An Unexpected Side Effect

Let me be clear about something- I have about zero interest in the makeup and fake boobs women that you see on television selling beer. You couldn’t sell me a hat in a hailstorm with a “spokesmodel.” I have always (or, as least since I was 15 or so) found the “Look, tits! Buy this!” come-on to be proportionally as ineffective with me as it is offensive to me.

Since the pneumatic blonde aesthetic has pretty-much dominated mass-media advertising for my entire adult life, I have been out of the main consumer demographic that ads are aimed at. That is, until lately.

The alternative-to-Bush/Cheney-culture that has sprung up around the big liberal blogs and (just in opposition to the war in general) has created a higher level of visibility for this subculture of folks a little more like me. And whaddya know, they have stuff to sell, too. And suddenly…

Look, if they drape some barely dressed and heavily augmented 20-year-old blonde over the fender of a red sportscar, I might (might) glance at the sportscar. But if someone pastes some widget onto a woman with a real-woman body, an “exotic” look (read: non-Stepford), throw in a pair of glasses (and a Masters Degree?) and I can’t look away. This is, unfortunately, how advertising is supposed to work- there’s the product, which I might have a minimal desire for, but mostly it wouldn’t turn my head if it was on fire- and then there’s the added hook of The Non-Traditional Foxy Woman™, and suddenly, I look at the product and have all these emotional associations with it.

Case in point:
exhibit A

exhibit B

exhibit C

I am sure that we could prowl around the Code Pink website and Atrios for an hour and find another score of examples.

IMHO, a cursory glance at the republican babes website (egad…. this week’s is Internment apologist/concentration camp advocate Michelle Malkin… shameless, aren’t they?) gives the lie to the culture of the fake tit and the airbrush. You can keep the lot of them, thanks.

But as the culture of the Lefty-liberal hottie sees its exploitation to sell t-shirts and stickers, a questions arises: just because smarter and more culturally aware/diverse == hotter, does using their sexiness to sell stuff == exploitation? Is using a picture to sell t-shirts of a tri-lingual, half-Latina, half-African-American Comp Lit professor with a flat tummy celebration or exploitation? In the same way that the whole idea of Lefty Talking Points (no thanks on the whole Telling Me What to Say thing, ok?) annoys me, so does the pimping of the part of our culture that makes us different.

Thoughts?

  1. Before I found out what a wackazoid Malkin was, I did think she was pretty hot. And she probably enjoys playing “Maedchen in Uniform” every now and again, don’t you think?

    Yes, I know, I’m a bad David. I go away now.

  2. amber

    “The culture of the fake tit and the airbrush.” Thanks for that. I might have to quote you on it one of these days. Nice.

    I don’t think putting a good-looking woman in a political t-shirt for the purpose of selling said t-shirt is exploitation. It’s not exactly high-minded, either, but look, we live in a consumer culture, like it or not, and if nobody sells anything then nobody makes money and nobody can make a living. And I’m sure these women are in the ads of their own choice and getting paid for it. They’re not kids in sweatshops.

    Also I don’t think your Exhibit C really fits… the product is a camisole with a built-in bra. Of course they’re going to show a chick with a nice rack! And that lusty expression is just a bonus.

    The flat tummy thing is where it all starts to get iffy. People who say the media doesn’t promote an image of unrealistic skinniness are blind — or anorexic. Obesity is a serious health problem in the US, and I’m not advocating 400-lb. models. But there need to be more *real* looking women as models. A girl with hips and a tummy can be sexy.

  3. A girl with hips and a tummy can be sexy.

    Scrath ‘can be’ and add ‘IS sexy’ and I’ll give that a big AMEN.

    I agree with @mber on this one, I don’t think that utilizing spokesmodels is exploitation, per se, but it is a fine line. For instance, a t-shirt/camisole just doesn’t look quite right when it’s lying on some photographer’s background. It’s important to the consumer to actually see the thing on someone and why, really, would you put it on someone for whom it’s not designed.
    Coversely, putting scantily-clad, silicone-laden, impossibly-proportioned bimbos spread-eagled on a crate of beer is exactly the “Hey, moron, look at this!” kind of condescention that reeks of both crass exploitation and knuckle-dragging misogyny. Since the consumption of beer does not actually have anything to do with stepford clones, it’s exploitive. Now, if you can prove to me that drinking High Life or Miller Lite will actually attract these plastic-women, I might change my mind.

  4. Well, it’s stupid and sucky (for lack of a better word; cut me some slack, it’s after midnight) but I still don’t know if it can fairly be called exploitation. The women spread-eagled in the beer ads are there of their own volition, getting paid for their work, no one put a gun to their heads. Whether or not they’re getting paid a fair wage (they probably are — but I honestly don’t know one way or the other) or whether their career path has been determined by their looks (again, doubtful; but there are a lot of factors that come into play with any situation) is another question and part of a bigger issue altogether.

  5. Well, I say that it’s all unfair to women and gay men. There’s a huge himbo gap. It’s patently discriminatory.

    What do we want? EQUAL EXPLOITATION OF HOT SHIRTLESS MEN BY BIG CORPORATIONS AND BIG MEDIA!

    When do we want it? NOW!!!

    On second thought, that wasn’t nearly as inspiring on the screen as it was in my head. I suck at this whole activism thing, I’m afraid.

  6. i’ve always thought that real women are a lot more attractive than all the sorostitutes i see around campus. i have a varied definition of “cute”… but no matter how cute a girl might be, she’s never getting any from me unless she’s also really smart. intelligence is sexy, not tits.

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