But we’re supposed to identify with a woman who is already happy.

Do you see how fucked up that is?  “Happy women, you must be unhappy or you will never be happy!”

25 thoughts on “Random Things–The Things My Readers Bring Me

  1. I think I read somewhere that Brazil is the plastic surgery capital of the world.
    So I guess yogurt ain’t cutting it for a lot of those gals.

  2. Brasil is pretty rife with fucked up body image issues…

    This is sort of a rabbit trail, but yeah, when I think of Brazil’s body image issues, I’m thinking of that whole Brazillian wax thing (did this really originate in Brazil?)…Talk about fucked up…I can’t think of a worse agony than having the hair ripped off of the very tender, ahem, middle zone of my girl parts and booty…so sorry, but if that’s the price to pay to look like a porn star down there…well, I’ll pass. (Not that I don’t groom, but geez!)

    I know you’ve posted about frank cooter talk recently, but a part of that ties in with this…as in, who wrote the rules on what is beautiful in a woman and what isn’t–whether it’s thin or curvy, small or large, shaved, trimmed, made up or au natural?

    How much of it is beauty being in the eyes of the beholder and what the beholder has been programmed to believe is beauty by our Photoshopped Victoria’s Secret models, etc????

  3. I’m way skinnier than that woman is and I wish I looked like her. Glowing skin, lush curves, gorgeous hair, pretty smile–she’s beautiful. She needs no low-fat yogurt, unless of course she is worried about her cholesterol, as I am.

  4. Well, let’s take the opposite tack. Forget about the ad and what it’s trying to do for a minute. Get into your healthy-body-image state of mind and look at it again. All you see is a beautiful, healthy, happy woman, right? Now the ad completely lacks power over you. You won’t buy the product, you’ll just smile when you see the billboard. (Assuming you’re in Brazil to see it.) In fact, it’ll probably make you think that you, a woman who doesn’t look like a model, look pretty damn good and happy yourself.

    I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be offended by this stuff, or that we shouldn’t analyze it and see how it tries to construct our reality. But I think that we win the best if we refuse to let it do what it’s trying to do. And the people who are putting this ad campaign together aren’t motivated by politics or the desire to shape social constructions of beauty; they are themselves limited by them. They are motivated by the desire to sell something. If we laugh at the anorectic-looking women in most ads, and figure that we’d never buy products that promote the look; if we take pride at pictures of women who look real, and so reject the message that we’d better not look like that, and therefore fail to buy those products; then the ads won’t work. And if the ads stop working, you better bet that the ad companies will stop using that approach.

    So I’m not arguing with what you’re saying, B, but I do think that when the vision presented to us starts to get to be ridiculous, we ought still to be enough in control of our own heads not to accept it.

  5. Ginger, this is what I’d like to understand, at least in terms of how ideas are transmitted. I could totally see how someone would like the look or feel of the Brazilian wax. Not me, but to each her own. I could even see how, when sitting around talking, a woman might say to her friends, “Hey, have you tried this?” And I could see how they might or might not try it. And the ones that did try it might opt to do it again or they might decide that it sucks or whatever. I get that.

    What I don’t understand, and maybe y’all have some insight, is how it gets spread as something that you almost must do, whether or not you like it. How does an option get transformed into an expectation?

    NM, of course I agree, but I think it’s important to point out that it is madness.

  6. How does an option get transformed into an expectation?

    I think there are a host of people who seem to not think for themselves. They don’t do what they want or what gives them pleasure. They do what they feel they must do.

    In the past this has been stereotyped as a behaviour of the puritannically religious, but I think the same virus affects many of those who are in the club circuit, the party circuit, whathaveyou.

    They have such an overwhelming desire to be loved, accepted, and included that they will go through pain and discomfort to earn the approval of other people who go through pain and discomfort for approval. It’s a vicious cycle.

    If people could free their minds, then we’d all be better off.

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  8. Good grief, that’s the same Vito Excalibur who posts on the Feminist SF blog, isn’t it? The internets are such a teensy little set of tubes.

  9. What about the fact that the picture is not even a “real” person? It’s a manipulated image of the original of Mina Suvari. (As are the other two, Sharon Stone & Marilyn Monroe) There’s something oddly disturbing to me about that as well. I like the look of the roses picture but even that body may not be exactly attainable since it’s not even real.

  10. nm, yes, probably – that would fit her interests, certainly. She and I dated briefly a good many years ago. It is indeed funny how interconnected things are on the tubes.

  11. Kate, you’re totally hired to come up with awesome quips like that. I have no money, but I am willing to write complex calculus equations all over you with a fine brush and chocolate syrup.

    Malia, that’s a good point, but it’s a point about all images we see in advertising and one I need to devote some more thought to. Clearly, there’s something really screwed up about holding up those unattainable images as what people should desire regardless of whether those unattainable images are fat or thin.

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  13. B,

    “I know some of you grouch, “Oh, why does B. put up with those conservatives? Why can’t Tiny Cat Pants just turn into Tiny Cat Pants Full of Turds We Can Fling at Conservatives?”

    Thanks for making me laugh. I don’t think you realize how much you help me get through another day, sometimes.

  14. TV, I’m glad to do it.

    Rachel, the only thing that can possibly make calculus sexy is me writing equations on Kate O’s naked torso in fine chocolate. And, even with as hot as that would be, I’m not sure it’s enough to make calculus sexy. We’re starting in a pretty big hole, obviously.

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