There I was happily watching CNN this morning when they reported that women are now no longer seen as a niche market. It seems that the
recession depression has largely effected men and companies are now realizing that it is women that have the disposable income and the discretionary power to spend.
Rather than using this as an opportunity to validate women, companies have resorted to ridiculous essentialist pitches to garner out attention. If you identify as female you must love the colour pink, fluffy clouds, and rainbows. The utility of the object in question is irrelevant as long as it is pretty, cause you know how all of us wimminez just need everything to be pastel and cutesy.
While it is necessary to some degree to draw on large generalizations to effectively market, creating a single monolithic representation of what constitutes woman is extremely problematic. The images that we see end up not being about our struggles or our triumphs but womanhood as it is understood through the patriarchal lens. Advertising in this way quickly becomes yet another tool that is marshalled by patriarchy to discipline women into perform a gender essentialist, submissive femininity.
Each year more women seek post secondary and graduate education. We are entering fields that were once male dominated, crashing through glass ceilings at every turn and yet Frito Laya has decided that the best possible way to appeal to us, is to pander to our so called obsessive need to count every calorie because of a fixation on our bodies. These generalizations are not only essentialist, they are highly demeaning.
Frito Lay has even gone on to make webisodes in which these shallow women are featured.
Notice how every single item is either low calorie or low in fat. Women of course never just pig out cause hey we all need a good junk food and pyjama day from time to time. Apparently we are racked endlessly with guilt every time we decide to eat.
Women are so much more than what the advertising industry has constructed us to be. These images are not innocuous, rather they set up damaging ideas that translate into the devaluation of women. In a world in which not conforming to ideal body standards often translates into shaming, and less employment opportunities (read: feminization of poverty) such mode of advertising must be challenged. Commercials like this are made to benefit patriarchy and we internalize these images without thought or resistance we are assuming this unbalanced definition of womanhood.
Just like every other social organization patriarchy is highly dependent on the labour, finances and support of women We collude daily in small ways in our own oppression often without being cognizant that we are contributing to our own second class status. While we certainly do not control the media we do have the power to eliminate or reduce the purchasing of items that serve to create woman as the eternal ‘other’; we not only owe this to ourselves but to our daughters.
We cannot be post feminist until we move away from the idea that we do not deserve to be treated seriously. Since the advertising agency has found a new belief in our purchasing power, it is essential that we leverage this to ensure that the degree to which we are constructed as flighty, brainless, narcissistic beings is reduced. A world in which the full depth of womanhood is equally represented would lend itself to greater opportunities, and a reduction in the degree to which patriarchy manages to maintain its control. Woman is a complex identity and can never be fully appreciated as long as it is continually equated with flower, pastels and diet materials.