I remember from my teenage years sitting in the kitchen reading when mom and dad came in, my sister behind them and begging them to buy her some shampoo that cost five times what she usually used. I had long learned the trick to finding the right shampoo was how much detergent it had, not the fancy claims. Mom and dad listened in exasperation as my sister explained how this shampoo was full of vitamins and this that and the other and she really needed it so her hair would be soft and manageable. I closed my book, looked at her, and asked, Can you explain to me how it is possible for shampoo to take stuff OUT of your hair and put stuff IN at the exact same time? She just stared at me as the wheels in her head kicked into overdrive. No explanation was forthcoming, and she stuck with her usual stuff that was working fine before whoever or whatever told her this fancy stuff was magic in a bottle from then on.
Everyone wants to be their best. They want to look their best, feel their best, whatever (men, too. It's not just women, men worry about their appearances, it's just most guys don't want to admit it). I think I was the only person who didn't criticize Hillary Clinton's first appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show after Bill Clinton became President. People complained that this role model for women spent time talking about hair and such. My reaction was, so what? You can be successful and independent and still be interested in these things. However, there's a very thin line between normal interest in hygiene and appearance and an unhealthy obsession. And the unhealthy obsession is what society cultivates.
A significant portion of the country's economy preys on women's insecurities. They aren't pretty enough. They aren't skinny enough. They aren't fashionable enough. They aren't clean enough. You use SOAP?!? Do you WANT your skin to feel like sandpaper?!? All in the name of buying dramatically overpriced stuff with questionable results. Women whose egos are assaulted by these ad campaigns are not customers. They are victims. And if they ever figure out how much they are paying for how little actual product, they'll jump and companies will collapse. So the companies have to keep women from figuring out they are being had. And they do that by ingraining behavior. Women are taught to be concerned with their appearance from a young age, and some parents and many peer groups reinforce it.
So companies start these insecurities young, the younger, the better. Most of the time, it's just stuff that people pay more for, but that's it. It doesn't actually impact their health....
...hello, what's this?
Oh, great. Sketchers Shape-Ups. The footwear for people who didn't think Crocs and heelies were bad enough. See, those things teach you to walk improperly, leading to back and foot problems. Shape-Ups, for those who came in late, have rounded, misshapen bottoms. The ostensible goal is it forces you to use your muscles more, burning more calories and toning up your muscles. However, not only has scientific research pretty much poo-pooed this idea, but since you are subtly wobbling all the time, it puts extra stress on your bones and joints as you work to keep your balance. A waitress in Arizona wore Shape-Ups every day on her job, and in five months, had stress fractures on her hip bones
. I've only recently gotten my ankles back in reliable working condition, a shoe that undermines that is not on the top of my list. Not that I have to worry. It's not that I know better, it's that Sketchers doesn't make Shape-Ups for guys
Now, if this was like the Kim Kardashian commercial (yeah, I really believe that figure comes from working out and not from going under the knife), I wouldn't say anything. After all, it's people's money to do what they want with, and we all pay a little more for something we really want. It's not a crime, and we're all guilty of it to some degree, so no "holier than thou" bullshit from me. The reason this commercial actually makes me angry is the attitude it presents. Advertising is all about attitude. Here's someone who has it together, and to be like them, you do this. This is why soft drink commercials constantly feature whoever currently has a hit single. So let's analyze the attitude of this commercial:
* Rock bands are fun and cool. Even though the band makes Josie And The Pussycats look like Operation Ivy, the girls on stage are being admired. Everyone is dressed in modern styles. Everyone is happy. Everyone is confident. Everyone is energetic. Everyone is SKINNY.
* I just love the taunting music. Reminds me of "I Know What Boy Like" by the Waitresses.
* How does the song go? "Heidi's got the new Shape-Ups! (Heidi? Oh, her! She plays softball, right? -- G
) Got everything a girl wants! She's got the height (Uh-oh.... -- G
), got the bounce (double uh-oh... -- G
), yeah, she's looking good and having fun, 'cause Heidi's got new Shape-Ups!" Okay, how is this not supposed to be exploitative again?
* And how about a little gender warfare thrown in for good measure, with junk food that's bad for girls being presented as male?
Of course, Sketchers is saying there's nothing exploitative about this, it's just to help encourage kids to get out and be healthy, like with Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative. Uh, Let's Move features nutrition and actual exercises, is targeted at girls and boys, and doesn't mention buying $50-$75 shoes as a viable plan. Want to take another run at that?
I would love to have a daughter. She doesn't have to be a princess, she could be a punk rocker, and I'd still be the proudest dad on the planet. But then, I would hate to have a daughter. How can I protect her from people who only see her as a wallet with feet? Especially when those people present themselves as cooler than her dad ever was and ever will be?