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Gender Block: advertising’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

Hillary Di Menna

Imagine having your waist measured with measuring tape and being a size “passionate.” Or stepping on a scale to see, not a number, but the word “perfect.” Body positive activists already have—and Special K has mysteriously come up with these same ideas to put in their ad campaigns.

On August 21, a commercial for the brand was aired: Different women told their stories of how heartbreaking it can be to buy jeans. A white backdrop follows with the supposed-to-be thoughtful question, “Why do we let the size of our jeans measure our worth?” The same women then buy jeans from a store where there are no pant sizes, and measuring tape tells the shoppers that they are radiant. It is faux-documentary style, reminiscent of Dove and yanks on the heartstrings of women who have been there; many of us have.

There are too many reasons for one blog post to examine all the reasons behind why women feel crappy about their bodies. However, one big reason is likely that we are constantly told to buy stuff to make us look like altered images of actual women, or of ourselves: every time we turn on the TV, flip through a magazine, see a bus drive by, or walk down a billboard decorated street. This “stuff” often includes diet plans, which is exactly what Special K is marketed as.

It’s what brought us the Special K Drop a Jean Size Two Week Challenge. The one that says it can help us lose six pounds in two weeks, despite its recent insistence that numbers do not matter. Which is, of course, what makes this all so infuriating. Companies like Kellogg’s combine marketing strategies that urge women to diet with beauty ideals that echo messaging from body-positive activists. The result is confusing and contradictory but also calculated.

Kellogg’s wants our money. Any business does. Look at Unilever brand’s various product divisions; Dove  advocates for women to accept how they are; Slim-Fast tells women to lose weight; and Axe lets us know how we need to look for boys to like us (and let’s guys know which girls are the hottest.)

If taking our cash involves making us feel bad at one time, then empathizing with us at another, they’ll do it. They’ll do anything, and likely without remorse or care as to the emotional abuse that follows such conflicting messages. The beauty and diet industry, it seems, is very concerned with us having wholly positive feelings about our own bodies: if we attain them, we won’t fall for advertising BS.

A former This intern, Hillary Di Menna writes Gender Block every week and maintains an online feminist resource directory, FIRE- Feminist Internet Resource Exchange.



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