Thoughts on Femininity and Axe

Last week I was hit with an immense hatred of the new Axe “Women Just Keep Getting Hotter” commercial. I know that it’s supposed to be funny, but it led to a whole lot of not-funny thoughts in my head. I’m hoping that by writing about it here it can stop boiling my veins when I think about it.

Here is the commercial I’m talking about-

This video really rubs me the wrong way. I know that it’s targeted to men to sell them a product. But when someone makes a sweeping statement about humans or humans that fit into your particular group, you can’t help but take notice. I identify with being a woman. They are talking about me.

Don’t women have enough to deal with without this crap?  How many more reasons do we need to starve ourselves and try to harness our beauty from the wrong direction?

We Will Literally Die To Be That Skinny

The first thing I didn’t like about this commercial was that “hotter” seemed to also indicate “skinnier,” which is nothing new. We get that all the time, unless a commercial is specifically selling something to “curvy” women. But this is not okay. It’s going to happen for years still I’m sure, but at least we can notice how messed up it is.

Eating disorders are more likely to result in death than any other mental illness, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. I remember hearing that when the U.S. media gets more prevalent in other areas of the world, the rate of eating disorders goes up. I’m not sure how true that was or if it’s still true.

I try to be on top of this in my own brain because honestly, the idea that “I’ll be happier if I’m skinnier” comes up in my head more than I’d care to admit. And usually it is rather magical thinking. “As soon as I’m skinnier, I’ll be really confident and a better singer and I’ll have a better stage presence and I’ll have less anxiety” and other such things. With commercials like this, which only broadcast blatantly what other media puts out there more subtly, it’s no secret where my brain gets that notion from.

Being Led the Wrong Way to Happy Town

From the dawn of media’s conception there was money to be made. The weight loss industry is huge, super huge. When I worked unsavory writing jobs, some of what I would be asked to do is write fake testimonials about weight loss products. I have a hard time believing that people would buy half the crap I was supposed to write about, but still, they do. And why?

Feeling happy. We all want to do it. How do we do it? We watch other people sometimes. We are born imitators. We learn language by observing, we learn habits and patterns from observing, we learn how one lives a life by observing. We mix our natural urges and personalities into what we think is going to make us feel good.

So when we see commercials where the skinny smooth and makeup-ed people are the happiest, we might want to starve ourselves and buy some things. And if we were being shown reality, then it would work!

Hunger hurts and I want him so bad, oh it kills. Cuz I know I’m a mess he don’t want to clean up. I’ve got to fold cuz these hands are too shaky to hold. Hunger hurts but starving works, when it costs too much to love. -Fiona Apple

Why Doesn’t It Work?

I don’t know about you, but I have definitely thought that obtaining some thing or being in some place would lead me to feel a certain way. Usually it’s the opposite. If I feel confident or motivated, then it seems that no matter what I’m wearing or doing, those feelings get put to good use when I stay in line with my values and do things that matter to me.

But if I feel desperate or insecure and am craving something to make it go away, the story unfolds differently. It doesn’t matter if I’m wearing my cutest outfit or if I pulled out the old make up and put it on- I’m left with the same feeling if not worse. Feelings don’t change by getting stuff or looking a certain way; at least not for long.

Wise Words From a Super Model

This is a video by Cameron Russel. It’s a TED talk and I was rather impressed by it. In it, she talks about the experience of being a model and the way that the image is constructed. Upon seeing the Axe commercial, I must admit that I thought more about the images I was being fed than about the experience of the women filling them. Her words were quite uplifting and sobering.

If you ever are wondering “If I have thinner thighs and shinier hair, will I be happier?” You just need to meet a group of models. Because they have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes and they are the most physically insecure women probably on the planet.

– Cameron Russell

How to Enjoy Life

Obviously I don’t know the answer to this question..but at least in regard to silly commercials that highlight a specific idea of feminine beauty, I have an idea of where I can start. The most I can do right now is to just simply acknowledge that it’s a specific idea of feminine beauty. That it’s an idea that does not work for everyone and that is not even fully human, in the natural every-day way that most of us experience our humanness.

These pictures are not pictures of me, they are constructions. They are constructions by a group of professionals, by hair stylists and make up artists and photographers and stylists and all of their assistants and pre-production and post-production..and they build this. That’s not me.

– Cameron Russel

I must say that after making this post, I feel better about the whole thing. I feel more grounded and connected to the world, realizing that I’m not alone and that people are always waking up to and sharing the awareness of the massive amounts of garbage we see each day. Someday I feel that even our idea of gender will be truer to the human reality than to the boxes that work well for corporations. Thank you for reading!

Do you ever get thoughts in your head that seem to come from the media you engage in but may not agree with?

Do you spend any time telling the beautiful people around you that you think they are beautiful, even if they don’t think so?
Do you feel beautiful sometimes even if you are not going to be in an Axe commercial?

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Going on a Date with the Unplanned

Last night I was supposed to play music at a lovely lounge with a friend. I was going to play for a half hour during his set break and was quite excited. As it turned out, the bar was closed for cleaning and they hadn’t told him.

I was caught off guard, sitting on sixth street with my guitar and a pretty dress in rather sweltering heat. My friend told me there would be an open mic in a few hours at a bar around the corner, so I decided to set up shop there while I figured out what to do.

If you’re ever in Austin and see a girl sipping a beer and furiously writing in a notebook instead of talking to people, probably with a guitar propped on her bar stool, please, do come say hi.

One of the things I began pondering was how sometimes, you just can’t force an unplanned evening. It wouldn’t be the same. Many potential plans started to arise- there was an open mic near my house, an open mic across town, a birthday party. I had to pick. I realized this particular flavor of groundlessness was something to cherish because I never would have been able to fabricate it. Deciding on going to that bar would have been in my consciousness at least an hour in advance so that I could get the right bus.

I began to think about the universe as if it was a person, or at least, a thing with a personality. I was noticing that perhaps part of this personality included a tendency to put me and maybe others in situations where they were groundless. What the incentive would be is beyond me, but perhaps it has something to do with getting us to actually be able to listen. It’s easier to listen and feel for me when I’m not in the middle of a plan.

I decided to stay at the open mic I was already at. It didn’t feel right to do

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

anything else, almost like there was a current to follow. I would get to the birthday party afterwards, since that was the most sentimentally important thing on the list. It turned out that the showcase act who would have played from 7-8pm did not show up. The gentleman running the event let me play early and ended up giving me about five extra songs, partially because most people hadn’t shown up yet for the open mic and partially (at least I imagine) because the folks at the bar were actually enjoying it. Plus I was wearing a pretty dress.

Many times I have thought that the fabric of our connected reality really does have a personality, and a sense of humor. I have seen it most in the times when I had fewer plans. Last night was a fresh reminder that there are so many options to tap into that unplanned state, and we never get to pick when they happen. We just get to pick how to relate to them and how much appreciation to give them and ourselves during those times.

Sometimes those times are linked with trauma. I don’t think the same appreciation would be possible in those cases. Instead, I think it could be directed at ourselves and our space and our ability to be open to what we need when we need it in those times.

On another note, I opened my Etsy shop. It is called Jenerprise Jems. The world right now to me feels groundless still. I’m following up on job leads and hoping to find something soon, especially if it leaves me time to keep creating necklaces and improving my ability to play music.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it's too big.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it’s too big.

Have you had any dates with the universe lately where plans didn’t go your way and ended up leading to new connections or inspiration?

Have you thought that the universe has a personality of sorts, and if so, what’s your favorite aspect of it?

If you do think it works that way, how do you account for all of the many terrible things that also happen? Is everything just random, is there a higher power controlling it, is that power simply unable to prevent us from doing horrible things to each other but there to guide us when we are open to it?

Maybe it’s my joblessness catching up and turning me existential..but for now this is what I can think of to write about.

Also, please do look at the sky. Especially if the sun is setting, rising, or absent.