Have You Hated Yourself Today?

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.”

For ladies that crunch... vom.

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?

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10 responses

  1. Good post!

    Oh girls, self-loathing is how the sisterhood bond, don’t cha know? Honestly, you pipe up and say that you’re pretty cool with how your body looks, actually, and you’re deemed a witch who ‘thinks she’s too nice’. Best way to avoid being labelled a stuck-up bitch is to have a ready-prepared ‘body part I hate’ speech. Models and actresses do that, so we civilians will buy their products and watch their films. It’s all ‘Aw, I’m ever so ‘umble, I’m just like you’. Can you imagine Gisele saying, ‘Nah man, I’m the “Boobs from Brazil”! My ish is TIGHT’? No.

    And this: “Ryvita tastes like the dry skin that my lovely pedicurist sloughs off the soles of my feet [I had my mouth open one time]. ” made me LOFL! But I have to disagree: Ryvita is NOT as nice as dry foot-back.

    Without getting too deep here, I’ve been dieting since I was 10, and am 30 now. It’s taken me a LONG time to accept my body (the ‘teenage munter’ phase didn’t help at all) and am in the process of rejecting things like diets and diet-specific food – they simply don’t work and don’t make me feel as good as eating properly (for my body and wellbeing, not as dictated by someone else), working out, and accepting myself as a (complex, imperfect, but essentially good) person has.

    Every time someone close to me mentions they’re on a diet, I want to SCREAM AND SCREAM AND SCREAM.

    I don’t hate my body and actively refuse to listen to anyone who tells me I should. It functions properly, all my limbs and organs are in the right place, and dammit I look pretty good in my jeans – technically, I’m perfect.

    F*** YOUR CRACKERS, RYVITA! F***. YOUR. CRACKERS.

  2. I saw this ad a while back and was gobsmacked by how catty it was. It didn’t make me want to rush out and buy crispbread, it made me remember how much I hated going to an all girls’ school where everyday was a variation of this bullshit.

    It also made me really embarrassed that I do eat Ryvita (and love it. I have always had a very high tolerance for incredibly dry foodstuffs.) and I will be switching to a nice wholesome oatcake instead. Probably better for me and less likely to advertise the self loathing I regularly feel…

  3. Oh my lord. When I began this comment, I started to type my name in all caps, THIS IS HOW WORKED UP I AM ABOUT THAT EFFING RYVITA COMMERCIAL. Because yes, oh it’s so funny, just a bit of joshing around with the girls, but how ***dare*** that woman not despise her body? Quick, let’s point out all the bits we disapprove us, so she’ll join us in hating ourselves for deviating one iota from the majority opinion of what constitutes female beauty! Lolz!

    At least the one-year anniversary of the Exposed Project mitigates my fury at the world somewhat:
    http://www.eatingjourney.com/exposed/
    In a nutshell, it’s women choosing to celebrate their bodies and what their bodies have done. I especially like it because most (if not all) of the women participating are on journeys to get healthier/lose weight, but are working on doing it WITHOUT having to get on the Ryvita hate train; it’s proof that even if you would like to change certain things about yourself, you can do it out of a place of love rather than shame or hate.

    Also, oatcakes FTW.

  4. Yes, yes & f***ing YES! I’ve spent my whole freaking life hating on my body: feeling like the giant, fat, clumsy kid; then feeling like the college & uni misfit **just** because I was a bit overweight; detesting the way it changed after my first baby. Ive had (still have) the borderline eating disorder (s**t it feels good to say that :). And then I had a second baby & suddenly thought, “Screw you culture. I did good. Of course my body’s f***ed up – I just MADE two entire people! Plus, you kinda stole my youth.” Don’t get me wrong, I still want to lose the baby weight & it’s hard somedays NOT to poke my wibbly-wobbly, ridiculously scarred tummy. But I’m trying. I refuse to give in to Ryvita ad execs & their ilk. I have to bring up a healthy, happy little girl & I’m buggered if I’m going to pass on my neuroses to her – & I will do my damndest to show her that this ‘hating yourself is healthy’ message that is used, at the end of the day, to GET OUR MONEY & keep us silly little consumers in our place is NOT RIGHT.
    To (mis)quote a (dreadful!) film: “Have you ever been naked & had the man walk out? No. He’s just happy to be in a room with a naked girl.”

  5. I LOOOVE this post – seriously I turn the TV off when that Ryvita bull**** ad comes on – makes me so mad.

    I spent years in an all girls school learning to HATE my body and treating it like my worst enemy rather than my life long companion in life. We all come in different shapes and sizes and that is OK FFS!

    Seriously after battling with an eating disorder for most of my teens my focus now is to be healthy and happy and truth be told – I have never had a dry spell because I was overweight – men seem interested in women period so there…

    Btw I am all about the oatcakes – the cheese ones are lush!!

  6. Well, am I ever glad I haven’t watched telly in ages. I’d probably set the couch on fire with my anger.

  7. I don’t have a telly, since I’m at uni at the moment *punches the air in joy* but I think one of the main problems with the Ryvita ad is the fact that it plainly targets women, as a lot of these adverts too.
    At least in the Superdrug advert, there’s a guy also trying to fix himself up.
    Why is always, ALWAYS women!?!?
    It’s like how all the constipation adverts are women talking about their bowels – I don’t know about you, but my bodily functions don’t come up as often as that in my conversations with my girlfriend….

  8. I love all of your comments – glad to see I wasn’t alone in feeling The Rage! Thank you all for sharing your various trials regarding disordered eating and hopefully now resolved (or evolving) relationships with food.

    Go forth and keep fighting the Good Fight!

  9. I agree that the advert – in which the four women offer suggestions of what they would like to change about the life – is offensive. It annoys me every time I see it, to the point where I simply had to find a site to comment on it. But I admit that I had overlooked the fact that all but one of the women seem to hate their bodies. The question posed is “What would you change about your LIFE?” What infuriated me was the implications from the women’s answers that the only things about LIFE that they consider important enough to want to change are physical attributes – that LIFE for all women (well, these four reps at least) has to do with looking beautiful and svelte. “C’mon girls – we’re worth more than that!”

  10. I am not here to defend the advert and do not work for the ad agency. But I can say that in the original unedited version one of the characters said that one thing they’d change in their life would be her husband (again tongue in cheek). No idea why this got edited out and if left in it may have presented more of a balance of humour and not all about female body image. Plus not all of the women in the advert are svelt, one is a size 16 and very comfortable with her body and in no way does it suggest that she would change her body. It was not meant to be an advert to suggest women should change there bodies at all. I would personally disagree with the ad if it was. Today on loose Women it angered me when the panel gasped in disgust at Nadia Swahala saying she used to be 13 stone. I hate how celebrated weight loss is on TV and other media. This ad is just four women taking the micky out of their mate in the way some women do and is not meant to be malicious or suggesting she should change herself. I think it’s all been taken the wrong way. I get more stressed and angry when I see the perfect models in the special K grrrrrrrrrr. Why arn’t you raging at that?

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