By Hana P.
Recently, as I’ve grown in to adult hood, I’m realizing how common it is for women to be shown an ideal version of the life they should be living. Still today women are fighting for equal rights with men and advertising plays a big part in this fight. It can help make progress towards equality but it can also set us back by setting unrealistic, sexist, examples of what women should strive towards and what role we should play in today’s society. The media provides a constantly flowing funnel of images and ideas of what the “perfect” lifestyle is that is unfortunately unavoidable.
Last year, in 2012, Bic released a line of pens “Bic Just for Her” in a variety of pastels accompanied by soft and flowery packaging. The line immediately received snarky reviews on sites like Amazon and the company received backlash as “What were you thinking?” An article on Forbes gets insight from one of the men behind the misguided advertising. “It’s what happens when you try to build your brand by looking at it through the lens of data rather than from the perspective of your consumer” (Forbes) Bic was just doing as all big companies do. They were thinking of the money, expanding their brand to be more current and reach their consumers on a more relatable level but got lost somewhere in the data and the formulas only to be left with a poorly designed product.
U by Kotex had an extremely successful campaign with several commercials in 2010. The ads were sarcastic, witty and put women’s thoughts about feminine care on TV screens everywhere. The ad features a racially ambiguous 20 something year old with lines like “How do I feel about my period? I love it.” It put an end to unrealistic feminine care campaigns and created something women related to. In a New York Times article, Kotex states “We’re turning the light on ourselves, and we’re not saying, look at what other people do. We’re saying look at what we’ve done in the past, which typifies everyone in the category” (NY Times). Kotex hit the nail on the head in representing women in the media. Kotex recognized its former image, owned up to its faults and changed it by representing the real women in their audience; not the ideal thin, beautiful woman in yoga pants. Still, the original script for the Kotex commercial included the word “vagina” which cannot be said on television, and substituted for the phrase “down there” but was rejected by 2 out of 3 networks. “Enough with the euphemisms, and get over it. Tampon is not a dirty word, and neither is vagina” (NY Times).
New shows like “New Girl” which was created and produced by Zooey Deschanel are helping change the image constantly presented to us as an audience of perfect, model like women. Zooey Deschanel is relatable through her awkward humor and her turmoil in personal situations like relationships, a career and living in a city like Los Angeles. “The Mindy Project” is a TV show with a similar audience, created by Mindy Kaling. Kaling is an Indian American woman who has been open about her views on feminism and her struggles in the entertainment industry. “"Like most women, I dress for other women. If I was going to dress for men, in general, I would just be wearing a fitted black T-shirt and tight jeans every day” (NPR). These women are becoming role models for girls everywhere by presenting us with characters like Jess Day and Mindy Lahiri. Jess, a former teacher, struggles with finding a career years after college, which is a problem many of us 20-somethings are facing given the state of the economy. Mindy Lahiri’s character is a doctor and has no problem saying what’s on her mind. She has normal human habits, some would call flaws, like indulging in junk food, being just a bit narcissistic, and struggling to find her path in life away from a successful career.
Why this type of female TV role is emerging now. I'm not sure any drastic social movement has happened other than the freedom of the internet. The internet gave women an open playing field- a place to realize that we all relate on levels we never thought. Sites like Buzzfeed have joking articles like “30 Awful Things That Come With Being a Girl” which bring light to the fact that women are not a product and do not stay within their desirable, cookie cutter boundaries presented by the big companies. Characters like Jessica Day and writers like Mindy Kaling are the embodiment of these ideas.
The media still shies away from coverage of women’s issues, it still teaches us that certain phrases and topics of women’s everyday lives are taboo. The breakdown of this taboo starts with humorous ads like Kotex’s that poke fun at this mind set. Leading female roles are taking center stage in various media platforms as something more than just a pretty face and are showing they can take on any career, any lifestyle choice regardless of the media’s opinion.
“Bic For Her: What They Were Actually Thinking (As Told By A Man Who Worked On Tampons)” Forbes. forbes.com, 30 August 2012. Web.
“Rebelling Against the Commonly Evasive Feminine Care Ad” The New York Times. Nytimes.com, 15 March 2010. Web.
“Mindy Kaling Loves Rom Coms (And Being the Boss)” NPR. Npr.org, 13 September 2013. Web.