This guest post is from Mindy, a regular commentor here and a contributor to the For Battle! group blog.
The Gruen Transfer last night revealed that men in advertising still don’t understand ‘lady bits’. Jane Caro did her best to educate them, but still the level of ignorance was surprising. Perhaps what surprised me most was Todd Sampson’s (CEO of Leo Burnett ad agency) attitude to panty liners – he couldn’t understand why pregnant or menopausal women would want to wear them. For him they were a triumph of advertising to get women to use something they didn’t need.
Perhaps he has never been near a pregnant woman? For me, panty liners during pregnancy were all that stood between me and uncomfortably wet undies. I haven’t reached menopause, but assuming that my vagina doesn’t spontaneously fall off when I do, I’m guessing that, at least on occasion, I will still wish to use panty liners.
Then the panel discussed ‘shame and fear’ in the context of night pads. Wil Anderson suggested that perhaps shame and fear were marketing tools used to create a problem where none existed. Jane Caro assured them that the problem well and truly already existed and that these products were actually solving the problem, but the shame and fear discussion went on regardless. It is really no wonder that sanitary product ads are so bad when the voices of those who actually use them seem to be so often ignored. Maybe it’s just me, but in a discussion about advertising sanitary products I would assume that you would see the person most likely to use them as somewhat of an expert in the field, but not so last night.
There was a discussion of the beaver ad, posted on Hoyden previously, and Jane Caro (whom I have a whole new respect for) said that she liked it because for the first time it made her feel like it was okay to be a chick. Apparently it is one of the most complained about ads this year. Unfortunately they didn’t go into the statistics of who it is complaining (I’m betting it’s not
So my question is twofold: one – how could these ads be done better, and two – what else have we been convinced that we need that perhaps we don’t really?
Categories: gender & feminism, media
I read that a little differently – I thought they acknowledged her point that the shame and fear weren’t manufactured by the industry and then went on to discuss how the industry exploits genuine shame and fear to move product. They could still make all the points they’d already thought out about shame and fear, which is why perhaps they were still glib and it came across as not giving her point due attention, but I thought it was an inadvertent demonstration of how advertising works using shame and fear generally – if it’s real, great.
I agree that they weren’t listening so much about other things she said though.
I also find it very interesting that during the time she’s been on the show they haven’t mentioned her recent book launch once, not even to say “and author of X”. I can’t help wonder whether it’s because her book is about feminism, because I can’t imagine them not mentioning a new book from any of the male panellists. Spicks and Specks mentions new albums and tours for their panellists all the time, so it’s not as if plugging the panellists other work would be against the demonstrated ABC policy for guests on its shows. The book’s even for sale through the ABC Book shop!
Let’s face it, at a minimum they’ve convinced us that we need single-use products rather than re-usable products.
And there are a LOT of ads for those products that DO make it seem like bleeding on one’s clothes would be TEH MOST SHAMEFUL THING IMAGINABLE.
For our overseas friends wondering what this post is about, I’ve uploaded the segment to Youtube. Two parts, I’m afraid, because it’s longer than ten minutes.
There’s a lot of things which become unnecessary once you start questioning the central premise behind them – I discovered this when I gave up trying to comply with the dominant beauty ideal. I don’t diet, I don’t shave my legs, I don’t bother with makeup (and also the various “cleansing” products), I put my hair into a plait rather than spending ages blow-drying it, and the amount I don’t spend at the chemist or in the supermarket is positively phenomenal. I can pretty much skip entire aisles while I’m shopping, and not notice any difference in my situation aside from the lower bills. Y’know what’s even more strange? Nobody notices. I’ve been doing this any time the past ten or fifteen years now, and all that happens is that when I *do* wear makeup, it gets noticed.
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I agree with the female panellist (sorry, I didn’t catch her name) in that that is not a shame created from whole cloth by the paper products industry – I’m pretty sure the same shame/embarrassment factor was there back when our grandmothers were hanging towels on belts. (Yay for modern cloth pads with snaps!)
Panty liners, though? Anyone who thinks that’s an entirely invented and unnecessary product is probably someone who has no clue what it’s like to have stress incontinence or unpredictable periods. It might not be “shameful” to have bloodstains or wee on your clothes and furniture once you’ve freed yourself from the female-embarassment factor, but it still is annoying.
I loved the complaint from one panelist about how offensive the portrayals of male cluelessness were in these ads *rolls eyes*
As for the panty liners, most of the panel clearly had no clue about the functions they serve, but it made me recall a couple of campaigns that marketed liners solely as a way to keep knickers permanently pristine. I remember thinking the campaign was going down the road of vaginal deodorant sprays and playing into the idea of vaginas and their normal discharges as being unclean. An uneccesary use perhaps of a necessary product.
I liked Jane Caro’s take on the beaver add especially as a counterpoint to the discussion about fear and shame associated with menstruation. Pity no one tried to address where the shame comes from.
Personally, I wear them because I don’t like the sensation of a damp gusset.
what Deus said. pantyliners are a necessity when I have a good date 🙂
Seriously, considering the topic, the woman hardly got to talk, and it seemed like the more they were talking about function, the LESS she got to say. Panty-liners for instance – why am I listening to someone discuss marketing for a product if he doesn’t even understand what the product DOES?
and even if the shame totally went away, I would still fear the blood stains, if only because they are a pain to get out.
The other ad springs to mind where a new boyfriend claims he “wants to know all about” his girlfriend. So he wanders around her room asking for the lowdown on various objects. Until he gets to the tampons. He doesn’t know what they’re for! (?!) So, she tells him. OH MY DEAR GOD NO! IT’S 2 DISGUSTING!1!!! Boyfriend has a minor meltdown.
Wouldn’t douches be a better example of marketing something that’s usually unnecessary to women through shame? I can remember adverts that suggest the need to douche to “feel fresh” and not have that icky woman smell – maybe there still are those ads, I haven’t read a “women’s magazine” in years.
Douches, vaginal deodorisers, scented tampons… oh, and cosmetic labiaplasty. Definitely cosmetic labiaplasty.
I don’t like the beaver ad, but only because I just don’t own the term “beaver”. It feels to me like a male expression. The panellists did discuss that a bit, although they focussed on the American aspect of it. I just keep expecting Steve Martin to appear. I like the sentiment, just not the imagery.
I see this a lot about products that make it easier for me, as a person with chronic pain — a lot of people get a self righteous kick out of declaring these products Unnecessary and A Product Of The Evil Marketing Industry (and oh, do I have words for that industry!) and forgetting the actual wellness and comfort of ME, the actual person with the actual problem here.
Make no mistake, I never turn off my critical eye toward the entire consumer industry, and I am committed to a low-harm model of living, still training myself to consume only as much as I *need* and so forth — but some of these things *are still helpful!* And yes, Big Pharma is a huge fucking problem but that doesn’t mean my condition was invented out of thin air when they decided to finally pay a smidge of fucking attention to it and come up with an actually-effective fucking treatment for it.
I think I need to stop digging before I get even angrier. Feh.
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Vaguely related: people who pontificate about how “you shouldn’t” (always a generic yet pointed “you”, of course) take analgesics all the time, because then they won’t work when you “really need them”.
Because yeah, we’re making this all up. It’s not actually _real_.
I wasn’t so much suggesting that the ads create the shame, but they certainly capitalise on it.
And blood isn’t so hard to get out – I use re-usable pads and the blood just washes out (as long as you use cold water).
Scented lady products are a whole nother shame thing. Heaven forbid we should smell of PERIOD.
I’ve done the cold-soak-cold-wash thing, and my pads still get stained. This is just fine with me, as that’s where the blood is supposed to go. (Dark red/purple batik prints, mottled hand-dyes, and leopard prints FTW!)