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Apr 09 2008

Manure

eva.jpg
“Actress and humanitarian” Eva Longoria philosophizes, in return for money, on how great it is to be beautiful.

Seen the commercial celebrating the heartwarming accomplishments of that woman who hooks up disabled people with service dogs? It’s so nice, because service dogs are expensive, and although it may surprise you, not all disabled people are millionaires who can afford them. So the dog lady wins an award. A Woman of WorthTM award.

That’s right. Women of WorthTM. Most women aren’t worth anything; that’s what makes this award, just for women who are worth something, so distinguished. Guess who hands it out? Nope, not the California domestic violence crisis center of the same name. I allude to L’Oreal Paris, of course, the cosmetics multinational whose slogan is “It costs a little more, but I’m worth it.”

The slogan was written in 1973 to cash in on a “social revolution and a new spirit of feminism.” Clearly, the phenomenon of “pinkification” — by which I mean the corporate co-opting, commodification, and misogynist repurposing of women’s social and political issues — is nothing new. The slogan “Because I’m worth it,” L’Oreal Paris says with a straight face, has “become part of our social fabric” because it proceeds “strictly from a woman’s point of view.”

Which point of view, thanks in part to a femininity industry that preys on women’s fears of worthlessness, bypasses all “social revolution” and “spirit of feminism” to revert straight to equating self-esteem with lipstick-caked self-loathing.

“Worth” is an interesting word choice. Among those words which indicate meaningfulness or merit, “worth” stands out with some pretty strong connotations of pecuniary value. “Worth it” is an idiom describing the satisfactory outcome of a personal sacrifice, often monetary, given in trade for some improving circumstance. Like when you save up to buy a new toilet. Objects, like toilets and, apparently, women, have worth, but they rarely have merit.

Here is the de-patriarchalized translation of L’Oreal’s slogan: “My value is equivalent to the financial commitment I am willing to make to the performance of submissive femininity behaviors which benefit me materially only insofar as they enhance my ability to appease my oppressor.”

Or, “I recognize that it’s better to be high-priced than cheap.”

When L’Oreal, a corporate entity which exists solely to profit from women’s oppression, isn’t doing everything in its power to leverage women’s self-hatred into a preoccupation with drugstore wrinkle cream, it’s “celebrating” women who are “worth it” with, what else, philanthropy.

L’Oreal’s philanthropy involves getting do-gooders — the Women of Worth TM — to perform in print and TV ads in exchange for national exposure and $5000 charitable contributions. To further cleanse its blackened soul, L’Oreal donates another 5 grand each to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

I don’t know anything about the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, but if their website is any indication, they appear to subscribe to a Crunch For the Cure/Komen style of product placement/nebulous “awareness”/plucky volunterrorism that really rankles the Twisty lobes. How transparent is it when corporations glom onto chick-cancer? They can look pro-woman without having to look pro-feminist.

Anyway. You might be wondering what it takes to have “worth” in this world. According to L’Oreal a Woman of Worth TM is “a beautiful person” whose “devotion” to stuff like “children’s initiatives” is “endless.” She sounds just like one of those plucky Komen cancer survivors.

L’Oreal, by the way, tests their unnecessary beauty products on animals. They don’t come right out and admit that animal testing is bad, but they do explain, somewhat defensively, that they are pretty much forced to do it, because beauty is that important, and, remember, you’re worth it. In other words, the magnanimous beauty industrial complex is willing to endure the suffering of untold thousands of sentient beings on your worthy behalf in order to protect its own even worthier bottom line. But buy that lipstick with a clean conscience: L’Oreal is “contributing significantly” to a European cosmetics “directive” that will end animal testing “for the complex tests” by 2013. Meanwhile, they’re working on “Refining” the torture so that it doesn’t cause the animals to spontaneously combust in clots of cancerous bloody gore. As often.

By the way, when I said that the word “worth” means “pecuniary value” I wasn’t being entirely forthcoming. In 17th century usage it meant “manure.”

Note: I got all the L’Oreal info from their own website.

45 comments

1 ping

  1. kiki

    I am currently living in Europe on temporary assignment and the other night while painfully awake because of jet leg I found myself slumped on a sofa watching some plastic surgery show on BBC. This young woman had just had a “tummy tuck” and was looking very ill. The surgeon pulled back the bloody bandages to reveal horrible bruising and and a row of staples (like 30 centimeters long) that would have caused Dr. Frankenstein pause. Her eyes teared up and she looked at her best friend and said, “it’s so beautiful” to which her friend replied, “I am so jealous”. Unbelievable.

  2. mahree

    My favorite (and only) anecdote about Eva Longoria is this piece of manure:

    “I believe in past lives,” Longoria tells the May issue of Latina Magazine. “I was probably an Aztec princess, which is why everyone has to treat me so well!” …

  3. Elaine Vigneault

    “service dogs are expensive”

    Actually it’s the training that’s expensive. Many dogs can be service dogs, he or she just needs proper training.

    But there is a service dog racket where breeders produce and train dogs and sell then at huge profits. (There are feminist implications here, too, given that many of these dogs are forcefully impregnated.)

    Moreover, the notion that dogs are property is pretty offensive to me and downright destructive and cruel to dogs.

  4. Elaine Vigneault

    Thank you for mentioning that
    “L’Oreal, by the way, tests their unnecessary beauty products on animals.”

  5. Laura

    I already knew L’Oreal and their disgusting slogan and their campaign for animal testing (they are one of the few big cosmetics companies based in Europe who still claim it to be “necessary” and fought relevant bans in the E.U.) but the choice of the title for this campaign is just so very over-the-top and transparent. Good gracious.

  6. Lauredhel

    And beauty products ain’t the half of it. L’Oreal are Nestle.

  7. Citizen Insane

    “My value is equivalent to the financial commitment I am willing to make to the performance of submissive femininity behaviors which benefit me materially only insofar as they enhance my ability to appease my oppressor.”

    The quote above is one of the many, many, many reasons why I read this blog. Thank you Twisty. Wow.

  8. norbizness

    One of my 1,843 failings is listening to sports talk radio as background noise a few hours a day. In the radio commercial for SportsCuts, a place where idiots like me presumably go for a haircut, one of the voice actors mouthed the following slogan: “I got a good haircut, a steam towel treatment, and neck and shoulder message…. I! WIN! ALL! THE! WAY!” I wish to God I were making this up, but it’s on every half-hour or so.

    Submitted as a possible proof to a corollary regarding the pernicious advertising industry: you may succeed through your purchases of goods and services where ordinary obstacles in your life-path have you completely flummoxed.

    P.S. By 2013, they will have virtual reality helmets for rabbits and other critters that merely simulate having noxious chemicals sprayed in their eyes, or better yet how pretty they’ll feel at the Johnson’s dinner party on Saturday.

  9. Anastasia

    “I recognize that it’s better to be high-priced than cheap.”

    and this line is the reason I love this blog.

  10. laffriotgrrl

    Hey, it costs a lot to look cheap!

  11. kelly g.

    @ norbizness

    And they’ll even let you menses leave the toilet seats up, too. Apparently teh wimmins providing said hair cuts, shoulder massages and hand jobs don’t mind falling into a bowl of urine for y’all. Heck, I bet it’s in their employment contracts.

  12. narya

    My only complaint with this blaming, Twisty, is your use of “which” instead of “that.” But that’s because, in addition to patriarchy-blaming, I engage in editorial nitpicking (my own errors notwithstanding).

    kiki, that’s depressing.

    and norbiz, I’ve been known to listen to the Chicago version of same, and when I’ve been away from it for awhile and come back, the commercials always send me into fits.

  13. Ron Sullivan

    This text arrived in my email last night; I signed up for the shoppe’s list because it sells Mandy Aftel’s extremely interesting scents. Which I can’t afford but she also sells ingredients by mail, and some of them are cheap enough for me in a good month; I can sniff samples in this store.

    Most of the time I don’t have the intestinal fortitude/rhino-hided psyche to actually walk into the place, though.

    Alas, the site doesn’t feature the line drawing of a woman with an extremely long neck (done up in a ribbon noose with bow) and a hairdo featuring antlers.

    I am so fetched with those antlers. If they promised me a set, I’d go to their ~spa~.

  14. Amy

    I clicked on the link in Ron’s comment and was smacked in the face with this beauty:

    “My entire mission in life is to help women take over the world. Not by force, but with compassion, perserverance, and love.” – Kevyn Aucoin

    Ugh. Because women certainly couldn’t take over the world on their own, even if they wanted to, and if they wanted to, they should do it with compassion and love, which is, you know, how you chicks should do everything.

    I am so glad I never started with the whole makeup crap. My dear mother is so indoctrinated that she actually had to use her eyelash curler before we went skiing the other day. Sigh.

    Sucking up to the patriarchy: it’s just not worth it.

  15. kiki

    Haha, jet lag, see what I mean? Ack.

  16. buggle

    “My value is equivalent to the financial commitment I am willing to make to the performance of submissive femininity behaviors which benefit me materially only insofar as they enhance my ability to appease my oppressor.”

    HA! Love this! Love, love, love! I want to put this on my wall, or something, to remind me.

    kiki- that story is incredibly sad and horrifying. Although, I understand. The pressure to be hawt is immense. I used to wish I’d be in a horrible, disfiguring accident so that they would redo my face and make it prettier. I also thought that I’d be so skinny from being in a hospital bed. This was how I thought, at age 13, 14, 15 and so on. Horrific.

  17. buggle

    Jet leg sounds uncomfortable, hee.

  18. ironmaiden

    — Here is the de-patriarchalized translation of L’Oreal’s slogan: “My value is equivalent to the financial commitment I am willing to make to the performance of submissive femininity behaviors which benefit me materially only insofar as they enhance my ability to appease my oppressor.” —

    Others have beat me to it, but I have to pick this part out as well. Perfectly said.

  19. Emily

    In addition to the patriarchy blaming that I know and love and keeps me coming back for more, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you talking about animal issues. Animals’ rights not to be tortured and murdered are no more sexihawt than women’s rights not to be tortured and murdered, but you’d never know it by looking at PETA ads.

  20. charlotte

    “misogynist repurposing of women’s social and political issues … My value is equivalent to the financial commitment I am willing to make to the performance of submissive femininity behaviors which benefit me materially only insofar as they enhance my ability to appease my oppressor … “–so right on! Thanks for adding to my feminist vocab, Twisty.

    I usually try to put myself on both sides of the issue. Charities need money to fund their nonprofit work. Corporations value exposure. An endorsement match made in heaven, it seems. The problem starts with what is being communicated through this link. I think L’Oreal is in some way trying to mirror the Avon/ Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer walk initiative, but doing so rather clumsily.

  21. Twisty

    Charlotte, yeah, charities need money, but in 20 years Komen amd Avon and all their dipshit run-for-the-cures have failed to reduce breast cancer deaths at ALL. The reasons for this are many and complex, but their purported focus on “the cure,” rather than on prevention, means that the Breast Cancer Industrial Complex will endure for a long, long time. If somebody actually threw that money at preventing cancer, and women never got sick in the first place, about 468,982 companies would go out of business.

  22. Femme Futée

    “My value is equivalent to the financial commitment I am willing to make to the performance of submissive femininity behaviors which benefit me materially only insofar as they enhance my ability to appease my oppressor.”

    This gave me a brain-gasm. I have moved up to blamer from feministinger.

  23. a birch tree

    Agreed, Twisty. Prevention IS “the cure”. It’s the only cure.

    Of course, that’d require getting rid of makeup, as it contains dozens of carcinogenic chemical compounds. Which is why I always knew no cosmetics company would ever sponsor a real, honest effort to fight any kind of cancer.

  24. mearl

    Oddly enough, there aren’t any “beautiful, strong” women out there in these platitude-filled ads – whether they be in magazines, on TV or in movies – who DON’T look like Barbie dolls.

    Oh wait, but there are the Nike ads!, where the Barbie doll gets on the tennis court and grunts like a sweaty, sporty Neanderthal: but she has to be 22, blonde, tanned, thin, busty, acceptably femmy-looking, and be wearing earrings while she does that. Otherwise, the Patriarchy might spontaneously combust.

  25. ate

    mearl: Which is why Beth Ditto is so good. I liked her at first because she seemed to stand up for the things she was and how she looked instead of hiding them or being ashamed of them even when attacked by the media. Then i saw The Gossip play live and the first words out of her mouth were ‘fuck the patriarchy’. She doesn’t look like a barbie doll, she is strong and tough and she isn’t afraid to what she thinks.

  26. ate

    That should be ‘to say what she thinks’.

  27. Cassie

    New here.

    I’m also a patriarchy-blaming spinster aunt (although I seem to have a semi live-in boyfriend – not my fault, he brought his toothbrush on the 2nd date. Maybe he’s really a lesbian?). Anyway, I am currently totally smitten with Twisty. She rocks.

    You may proceed.

  28. kcb

    “My value is equivalent to the financial commitment I am willing to make to the performance of submissive femininity behaviors which benefit me materially only insofar as they enhance my ability to appease my oppressor.”

    The real “genius” of a capitalist patriarchy is that the way to make this financial commitment is by turning in your company chit at the company store, so you get hit coming and going. That way you can be the sparkliest hamster on the wheel. Blech.

  29. Joselle

    But isn’t great to know that all that animal testing has kept makeup so safe and nontoxic, though? Oh, wait. It hasn’t. Because every time I put on mascara, a little chemical landfill flakes into my eyeball. K thanks, L’Oreal. I am worth it!

    http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/index.php?nothanks=1

  30. Ermingarde

    What gets me is the quote, “A beautiful woman has confidence and strength of character.” The first thought in my mind was, Oh, she does, does she? Just because she is thin with big breasts instantly she has strength of character? Then I realized what they probably meant by it. However, NEVER seeing a picture of say, Angela Davis, Ursula K. LeGuin, or Michelle Peri (a solar physicist I admire) as an example of a beautiful woman in a magazine has left me a little confused. Or perhaps cynical.

  31. pisaquari

    I love how “strength” is portrayed in beauty ads–the infamous Zoolander fish-face: prominent cheek bones (via sucking in cheeks), pucked lips, a deep shadowy glare (mysterious mysterious women).
    These ads are insulting.

    “468,982 companies would go out of business.”

    Let’s just add self-esteem and more p-blaming to a long list of actions that would destroy entire industries.

  32. coathangrrr

    This goes back further than the seventies. The cigarettes were pitching to the suffragettes way back when.

    http://www.paloaltoonline.com/weekly/story.php?story_id=4648

  33. liberality

    I love reading this blog. I need to be reminded sometimes of what I already inherently know but never hear said or acknowledged in the greater culture. This blog is so valuable in that regard.

  34. Sara

    I just want to thank you for writing this blog, Twisty, as well as all the commenters who have added to thought-provoking discussions. I have gone back 25 pages of entries in the past month, had SO many “A-HA!” moments, and feel like my feminist batteries were recharged. Thanks!

  35. charlotte

    And I thought that foundations like the Komen foundation do invest in research to bring about better prevention. I guess I was wrong.

  36. Lara

    In regards to the manipulative nature of advertising and how the co-optation of feminism for capitalist gains (what coathangrrr was referring to) there is a whole documentary series that I learned about from Polly at sizeofacow blog. It covers this aspect of advertising and how advertising came to be in our culture throughout the 20th century. I REALLY recommend taking a look at it, it was so fascinating I couldn’t stop watching it:

    http://freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=140

    Click on the link that says “Watch Movie Now!”

    Awesome post by Twisty (yet again). I can’t stand the co-optation of pro-woman rhetoric for capitalist gains in an industry that is based solely on the subjugation of women. A lot of women now think that putting on lipstick and looking like a “princess” is “empowering”. I find opposing huge corporations like L’Oreal/Nestle a whole hell of a lot more empowering, frankly.
    IBTP.

  37. slythwolf

    Interestingly, only men are actually worth, you know, not wasting time and money on this carcinogenic shit in the first damn place.

  38. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Or, “I recognize that it’s better to be high-priced than cheap.”

    What woman doesn’t use this survival tactic? Another Twisty zinger makes my day.

  39. Twisty

    Lauredhel, thanks for pointing out the Nestle connection. A famously evil conglomerate. As I was writing this post I said to myself, “Twisty, now don’t forget to look up the parent company because it’s bound to be something hideous.” And then the lunch bell rang, and well, you can guess the rest.

  40. Lara

    And another thing to add about Nestle: they also make Yorkie chocolate bars (you know, the packaged crap they sell in the UK with the motto “Yorkie, it’s not for girls!” with an image of a red slash symbol across the generic bathroom image of a woman). Blech, Nestle.

  41. Nia

    I have been looking for the bit in the website where it says it is contributing to a EU directive, but I’m apparently allergic to Flash sites.

    This is really weird, because directives is eurospeak for laws. And as far as I know, the directive that makes all non-medical animal testing illegal by 2013 already exists.

    I think I have mentioned before that IBTP has made me decide never to dye my hair again, ever. It’s not a lot, but it means one free afternoon every three weeks, which would have been spend in a hairdresser’s. I might spend it reading Andrea Dworkin.

  42. Ikillmeownspiders

    The other insidious aspect of this campaign is that it’s promoting the idea that women are supposed to love performing unpaid labour.
    The capitalist pig industries are wising up to the fact that the pool of volunteer labour that sustains the economy, is shrinking.

    Better start glamming up that old volunteer work eh?

    Thanks, Twisty, you effin’ rock!

  43. Twisty

    Ikillmeownspiders, I wish you would reconsider killing spiders.

  44. Sandi

    twisty, reading this piece is like a huge breath-o-fresh air, because the madness just surrounds us regarding the whole MAKEUP industry, and i am particularly thrilled by your mention of the animal torture done in the name THEREOF…not to mention the cancer-opportunists!! what about the cancer-causing ingredients in the wonderful cosmetics? hee-hee, how silly we are to doubt them, right??

  45. awhirlinlondon

    A late comment on this gorgeous post:

    There’s an interesting chapter on this in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2009 _What the Dog Saw_ called “True Colors: Hair dye and the hidden history of post-war America. L’Oreal’s 1973 “Because I’m worth it” campaign was a challenge to the Clairol “Does she or doesn’t she” campaign of 1956.

    The 1956 campaign was soaked in the ideology of the 1950s – making one’s self beautiful for one’s husband (and the acceptability/respectability of doing so – thereby, obviously, creating the requirement that one does. My analysis, not Gladwell’s). The print ads had a big focus on images of mother / daughter pairings for obvious reasons (respectability), whereas the tv version showed the “beautiful” wife being approved of by her husband. Writes the daughter of the woman who came up with the campaign: “My mother wanted to be that woman in the picture… she was wedded to the notion of that suburban, tastefully dressed, well-coddled matron who was an adornment to her husband, a loving mother, a long-suffering wife, a person who never overshadowed him.” It gets worse; the subtext of some ads became the actual text of others: A just-engaged blond being adored by her man accompanied by the words “Chances are she’d have gotten the young many anyhow, but you’ll never convince her of that.”

    One weeps.

    The 1973 campaign was considered feminist in moving the focus of approval from husband to self. Woman as subject rather than object. Woman speaking into a camera rather than silent woman and male voiceover. Never mind that it was still the male gaze – there’s no pretence that one would want to color one’s hair were one alone on a desert island – the premise was that it wasn’t. Twisty points to the L’Oreal website that discribes it thusly: “For the first time, the message was all about what the woman thought. It was about her self-confidence, her decision, her style” – rooted, of course, in her choice of patriarchy-pleasing, patriarchy-pocket-lining consumer product.

    The author, Ilon Specht, really did see it as liberating: “I could just see that they had this traditional view of women, and my feeling was that I’m not writing an ad about looking good for men… I just thought Fuck you. I sat down and did it, in 5 minutes. It was very personal. I can recite to you the whole commercial, because I was so angry when I wrote it.” Her recitation ends with “‘Because I’m’ – and here Specht took her fist and struck her chest – ‘worth it.’”

    I WILL spend extra money on making myself beautiful! My worth is such that I will spend money on… increasing my… worth?

    One weeps again.

  1. beauty, folly, and the patriarchy « The Praise of Folly

    [...] “Manure“: on the L’Oréal-sponsored WomenOfWorth™ shenanigans and high jinks, but mostly [...]

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