My stilettos, my choice. Your Hijab? You’ve been brainwashed!

c1492d1b9a40d95336eb738d895c9ae2Ever hear anything like this? “It’s shocking that Muslim women have so little say over what they wear. They say it’s their choice to wear the Hijab. They’ve been brainwashed! Their free will has been corrupted and they have no idea what real choice and real freedom is. Not like me. I know real freedom.”

You stand there in your size 9, 4 inch stilettos crammed with your size 9.5 feet, toenails painted and cuticles trimmed, leg hair ripped out by the roots with hot wax applied regularly. The shoes hurt but they make your legs look great.  You know you could wear flats… you choose to wear heels.

Your $12 ultra sheer super control top pantyhose do their best to contain that tiny tummy bulge but what it can’t hold in is managed by your Spanx. Your dress is exactly the right mix of professional and sexy so that your meeting today will go well; if your ideas don’t dazzle them, they’ll be hoping for a peek to determine of the colour of your $65 underwire push up bra and wondering if it matches your thong and whether you’re landing strip or clean. You choose to wax because it makes you feel sexier…

Your skin glows… it should, after being religiously scrubbed, buffed and exfoliated. You moisturize twice daily of course, to stay smooth and silky. Your makeup only takes a half-hour now, and you’ve narrowed the routine down to about 15 steps and products. The cost is alarming, but that’s how it goes. You choose to use good skin care and cosmetics; they are much more expensive, but they make you feel prettier…

Your hair… well, it continues to be a struggle. You are going grey and would like very much to let it go, let it happen. In your profession though, grey hair is an invitation to the younger, bolder, hipper folks to step in. You’re not quite ready to let that happen so it’s cut, trim, dye, streak, highlight, foils… you name it. You choose to colour your hair because you know it makes you look younger and sexier…

You pull on your exercise gear and go for a run a few times a week. You hate it hate it hate it and it hurts your knees but you only have a little time to exercise and you seriously don’t want to gain any weight over the winter. Your body needs to be bikini ready when you head to Mexico for a winter break. You may be getting older but you sure don’t want to seem like you’ve given up! And your man, well he likes you looking slim and hot and you want to keep him looking…

Women in the west are the most brainwashed in the history of the world, I would wager. I’m one of them. I have bought into the Virginia Slims, Coca- Cola-Calvin Klein-Betty Crocker-Cosmopolitan femininity construct as much as the next woman. I have no place, no right and no authority on which to judge the choices of any woman anywhere. My choices are the result of the brainwashing I’ve undergone my entire life. Here in the West, that’s celebrated as personal freedom.

There are lots of reasons to be angry about the treatment of women in other countries, under other regimes and political or religious systems. Squawking over women’s lack of choices is hypocritical at best so long as we continue to be pummelled with messages about how to be prettier, fitter, sexier so long as we keep making dolls for our daughters that look like little anorexic prostitutes. We can’t keep offering our own women the choice between being being blow-up doll bitches or perfect Pinterest moms while condemning the choices of others. We need to think about this…

Moral authority? We don’t have it.

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I’m a size 10. So I’m gross?

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I grew up as a dancer… ballet, tap, jazz, non stop competetive dance from the age of 5 until I finished high school, having won the top prize in my Provincial competition… best of the bunch. I battled my body all through my teens… fingers poked at my “midriff bulge”, fingernails dug into my derriere and told to LIFT IT! LOSE IT! PULL IT IN! SUCK IT IN! My years as a young woman were rife with negative body messages, blatant and more oblique…as a dancer, there’s no such thing as too skinny. Predictably, I succumbed to the pressure. I stopped eating. Everyone around me feigned shock and horror, but I shrunk and I won the BIG prize, so the dismay was muted. Once I’d won, I started eating again and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. It wasn’t a PROBLEM I had, it was a SOLUTION… I’d lost the few extra pounds I carried and clearly it had all been worth it…, no?

I stepped away from dance for about 10 years and, strange truth, I got slimmer. I stopped obsessing over my weight, found a man, got slim. Got REALLY slim.  When I got married, my nearly 5’6″ frame carried only 118 pounds, barely a size 2. I wasn’t dieting, wasn’t sick, wasn’t trying to be slim. I ate chocolate, candy, chips, pancakes, you name it. I also smoked… that did it for me. When the babies started coming, I got slimmer and slimmer. With each baby, my feet got bigger and my boobs got bigger… otherwise I shrank almost immediately to the size I’d been before birth. Then I’d get smaller. I had 3 babies in 4 years, nursed each one. I smoked (I will forever be ashamed of this) during my pregnancies…yes, I cut WAAAAAAY  back to a few a day, but still. I then carried, chased, ran after, held, rocked, fed and cajoled those three babies while blessed with a hyper drive metabolism.  I also taught dance… up to 14 classes a week of jazz and tap. That burns a lot of calories.

Then I turned 35. I took a desk job, and thankfully I quit smoking at last. My metabolism did an about face and I began to gain weight. I now struggle to maintain what I feel is a healthy weight.

I don’t have a thigh gap. In fact I didn’t even know what that was until a few months ago. I have a bit of a pooch.  I need an actual bra, with cups and a bit of underwire. I have birthed 3 children, and there is evidence of that in various body parts. I’m also 46… there’s no escaping that though I’m no stranger to Dr. Botox.  I ride my bicycle when it’s warm, run, work out (not religiously), and salsa dance. Even so, I cringe when I step on the scale, cry when I can’t fit something that I want to wear, and have learned to despise shopping for pants, skirts and dresses. I’m okay with tops… so long as they are all big, baggy, hide my flab and don’t strangle my (apparently) freakishly large upper arms.

And I hate my body. I hate that I am no longer a size 2, 4, 6 or even 8. I hate that I get the “full body check tsk tsk” from the hyper cool gay sales guy at Le Chateau. I hate knowing that I am teetering on the very brink of “plus size”. Me. Hot, beautiful, strong, fashionable, powerful ME. Plus size. Scared. Horrified by my own body. How can I overcome this? How do WE, as women, overcome this?  I can cover it well with nice clothes and good shoes, but don’t expect to see me in anything clingy. Ever.

Mike Jeffries, in a 2006 interview which was made enormously public this week has declared that his brand, Abercrombie and Fitch will not carry XL. In fact the largest size they carry is 10. My size. MY SIZE. Anything larger than me is plus size and has no place in the fashionable universe. No. Nononononono.

I resent the idea that a woman of my size (average) and weight (absolutely dead average) is a plus sized woman. Who decided that?  What does that tell my daughters? I have two gorgeous, stunning daughters who are each within 15 pounds of my weight. They both hate their bodies, both think they are fat. I accept my culpability in that… how could they grow up with me and my warped body image without absorbing some self hatred at least by osmosis?

I have a couple of links for you today. One is a remarkable video curated by Dylan Lambi-Raine, Kayla Hatzel and Sarah Zelinski; 3 classmates in the Gender Studies program at the University of Saskatchewan. This video shows objectification of women… AND of men, in stereotypical roles and demeaning and degrading poses. Oddly the reflected version, images of men being objectified, is no less disturbing.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2013/05/08/saskatoon-viral-video-university-of-saskatchewan.html

An interesting bit of history: the 2006 Salon article featuring Mike Jeffries in full dreadful flight:

http://www.salon.com/2006/01/24/jeffries/  It’s just a big old trash bag full of political incorrectness and awful misogyny.

So Mike Jeffries, go away. The cool kids don’t like you. Voice in my head? Get lost. Please? The truth is I’m actually pretty gorgeous, at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself. Every single day.

Philanthropic Blackmail: Marketing Fail

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Yesterday I posted a rant about marketing, more specifically about BAD marketing…marketing fails. Since I published it, I keep remembering or spotting more of these ridiculously bad ad ideas and marketing schemes.  I’m going to focus on one today, one that has really started to piss me off.

It’s the faux philanthropy bait and switch ploy you see almost daily on Facebook. I saw an awful one today.  Green Giant has graciously agreed to donate “up to 5000 cans of green beans” to Food Banks Canada. That’s great… they should be doing that anyway. That’s good corporate citizenship… hell, it’s also a tax write off. Instead, they have found a way to turn it into some pretty sleazy self promotion.

Here’s the problem: General Mills, Green Giant has a promotion tie in with Food Banks Canada on Facebook: “For every LIKE on Facebook we’ll donate 2 cans of green beans up to 5000 cans”. That’s right. 5000 cans. They needed 2500 likes to trigger this donation, too. So let’s see; 5000 cans which retail at what… $1 per can? So that’s a $5,000 donation. Well, thank you very much.

General Mills had a good year last year; profits were up, shareholders were happy.    What I see, beyond the much needed donation of 5000 cans of  green beans to Canadian Food Banks is a widely shared Facebook marketing campaign with huge reach, great feel good payback and lots of piggyback credibility by pairing with such a reputable charitable organization.  And all for $5000. Wow.  That’s a pretty powerful media buy for only 5K.  Think about it… what else can $5000 buy you if you’re an ad buyer? Nothing. Not 30 seconds on tv, not a 1/4 page ad in a national magazine. Nada.  And you can be sure that most people will forget to “unlike” the page, and will have their newsfeed cluttered with Green Giant marketing from now on. Well played, General Mills.

That’s a lot of reach for not a lot of green… and I see it again and again and again. And you know what? I hit “like”.  I hit like so those damned beans would get to the Food Banks Canada shelves, where they really are needed. But I hate it and I know I’m being manipulated and I think it’s pretty tacky marketing.

I love Food Banks Canada. I’ve served on the board of our local Food Bank and appreciate the powerful advocacy work FBC does, and the way they are able to secure generous food donations from major food producers in Canada year after year. I am thankful that Green Giant  donates food to Canadians in need.  This week is Hunger Awareness Week in Canada, May 6-10, and the message needs to get out and out and out that there are far too many hungry people in our country, and a staggering number of hungry children.

If you want more information on what you can do to help Canadians struggling with food insecurity or to learn more about the true demographics of hunger in this country, visit http://www.foodbankscanada.ca/

If you are in Whitehorse and want to know how to help, please visit http://www.whitehorsefoodbank.ca/

If you live in the US,  Feeding America is a great place to start: http://feedingamerica.org/

Faux Facebook Philanthropy is blackmail – just donate the damned food. Fail.

Marketing Fail

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I love a good ad. I don’t mind being sold so long as the seller is creative, clever, honest and interesting. Humor is big too; make me laugh and I’ll remember you. I might even look for your product next time I’m in the market.

For the sake of argument , I’m going to post a few of my least favorite marketing ploys… I call them marketing fails.

Marketing fail #1

Flyers on my windshield.  All those flyers that people throw to the ground in disgust or laziness… now there’s LITTER with your name and phone number on it blowing in the wind. Fail.

Marketing Fail #2

Dancing sandwich board guys. Seriously. This sorry sucker bouncing up and down at the intersection is less likely to inspire me to want the pizza he’s stumping for than cause me to rear end the car in front of me. Distracting drivers is a BAD plan. Plus I KNOW he is desperately trying to make a living, but being paid under the table or minimum wage. Fail.

Marketing Fail #3

Cinematic, flashing, massive, hyper-lit crazy ass highway billboards. These things are bigger than my HOUSE, they flash, they whiz and zing and practically throw confetti at a never ending stream of drivers flying past at highway speeds. Add text and you’ve got a pile up on your hands. Never mind my cell phone, government… regulate THIS.  Fail.

Marketing Fail #4

Tits. They don’t sell me anything. Sorry. Got my own, thanks. If mine don’t inspire me to drop change, hers sure won’t. Tuck them back in and make me think or make me laugh. Those girls just make me uncomfortable, and that doesn’t make me spendy.  Fail.

Marketing Fail #5

Bullshit. My hair will not be 10x thicker in 2 weeks. My waist will not be 6″ smaller in 4 weeks. Don’t guarantee my money back, just tell me the truth, for pete’s sake. I’m not that stupid. Fail.

Marketing Fail #6

Minimizing the risk. 140 Happy Calories my big fat North American ass. Junk is junk is junk no matter how you fluff it up for the cameras. Soda, GMO food, high fructose corn syrup, it’s all garbage and it’s all bad for me. Don’t insult my intelligence by pretending it’s only “part of the big picture”. The big picture is it’s all bad for me and you’re lying. Marketing fail.

That’s my first shot at this. There’s more… I could go on and on. What about you? What do advertisers do that really knocks you flat?

I have a family, I have disposable income, I buy;  sometimes for good reasons, sometimes because I’m a sheep, and sometimes because some clever advertisers have done a good job of convincing me that I really should try their product.  If the ads were clever, honest, and the product really is all they said, I’ll become a customer. If not, I’ll just be annoyed,  I’ll tell my friends and I’ll keep my money, thank you very much.