I haven’t got a television. Not for any high and mighty ‘I’m so much better than you and will further my mind without the aid of popular culture’ reasons, but because our television broke a few years ago when we moved house and we never got around to fixing it.
We do still watch things on the laptop but most of what we watch is something that we’ve particularly chosen to watch, it’s never just on. That makes a huge difference.
One of the good things about this is that we never have to sit through adverts, but this weekend we watched something with ads in and I must have a low tolerance after not seeing any for so long, because I was ranting after the first two.
Ads don’t seem to have changed much They’re still telling us how rubbish we are, that we need to be younger, thinner and smell nicer. That our hair is awful and our skin is bad.
But the ads that are aimed at just women really worry me.
First of all it was the sanitary towel ad. Brilliant, I thought, let’s see if we’ve moved on from the ‘woman in tight, white hot pants on a skateboard’ scenario that we know and love…
Nope, they’re still doing the thing with the white trousers. The ad showed women sailing, bungee jumping, the lot, while in the background there was a recording of some period advice from the 1950s, telling girls that they shouldn’t draw attention to themselves, the idea being that the women on the screen who were flinging themselves out of planes and pogoing around nightclubs were a positive contrast to the old advice.
I get the thinking behind these ads but it feels like just another thing we need to be feeling inadequate about. Of course periods shouldn’t stop us doing what we want to do, but while I don’t think we should go back to the days of bulky sanitary belts and being told that you shouldn’t wash your hair during your period, I also don’t think we should be in total denial about periods.
Got stomach ache and no energy? Get up you lazy cow, grab those white jeans and roller skates and show your ovaries who’s boss.
Got a migraine and a desire to watch back-to-back Downton, weeping into a bucket of tea? Stop whining and go and throw yourself off a tall building, using tampon strings as a bungee cord. Slacker.
Next up was an ad for vitamin supplements for the older woman. The ad shows a woman in her office (what do you mean you don’t have your own office? What have you being doing all this time? Stop bleeding and go and do a parachute jump, damn you), with her highlights and white trousers. (White trousers seem to be the ad world symbol of freedom, ah…the irony as the only way I could ever keep a pair of white anything clean is if you wheel me around in a glass box like David Blaine.) She’s standing behind her desk, talking about how age doesn’t matter. They don’t even let her sit down, poor cow, that’s how much age doesn’t matter. She smiles at the camera and says “I don’t want to sleep much, in case I miss anything.” Jeez, really?
She looks knackered. She’s been travelling and has just got back from Ibiza, where she danced ALL night. Did she mention how age doesn’t matter? Good, because it doesn’t. I think she must have a couple of pints of red bull mixed with cocaine behind that big desk of hers because even watching this is making me want a lie down.
Next, her young male assistant comes over, all doe-eyed, to ask her opinion about a magazine cover. Of course, the magazine cover in question has a young woman on it because we all know that bloody age does bloody matter and women with baggy necks do not sell magazines, however many nights they spend dancing in Ibiza.
She flicks her brittle hair at the young man and grins, the message being that if she can dance all night and not sleep and have young men flirt with her, despite her being so clearly over the hill and not worthy of any man’s attention, then so can you, stop making excuses.
So not only are we not allowed to give in to those pesky periods, we’re not allowed to age either.
Tsk, women, stop being so crap with your inconvenient periods and your ageing, you want the same chances as men? Here you are, neck a few pills, stuff a chemically laden pad between your legs and off you go. Then maybe you can stop making men feel so uncomfortable with your weirdo bodies.
Imagine that same ad but with a 50 something man instead, leering down at his 25 yr old female assistant, talking about how he never sleeps and spends all night dancing. No? But there’s a supplement for men too, so why aren’t they pushing that? Because men don’t give a shit. Ageing men aren’t under the same pressure from society. They can carry on reading the news, presenting TV shows, having kids for as long as they like. There is no best before date for men, even when they start to smell funny.
Women are being hidden away after 40 because in society’s eyes they no longer fill their role as a sexual being, they confuse everyone with their confidence and couldn’t-care-less attitude. It’s like society doesn’t really know what to do with them.
Where does the assumption come from that these women are desperate to get their youth back? Because the women I see are perfectly happy with who they are. They have freedom. The freedom to walk down the street, for example, without being leered at because those men who used to leer are far too busy ruining the day of that 25yr old girl over there who left the house this morning feeling pretty OK until some idiot told her she had nice tits, and now she’s wondering if she made that happen because she wore ‘that’ top, because society tells us, and often even other women tell us, that it’s women who control these things, who take responsibility, not the men who say them. You don’t like it? Stay inside.
We’re constantly being bombarded with a kind of Stepford wife scenario where we’re told we can have it all. We can have babies and a full time career and a pelvic floor made of pure steel, and a bikini line that is just the right side of porn and we can make cupcakes while wearing high heels and having a multiple orgasm, hanging off the end of a bungee cord. Tired yet?
PS. I know men don’t have it easy either, although their pressures are different. Men are portrayed in ads as either some alpha male-James Bond type with a gold watch and a sports car, white shirt open at the neck, or as a football-mad imbecile who can’t be trusted to empty the dishwasher. Not in white trousers anyway.
*Disclaimer: No white trousers were harmed in the writing of this blog post.