Still inspired by Sally’s post yesterday, The Big Secret? Let’s keep massaging that message today.
“What is the point of media?” I often ask in my body image class or when I am speaking to women of all ages.
“To sell us something!” Everyone shouts back.
“And how do they convince us that we need what they are selling?” I ask next.
“By making us feel inadequate,” someone almost whispers with the realization.
And that is just it.
Marketing exists to sell us something and if it makes us feel whole and adequate and perfect as we are, then there really is no reason to go out and buy what they are selling. And so they play to- in fact, fuel- our insecurities so that we will begin a body project but then they use images that are not even real- images that are photoshopped and altered and manipulated into a whole new thing- so that we feel we have to continue on our body project so that we can ultimately reach the image they are projecting. We put some ad on our wall as our inspiration and we try to so hard to become that image without even realizing that the image isn’t real, that model doesn’t even look like that. It is all smoke and mirrors.
“Here is the thing,” I tell my students. “All we really need, maybe, is soap and that may be for those days where we really, absolutely get filthy”
They giggle a little bit. And then they beg me to add deodorant and moisturizer to the mix so I tell them okay, fine, for example’s sake, all we need is soap, deodorant, and moisturizer. But let’s just talk about the soap for now.
All we need is soap. And, truth be told, we would all just be fine with a bar of basic white soap.
But if all we need is a bar of basic white soap, then there is a finite amount of purchases we need to make- maybe 6 bars of soap a year. A soap company can’t make a whole lot of bank- as much bank as it wants- if we are just buying 6 bars of soap a year. And so they sit around a board room table and think about what they can do to increase sales.
Then some guy in a suit says, “Oh, I’ve got it! Let’s make liquid soap. We can bill it as more hygienic than bar soap because bar soap totally gets goopy in the shower and people are going to use so much more when it is in liquid form!” And so they debut their new shower gel.
And even though your bar of soap isn’t done, you have to go out and get it. So you do. While your bar of soap sits in the corner of the shower, collecting dust (does dust get in the shower?).
Then the same masterminds from that board room table realize that summer is coming and they could debut that shower gel with some light attracting glitter in it. Before you know it, the old shower gel is sitting in the corner of the shower collecting dust with the soap bar because we just had to have that glitter.
And then they create a coconut infused glitter shower gel and debut it one week later. Well, the only thing better than reflecting the summer light with your glitter is also smelling like a Hawaiian vacation and so you get yourself to the store ASAP so you cannot only be clean for summer and glow like summer but also smell like summer. Before you know it, three old cleaning methods are huddled in the corner of the shower together, with whiplash from how quickly they got kicked to the curb.
That is how they get us. By introducing new products over and over again and making us feel like that one product is all we need and we shouldn’t wait to have it– until the next new product comes along.
Many of us have “our thing” when it comes to beauty and body image issues. The thing that kinda captures our attention and makes us think, “I need something to make this better!” For me, it is hair. I am convinced that the issue with my curls is that I just have not found the right hair product for them (as opposed to I just haven’t accepted them for what they are and learned to appreciate them in their fully embodied lion mane
craziness amazingness). And so, because I realized years ago that my perception of my curls could drive me to a whole new level of crazy (re: the time and money I put into them), I set up rules. I have to use up the product that I have for them before I can buy the latest new product and I can’t spend more than 90 minutes on my hair a week. Just like that, I put my obsession in check (relatively). And because hair really is my thing, I still have to consciously follow these rules more than a decade after I put them in motion.
There is nothing wrong with you. But the only way companies stand to make money is if they convince you otherwise. And so you need to know that $20 billion is being spent a year to convince you otherwise. That’s a big battle to be fighting, but when you realize the battle is founded on false messages, on commercial interests, it is easier to secure your armor. I am not saying that you should never buy shower gel or hair product again, but I am saying that you should determine your own standards and limits and put them in effect immediately so that you aren’t left financially and emotionally robbed of everything good and true and powerful about you.