The feel-good, ultra-liberal activist site UpWorthy kind of irritates me, with its hyperbolic FaceBook posts : ELIZABETH WARREN MAKES CONSERVATIVE SENATORS WET THEIR PANTS AND CRY LIKE LITTLE GIRLS! Because, come on, if you're a good Democrat, you know you wanna see them actually cry. I don't want to wade through 10 minutes of video for some mildly impressive stinger if there's no old rich white conservative guy looking like he actually might have gotten spanked, and not enjoyed it. And then there are all the stupid pop-ups, asking you to agree to some statement like "being mean to people is bad!" and then if you agree, they try to get you to sign a petition or something. A.NOY.YING.
Nevertheless, all that hyperbole gets you to look, and that's what advertising is all about. So it's ironic that today I clicked on one hysterically titled THE COKE AD THAT COULD DESTROY ALL OTHER PRODUCTS, ESPECIALLY COKE. (As if).
But I have to give Upworthy cred for posting some really neat stuff from time to time, and this is one of them. It's a piece of art by the wildly popular, anonymous British street artist Banksy:
Banksy has encapsulated a philosophy about advertisement that I've been thinking about, and commenting on, for some time. Lately, I've been thinking about it more.
Advertising exists to make us feel LESS THAN. It exists to make us feel NOT WORTHY. Poorer. Uglier. Fatter. Imperfect. BAD ABOUT OURSELVES.
Because if we feel bad about ourselves, we are vunerable, and they know how to fix that. They will be very happy to sell us something to fix that.They will go so far as to make up things for you to worry about, like how white your teeth are, how your laundry smells, whether you're serving your kids' friends cool enough after school snacks, whether your car makes you look like a grandpa (and NOT a hip grandpa), the quality of your lovelife and vacations and yard and social life compared to your completely fictional TV neighbors.
Advertising goes after everybody, but women are especially vunerable, because in most of the world's societies, it's just a given that it is your duty as a woman, first and foremost, to be decorative. Any of your accomplishments are quite secondary to how --- pardon my French --- fuckable you are. And if you do not fit a very narrow definition of that admittedly crude term, why then any mouth-breathing moron sitting around with one Cheeto-stained hand down his pants and the other on his mouse can instantly dismiss your arguments, your opinions, and your humanity by commenting on how ugly you are. And if you're ugly, you're probably also a lesbian --- not the hot kind in his porn stash, but the scary kind that might be able to kick his ass --- and a FEMINIST who doesn't know her place and, the curse of all curses upon womanhood, FAT.
Think I'm indulging in a bit of hyperbole myself? Check any comments section of any article in which a prominent woman has expressed an opinion. Somewhere, someone is going to call her ugly, allow that he wouldn't "do" her, criticize her hair or her makeup or her clothing; and someone is going to call her fat. Or, if she's absolutely skeletal, anorexic. This woman's appearance will have absolutely no bearing on her work, her expertise, her opinions, her politics, or anything else, but I guarantee you that there will be any number of people out there (women as well as men) who believe that remarking unfavorably, and usually quite smugly, on her appearance, somehow supports their contrary viewpoint and negates all that she is.
Advertising and media constantly support and reinforce this by focusing relentlessly on women's appearances and presenting unrealistic models of what an attractive woman is supposed to look like. And much has been written about how unattainable these looks are for most, but not all, women. I don't need to add to it.
But I'm coming to a point where I am no longer willing to buy into it. Everytime I open a fashion magazine, I feel excluded. I can't afford most of the ridiculously expensive things featured, even if I could find versions that fit. None of the models look like me. If there happens to be a woman with curves, let alone an actual plus-sized woman, she isn't frolicking on the pages with all the superskinny models. No, she's ghettoized in a special article --- usually very short, with minimal photos --- just for you fat girls. She is set apart. She is not presented as a normal part of life, even the hyperactive fantasy life magazines have concocted for women.
Magazines are doing better about including women who aren't in their teens and twenties, but even in one of the less-silly magazines, MORE, you are still getting an ultra airbrushed, surgically enhanced, professionally colored and made up and dressed version of femininity. MORE has a feature called "This is what 50 Looks Like" (or 47, or 62, or whatever age the featured woman happens to be). I have yet to see one of these ladies who --- admittedly elegant, well-heeled, and attractive by any standards --- don't look like they either have AMAZING genes, or some very good work done.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of looking good. But I am becoming less and less willing to let others dictate to me what that means. Advertising has started to anger me. It's time to put down the magazines, turn off the TV, and skip the comments sections.
I'm also really, really in favor of taking care of myself. Having a good skincare regimen. Eating right. Working out. Losing weight, not because society tells me I need to be slender to be worthwhile, but because I want to be healthy and I really do prefer to be at a lighter weight than I am now. That doesn't mean I think all fat women need to lose weight or are automatically unhealthy. It's individual.
All these thoughts about advertising and media are tied up in these personal feelings and lifelong struggles, but what's different is I believe I'm finally, finally arriving at the time where I can tell these negative influences to just piss off. And I really hope that my nieces, and all women younger than me, and all women who don't fit the mold (and really, who does? The mold is a fantasy) will be able to come to this same conclusion a lot earlier in life than I have.
You don't need stuff to make you beautiful. You don't need to dress a certain way or weigh a certain amount. And, in fact, you have no obligation to BE beautiful. Just go be wonderful, and be free.