Unilever, Unilever, Unilever. The company that brought us the marketing triumphs of Slimfast formula for fatties, and Lynx/Axe perfumed men’s body products.
Now Unilever had rebranded hair-product range Suave for the noughties, with their “Pretty Mommy Movement” (retch). The catchphrases?
“Be a model mom”.
“No matter what kind of hair you have, there’s a Suave Professionals line to help you avoid the postpartum ponytail at all costs.”
“89% of moms admit they’ve let themselves go. 100% can get themselves back.”
This campaign berates white/het/married/middle-class/NorthAmerican mothers for falling wholesale off the femme-drag consumer bandwagon and “letting themselves go”. There’s just no way to say that without a disapproving “tut” and a lowered-voice gossip-whisper, is there? “Oh, Lauredhel? She’s let herself go. Such a shame, she could be so pretty, if only she’d take care of herself.”
It’s a not-so-new Fifties twist on the madonna-whore double-bind. Whatever women do within the two choices available to them, they’re to blame for the unthinkably dreadful consequences. Either minister attentively to your family and let yourself go, or engage in a high-maintenance, time-consuming beauty/sexiness regime while neglecting your duties to your poor floundering helpless family. Well, Suave is here to tell us we not only can do both (Hoorah, how empowering!), but we have a responsibility to do both. Being a non-sexxxay but attentive domestic-goddess momwife is no longer an Approved Womanly Status. A responsibility to who, I wonder? We’re not only depriving our husbands of wifey sexbotty goodness, but we’re embarrassing our kids in public by not being yummy mummies, and we’re just generally recklessly being eyesores when daring to show our un-primped locks in public.
Not only that – but performing the sexbot routine is somehow twisted around into not only a woman’s duty to family but a duty to herself, the one thing a momslave is permitted to do “for herself” (huh?) in a day. Under the Suavoscope, we’re not granted meaningful non-domestic work, friends, hobbies, sports, or activism. We’re offered the latitude of not feeling fulfilled with 100% full-time motherhood, but the only out involves submitting to dead-eyed ‘n’ shiny-haired corporate compliance after being benevolently bestowed with the “luxury” of having five minutes cuddled up to a curling iron and a bottle of hairspray.
So. Suave.com. It’s Flash-fucked, so I’ve grabbed some screenshots for you. The main thrust of the campaign involves the use of a pile of tut-tutting “statistics” to lecture us faux-sympathetically on exactly how negligent we’ve been of our feminine duties. Be warned, the colour scheme and graphics are of a cutesy-wutesiness typically reserved for Care Bears and toy stripper-poles.
“The average mom devotes 87.9 minutes a day to meals and only 4.2 minutes to her hair.”
“When listing her priorities, the average mom ranks doing the floors higher than doing her hair.”
“The average mom spends 3.2 hours per week doing laundry and only 72 minutes on her hair.”
“Doing dishes accounts for 3% of the average mom’s day. Doing her hair, 1%.”
“The average mom will turn on her burners 718 times per year. She’ll turn on her curling iron only 134 times.”
I don’t know about you, but I reacted to these “statistics” with a spectrum of responses ranging from “Yeah, that sounds about right”, to “Well, no, my partner does most of that”, and “Curling iron? What’s a curling iron and why would I turn it on 134 times a year?” I have a feeling I’m supposed to be gasping and sprinting to the mirror, clutching my postpartum ponytail in one hand and my pearls in the other, in a scandalised “Oh my god, I forgot to fold, spindle and mutilate my hair!” parody of Munch’s Scream. But I just can’t seem to muster the dismay.
The Canadian Suave campaign goes a step further again, right into classic PUA (Pick-Up Artist) techniques like “negging”. Negging is one method misogynistic little wankstains use to pick up women in bars: they offer an inept compliment, then turn around and slam a woman’s appearance. Apparently making sure a woman knows she’s nothing special to look at is a sure-fired way to make her slavishly fascinated by a PUA’s Axe-soaked aura. So, Suave’s Tip #6?
“You Used to Have Sculpted Arms, Now it’s Sculpted Hair!
You may have kissed stomach definition good-bye, but say hello to instant definition for your hair. “
And computer wallpapers? Suave has got your computer wallpapers right here. Just in case you’re a bit tired of that beautiful sunset or snowy mountain scene or photos of your kids, you too can have vomitous violet advertisements on the computer you only use to obtain essential haircare information and floor-waxing pointers. The wallpapers feature these inspirational mantras:
“Put the Va-Va-Voom in Minivan”
“Wear R-rated hair for your G-rated life”
And women are not just responsible for maintaining our own shiny, silky hair and bootylicious come-hither looks. We’re responsible for the glossiness and bouquet of the men and children in our lives, too.
“Flaunt the squeaky cleanest family on the block. Yes it is possible for your kids and their daddy to look and smell like they just stepped out of a photo shoot. If you can convince them to hop into the tub or shower, we’ll take care of the rest with hair and skin care formulated just for them.”
Because FSM forbid they take responsibility for their own damn personal hygiene when there’s a personal bodyservant just begging to do it for them.