A few nights ago, one of my guy friends was over and we were kicking back after dinner and doing something I don’t often do, which is watch network television. (As you know, I’ve been through the entire Weeds and Californication canons this year, but those are on Netflix). Somehow we got on the topic of manipulative advertising, and decided to watch an hour of TV with a critical eye for the ads. Man! I mean, I know I’ve been busy….but how have I been overlooking all of the things I should be worried about, being a woman and all?!
Advertising to women is completely fear-based. You already knew this, because it’s been this way for decades. If women are not worrying about all of the cancer-causing agents in everything we touch, eat and wear (and God help you if you’re pregnant, because you’ve been ruining your baby since it was a zygote), then we are supposed to be worrying about the thousand ways we are repellent to men (and probably other women, too), not to mention the many ways we are destroying our chances of a happy life by being irrational and hormonal.
How did all this get started? I want to get on an Eve Got Framed rant here (can someone please buy me the t-shirt?), but I won’t even go there, because it would involve tracing back through the 1st century misogyny in the church, Paradise Lost, centuries of art and literature and music….all of the thousands of ways women have been cast as devilish seductresses whose only worth and power lies in their ability to attract men and temporarily sublimate their natural inclination towards ruining the world. So let’s not go there.
But you’ve got to think that at some point, the chemical companies held meetings to come up with new things for women to worry about. Imagine a bunch of fat cats puffing cigars around a glossy conference room table while nervous secretaries sat in the corners taking notes (after they fetched the coffee, of course).
“Well, now, Jenkins, what have you got for us? Come up with a way to sell more product, have you?”
*stammering slightly* “Uh, yes Sir, I have. You see, Sir, we’ve already got women worried about properly disinfecting their countertops, dishes, appliances and bathrooms. Now I thought we could get them worried about properly disinfecting *coughs* their, umm, well, their lady parts, Sir.”
“Lady parts, you say? Genius, Jenkins! Genius!”
Meanwhile, across town, the cosmetics company meeting was underway.
“We’ve already got grown women thinking they’ve got to paint their faces every day in order to be fit for human interaction, Bob. How in the hell can we sell more product?”
“I’ve got an idea, Roger. It may seem a little crazy, but here goes… Let’s shift our demographic and target young women. And by young women, I mean girls!”
“Girls? How young, Bob?”
“Well, I was thinking…eight? nine?”
If you managed to make it through your teenage years without being driven off a cliff by self-loathing, then the real fun began. You could worry about:
Being too fat…
Or too skinny….
Having smelly hair….
Or a flat chest…
So many things to worry about! But once you’ve managed to get your weight, skin, hands, hormones, hair and lady bits under control, you will be all set to begin a career in every woman’s wheelhouse: emotional manipulation.
The next time you watch television, check out the ads and how they create things to worry about through fear. (Men certainly don’t escape this phenomenon; they are just newer to the game, and have only recently become the targets of billion dollar industries based on hair loss and ED. We’ll go there another day).
As a public service to you, my lambs, I am going to tell you what you actually need to be afraid of. Two words:
This morning, the dogs and I set out on the trail for our usual walk. An hour and a half in, I’m climbing over rocks and breaking it down to My Kinda Lover (you know how I feel about Billy Squier) and the dogs are ahead of me, tracking rabbits and eating grass as dogs do, when all of a sudden, the most blood-curdling, other-worldly scream I have ever heard pierces the air.
The birds stopped chirping, the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up, the dogs’ tails went rigid, and a low-slung goldish brown animal appeared right in front of us. The dogs took off at Mach 5.
I screamed at the dogs to stop and come back, but they were running hell-bent for leather after the cat, totally ignoring me, while my head filled with visions of finding their carcasses farther up the trail in tattered shreds.
Luckily, the dogs eventually came back, no worse for the wear except panting like they’d just marathoned across the Sahara. I kept the earbuds out of my ears for the rest of the hike [although my son told me months ago, when I started walking the trail, that I wouldn’t actually hear a mountain lion…I would just feel it as it took my face off] and cased the trees like I was a Long Range Patrol on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
When I finally made it to the ridiculously steep evil stone stairs at the end of this segment of the trail, I was thrilled, and started to bear climb them like I always do (a holdover from my past life as a gym rat). I leaned over and put my hands down on the stair in front of me, right next to….
Let’s just get this straight: I hate snakes. And if you are thinking of leaving a comment that says, oh, it’s just a little harmless ringneck snake, so cute, so good for the environment! I will not be your friend ever again.
So, this is the message for today: Don’t be afraid of all the things advertisers would like you to be afraid of. You smell fine, and we all love the way you look. Resist the urge to drink their Kool Aid.
Because, in the words of FDR, the only thing we have to fear is…mountain lions.
Stay safe, people!