“What’s the point of media?” I ask when I speak to women about self-acceptance.
“To sell us something!” Everyone shouts back.
“How do they convince us we need what they’re selling?” I continue.
“By making us feel inadequate,” someone whispers with realization, and it hangs in the air.
Marketing exists to sell us something and if it makes us feel whole and adequate and perfect as we are, then there is no reason to go out and buy what is being sold. Instead, beauty marketers, fashion marketers, and more play to- in fact, fuel- our insecurities by using images that are altered and manipulated so we will begin a body project in endless pursuit of the images being projected. We hang an ad on our wall as inspiration and try so hard to become that image without even realizing the image isn’t real, that model doesn’t even look like that.
“Here is the thing,” I say. “All we really need, maybe, is soap.”
The audience nervously giggles and then begs me to add deodorant and moisturizer to the list. I tell them okay, but we’ll just talk about the soap for now.
All we need is soap, and we’d be just fine with a bar of basic white soap. But if all we need is a bar of soap, then we may only need a few bars a year. A company can’t make much bank if we just buy a few bars a year. They brainstorm what they can do to increase sales, and someone suggests liquid soap.
“We’ll bill it as more hygienic because bar soap totally gets goopy, and people are going to use so much more when it is in liquid form!”
Soon, they debut their new shower gel with an enticing campaign. Even though your bar of soap isn’t done, you buy the new soap because it feels like something that will add to or change your life and, heck, everyone else is. Then the same masterminds realize summer is coming and they debut a shower gel with light reflecting glitter. Before you know it, the old shower gel is sitting in the corner of the shower collecting dust with the soap bar because you had to have that glitter. Our communal standard is now “skin should reflect light”.
Then they debut a coconut scented glitter shower gel. The only thing better than reflecting the summer light with your glitter is also smelling like a Hawaiian vacation and so you get to the store ASAP so you can be clean, glow, and also smell like summer. The three old cleaning methods huddle in the corner of the shower, 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.
And so a competition began. And it started with taking a basic bar of soap and making it do even more for us- it moisturizes while it cleans us- or taking a basic bar of soap and making it not a bar but a liquid. Don’t you like this delivery system better? And then the lotion became not just a moisturizer but a firmer and a tanner and a, well, I am hoping soon they’ll have a lotion that cleans my house but you get the picture. Because if all we need is just one lotion, if we become convinced that just one lotion does the job, well, then there is only so much money to be earned in the industry because we don’t give up on the bottle of lotion half-way through and turn to another one with better promises.
The market needs for us to always be searching, it needs for us to believe in the search, it needs for us to not quite ever be fully satisfied so that we are always willing to consume. If a company believes that it has really invented the perfect mascara, it would only offer one mascara. What it believes is that by giving you options, you will never rest in your quest. And your quest is what they need because your quest sends you back to the store, before your tube is up, your quest gives them ten more dollars regularly. Your quest for perfection keeps them in the black.
“What do I have to gain from buying this?” We should ask ourselves. “What do others have to gain from my buying this?”
When we get honest with ourselves that we are buying into an idea of beauty or style that is being sold to us (and not for our benefit), we can begin to limit our consumption. I am not saying you should never buy shower gel again, but you should determine your own standards and limits and put them in effect immediately so you aren’t left financially and emotionally robbed of everything good and true and powerful about you.