Monday, December 13, 2004

The Rage Over Feminine Hygiene Products

I read an article that made me sick of all the politicized anti-man rhetoric bouncing around in hollow skulls. I became disgruntled to the point where I just had to write a letter to notify a young journalist with whom I have bone I have to pick. I'm tired of people not taking responsibility for their choices and blaming it on some amorphous being like, popularly, the corporation. Corporations can be evil but they can also be productive and in a way they even have more power than the government. That doesn't mean we should hate the very concept of a corporation. We should be wise consumers and suck it up. I recommend anyone who's interested in learning the role of the Corporation to read "the Corporation" by Joel Bakan or see the movie. Here's my response to the article in The Record, C1. Monday Dec 13, 2004 entitled "Young and flawless feminine hygiene ads must go". I'm supposed to be studying right now but I just studied and studied and studied and wrote two exams, so give me a break.

Susan Mohammad,
So Gilette-Venus wants you to "Reveal the Goddess in you" and hearing them say that makes you so angry that you're compelled to throw shoes at an innocent television. Why do you have such a strong reaction to ads that are obviously designed to appeal only to the most superficial level of consciousness? I can personally say that I have and always will hate their song so I feel your pain even as someone who would never consider buying a Venus razor. However, it's been proven that a strong reaction to anything will increase its chances of penetrating your mind. You think about razors because of how stupid that ad is don't you? Well, unfortunately perhaps that was the advertisers idea.

"It only makes sense that a company making products for women be run by women."

I disagree. Why is this the only way things make sense? Is it somehow unethical for a man to perform a manicure or apply make-up? These are typically 'feminine' products and activities but they aren't just for ladies. How could you even enforce something like what you're proposing? First of all, why should a man be the target of discrimination if his job is to work at a factory that supplies cotton for feminine pads? Aren't you really trying to promote equity? Secondly, if what you're saying is that women will be more responsible as producers for women just because they're women, you're missing the point of how to most effectively benefit the market. I think whoever has the skills should do the job, regardless of their sex.

"This consumer choice is an illusion since the very corporations making money off our bodies and natural cycles are owned and operated by men who, in return, invest little in us."

This is all backwards. Your choice to buy something really is your choice. If you don't know that then perhaps you really have been warped by these commercials. No one can legally steal your credit card and buy razors for you in bulk. If these are corporations, then those who own them aren't necessarily the ones managing public image, focus group and managers are. They invest a lot in you. It takes millions of dollars to hire focus groups to figure out what you want (and no, you're right, it's not you but someone who 'represents' you otherwise they would have to survey the entire world) and how to promote those interests in a catchy way. The result is that you spend a lot of time and money investing in them, and that is how bilateral trade operates.

I don't think what you're attacking here is really men making female hygiene products or the corporation. Corporations always try to fashion themselves as if they have you as an individual in mind. Don't believe them. They do lots of research to find out what will motivate a particular target audience. Since heterosexual men don't really need tampons, it's not immediately clear why they would use beautiful female models to sell tampax. The point is that they do, so perhaps there's a reason why lots of women want to be just like the beautiful women they see, regardless of the person behind the scenes or what tampax has to do with a pretty face.

"Companies make large profits by overcharging women on the products we need without consulting women in the process. In fact, they claim to speak for us."

This is how companies work. If profits are the objective then all you have to do is convince people that they need the product and then you have a steady cash flow. So the products must serve some purpose even if it's merely psychological for women to keep buying them. I could decide not to buy clothes because they're too expensive, but unless I can make them on my own, there's no point complaining about having to be naked.

It may seem wrong that there is a man making money off of something that he doesn't really give a care about but is it his fault that he's making money or could he just be acting opportunistically by exploiting a trend in consumerism that is there for him or anyone else who wants to make an easy buck? Commercials with integrity for the sake of integrity come off as being insincere and annoyingly preachy. Some advertising has caught on to this and intentionally flipped their attitude. Take an ad (Future Shop maybe?) whose premise (roughly) is that Christmas time is a time when families can get together. It gets emotionally mushy just before introducing the real motive behind its intended listeners: "then once you get into the store, it shouldn't be that hard to lose them" (the rest of your family). This is an effective ad because it appeals to a skeptical public. We don't believe the things we hear nor the fairies we see dancing in commercials. There's no reason to trust sales people, but that's just a hook. It's like Buckley's admitting that their medicine tastes terrible. They know that you'll believe something that's believeable, and be more likely to buy their product because you were honest. Other ads use fairies not because they want you to expect you'll turn into one, but because it's for amusement.

"It's refreshing to see new products developed and marketed by women, like the Diva Cup or sea sponges. These products significantly cut down a woman's dependence on, and contributions to, large corporations of the feminine hygiene underworld."

Ok, what is this shady concept we're talking about here: the "underworld"? Is there some kind of black market of feminie hygiene products that I don't know about? Secondly, won't the increase in consumerism for these products not lead to them becoming large corporations that establish mutual dependence between themselves and their publics? I don't know that it's all that different a ball-game. There's already a cornicopia of birth-control and hygiene products that clutter the market. Competition is healthy but does it really solve the problem? There will always be dumb ads. Consumers can't change them directly. What they can do is change their response. As long as they keep creating a buzz about the ads by talking about them, they will help disseminate their message and automatically link the products associated with them for better or worse.

Businesses, like corporations, all have a social responsibility to their consumers, and that is to retain them and make money off of them to benefit their investors. Therefore, men and women both need to create something in their product that makes it sell. If that means improving the product then good but just don't sweat the small stuff if others are tricked into buying something that obviously doesn't solve the problem it suggests it does because of sophisticated advertising.

I agree with you that women who have a stake in their own products are probably more likely to produce something that's actually beneficial to women but that's a hypothetical prejudice at best. Who's to say that "women's businesses" for which you are "looking to support" "the ones that aren't from the island where fairies dance on razors and maxi-pads fall from the sky" will be any more realistic? If so, how will they engage consumers any more directly and why are these businesses so hard to spot? Perhaps it has to do with mass-marketing. It seems that the most widely distributed messages have to be the most dumbed-down messages in order for everyone to get them. I can live with that as long as I don't get sucked in which will depend on my ability to analyse what I'm being exposed to. A little tolerance goes a long way as practice for being able to filter out irrelevant messages but if conversely, you censor content, you're controlling people just as much as you would be by providing the messages you'd censor. Therefore, I don't think the solution is that these "ads must go" I think it's that people need to shut them out.

It was provoking to read your article and I'm impressed that a person my age is already an accomplished journalist. I know that commercialism is the cause of a lot of angre because it manipulates the truth and employs impressions to form assumptions but I hope you can see where I'm coming from with my hang-up about people blaming a system in which they so willingly fit in.

Keep writing,
Barrett Cressman

3 Comments:

Blogger The Lioness said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Melanie - didn't want to take the time to register and get a name while I'm at work, btu wanted to post - sorry for the anonymity....
Barrett - I love who you are. I can't believe I've known you all these years and not known just how beautiful you are. Reading your writing thrills and excites me - and it feels so indulgent to be able to sit and read and soak you up without even needing to give anything back. A welcome break. ahhhhh.

10:15 AM  
Blogger sirbarrett said...

Ah! So this is what you said:

"Good, plus one post shining. It goes in Portuguese because still I did not sleep and I am tired and the language-mother is what I have. E you, were to make the examination? The time? I have excellent notice but pods to read in mine blog. I am to write badly of intention, to be more easy to translate. Good luck, eh?"

3:01 PM  

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