Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Get “Mommed” by an Expendable Racial Stereotype - brought to you by Kleenex

Had an abusive, uncaring, absentee mother? Maybe she was just neglectful? Or perhaps she was overbearing in all the wrong ways. Did you ever say to yourself, I wish I had another mom! My mom sucks! Well, your dreams have come true – brought to you by Kleenex! Now you can click on exchangeable moms in Kleenex’s “Get Mommed” campaign. Check this whole sight site out! You’ll find a variety of moms conformed to racial stereotypes from the overly critical Asian mom, to the sassy Black mom who is perpetually trying to get into shape, to the young Latina mom, to the young white blonde mom who tries to be your best friend, then there’s the older white woman who can’t deal with you right now because she’s in a business suit, the hippy earth mother who is gimmicky, and last but not least, the southern conservative housewife who has nothing but good things to say and bake. Also, you can watch them interact in more stereotypical ways here, including how Latina mom Anna Maria just wants an excuse to make salsa!

Now, notice how your mom is not represented? Well, there could be a reason for that – all moms are different!!! Wow! I bet that was the shock of the century! But aside from the horrible racial stereotypes of Mammy and Bubbe, et al., there is an underlying theory behind this whole campaign; that moms are interchangeable and expendable. Watch and see – brought to you by Kleenex:

What happens to the first mom when a “child” (I won’t get into the whole “manchild” analysis with this one) wants to try out another mom? Who cares! According to Kleenex, they fade into the background looking confused as to what THEY have done wrong to make that “child” go to another mom. The point is simple; moms are expendable. You can choose one that fits your lifestyle. While that couldn’t be further than the truth, it seems like commercials like these are perpetuating all of the issues surrounding what society sees as a “good” mother. Moms are always under immense pressure to be the very best, most attentive, sacrificing, doting, careful, and prude mothers they can possibly be. They are challenged to drop that baby weight as soon as possible, to be MILFs, to shield children from anything sexual, to guide and teach, to quit their jobs and never go back until that kid is 18 (but by then their resumes will no longer be marketable), and to place anything that promotes the welfare of the child over their own. It’s an extended version of the maternal-fetal conflict that I have talked about before, that a woman literally cannot shed even after birth.

In her book Killing the Black Body, Dorothy Roberts explains how mothers, specifically Black mothers, were seen as the cause of all of society’s ills. They reproduced, and therefore produced Black children who were bound to grow up a menace because their mothers, being seen as inherently evil Jezebels from the start, were always working (or slaves) and therefore unable to take care of their own children. While this may be a hyperbolic example, the evidence of this ideology is everywhere in modern society. Anyone short of “Supermom” gets a buttload of guilt by society. Like society knows how to be a mom?! So I guess "Lisa" is safe. Anyway, I personally feel torn about motherhood for my own reasons *ahem* raising a child restricted to harsh gender roles *ahem* but the pressure on moms to act perfect and look perfect is quite pervasive. Even mothers who have “real” problems – abusive, absentee, etc. – shed further light on the fact that mothers are women first; they have their own lives and own complications beyond the issues that their children bring up. They have problems like any other person. They think, feel, and experiment like any other person. They are not born mothers, they are not immune to the burdens of society because they are mothers, but in fact, are more susceptible to be the bearers of those burdens.

So, if you want to buy into the hype that your mom isn’t good enough, and you wish to exchange her, then Get Mommed – brought to you by Kleenex.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bring Back Catherine Zeta Jones, T-Mobile!

Oh, T-Mobile, you may have some of the best and cheapest phone plans with all sorts of family-oriented calling circles and deals. And we love Catherine Zeta Jones as a spokeswoman! She's so cool and amazing (I can't help thinking of her ALWAYS as Charlie Nicholson in High Fidelity.) Why must you then change your advertizing strategy into one that insults half of your customer base with commercials riddled with creepy fathers, silent wives, and fetishization of non-existent, abstract, teenage girls? That was a lot… sorry. Let’s watch for ourselves.

First we have the Creepy Father. Funny story, while I was looking for this exact video on YouTube, someone had actually named this video “Creepy Daddy” (as you can see), and rightly so. As espoused (pun intended) by those fathers within the purity movement, a father is suppose to be the keeper of his daughter. The daughter and her sacred hymen are always at risk for being dirtied my “the sex”, because of course, if she had it, then who would want her? Anyway, this father uses his cell phone calling circle as a way of “covering” his daughter against the predator that is this harmless horny teenage boy who won’t be able to control his raging hormones. Forget what the daughter may want (and for the record, these are just two friggan’ kids going on a date which will probably consist of an awkward movie experience and the relief of meeting up with friends for some pizza after). But no, the ever vigilant father must protect his daughter, who of course cannot make any judgment calls for herself.

Next, and in the same vein, we have the fetishization of the non-existent (and therefore silent) teenage girl. Watch and listen:

In this T-Mobile commercial, the daughter is happy to have a calling plan that will include her best girlfriends. Her annoying little brother is happy that he can harass his sister’s best girlfriends by adding them also to his calling circle. (Read: adding these girls to his calling circle means that this little brother can call them, without monetary repercussions, an unlimited amount of times). The daughter, outraged, and rightfully so, as she knows her friends are soon to be subject to a fair amount of harassment from her kid brother, she turns to her mother to remedy the situation. Buuuuuuuut… since wives are silent in T-Mobile’s mind (and a lot of other company’s minds too… see my previous post), the wife/mother doesn’t say a thing, rather the father steps in. What are his words of wisdom to his daughter? Victim-blaming. “Maybe you should have uglier friends.” In other words, your friends are hot, so they are asking for harassment. Like father like son, apparently. And the wife/mother? Surely she has something to say now! Nope. She nods in mechanically brainwashed agreement. Thus the daughter is alone in her predicament. It’s all her and her friends’ faults for being so damn young and hot.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Special Typical K

I’m totally not the first person to write about this commercial, thank Goddess, but since it’s past the holiday season and Special K insists on still showing it, it merits further comment. Many of my posts will be focusing on general themes: the male gaze, the man-child, the spectacle of women, etc. We can file this one under “Less is More”, where women are led to believe that the less space they take up, the better. Men are expected to bulk up—think Bow Flex—while women are suppose to slim down practically to the point of disappearing or at least being so thin that they are weak and defenseless. It furthers the underlying societal idea that women are not suppose to be powerful or strong, in mind or in body.

Since I can’t find the commercial anywhere on the internet (hmmmm…) and my computer froze on the Special K website (double hmmmmm…), I’ll just explain it. A woman is playing at a child’s table with what’s assumed to be her daughter, making paper snowflakes. She’s sitting in a red children’s chair with arms. (Special K, you are so subtle with your red references). The phone rings and when she gets to get up, she finds that the chair is stuck to her ass. Or, she is “so big” that she can’t just get up from the chair; she gets stuck in it. Let me remind you, this is a child’s chair. Anyway, the already thin woman feels all embarrassed and promptly eats Special K to help her get down to her ideal weight—her 6 year old daughter’s weight.

Between you and me, I’m sick of this. The “Less is More” mindset that is so ingrained in our society effects our everyday lives from the seemingly trivial to the horrifying. For example: have you ever gotten on a subway, sat down, have a man sit next to you and automatically he takes up his whole seat and much of yours too? You are forced to cross your legs uncomfortably tight, hold all your possessions including your purse (which is probably bigger than anything he’s carrying, if he’s carrying anything at all) and scrunch up to accommodate his… well, let’s be honest, his almighty penis. You know, my vagina needs room too! Let me sit with my legs a reasonable width apart within my allotted leg space, not give up half of it so that you can sit with your legs spread at a 90 degree angle! Or, for us short women, who not only take up less space width-wise, but also, vertically, have you ever had to um, DUCK under a man’s arm because he would not move it to let you through? I’m sorry, but I’m not one for sniffing your nasty B.O. so move your arm and quit playing London Bridge with me. I usually counter that with saying “commin’ through!” in my thickest New Jersey accent possible.

So we see that this concept appears to manifest in the most mundane situations. It also manifests itself in much more direct and horrifying ways. The prevalence of eating disorders, the abuse of women, the glass ceiling (stop me before I get depressed). Women not only are supposed to be weak and small, but they are also supposed to be child-like and malleable. The only way women are big and “acceptable” is when either certain body parts are big, i.e.-boobs, and/or are for public consumption. So women can exist if they are there for entertainment, touching, derogatory comments, the male gaze, or objection. Also, if they happen to be pregnant, there’s the “vessel” complex, or maternal-fetal conflict where their bodies are made public for the sake of "reproductive futurism". The largeness of the pregnant belly is “acceptable” if it a) can be touched to feel the fetus move, b) controlled by way of keeping her pregnant by denying abortion at any stage of pregnancy, sometimes without consideration of the woman’s own life, c) if she is married, and d) if it’s only big for a few months and goes right back to slender after the delivery. Oh, the dichotomy of the pregnant virgin and the soulless whore.

Anyway, I guess you could say that this particular Special K commercial stirs up some strong feelings in me! And on a final note, the picture that accompanies this post was one that I am not 100% comfortable posting due to the race relations. I do feel that white women come from a more privileged position than Black men; however, I would like to highlight the body language as being a perfect example of “Less is More”.