A couple of ads have caught my eye this week, and I wanted to talk through my thoughts with you. You’re welcome.
The first ad was from Ryvita. A table of four professional-looking women sit down to eat what looks like lunch and engage in a conversation about what they’d change about their bodies. So far, so cliche. But then this is an advertisement for rye crispbreads, so while not explicitly stated, the implication is that many women (and I have never seen a man eat a Ryvita – in ad or real life) who buy and eat Ryvita are doing so for the purposes of achieving or maintaining weight loss. Which is… fine, I guess. I’d show you a clip, but I can’t find it anywhere, despite scouring the internet for hours. The first woman talks about her bottom or whatever. Another mentions her tummy, I think, and another her legs (maybe). The last woman looks up and says, actually, there’s nothing she’d change. “Bravo!” I thought. There’s a pause onscreen. Then one asks with a smile, “not your moustache, then?” Another one makes another snarky comment. They all laugh, fade to logo, repeat slogan, end ad.
It pissed me off.
Is it such a dangerous idea that a woman might be okay with the way her body is? Would civilisation collapse if a woman said, “Hey. You know what? It might not be your cup of tea, but I would change nothing about my body”? Would the earth implode if a woman was not filled with self-loathing at the vessel which carries her mind, her circulatory system, and her soul? It wouldn’t? Oh. So why the hell is this kind of shiz still going on? I know someone somewhere in the wilds of the internet is reading this and saying: “See? This is why people say feminists don’t have a sense of humour! It’s just an ad. And many women aren’t happy with their bodies, so there.” To which I reply, “Rack off, you flaming gular.”
It isn’t just an ad. Well, okay it is. But it is symptomatic of a wider occurence in society, where we are constantly told to be dissatisfied with what our bodies look like. Worse, we are taught that dissatisfaction is correct, justiying all the alterations and enhancements that are thrust upon us, and then chastised when we decline them, admitting happiness with our bodies. For all the talk about being happy in the skin we’re in [hello, Dove and Olay campaigns], the emphasis remains on us changing that same said skin. And women still get the bum deal – our bodies are still seen as the currency that determines our worth. Now you’re telling us that we shouldn’t even be happy with that? Worst of all, as if all that wasn’t enough, Ryvita tastes like the dry skin that my lovely pedicurist sloughs off the soles of my feet [I had my mouth open one time]. If they’d tried this with steak maybe I’d be a bit more forgiving. No, wait…
And yeah, I realise the chuckles that accompanied the woman’s friends’ snarky comments were supposed to relay a sense of fun being poked. Banter, even. But I am a humourless Feminazi, so perhaps I couldn’t hear their laughter over the crackling my burning bra was making in the bathroom. It’s a hateful little ad that makes me rage-y every time I see it. It’s also lazy and unfunny. And when an ad can’t even be funny…
The other ad I saw this week was for high street shop Superdrug. North American readers, imagine a less well-stocked Duane Reade and you’re there. Even so, I love Superdrug. Over the years, I have bought all manner of cheap and cheerful bits from them, most recently the Barry M nail polish currently adorning my fingernails. Their ad, starring Joanna Page from Gavin & Stacey, is called Take Another Look and it’s cute, cheeky and fun.
That’s how you do targeted but light women’s advertising, Ryvita. You don’t have to undermine women to sell them products, y’hear?