As an antidote to a post I wrote a little while ago about the negative depiction of women in advertising, I thought I’d look for ads that present women in a way that doesn’t mutilate, degrade, objectify, murder or beat them. I put “female-friendly ads” into google and got a list of adverts for flatmates, a travel guide for lone female travellers, and “pre-loved, female-friendly rabbits in need of a good home”. I already have a flat, am not planning a trip anytime soon, and, if I have anything else in my flat that nibbles and gnaws, it’s only a matter of time before they take out a supporting wall.
Some companies make an effort, but I didn’t spot anything revolutionary. Dove’s tried very hard with their Campaign For Real Beauty, telling us it’s all right not to look like a swizzle stick and everyone’s beautiful so long as they’re smeared in moisturiser and airbrushed like the “normal women” in the ads. It’s all very well-intentioned, but it’s still women standing around in their knickers or naked, smiling because they’re oh so smooth. It’s easy to make women living in relatively privileged circumstances look peachy. What about the legs of a woman living on the streets of Kabul or the hands of a Somalian woman scrabbling in the dirt trying to find somewhere to plant seeds so she can hope to feed her children? If Dove could make them look like they’d spent a girly weekend at the spa, I might be a little more convinced of its beautifying properties.
With the exception of PETA’s supermodels posing naked because they’d rather do that than wear fur, charity campaigns tend not to show women just as passive objects. They’re usually presented as victims of the treatment against which the charities are campaigning, but it’s a necessary shock tactic, as though, unless a woman is shown beaten to a pulp, no one will believe it happens.
I eventually found this ad by the makers of the mooncup. It’s got pubic hair and the word “vagina” in it. There’s none of the blue dye we’re all supposed to bleed and that causes teenage girls, in their thousands, to think they’re hemorrhaging because their blood’s red and it hasn’t replaced any reference to genitals with “feminine”. This shouldn’t be exciting – it should be no surprise to have either in an ad for something you insert into your vagina – but it is. I realise the hair is actually grass and it’s green, but people get very inventive with their pubic hair, dyeing it every shade – it’s not like we’ve all got the same colour.
I’m a recent convert to the mooncup. I’d resisted because I thought it would be like a diaphragm and I’d had a single disastrous experience with that. After an hour of trying to hold onto this lube-covered, coil-sprung, latex orb, assuming every position I thought would help me to “just relax” like it said in the instructions and get the bloody thing in, it pinged out of my hands, hit the wall and slid down the back of the radiator. I tried one last time, he complained he could feel it, we stopped, he picked up some computer science textbook and called his mother. Oedipus The Geek. God, I should have seen the signs. Anyway, suffice to say, the mooncup is nothing like that. There’s no audience rapidly losing interest in the show, for a start. And the mooncup makers have written a song to ignite your ladybits-love. I contributed “cooch”.