Monday, March 05, 2007

Traffic in Women

Selling (to) the Ladies...

Recently, a few advertisements have caught my attention and started my feminist theory wheels turning until they spun out of control. Consider...

Dare to Wear White
I first noticed the posters advertising Novasure on the DC Metro. Red signs with cryptic messages like, "I haven't worn white pants since I was 12" appeared with a website address, but no further information to identify the product being sold. The red lettering on red background somehow still screamed MENSTRUATION! Although I appreciate the fact that many women experience a variety of serious conditions related to their reproductive health, this ad campaign annoys me. First of all, as a medical field, gynecology often seems to be stuck in the dark ages in terms of treatment options for women. What is that saying about no uterus being healthy enough to leave in and no penis being unhealthy enough to remove? Second, the website seems to strongly enforce the very taboo it claims to be creating a space for discussing. Shame, shame, you bleed, women creatures! Send each other empathy e-cards, as menstruation makes women weak and fragile. What?! Although I think the advertisers behind this project might want to debunk some of the stereotypes about the menstrual cycle, I think economic interests keep this ad campaign somewhat invested in certain myths of menstruation. Oh, marketing...

Clear Blue Easy (Digital Pregnancy Test)
"The most advanced piece of technology...that you will ever pee on." Seriously. They say that in the commercial. The television commercials for this pregnancy test just crack me up! It's an interesting deployment of gender stereotypes, perhaps even a reversal, to make a technical (as opposed to the usually emotional) pitch to females who might be interested in this type of product. Let's not talk about pregnancy anxiety (positive or negative), let's talk about the advanced science...of urine? It's funny.

The above analysis illustrates why many of my friends refuse to watch television with me. As some of my students have stated in classes, once you start seeing the world through your women's and gender studies lenses, you can't take the damn pink and blue glasses off (and why don't they ever come in other colors?). Sure, I cringe everytime a cleaning product commerical emphasizes women as reproductive laborers in the domestic sphere (seriously, count how many cleaning product commercials you see on television tonight where a man is inert and a woman is cleaning away; or, reverse this observation technique for home repair commercials). But the commercials that irk me the most are for products that are tied to the female reproductive system. Can't there be some non-stereotyped ads for mainstream "feminine products" that celebrate the "female condition" instead of bemoaning it?

That's it! I'm getting the keeper for now and, perhaps one day, should the need arise, a midwife...

UPDATE 3/20/2007
A reader let me know that the link for the Clear Blue pregnancy test has changed - use this link instead of the one above. Thanks J.W.!

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  1. That's quite annoying...I completely agree with you...though I am a man, I too don't believe in showing women in such demeaning term....cheers to this post for the way you have showed how in the name of commercialisation women are made an object of ridicule.
    Do drop by my blog too coz am sure you'd love it as well.

  2. I think it's interesting what you say about the Dare to Wear White campaign but I have to say I don't agree with everything you state.
    I, too, looked at the website and I don't think the creators are looking to keep menstruation as taboo. You mention that gynecology is often "in the dark ages" but this site actually revokes that statement. If you spend some time on the site (and click through to the sponsorship), you'll find that whatever this procedure is called is actually A VIABLE option to the very limited "selection" that women have in terms of taking control of their bleeding. These days, it's either hormones or hysterectomy. Not exactly great choices. This website (and procedure) seems to communicate that there's another option to control the bleeding- and it's not nearly as extreme as the two said options.

  3. Great point, Angela! I am in total agreement with you about the fact there are far too few options for women who are dealing with reproductive health issues. My comment about gynecology being in the dark ages was not so much specific to this website, but just to the lack of options in general.

    I did spend a good amount of time surfing this website before I posted the link. I stand by what I said in terms of, "Although I think the advertisers behind this project might want to debunk some of the stereotypes about the menstrual cycle, I think economic interests keep this ad campaign somewhat invested in certain myths of menstruation. Oh, marketing..." Even in providing an option, the marketing angle is still invested in certain negative portrayals of the menstrual cycle.

    What did you think about the public transportation poster campaign?

    Thanks for the great comment!

  4. Thanks for the comment, Gerry.

    Let me know if you are interested in participating in an intrerview.

    And, folks, if you want to participate in an interview, just let me know! Sometimes bloggers don't have contact information listed in their profile or blog - and I don't want to keep anyone out of my project just because I don't know how to reach you! As always, emailing ablogwithoutabicycle(at)blogspot(dot)com is a great option who would like to remain anonymous but who would also like to participate and share their two cents about the feminist blogosphere.


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