Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here Is Some Sexist Bullshit For You

So I take a lot of taxis. Some of these taxis are nicer than others - on any given day, I might get Old Chen's taxi, which has one chair hanging at an odd angle on rusty hinges, has so many amulets and charms hanging off the rearview mirror that I'm surprised they don't all swing forward in one aggregate whoosh to crack the windshield when he stops too hard, his ID card photo was taken in the 70s and he's totally got Han Solo Hair, I can practice my Taiwanese listening skills by paying attention to some radio show where someone is yet again saying that Ma Ying-jiu sucks (I agree with these people, by the way, he does suck, it's just that that's all they ever talk about), and the whole taxi smells like the darkest recesses of Old Chen's armpit.

On any other given day, I might get into Little Luo's taxi (Little Luo being six feet tall), which smells pleasantly of synthetic vanilla and has some stargazer lilies up front, and his taxi has a little TV embedded into the back passenger's seat. The passenger can then watch, at low volume, models skulking down catwalks wearing hideous outfits, a commercial for something having to do with penises (I don't know if it's health related or just phalloplasty, but it includes a pun on the Chinese word for "blue bird", which in Taiwanese means, well, "johnson". Package. Junior. Eggs&Sausage. It's definitely got to do with schlongs or something), repeated entreaties to touch a Happy Face, Neutral Face or Angry Face to thereby rate your driver, commercials for blenders that blend whole fish, commercials for fitness "exercise machines" that don't work (a hula hoop that you hold in place while you sway your body? And it looks totally dirty when you do, especially when the camera pans over women doing that motion? No thanks) and commercials for HTC that involve some pop star I've never heard of.

And then there's this one commercial that makes me want to go all OH NO HULK ANGRY HULK SMASH!!

I can't find a video online of the commercial in question (because I don't know the name of the product), nor have I had the chance to take a video of it myself, but I've got my camera at the ready now every time I hop into a taxi with one of those annoying TVs at the back.

But, basically, it goes like this.

Attractive woman has adorkable boyfriend. Woman is at work and has her head cradled in her hands. She then finishes work (while the sun is still up so you know it's not Taiwan) but having her head in her hands has - oh noes! - caused temporary reddish indentations in her face. Quel horreur! Adorkable Boyfriend looks at her and his expression changes from adoration to disgust. Ewwww, what's wrong with your skin? Rather than doing the sensible thing and punching him in the face, she looks ashamed for some reason.

Then she's at work again, or surfing the Internet (same thing, really, at least it was for me), and she's wearing a scarf or something. The scarf leaves more creases on her neck. Or maybe she's just Creaseface McWeirdo. I dunno. She's all excited for her sweet date with Adorkable Boyfriend! Yay! She can't wait!

So she goes out to meet him, and his big adorkable nose crinkles up. Ew! Your face again! What's wrong with you, having human skin that reacts when stuff touches it? Rather than doing the sensible thing and punching him in the taint, she looks like she's going to cry.

But then - oh good! - she gets some makeup! So she can cover her terrible imperfections and look perfect for her Adorkable Boyfriend, because of course how could he possibly love her when EW GROSS HER SKIN HAS TEMPORARY CREASES FROM TOUCHING FABRIC THAT WILL TOTALLY GO AWAY IN FIVE MINUTES? Even if her problem weren't so transient in nature - perhaps a weeklong zit, or - heaven forfend! - a birthmark - Adorkable Boyfriend simply cannot be physically attracted to a woman whose skin isn't rendered so flawless by makeup that it glitters slightly.

So ladies. I SAID LADIES. Your job is to be physically perfect in every way for your Adorkable Boyfriend (he can be imperfect, that's OK, the looks that matter are yours, he's probably got something else going for him, like he's smart or earns money or something) or HE WON'T LIKE YOU. This is your job, ladies. Take it seriously. And if he crinkles up his nose at you because you have a crease imprint on your skin? That's your fault and don't you forget it!

And now that you feel terrible about yourself and really insecure that your boyfriend won't like your human skin, spend your money on this makeup! Look! A concealing foundation so you can hide yourself!

This girl used it, and now her skin is perfect and glittery and Adorkable Boyfriend is gazing at her adoringly! BUY IT NOW.



I realize that makeup commercials are of a kind, and that a lot of advertising (especially advertising aimed at women) relies on making someone feel inferior or subpar before convincing them that their flaws can be healed if they buy this Shiny New Thing, but this particular commercial makes me so much angrier than the usual bullshit. At least other bullshit tries for a veneer of being about "empowering women (with makeup you can buy!)" or "maybe she's born with it" or "be a new sexy you with plumper eyelashes (because your current eyelashes are hideou - - I mean because you deserve to be sexy, it's all about what some guy thinks of yo - - I mean GIRL POWER!)".

But this commercial is really the worst - it just goes straight for the jugular of insecurity. It doesn't even put up a pretense of "this is for you, to look your best" or "our product is really high quality" - it dives right into "if your skin is imperfect in any way, your boyfriend will gasp in horror at the sight of you!" It's straight-up telling women that it's their job to hide imperfections and look perfect for men (not for themselves - you never see this girl crinkling up her own nose in the mirror - it's so male gazey it physically hurts to watch), not men's job to understand that women are real human people and sometimes look imperfect, and that they're just going to have to deal with that fact or be very, very lonely.

And it's struck a chord with me, and made me think about how I could complain about sexism in Taiwan after seeing this steaming heap of crap on taxi TV (seriously, bring back HTC pop singer guy or something, or the penis guy in his shiny blue suit whistling his bluebird song), but really, I can't.

I can only think that this is still a problem worldwide. Back in the USA I still see similar commercials. In any given country - including Taiwan, which is otherwise not a bad place in Asia to live if you're female, compared to the rest of Asia anyway - and any given culture, it's still seen as women's responsibility to look good, and those they're expected to look good for are the other half of the population, not themselves. I could imagine seeing such a commercial on TV in the USA. Even though I know that there is a greater pressure on women in Taiwan to take care of their appearance, or a greater feeling of responsibility for maintaining their looks.

Complaining about it - even directly to the sexist marketing folks who scripted this utter tripe - isn't going to do much. I can only hope that I'm not the only person annoyed by this fistful of garbage, and that prospective customers just don't buy the product in question.


Breezey said...

Oh geez! I had no idea what that commercial was about until now. I saw the short version where her boyfriend is weirded out by her skin and she looks embarrassed. I thought she got too tan (oh no!). Btw the commercial is for laura mercier, a decently good, over-priced makeup company. What weird commercial.

Jenna Cody said...

Laura Mercier - got it.

I'm not even sure it matters what was wrong with her skin - the whole dynamic of "my boyfriend is weirded out by my totally natural skin issues so I have to cover myself in makeup for his benefit!" is completely ridiculous and sexist.