Today I Displaced My Rage Onto a Line of Hair Care Products

7 May

So my mom, knowing my tendency to get angry about things, saved me a super stupid advertisement for the got2be line of hair care products.  Due to recent events that I don’t feel like going into just at the moment, I felt the need to blow off some steam and so I wrote a letter.  Here it is:

To whom it may concern,

I am currently standing at my kitchen counter, looking at a two-page coupon/advertisement for your got2b line of hair products, a line I have used many times. On the left hand side, is the advertisement geared towards women; on the right is that for men. I would like to describe to you, in more detail, what I am seeing.

The advertisement for women is, of course, done in pink and features an overly made-up young woman in a low cut gold halter dress looking suggestively at the camera with her lips slightly parted. In the back, super imposed upon an imagine that I can only imagine is an attempt to associate your product with Hollywood and all of its glitz and glamour, is a dapper man standing in front of a parked limousine, looking at the girl. The tagline – “all eyes on you!” – is meant to promote the three products that hold down the bottom right hand corner of the ad. They are the “Body + Gloss” line of hair products and include the “glistening full blow dry cream,” the “radiance bounce whipped mousse,” and finally the “luminous lift hairspray.” That the bottles are also pink and adorned with stars and sparkles (what woman or girl doesn’t want that?!) is really just the icing on the cake.

On the right hand side of the page is the advertisement for the men’s products, done mostly in yellow. It features a young man with a tall mohawk, the sides of his head shaven, looking like he’s just gotten into some trouble, and indeed he has. The three photographs in the ad are in succession and show him doing a front flip off of a high, graffiti-covered stone wall, only to land on the ground of some east coast city smiling, not a hair out of place. He wears jeans and a grey t-shirt. What allows his hair to stay in place with all this hardcore fun he is having? It’s the “his” line of hair care products like “blasting freeze spray” and the “ultra glued invisible styling gel.” They have the power of, as you call it, “screaming hold.”

The problem with these two different advertisements goes beyond the color of the pages, the names of the products and the styling of the models. What you are selling to young men and women is the idea that men are active and independent and that women are passive and dependent on the approval of men. You are telling young people that men’s hair should be able to withstand a front flip and women’s should be able to impress and, more dangerously, still look good after what is inevitably going to happen once she gets inside that waiting car. You are playing, and not at all subtly, with deeply entrenched gender stereotypes that are not only damaging to the young women and girls that see them everyday but also to the men and boys. You are simultaneously telling women that they should wait for men but also men that they should expect to be waited for. You are telling women that their value comes from their level of sexual appeal but also men that they should only view women through that lens. On the other hand, you are telling men that they are should be more macho, more daring, more athletic and women that this is what they should be looking for in a prospective partner or, more in keeping with this ad, in a date to a party. You are telling impressionable young people that if they don’t fit within this narrow gender framework then they are unattractive and weird.

This might seem a strange bone to pick and, perhaps, if this advertisement was the only of its kind it would not be quite so alarming to me. The reality, however, is that this is only one example of the many ads and images put out by hundreds of companies annually that further reinforce our closed-minded and dangerous ideas of the correct roles of men and women. People don’t just look at these ads and move on, they internalize them and remember them and you know that, that is what you are counting on to sell your products. Don’t be another company that benefits off of the objectification of women and men.

Sincerely

Rebekah Frank

I then received the following lame ass response that made me even more annoyed.  Not only did this person spell the word “research” incorrectly, they also did not sign their note with an actual name which, had it not been for the obvious type-o, would have led me to believe the person responding to me was not a person at all but instead was a robot.  That being said, my well-argued message was clearly thrown in the email garbage.  Anyway, here is the response:

Dear Ms. Frank,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Your comments are appreciated because they help us to understand how we can better serve our consumers.

We appreciate your feedback. We will forward it to our Marketing and Reaserch & Development Team.

Again, thank you for contacting us.

Sincerely,

Henkel Consumer Affairs

I will not be buying anything from this company (not that I really did before anyway) but I will also mean mug their products as I ever-so-slowly pass them by in the aisle at the pharmacy.  Feel my rage, Henkel.

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