After finally finishing my mid-term month (yes, month), I realized that I could deal with some good old fashioned giggling. So I turned to one of my favorite comedians–Sarah Haskins. Sarah Haskins was featured on Current TV a few years ago with her fantastic mini-series, “Target Women” focusing on the absurdity of advertisements intended for (but clearly not produced by) American women. It’s a riot, but don’t take my word for it.
In one of my favorite sections, Sarah Haskins (who graduated from Harvard in History and Literature (America Field) what -what) takes to task the yogurt industry. Didn’t know that yogurt was an industry? It’s ok, let’s listen to how yogurt (a fairly innocuous food in my book) has been transformed into a highly toxic gendered project.
See what I mean? Giggle-inducing. Funny thing is, I don’t know if Yoplait meant it to be that way. As Haskins points out, the women who are eating the yogurt look foolish, as if this miracle product could solve any and all problems–including the ultimate–finding a man! (Along with only being consumed by women, it appears that this exclusive product is only available to straight single individuals.) For someone who hasn’t seen many commercials since arriving at Harvard, watching Haskins commercial parody is funny but not too out-of-the-ordinary. But, of course these commercials don’t make sense, they are based on irrational logic. However, I can’t pretend that I am immune to advertising. But really, how many times have I gone for the more expensive shampoo because of an ad that I have forgot that I had seen months ago. How many times have I seen someone carry a Starbucks cup across the Yard and then have “random” urge to go go grab a latte? How many times have I flipped through a magazine looking at a perfume ad and making a note to check it out at the Mall? (Truly, the perfume people are the true advertizing geniuses, for how else could they make a visual image promote a olfactory stimuli.) So you see, selling yogurt, the food of children, old people, and apparently women, perhaps isn’t as light hearted.
During the spring of my freshman year, I met a junior who had just returned from a semester in Cuba. Posing a rather obvious question, I asked her what she thought of the differences between Cuba and the US. “I remember one of my roommates mother’s sent us some women’s interest magazines. We flipped through it, laughing so hard at the ads, that to us, didn’t make any sense. In Cuba, sure there was propaganda, but this magazine was ridiculous.”
To be sure, most of the insecurities that I have about my body stem from advertisements. My lashes aren’t long and thick? But they also aren’t curly and defined? They are supposed to be bold too? Although the world of advertising has been glamorized through shows like “Mad Men,” the fact remains that ads often make profit from reinforcing insecurities. With the previous example, I didn’t know that my eyelashes were deficient until I was told so by L’Oreal, Revlon, and their friend Maybelline. This constant messaging that my body is somehow defective is definitely dangerous, but how are we going to stand a chance?
My diagnosis is to create some smile wrinkles–aka laughter. Indeed, I think that is the real reason why I love Sarah Haskins’s “Target Women” so much. She observes, parodies, and eventually dismantles the destructive power of advertisement over American women. So sure, I’ll take my yogurt with a smile on my face but that’s just because I just finished laughing at it.