Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Selling low self-esteem to women

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 15 December 2010)

There are a million reasons for women to feel bad about themselves. It seems a woman never measures up to any number of measuring sticks when it comes to cooking, cleaning, style, beauty, intelligence, motherhood, etc. Women are subject to a constant bombardment of advertisements that tell them how they can improve themselves – because, according to the world, women need to be improved.

Why do these ads insist that women do not measure up?

According to “Flattery Will Get an Ad Nowhere,” a December 10 New York Times article,”Apparently, it doesn’t take much to make a girl feel plain. Just looking at an object intended to enhance beauty makes women feel worse about themselves, according to a study from the April 2011 issue of The Journal of Consumer Research.”

In other words, advertisers feel they must create a need. In fashion apparel and shoes, hair products, cosmetics, anti-aging creams and lotions – as well as many other areas – the need is that a woman needs to look better. Therefore, it is necessary to make her feel she is not good enough yet and needs the advertised product to make her better than she is without it.

The article continues, “The study looked at how women responded to an image of something (say, a high-heeled shoe) depicted in an advertisement and as a simple photograph with no advertising context. According to the authors — led by Debra Trampe, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands — advertised products, unlike unadvertised products, affect both whether and how the viewer thinks of herself afterward.

In other words, an image of the high-heeled shoe in a stylish advertisement is likely to trigger a sense of inadequacy.”

In an attempt to satisfy their thirst for money, advertisers spend billions of dollars on making women feel inferior so they will buy a product that is supposed to make them better.

Better than what? As it is, most women will not even leave the house without makeup on their face, because they are not “good enough” without the makeup. Meanwhile, men are just fine the way they are…no makeup, no unnatural and uncomfortable high heels to walk around in all day, no form-fitting or low-cut clothing to put body parts on display.

This is just madness. How can women ever get to a place where they feel good about themselves while every television commercial, every magazine, every music video, screams that they will never measure up? This type of pressure for women to be someone other than who they are is unreasonable and immoral.

The New York Times article said, “According to the study, ‘advertisements displaying beauty-enhancing (rather than problem-solving) products are likely to remind consumers of their own shortcomings.’ This, in turn, makes them view themselves more negatively. The authors quote Christopher Lasch, who back in the 1970s said, ‘modern’ advertising ‘seeks to create needs, not to fulfill them; it generates new anxieties instead of allaying old ones.’”

This is the world in which women live. This is the world in which our daughters are growing up.

Who do these advertisers think they are to believe it is ethical to sell low self-esteem to millions of women just to make money? There are so many other ways to sell their products that would not leave women around the world feeling like they will never be good enough.

I would have to be starved for something to read before I would pick up a fashion magazine. I simply refuse to allow others to decide what I should look like – what shoes I should wear, what clothes I should buy, what make-up looks best on me, whether I need to use anti-aging creams…and even what feminine products I should use. I prefer to be a woman of my own choosing.

When it comes down the bare bones of advertising, ads are crafted to make women feel ugly. Why on earth would I subject myself to such degradation? The truly ironic part of reading this article on the New York Times Website is that right alongside the article was an ad with a nude woman covered only by two baby lions and a Bulgari bag. My reaction to the ad is that I am offended.

I am offended that the advertisers think so little of me that they will put a nude woman on their ad and think it will some how provoke me to buy their product. I want to know the details about the bag. I am also offended because I am aware that the woman in that ad is not even real. She has been ‘photoshopped’ and tweaked to the point that she is not a real woman at all.

However, these types of ads do work many times and until women recognise what is going on – that they are being made to feel ugly and held to unrealistic standards just so advertisers and their clients can make money – these degrading ads will continue. It is time to stop buying products from ads that demean women. It is time to start buying from ads that are informative and attract the customer based on the facts of the product.

Remember this women, it is an insult to you every time an ad makes you feel like you would be a better woman if only you had that product. Don’t respond to the offence by buying that product. It’s time women demand that advertisers find a way to market goods without selling low self-esteem.

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