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?

20 thoughts on “Thoughts on Femininity and Axe

    • I’m so glad that so many kids will be growing up with parents who have that type of’s so awesome! My mom made it super clear to me from a young age how dangerous it was to think along the lines of the media, and it still gets to me. But I’m so grateful that I had any chance of being aware of it 🙂

  1. Yes Yes Yes!! Thank you soooo much for this blog! I was actually going to write a blog identical to this one. You took the words right out of my mouth. “Hotter” definitely did mean skinner in that commercial and girls will die to be that skinny. I have to change the channel if this commercial comes on.

  2. Thanks for this post! I wrote a couple of months ago about a Kate Winslet quote regarding how mother’s pass on poor body image to their daughters. It’s sad, but how many of us heard our mom’s lament those “ten extra pounds?” And how many of us actually heard our moms ever say anything positive about their bodies? It’s pretty sad!

    • Oh I will try and find that post, that sounds interesting. It seems so true. My mom was always pretty aware of that type of thing because she worked with folks who had eating disorders, but it’s so impossible to ignore the messages that are in so many places even if I don’t consciously like them. At least people can learn now, right? 🙂 I hope there are a lot of people growing up that will be slightly more aware of those messages and maybe someday they will make their own messages to put out into the world 🙂

  3. Hey, Jen

    Ventured over from LinkedIn. My Mum always said to us when we were growing up that true beauty is within, reminding us that our outer attractiveness was only “skin deep”. Guess I’m saying that to say this: the fleeting commercial sales generated by false images of beauty fades away, but true beauty resides permanently. Kind of like the notion that the truth can stand alone ’cause you never have to remember what you said.

  4. Ms. Stuart, this is a really powerful post.
    I would admit that sexual ideologies sell products, and you are not wrong, this is targeted towards men, but I do understand how a woman can feel objectified, and see this as being derogatory and chauvinistic, and it would seem that very rarely are men seen in this particular light and one may ask why women are continuously at the brunt of the media’s attacks.
    In answer to your second question ma’am, I often tell people (women mostly, no, always actually) that I think they are beautiful – in fact I think I am bluntly honest so often that members of the opposite sex may think I am attracted to them. It’s kind of odd how that works – pay a member of the opposite gender a compliment and occasionally it can be misconstrued as an attempt at developing a coherent pick-up line.
    One of my pet hates are women who already have a great figure and believe they need to lose weight. A great majority of women I know feel this way, and I have never managed to understand how they can often generate such ludicrous ideologies, when, on many an occasion they look unfathomably gorgeous to the extent that I would perhaps knock my parents over the head and walk over their bodies just to gaze upon their beauty.
    As for your last question, I never feel good looking.
    Again, a very powerful post Ms. Stuart.

    • You always have the funniest metaphors and imagery! I think it’s great to be nice to people. I feel like it’s easy enough to tell sometimes when someone is being really nice or if they are trying to make a pick up line. I remember learning in school about how guys actually have it quite hard as well in terms of the self-esteem thing and fitting into the idea of “masculinity” and all of that. It’s really sad what the media does to most of us.
      If I ever find a magic genie in a bottle I’ll make a wish for all of us humans to feel good in our skin no matter what we see on a television 🙂

  5. I loved the subheading “Being Led the Wrong Way to Happy Town.” Reminded me of Disney World (“The Happiest Place on Earth”), and the fact that the only way to keep all of us consumers consuming is to make sure that we’re in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction. Not satisfied with our weight, our looks, our status, our distance from Mickey Mouse and Cinderella’s Castle–so we keep buying things to reach Happy Town. But the goalposts keep moving, because they have to if we are going to continue to buy stuff to cure the dissatisfaction. So we went to Disney World this year, and now we have to figure out how we can top that next summer! Now I’m in a size 10, so obviously I’d be even happier as a size 8!

    Reject dissatisfaction. Embrace gratitude. (Too long for a bumper sticker?)

    • I don’t think that’s too long for a bumper sticker at all!

      Happy town is so illusive. I was talking to a musician the other day about lucky shirts, and how if you have a really good show, you sometimes think that the shirt was lucky and that if you wear it again it’ll be another good show. It’s that tendency to draw correlations and act accordingly..maybe that’s part of what plays into why that perpetual dissatisfaction is so easy for us to fall into. We maybe have one jolt of dopamine when we imagine a big castle, or when we get a little bit of a bigger paycheck than before, and we want more of it. Bigger jolts, jolts that stop fading away. But that never happens. Life is so funny. Reject dissatisfaction. Embrace gratitude. 🙂

  6. I think you hit the nail to some very powerful topics with this blog. I can read the fire behind your words, as you expressed your opinions. Being a woman of modest beauty, I know too well the woes of wanting to look thin. It’s true — the media is a mind-fuck! Society has set illusions for us “the consumer” to attain a set image of what is deemed beautiful, in order for us to spend money on industries, which continue their cycle of commercialism. I once read a book by Kat James called “The Truth about Beauty” as she revolutionary guides the reader into what it means to look pretty and be healthy (inside and out) by unveiling the food industry misguidances as well as perceptions in our everyday life. I’m sure Cameron Russell mentioned some of the same opinions. Commercials feed on the fears of the masses to gain a profit, and there is differently subliminal messages happening at the same time. They work for a reason, so until we free out minds from that pre-set illusion, (as I call it) we are doomed to fall victim to commercialism. In the end, it’s all about money, being thin makes companies money, until we as a society are not money-hungry mongrels we will never accept our bodies for what they are. One more point, being thin doesn’t means you are healthy, and being obese doesn’t mean your healthy either, you have to find a balance in mind, body and soul. Health is first, but women put it last on their list always. Did I mention you hit on some important topics, good job, stimulating conversation.

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