Tag Archives: Faaat

Adjust Yourself.

23 Jun

So, one of the reasons I had (and have) to dial down a little on blog posts is that there’s loads of other work to do… Not that I’m actually doing it; I went on holiday to Madrid. And yet – even in between tapas, red wine, glorious sights, handsome men and sunny, summery weather, some people have taken their one chance to piss me off on my last day, when I discovered this in the subway:

That’s right. An advertisement for the gastric band. The poster features a naked fat woman, “Marta”, allegedly 28 years old, an architect and – gasp! – single. The poster goes on to say that Marta has difficulties when it comes to social relations, and that she suffers from joint pain and depression (…in that order). In comes the gastric band: it is advertised as “the definite solution,” and one can pay it off by monthly instalments of 177 Euros…

Seriously. Seriously? Where do I begin… First of all, the mere idea of proactively advertising major abdominal surgery (and yes, whereas surgeons try to perform it as minimally invasive as possible – it is still major abdominal surgery) is just mind-boggling to me. You might as well start to advertise appendectomies (because who needs that little stomp and it’s a preemptive strike, right) or tonsillectomies (which are less invasive than a lap band surgery…). Apparently, being fat is such a horrible state of existence that advertisements like these are totally ethically justified. The European Union has established the imprint of warnings on the mortal danger of smoking on every damn cigarette pack around the continent – and yet, lap band advertisements are completely fine. True, it is probably a lot cleverer not to mention the risks, side effects and the utter uselesness of the gastric band in some cases – probably no one would voluntarily do that to hirself, then.

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Get Your Dogma Off My Cookie.

30 May

Recently, friends of mine told me an anecdote that was supposed to make me laugh (I guess), but was more of (yet) an(other) example to me how beauty standards and misogyny still go so well together:

He (lets call him Tim) and she (lets call her Tom) were working together on updating the university’s noticeboard, when one of the professors came out of his office and wanted to share some cookies with them. Tim (to be polite, as he said) thankfully accepted, but Tom is allergic to wheat, so she declined. You’d think the professor might be able to go on with his day after this, having handed out a cookie, but her response apparently startled him. His go-to-response was: “Ah, sure, you’re trying to watch your diet.”

Tom did not laugh (because she actually did not hear what he said), Tim gave a little chuckle… This made the professor so uncomfortable that he finally buggered off after some awkward seconds. Tim then implicitly told Tom that she was kind of rude and that her behaviour made the professor feel awkward.

As I get annoyed rather easily (…so I’ve been told ;) ), I am naturally annoyed by this – and with reason, I think. I’m also fine with adding that, as a person who has been put on her first diet when she was seven years old (with no eventual benefit whatsoever), I am probably more receptive to this kind of stuff.

Not only was “diet” the first thing that popped into the professor’s head when Tom did not want a cookie, although there is a multitude of explanations available (…maybe Tom does not like cookies, or does not like the professor’s damn cookies, or does not want to eat cookies right now, or has just eaten cookies, or is actually allergic or nauseated or just not in the mood), he actually thought it was worth commenting on her decision; even more so, in a fat-phobic and sexist fashion.

First of all, and most importantly (and I don’t think you can get that message out often enough): A person’s body and (life style) choices are none of your fucking business. Not mine, not yours, not a family’s, community’s, economy’s or of national or even global interest. Don’t get me wrong, certain individual looks, behaviours and choices are most certainly presented as a matter of the public and of policy; many people behave really horribly, downright violently, and have no sense of boundaries when it comes to weight and size. Sometimes things get rather funny and truly preposterous, as the “But I care for these fatties”-tantrum throwing TV chef Jamie Oliver has shown. My personal favourite, however, is the “scientific” revelation that fat people are one of the major causes of global warming and would save the planet if only they’d exercised more – you couldn’t make this shit up…

From Michelle Obama’s war on fatty terror concern for fat children to germany’s federally launched “Fit statt Fett” (“fit instead of fat” – and let me just say: the german word “fett” conveys more negativity than “fat” and is a deliberately derogatory term that could have been replaced by more humane alternatives) campaign, weight is framed as both a concrete political/fiscal and societal/symbolic issue: national security and prosperity vs. decadence and decline; discipline and fiscal success vs. laziness and over spending due to supposedly preventable diseases that allegedly put a stranglehold on health care systems.

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Keep Your Bleach.

25 May

Ah, Unilever… You are such a horrible company.

There is a debate going on on many blogs whether or not this advertisement is racist. And you might have guessed what I think: hell yes it is.

Dove has accomplished something truly remarkable with this: a fail on so many levels, all wrapped up in a nice little picture. Marketing a new product “that actually improves the look of your skin,” the ad shows three women in bath towels, standing in front of two pictures in a setting that looks like an art gallery. The “before” picture is a “painting” of seemingly cracked and rough skin (as it supposedly looks before using moisturising products), the “after painting” shows a smooth skin surface.

Dove’s “real beauty” campaign has had its fails before, for example when they made quite clear that their definition of  “real beauty” apparently does not include scars, tattoos or certain body shapes. This ad, however, brings their attempt to sell more products through diversity to a different level of discrepancy and hypocrisy.

The three women in the picture are standing in a line that makes one recall ads for dietary products, with a “before” and “after” picture. Dove had the great idea to position the women according to skin colour/”shade”: Starting with an African American woman with curly black hair, to a (supposedly) Latina with straight brown hair, and finally ending the little get-together with a Caucasian woman with blonde straight hair.

Now the fun starts: The African American woman is conveniently placed under the “before” label, whereas the Caucasian woman is standing beneath the “after” headline. Dove, therefore, seems to suggest that using their products has the great effect of eventually lightening skin, or, to use their phrasing: “actually improve” its “look.” Moreover, the further we get to the Caucasian model, the more weight the women lose. Judging from the picture, Dove has found the recipe for “real beauty:” being white, blonde, straight-haired and skinny. Isn’t that practical, especially since we have just recently been taught by Satoshi Kanazawa that white women are “scientifically” proven to be more attractive?!

Dove’s white-centredness does not stop here, however. The skin “paintings” in the background show skin as being light, maybe with a slight tan. In times when the colourism of the infamous brown paper bag test is still far from being obsolete, most notably in (mainstream) art and entertainment, and plasters are still being referred to as “flesh”-coloured (at least in germany), Dove should have thought about those images twice before equating them with an allegedly universal look of “skin.” This even reinforces the white-centred image the campaign is conveying with the arrangement of the women in front of the “skin” pictures.

Whereas it is a possibility that the creators of this advertisement and the people who approved of it were not aware of these implications and effects, it is not an excuse. Having the option to be unaware of racist attitudes, pictures and subtle messages is a form of white privilege. Not being bothered by these images and accusing others of being too sensitive (… angry Black woman, anyone?!) is a form of white privilege. Being able to equate “skin” with “white skin,” setting this as the default and normality, and setting it as a default for “good looks” is a form of white privilege.

Peggy McIntosh has spelled out the various forms of White Privilege 20 years ago. [pdf] But Unilever knows that; they just don’t care – Whiteness works. Especially when you’re the leading supplier of skin-bleaching creams in India.

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