Nov 21 2008

Spinster aunt casts jaundiced eye upon stupid product

American culture is infested with a great many pernicious social constructs the abolition of which the Twistolution would celebrate with a yacht party in Bali. Drinks on me! Sarongs optional!

There are so many pernicious social constructs, in fact, that without a little help from the megatheocorporatocracy, it would be impossible to focus my full blaming powers on any single one. Fortunately, this morning I was aided by the Bayer drug company.

The Bayer drug company, you will recall from the Drugs and Society course you took sophomore year, did not invent heroin, but they were the first to market the heck out of it. Not, as is popularly thought, as a cure for morphine addiction, but as a cough syrup. Because heroin is just a quick-acting morphine, it really took off. After it was criminalized in the US in 1914 — kicking off one of patriarchy’s most beloved and enduring class wars, the War on Drugs — a sub-facet of addict culture was to scavenge scrap metal to finance one’s skag habit: hence, junkie.

Bayer quit selling heroin a hundred years ago, but they have been far from idle when it comes to producing pharmaceuticals of questionable efficacy intended for human ingestion. In the 80’s, they sold stuff called Factor VIII to hemophiliacs. Come to find out, Factor VIII contained the AIDS virus! Thousands died! So they developed a safer version to sell in the US. But they kept selling the old one in Asia and Latin America. It wouldn’t have been profitable to just throw the tainted stuff away.

But I digress.

Bayer blipped the Twisty radar this morning when it aired a television commercial for vitamin capsules. The capsules are called One-A-Day Teen Advantage. They come in two versions. That’s right. “For Him” and “For Her.”

Thus pointing at two highly celebrated pernicious social constructs with one spinster claw-finger.

I allude, of course, to the revolting concepts of gender and of teenagerdom.

It will not knock the regular reader off her recliner when I say again that I am revolted by the phony socialization bullshit that accompanies the arbitrary establishment of two — not one, not thirteen, but two — officially recognized genders, the differences between which are supposedly so extreme and whose interests are supposedly so diametrically opposed that an entire global paradigm of domination is necessary to control the vast, unknowable forces unleashed by this volatile boy-girl narrative.

But I haven’t touched on the bogosity of teenagerness much. So just let me say how revolted I am by the phony socialization bullshit that accompanies the arbitrary establishment of a bogus phase of the human life cycle devoted entirely to drunk driving, moping, responsibility-shirking, and JD Salinger novels. Teenagers are a marketing concept created to sell acne cream.

And now to sell vitamins, apparently. Bayer’s new Teen Advantage pill focuses on the “top health concerns of moms and teens” (dads, it is well documented, are oblivious to their children’s health; their top health concern is erectile dysfunction). The “For Him” vitamins address the critical dude issue of “healthy muscle function.” Girl-teen vitamins, on the other hand, are primarily concerned with “healthy skin.”

Seriously. This shit just writes itself.

So I don’t need to spell out the multi-faceted celebration of patriarchal ideology, binary genderism, and sexist bullshit encrapsulated by this asinine product. Hey, Bayer Product Development Guy! The 50’s called, and they want their male chauvinist pig jibbajabba back!

If, back when I was still a captive rebelling against the stifling stewardship of my nuclear family, my mother had induced me to take dork-ass pills called “Teen Advantage,” I would have written 8 pages in my journal about her smothering suburban uncoolness and how I couldn’t wait until I was 18, whereupon I would move to Manhattan, wear black, and become a fixture at the most prestigious literary salons.


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  1. Wolfhound

    I currently don’t get any reception on my TV but saw this commercial the other day at a friend’s house and immediately launched into a barely coherent diatribe about the damn “healthy muscles” vs. “healthy skin” thing.

    Twisty, I love your blog, your mind, your sensibility, your jaundiced eye, but I must say I can’t watch or read anything any more without seeing the patriarchy’s heavy hand. It sucks. Big time. Thanks (I think) for opening my eyes wider. And thanks for returning to blogging; your writing is a grand counterpoint to the general idiocy of culture.

  2. givesgoodemail

    “…I would move to Manhattan, wear black, and become a fixture at the most prestigious literary salons.”
    Rose is a rose is a ro…
    Oh, sorry. Wrong century, and wrong city.

  3. Kalyn

    Hmm…I wonder if the ‘girl’ version has a high folic acid content; a conflict between the ‘all women of childbearing age must be viewed as pre-pregnant’ construct and the ‘we musn’t encourage the young ladies to have the S.E.X.’ construct. Heh heh heh.

  4. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Speaking of stupid products, THIS one is pregnant with promise. OH, had I the time!


  5. Spiders

    Good form you are in, T! I needed that. I read somewhere that all the early baby medicines, teething syrup and stuff, were made out of heroin as well, for comfortably numb gums.
    Both the teens in this house got a good laugh out of the whole Teen Advantage thing.

  6. BadKitty

    I, for one, shall not be taking any vitamins intended for “her” unless they are pink and promise to enhance my bust line.

  7. Angmar Bucket

    I remember that vitam commercial. I was disgusted that boys get vitamins for their health, and the girls get…pretty SKIN? So the boy has something to chase later, of course, once he’s healthy enough to do so.

  8. Cycles

    Teenagers are also vilified and discounted in ways that wouldn’t fly if sweepingly applied to other groups. Who vandalized that sign? Probably some teenagers. What’s wrong with your son? Oh, you know, he’s just being a teenager. Do they have curfews in American cities? Not really, just for teenagers.

    Manufacture and market products to address angst and rebelliousness caused by the manufacrure and marketing of products to address angst and rebelliousness.

    I know I’m always going on and on about my fanatical love for the PBS series Frontline, but “The Merchants of Cool” really taps into the whole rebellion-to-sell-sneakers thing.


    I said “sneakers.” I must be oooooooold.

  9. subversiville

    Thank non-God you’re back, Twisty.

    This, for the record, is why I continue to take Flinstones chewable vitamins well into adulthood, although not even these are patriarchy-free. I recall the company needing to remake/discontinue the Betty vitamins because they were manufactured true-to-scale, and therefore kept breaking in half at the waist in the bottle. ‘Cause, you know, even your cartoon-character vitamin supplement should be sex-ay.

  10. Tupe

    And yet more evidence: If this shit actually wrote itself (a la evo-psychos) we wouldn’t need Gender Supplements. Also, if it can make you feel shitty, it can make you spend money. In a society in which male power = having money hating women, this works pretty much non-stop against us… until, of course, you don’t care about buying skin-enhancing vitimins, in which case you can join me over here in the corner with a bottle of wine and dirty looks, staples of the Feminist’s diet.

  11. Vibrating Liz

    Oh hell. I must have forgotten my damn reading glasses and accidentally bought the wrong bottle! That would explain why I’m always doing stuff like multiple pullups and bench pressing my own bodyweight, while my skin still has pores. D’oh.

  12. Chai Latte

    I don’t watch much TV (I’m still in a sulk since ‘Buffy’ was cancelled) so I haven’t seen these ads. While having good skin would be lovely, I’d hate to neglect my muscles. And who says the dudes don’t want good skin, too? Really now. I’m surprised the MRAs aren’t all over this one. Perhaps the idea of having an actual problem to address freezes them with cold terror.

    And I am all for a yacht party in Bali. Mmm, warm sunshine and feminist compatriots? Put a call to Nigel–I might not come back! :D

  13. incognotter

    I have obviously become too jaded by the P, because my first thought was to be grateful that for once they are not selling eating disorders to teen girls. But yeah, obligatory sex appeal for the girls and “manliness” for the boys makes my head explode. Makes me glad I have no TV here.

  14. Kate Dino

    Oh, how I have missed you.

  15. virago

    I saw this commercial, and I thought exactly the same thing as most posters. Teen guys get “healthy muscles” while teen girls get “good skin”. WTF? Sure, I could’ve used a product for good skin, but is that all they think teen girls are worried about? I was in athletics, healthy muscles would’ve been good. OTOH, I’m surprised these assholes didn’t promote something for proper uterine health or some crap like that. After all, the uterus is a muscle, and the only one the patriarchy seems to think that girls should care about (and to keep empty until properly wedded as a frigid virgin). LOL

  16. TwissB

    Funny you should mention gender-mongering, Twisty. Last evening, at a soiree featuring Supreme Court justice (father of nine, and devotee of “natural law” and original intent) Antonin Scalia, I placed into his hand – the one that was not holding his wine glass – a neatly folded-up copy of my essay “Stop Abortion? Fix Men!”, told him to put it in his pocket and smilingly told him that my favorite example of his writing was the first paragraph of his dissent in J.E.B. v Alabama. Momentarily blindsided, he asked what that was and I sweetly reminded him that was the part where he brilliantly skewered his liberal colleagues’ dainty and elaborate references to “gender.” Remembering, he snapped “I hate that word!”. “I do too,” I agreed and shimmered off, mission accomplished. (It takes so little to make me happy.)

    J.E.B was an equal protection case about discrimination against men, of course. Scalia’s reputation for wit is overblown, but the cited paragraph is a witty send-up of “gender” piety. Here’s a link:


  17. Rachael

    GAG. The last thing I want is some stupid TV commercial to tell me which vitamins I need based on my sex OR gender.

    It sickens me how much our society profits from gender existentialism.

  18. Laurel from Simple Spoonful

    My first reaction was actually that “for him” and “for her” was probably driven by real reasons that were less about gender and more about biological sex–basically, I assumed the major difference would be iron content. Men can OD on iron because they don’t menstruate, while women are often deficient in it because they do.

    Clicking through to the link, however, was sad and depressing, as such things tend to be. Yes, it seems the “For Her” pills specifically lay claim to iron, but the muscles v skin benefits were supremely annoying. I mean, they could have emphasized the energy boost that iron-deficient girls could get by taking an iron-rich supplement, but no, it was the good skin.

    Oddly, of all the things about their appearances that trouble teens, bad skin seems to transcend gender lines. I am shocked Bayer hasn’t realized this.

    Oh–Vibrating Liz–right on. See you at the gym with my pores and my bad self. ;)

  19. denelian

    i can’t say it’s surprising – there are adult vitiams for “him” and “her”

    who was it that, not too long ago on a feminist forum, had a big discussion about social class and dermetology? (i can’t spell, i know. i mean medical treatment of acne). i’m pretty sure it was on feministe… it was sorta facinating, watching the two different basic groups, talk about how important acne was or was not to them. and it seemed to boild down (not that i am trying to be dismissive of anyone about this) to how high up one was socially – that is, if one was of a high (or was percieved to be of a higher) social class, then acne was something that could destroy future prospects… of education, emplyment, marriage, etc. if one was of a lower social class, acne, while annoying and the center of much teenage angst, was considered to just be something that teens had to live through.

    i don’t know, but suspect, that there was also a gender bias in the self-selected group of people who were or would have been “harmed” by acne. i don’t really remember anywhere near as much boy-drama about acne as i do girl-drama when i was a teen. i guess because, at least in a patriarchy, guys can be butt-ugly but still being “manly” and “marriagable” so long as they earn money, while the only asset woman has is her percieved attractivness, and skin care is seen as important to attractiveness. i mean, if a girl has acne, she obvious doesn’t wash her face and is a dirty dirty whore not worth any respectable man’s time money and effort! (gag!!!) and worse is the fact that all this marketing makes the GIRLS think the same way, so if a teenage girl gets acne she thinks that she is being punished for something.

    i hate this. i think i hate it more because i never really had a lot of acne. my skin care “routine” is to take a shower. i don’t use lotion, or “cleaners” or make up. but everyone thinks i spend HOURS taking care of my skin. argh.

  20. Laura

    Oh jebus. Earlier today, I overheard a fifteen- or sixteen-year-old girl shit-talking the Patriarchy to her cracker honky rich-ass patriarch stepdad (?) and almost wished I was a badass, sassy teenager again …

    but I’m seriously over that wish now. Being a teenager was hell and this is only a small part of why.
    “Healthy muscles” for “boys” v. “healthy skin” for “girls”? Really? Why can’t everyone just have both? Oh — right. The Patriarchy.

    I love the comments here as per usual (Vibrating Liz!), although I personally wouldn’t have commented except to say, incognotter, exactly.

    At least the bastards aren’t marketing, say, “healthy muscles” for teen boys v. “weight maintenance” for teen girls!

    It’s not enough of a trade-off. Not nearly enough. I still blame the patriarchy.

  21. Barbara P

    Yes, this commercial was bad. On the bright side, it was a great “teaching moment” for my 9-yo daughter. She’s not as quick to pick up on subtleties in ads, but this was completely blatant.

    That said, is this really advanced patriarchy-blaming? It seems more like feminism 101. Oh, well. I suppose a little review never hurt anyone.

  22. Paris

    It has been a while since I watched teevee or was in the market for teenie vitamins, but I’ve noticed the demise of generic multi-vitamins. Instead there are now ‘his’ and ‘hers’. The only difference appears to have been the replacement of ‘w/o iron’ and ‘w/iron’ with gendering pronouns. Interestingly, the few generic ones all contain iron, so I guess women are the default consumer of multi-vitamins?

  23. panic

    You ain’t lyin’!

    Interesting thoughts there. To me, I’d think worrying about acne is a sort of privilege. If you don’t have a lot of money, zits are probably pretty far down the list.

    I think a “for her” pill would be handy if it addressed something that really is female (though not all females, of course) specific; I’m thinking of one with extra iron to help a sister out when I’m losing half my body weight in blood and tissue*.

    *I’m prone to slight exaggeration.

  24. Aine

    See, I think ‘his’ and ‘hers’ teen vitamins are probably a good idea. Bodies are different, they need different care. But really, I doubt they put anything in that women really need more than guys, like to
    make her bones stronger or help prevent heart disease in the future (no 1 killer of women, just not as sexy as TEH BREAST CANCER).

    The one place where paying attention to sex differences can actually help, and the medical establishment blows it again and again and again.

  25. Frumious B

    I’m gonna take whatever vitamins Vibrating Liz is taking. What’s that you say? I need to actually work out, like with weights, before I can bench press my own weight? Never mind, then.

    Being a product of my modern society, it never occurred to me until I was told that teenagers didn’t actually exist until the 40’s or 50’s. Before then, you went pretty much went from being a child to being an adult. As the definition and markers of adulthood keep changing, the length of time people spend being teenagers keeps expanding.

    I believe that I learned these remarkable facts reading _Guyland_, which I highly recommend for those with a strong stomach.

  26. Frumious B


    I, too, have skin that is genetically fairly clear of pimples and blemishes. One time, years ago, I entered the dorm bathroom to find a hallmate examining her skin from 2 inches away in the mirror. She turned to me, sighed, and said, “You’re so lucky to have such nice skin.” I couldn’t see a blemish on her from 4 feet away. I am lucky to have clear skin in a society which values clear skin, but when examined from a distance of 2 inches, I, too, have clogged, enlarged pores (and now wrinkles). My preferred method of skin care is the removal of mirrors.

  27. Lurker

    Twisty —

    Please write a book.

  28. TP

    Frumious B goes where I went – the concept of teenagerdom, like the concept of childhood, is modern and should be viewed with suspicion. I sense Twisty is dwelling on the subject, getting ready to burst forth with insights so profound we will all be reeling with astonishment that what was once obscure was less than obvious.

    Absolute Beginners, the New Wave movie about the fifties, is full of observations about the teen phenom, starting with the commercial and musical aspects and delving slightly into the sexual.

    I draw a direct link between the hypersexualisation of culture and teen glorification. From which loads of feminist insights can be made.

    As a fifty year old man fighting against the mass delusion propagated by a seductive culture, I have to remind myself constantly that I am not 18 years old anymore and that women are looking at me as a kindly, avuncular and harmless fellow, and not as the teen horn-dog the patriarchy whispers into my ear I really am. Whole books could be written on the delusions of middle-aged men if it weren’t for the sad fact that such books would be an affront to the entire culture, since believing in these delusions keeps most puppets of the patriarchy getting out of bed each morning, both men and the women who have the vague idea that they must please them.

  29. mich

    I think it’d be interesting to compare the nutritional facts and ingredients of both vitamins to see if the differences between the “for hims” and “for hers” lie beyond simple marketing.

  30. PhysioProf

    yacht party in Bali. Drinks on me! Sarongs optional!


  31. Vibrating Liz

    Another sort of side issue I have with this ad is that it’s laying the foundation, teaching kids that the way to build muscle is not through hard work but by popping pills. Look Ma, better bodybuilding through chemistry! Even 13 year old boys will figure out in less than a week that a little cherry flavored Barney Rubble one-a-day won’t add a goddamn molecule of muscle. Nope, for that they’d have to spend many years of long hard painful hours sweating and burning and lifting seriously heavy stuff while ingesting obscene amounts of protein. But if that’s inconvenient, they can always stick with the vitamin meme, simply upgrading to vitamin “T” (aka testosterone), the only “vitamin” that will actually increase muscle mass.

  32. Angiportus

    It isn’t just vitamins. Some years back I tuned in to an easy-listening station and this ad came on with someone touting a new hemorrhoid ointment just for “a woman’s more sensitive tissues”. I knew there was a reason I prefer the classical station… Oh, and this was before anyone invented anal bleaching (I am still trying to envision the Clorox ads.)

  33. Veganrampage

    Bayer rang an awful bell when I read it. This from Wikipedia:

    The Bayer company then became part of IG Farben, a conglomerate of German chemical industries that formed a part of the the financial core of the German Nazi regime. IG Farben owned 42.5% of the company that manufactured Zyklon B[citation needed], a chemical used in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other extermination camps. During World War II, the company also extensively used slave labor in factories attached to large slave labor camps, notably the sub-camps of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp[2]. When the Allies split IG Farben into several pieces after World War II for involvement in organized Nazi war crimes, Bayer reappeared as an individual business. The Bayer executive Fritz ter Meer, sentenced to seven years in prison by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, was made head of the supervisory board of Bayer in 1956, after his release.

    The company that made the ovens for Auschwitz is still in business.

    I have been raging against “our violent insane patriarchy” for years, and a friend directed me here. Love it. Becoming vegan was one of the ways I found to to personally protest the patriarchy. I must say few people understand, and even fewer care.

  34. denelian

    panic: yep. it’s definitly a position of privilige to be able to worry about acne, let only spend hundreds of dollars treating it. i won’t ever argue otherwise. what got me was how people perceived it, how much people worried about acne destroying, or at least lessening, future prospects

    frumious: if it doesn’t have pores, its not skin. right? i think its more than that, of course. girls are trained almost from infancy to see every physical in themselves and to magnify it all to hell. for whatever reason (and i don’t understand it. yes, its a tool of the patriarchy, but i see whats to be GAINED by girls freaking over every little thing. it helps to control us, but also pisses men off. i don’t think i ever will understand it). i just sometimes feel guilty that i never really suffered from acne, and it’s damned annoying that so many people think i put a lot of effort into skin care. as if i had nothing better to do than spend all my time and money looking good for random guy…

    it seems i’m babbling. sorry, everyone.

  35. Narya

    What’s really sort of amusing (or depressing) is that, at least according to the NYT, reporting a bunch of recent research, almost no vitamins make a positive difference for anyone, and many, taken in pill rather than, say, carrot, form, seem to do actual harm. The one exception seems to be D, of which we all often don’t get enough, thanks to sunscreen, but which can help with bone strength, especially for us old broads.

  36. mearl

    Damn it all…and here I’ve been taking these Bayer supplements because all I’ve ever wanted in life was for my skin to glow like the baby jesus….now I know why my muscles have all atrophied! I’d better go down a bucket of whey powder.

  37. speedbudget

    On the clear skin issue…

    That make-up line…what’s it called…Bare Minerals. Their ad really chaps my hide. I always wait with teeth gritted until they get to part where they say:

    “…that natural, airbrushed look.”

    Oxymoron much?

  38. Azundris

    But speedbudget, the Natural Look is the philosopher’s stone! The pressure to put in a lot of time and money to “be all that you can be” (temporarily P-approved) while denying that you’re going to such lengths (“I’m naturally gorgeous”)? (Include cosmetic surgery and $1000 visits to the coiffeur at will.) It seems to neatly siphon (financial) power away from women, as well as time in which they could further their careers or, gasp, organize. But then only when we claim that the time and money weren’t spent can men claim that well, clearly, women are inefficient and inferior, because they sure don’t seem to get a lot done, but, haha, they’re free to vote with their money. It’s brilliant.

  39. MissPrism

    yes, Twisty, write a book!
    Vibrating Liz, you too.

  40. RadFemHedonist

    I think that the whole baby/child/teenager thing is meant to codify ageism into society, both with the whole “teh fetus is a cuuuute baybeh” thing, and with the way that born homosapiens under 18 are denied such things as ownership of their bodies, the right to medical care (Jehovah’s witnesses can still deny blood transfusions to born homosapiens in their care, and look at the hullabaloo over the HPV vaccine, most of which had nothing to do with the vaccine possibly being unsafe), good nutrition, and the right to be non-religious and atheistic, unburdened by expectations of behaviour that are different based on race, sex and sexual orientation. I also think it is in some respects an offshoot of Freudianism, that helps encourage the notion of PIV sex as the ultimate in adult, functional behaviour, with homosexuality, masturbation and partnersex that does not end in intercourse as immature products of the adolescent phase, “polymorphous perversity”, and satisfaction with one’s body is again regarded as ignorance, because everyone knows puberty is repulsive. It’s yet another excuse for all manner of bodily slicing and dicing in the name of ritual/religion/tradition, and is meant to stop one from having interests outside of nurturing children and men if one is female, and competing, gaining money, and having power over women if one is male, this is rambling, but I think part of the whole thing about childhood as a separate stage from adulthood is it makes it easier to have a really narrow, opressive, stifling definition of what everyone should be because you can just be accused of not acting like an adult when you question the status-quo, and knowing how children are treated, no-one wants to revert to being regarded as a child when they’ve actually managed to live the 18 years (or however long) required to stop being regarded as one. My final observation is that childhood as it interacts with the family is a primary facillitator (I think that is the correct word) of sexual assault, as children are supposed to be protected by their parents, and if that doesn’t work out it must be because the parents were devil worshippers and not because they have a lot of power over the child in question. If I had another few hours, this would be a lot more coherent but I’m in an internet cafe and it’s making me self concious on a level I thought impossible.

  41. metamanda

    @ mich — I’ve done that comparison. “Hers” products are usually priced a bit higher and often are no different from “his” products other than being pink. (I’m thinking of disposable razors here.) So when I was at Trader Joe’s thinking of buying vitamins, I found myself wondering why the women’s vitamins cost nearly twice as much. Did they have more iron? More calcium, perhaps, than the men’s? Turns out they didn’t; there was very little difference at all in their content, certainly not anything to justify the higher price. (And it’s ridiculously other-ing to construct half the population as having some special need that they should pay more for.)

    “Teenager” is a dumb social construct, but adolescence as a time when your body is changing makes sense, and I might buy that there’s some biological basis for specific nutritional needs at that time in your life. I’d do some research, though, because I’m skeptical whether there’s any tailoring of the vitamins beyond the design of the label. And Bayer’s crassly sexist marketing is just, ergh.


    Jesus. Sweet Jesus. WHY IS BAYER STILL IN BUSINESS, and WHY AREN’T the executive’s responsible in JAIL? That article is so chilling I can scarcely belive it.

    Sometimes I wonder if having affordable health insurance etc would result in GREATER risk! Because most of the Texans I know who have no access to health care (most of my bohunk friends) might be better off than we THINK, in that we usually end up trying to address our health concerns with diet and supplements, or free acupuncture from the training schools here.

    Not that that’s much good for car accidents, but Jesus, those drug companies are teh EVULLLL!!!!!!

  43. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    FWIW, people with (severe) acne suffer higher unemployment and depression rates than do people with clear skin. I’ll try to track down the links if someone needs help with Google.

    So on the one hand yes, worrying about zits is an indulgence, BUT, cystic/nodular acne is scarring, it’s linked to depression, and it’s increasingly affecting adult women. Why? Researchers don’t know yet, but they do know that acne is an inflammatory condition, so they’re starting there. Other possiblities: Hormones in meat and dairy products (grassfed/organic is better), and certain sugars. Obviously, more research is needed. Besides adolescence or perimenopause, aggressive adult acne can be a sign that something is wrong with your diet and/or lifestyle.

    As to gender-specific vitamins/drugs, I figure there has GOT to be a better way to serve the needs of menstruating people than 1) making products pink and emphasizing the superficial (WTF?), OR 2) getting cranky over the portrayal of gender-as-something-other-than-a-hypothetical-construct. IF there are genuine differences in the nutritional needs of the 13-19 set (enh?), then it’s fair to address them. If only the megatheocorporatocracy could do this without being an ASS.

  44. sonia

    not to nitpick, but acne’s probably linked to depression at least partially because of patriarchy’s incredibly shallow judgment criteria.

  45. SoJo

    I’m with Narya, vitamin- and diet supplement- taking falls under the religion/”science” category where there is not evidence that it actually does anything for you. Except you pee yellow if you take ‘girlie’ pills.

  46. Lauredhel

    As to gender-specific vitamins/drugs, I figure there has GOT to be a better way to serve the needs of menstruating people than 1) making products pink and emphasizing the superficial (WTF?)

    Paint the iron-and-zinc pill bottle deep shiny blood-red, and label them CUNT PILLS.

  47. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    About a hundred years ago, I remember seeing adverts for a female laxative, for a woman’s more “sensitive system”, of course. (Evidently, we crap pink too.) I think the product being touted was Correctol.

  48. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Sonia, I thought that too at first, until I read the article and – fancy that! – Depression, the actual OMG my serotonin levels just hit the floor WTF – is an inflammatory disorder.

    People who go through peri/menopause with PMDD (“PMS on steroids”) are all about the inflammation, which is why I know so much about it of course. It’s also the reason why I’m so keen to differentiate between the garden variety zit and the Fright Night nodular situation, which really shouldn’t be shrugged off because 1) the scarring is horrific, and yes people are shallow, and 2) help IS available.

    Here’s the universal anti-inflammatory skin relief that trumps any pink vitamin: Green vegetables, and if you’re bad about eating your veggies, spirulina or “green foods” tablets or marine greens in general (algae family). They work no matter your hormone situation or what dangly bits are in your pants. Unfortunately for Bayer no company can pantent them.

  49. Jezebella

    KMTBERRY, really? You think people without health insurance just might be “better off” than people with? Are you sure about that? How about you ask an uninsured cancer patient about that, or maybe an uninsured diabetic, or, really, ANYONE uninsured that actually falls ill? I imagine there might be one or two around here who can set you straight on this matter.

    I have to say it: examine your privilege, hon.

  50. slade

    I am going to Trader Joe’s today and I will check out their vitamins then ask the manager about the price difference.

    Isn’t there some kind of ‘frivolous’ class action lawsuit we could begin? Trader Joe’s is owned by Aldi’s which are two German brothers (who I heard are fighting and no longer speak to each other) that have tons and tons of $$$$$!!!!

    Hitting the patriarchy in its pocketbook seems to really irritate them and it gives me such complete and utter joy.

    What do you call sneakers if you’re young??? And I think I still might call them tennis shoes every now and then. I’m ooooold too, thankfully.

    Love the Scalia action….made me feel so warm and fuzzy. If I had been there with you, I could have tripped in my gender-appropriate 4 1/2″ heels so his wine ended up on his pretty tie and shirt. It was red wine, right?

  51. JGood

    I really can get too far into the vitamins for the teens. I still trying to get past Bayer Co, passing out medicines that gave people the AIDS virus, and they didnot throw out the patent or whatever they use to get rid of this thing entirely. Now who will be able to say that these vitamins that are pertpetrated as healthy for teens skin and muscle builders, won’t eventually show up as detrimental to their health. I don’t trust the drug companies.

  52. SKM

    That odius ad actually begins with the statement that boys and girls are “from different planets!”. Seriously. They couldn’t even be bothered to come up with fresh wording for their gender-stereotypery. My brain is also bent by the implication that teenage boys are not troubled by acne when they get it, as they often do, and that healthy muscle function is of no concern to girls. Becasue they lie on downy fainting couches popping bon-bons, or something. This crap seems to be getting more blatant, or more blatant again (I do recall the Correctol commercial Antoinette mentions, and the venomous Enjoli ad, etc…).

  53. sonia

    @ Hedonist-

    sweet! I can use that info on the greens. thanks.

  54. Lockon

    This list attracts brainy sorts, so can anyone out there confirm whether menstruating really does make us weak and anaemic?

    Several blamers have included this fact in their posts, and nobody has challenged it.

    I donate a pint of blood every three months, and that doesn’t seem to knock me about. So I don’t see why menstruating should give me special vitamin needs either. It smells like the patriarchy to me.

    About 20 years ago I found myself scanning the vitamin shelves, and the chemist strolled up to offer me advice. I was recovering from a long bout of tonsillitis, and hadn’t been eating well, so I was looking for something to help. He grabbed one bottle off the shelf, and said “this is a new product – it’s the first one made especially for women”. I didn’t get it at first, then when I caught on, I remember saying “you mean, these three shelves are for men and all their different needs, because men are all different, and THAT ONE BOTTLE is for women?”. The poor idiot kept standing there saying “yes, this one is for women, because women menstruate”. He didn’t understand why I was fuming. It remains a defining moment in my feminist journey.

  55. eamonkey

    Oh Twisty,
    I could write an ode to the ways you’ve changed me over the past few years. Sometimes evoking Amazonian fury; at others causing me to bawl with all my might whilst cutting all the damn bows off of my underthings.
    Good to be back to reading you a bit more, you were sorely missed.
    That freaking Vaseline (yay petroleum skin?) commercial. The one where doods are exhorted towards using the manly lotion that ‘strengthens skin’.
    Thank you for exposing the ridiculousness. Blame on.

  56. Robin

    @ Lockon — I can only say anecdotally that I tended to be slightly anemic in my teens and early twenties, which sometimes surprised people, since I’ve never been even vaguely vegetarian. At one point it actually did get more severe (before then I’d usually take iron pills for a few weeks until I forgot and then the next time I was tested I was back to normal levels, and then the time after that I’d be slightly anemic again), and the doctor’s conclusion was that I tended to lose slightly more iron from menstruating than I would take in, so my reserves got slowly depleted until there just were none left to, well, supplement. I’m probably forgetting some details, as this was a decade or so ago, but that was the gist.

    I must add that I also had at least one doctor tell me not to bother with taking iron supplements (as opposed to eating more iron-laden foods) because so little of the supplement is actually absorbed (the rest, of course, going toward enhancing one’s urine). So a tendency toward anemia due to menstruation may not necessarily imply that feminine-specific supplements are desirable.

  57. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Lockon – try eating iron-enriched cereal. When I go to donate blood every other month, mine sometimes comes up iron deficient. If I eat instant Cream of Wheat a couple of days before the Bloodmobile shows up, there’s no problem.

  58. speedbudget

    My mom was always terribly anemic. She would make us eat liver and onions. Gah.

    But she always cooked things in a cast-iron pan and we always had dark green leafy veggies.

    Jezebella, speak for yourself. I loved being insuranceless! I didn’t have to go to the dang doctor and I could sit around fretting about hurting myself, so it gave me a reason to just….sit around. Also, the added pleasure of worrying that my thyroid condition would come back and I could go back to painful joints, weird skin rashes, tremors, pounding heart rate, and being hooooooooot all the time. W00t!

    I suppose I should buy that manly vaseline lotion. My skin is so wimpy.

  59. Jodie

    I am sooooo glad I don’t watch enough TV to see this stuff.

  60. Dr. Steph

    So glad you’re back.

  61. Pantsuit Sally

    I emailed the company when I first saw this ad, pointing out that EVERYONE needs healthy muscles and skin (for reasons associated with actual health, such as acting as a barrier to the environment, fighting disease and illness, retaining water, and regulating body temperature), and the company took an opportunity to educate people about real health issues and instead conflated health with adherence to proper gender roles.

    The response I got was basically, “Yeah, well, this ad tested well in our focus groups.” If people already believe this BS, why does Bayer need to spend millions of dollars on a campaign to reinforce it?

    Apparently, looking pretty for teh menz is a health issue.

  62. slade

    Went to Trader Joe’s and checked out the woman’s vs. male’s vitamins. Need a damn magnifying glass to read it. But there didn’t seem to be much of a difference in the ingredients. Of course, the our pill container is pink and theirs is blue. The woman’s container is just a tad smaller and the price is identical $12.99…however, we get 60 pills and they get 100. These damn marketers think we are too stupid to notice that.

    As I was comparing the 2 bottles, a woman asked me if they were any good. I told her they were a total rip off and she put them back on the shelf.

    I want to shop at Trader Josephine’s.

  63. Tupe


    Tsk tsk — girls can’t poop pink. Remember GIRLS don’t POOP.

  64. charlotte

    Ok, so, like teen dudes don’t get acne or what?

  65. Angiportus

    Antoinette, that Correctol stuff must have been the laxative I heard about on the radio that time. Who in the hell wants to be told that they are delicate and sickly?
    I had forearm cramps one day and visited a previously unknown section of the drugstore–I had heard somewhere of medicine for cramps. Well, I looked at a few bottles and then checked the ingredients, as has become my habit. I couldn’t believe it–it was just plain old tylenol, in a fancier package.
    As for Trader Joe’s–I was tired of having to go so far to reach their stores, so I looked for their email, couldn’t find one, and resorted to snailmail for a carefully worded request that they open one in my town. What I got back was a form letter saying they hadn’t heard of any need for one, and it got not only my zip code wrong but my state. I sent them a carefully highlighted map and haven’t heard back. It’s a pity, because they do have some good stuff.
    A campaign of snail-mail on the vitamin issue might help.

  66. tinfoile hattie

    acne’s probably linked to depression at least partially because of patriarchy’s incredibly shallow judgment criteria.

    Which made it no less painful for my teenage self to gaze with self-loathing into a mirror and behold huge patches of angry-red, sometimes oozing pimples covering my forehead and cheeks, as well as pits and craters and all manner of ridicule-fodder.

    And yes, I was very depressed as a teenager; among other things, I was a complete outcast because of my skin.

    I’m also allergic to tetracycline because I took so much of it in a (vain) attempt to get rid of the acne, which I had from ages 11-19.

  67. Yonah

    Talking of stupid products, might I come out of lurkdom and share this? Possibly even more ghastly.

  68. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Tupe: There are some things you can’t cover up with lipstick and powder.

  69. livingontheearth

    sweet! I can use that info on the greens. thanks.

    Meh, I wouldn’t really expect it to do much. Now, I can think of much better reasons to eat greens other than it making you pretty, so that’s not to say you shouldn’t eat more of them. But I’m almost totally vegan, eat plenty of greens, and I actually get more acne when I’m eating better and getting lots of greens. (I also take calcium and other supplements that are commonly needed by vegans, only in liquid or powder form so they’ll actually absorb.) I get a blood workup done every year of my vitamins and other stuff, and my doctors are always incredibly impressed at how perfect all my levels are. I’ve never been even remotely close to having low iron — I’m actually on the higher end of safe — and my calcium and protein are right in the middle, as is pretty much everything else. My parents both had really bad skin growing up, and my brother has it just as badly as I do even though his diet is pretty much the opposite of mine.

    It really irks me when I hear people go on about how us Acne Monsters(TM) are only the way we are because of our baaaaaaaaaaad diets or other habits (so of course, go ahead and be bigoted against us, we’re lazy and disgusting!). Sure, some people have acne because of their diet, but I know tons of people who eat absolute crap and are skinny and clear-skinned and thick-haired. It’s absolute bullshit to try saying that those of us with zits only have it because of our shit-ass diets; it just reinforces the idea that there’s some logical health-related basis to being bigoted against people based on their looks, that if you have a healthy lifestyle you’ll automatically look like Heather Locklear and if you’re unhealthy you’ll look like a Fat Acne Monster With Very Thin Hair and Uneven Eyes. What’s important is eating well and being active, and if it doesn’t automatically make you look like a beauty queen, there’s no reason to assume that you’re doing something wrong. It’s most likely just the way you are, and there is not a damn thing wrong with that.

    And yes, Hedonistic, those of us with bad acne ARE often depressed because of how society views us, not because of some serotonin bullshit theory that some white male doctor dreamed up to explain why people are justified in hating us Acne Monsters and why we NEED! MEDICAL! INTERVENTION! NOW! Unless I wear thick foundation, I am literally guaranteed to be mocked and ridiculed when I go anywhere outside my home. When I first started getting really bad cystic acne about ten years ago, it actually didn’t bother me at first because I naively assumed that people would judge me for who I was rather than how I looked — up until that point I guess I could’ve been considered good-looking and didn’t realize that was probably why people were nice to me. Well, it was my first year of college when the acne outbreak hit, and aside from my roommates — who had no choice but to get to know me outside of my suddenly-ugly face — I. MADE. NO. FRIENDS. In high school I used to have parties where literally half the school and tons of people from surrounding schools would show up, and I was widely regarded as being really friendly, likable and easy to befriend. But now suddenly, people were turning away and acting embarrassed or glaring at me if I said hi to them in the hallway. It was humiliating and horrible, and of course I got depressed. Not when my acne started, but once I realized that I wasn’t making friends because of it. Nowadays, my depression begins when I get acne and doesn’t end when the outbreak ends — instead, it ends when the scars from the most recent outbreak have healed and faded.

    It’s a horrible, fucking brutal thing and I wish people would see it for what it is rather than trying to justify our misery with medicine. I mean, I know it’s easier to put forth theories blaming acne-ridden people for our own situation and trying to deny your own culpability by saying that people with acne aren’t depressed because of how society treats us but rather because of some mystery chemical imbalance (and let’s be honest, the serotonin theory about depression has not been proven, not by a long shot). I personally am particularly taken with the line, “Yet, this ex juvantibus line of reasoning (i.e., reasoning ‘backwards’ to make assumptions about disease causation based on the response of the disease to a treatment) is logically problematic—the fact that aspirin cures headaches does not prove that headaches are due to low levels of aspirin in the brain.”

    So please, before you assume that anything people find unattractive must be due to some defect in the unattractive person’s health, please think again. It’s insulting and makes many of us more depressed, does nothing to challenge beauty standards, and encourages women to go around looking for “cures” for our ugliness rather than educating ourselves or changing the world.

  70. Frumious B

    I’ve been told by suffers of acne that really bad cases can be extremely uncomfortable to downright painful. It’s more than just cosmetic angst, and we non-suffers should keep that in mind.

    @sonia – you are probably right about cause and effect, but that doesn’t make the depression any less real. It can suck big time to be fugly in this society – I know from personal experience (yeah, I got smooth skin, but I got freckled skin so I was teased about that instead). Knowing how wrong it is to be told that you are lesser because you are unattractive does not make the insults sting less.

  71. Frumious B


    Yeah, some women have menstruation induced anemia. Not all. Some women are anemic even when they are not menstruating. Some women are never anemic.

  72. bonobobabe

    Good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read this line:

    Hey, Bayer Product Development Guy! The 50’s called, and they want their male chauvinist pig jibbajabba back!

    Otherwise, I would’ve shorted out my keyboard. That’s some seriously funny shit.

    I had no idea Bayer kept using HIV tainted Factor VIII for Asia and Latin America. That makes me so mad I could spit. Fucking capitalist assholes!

  73. Axel

    Bayer is just a mirror — the reason it sells these gender-specific products is because it’s reflecting what vast majorities of people want. These products sell, big time. Boys want muscles; girls want nice looking skin. Why on earth single out Bayer when virtually every “beauty aid” ad is the same type of mirror?

  74. Maia

    It’s more than just cosmetic angst, and we non-suffers should keep that in mind.

    Well, I have really bad acne that’s often painful and sometimes even bleeds if I so much as scratch my face or wash it, but the worst part is being made fun of. I literally cannot go outside without makeup on or I’ll get made fun of, even by children who are with their parents (and the parents will say nothing to stop it, of course). I view it as similar to the so-called obesity epidemic — while there certainly are actual physical disadvantages to it in some cases, it wouldn’t be nearly so bad if people didn’t assume that those of us with acne are lazy, dirty, don’t eat right, and on and on and that it’s okay to make us feel ashamed for this at every chance. I eat really well (nearly vegan, lots of greens, yo) always have perfect vitamin levels when my blood’s tested, have started a strict skin care regimen, and have been on almost everything except Accutane. (I’m way too depressed to risk it, and it didn’t work for my little bro except to make his skin really dry; it’s like he aged 15 years just by taking that shit, yet the acne keeps coming.)

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that this pisses me off on the double-standard sexism level — my brother doesn’t get nearly as much abuse as I do for his skin, cuz it’s okay for guys to not look perfect — but also on the shaming sexism level, by feeding into this ridiculous idea that all physical imperfections can simply be changed through being “healthier,” that us women who don’t look perfect simply aren’t taking care of ourselves. Barf. If it were that fucking simple, every woman on earth would look like a supermodel.

  75. Ron Sullivan

    I’ve been told by suffers of acne that really bad cases can be extremely uncomfortable to downright painful.


  76. Sarah

    Uh, if you think that the fact that men and women have different vitamin/dietary/nutritional needs is “socialisation” or “bullshit”…

    Well, one can easily see that you don’t have any sort of degree in medicine or nutrition.

    There are vitamins in the one-a-day line marketed to men and women, and boys and girls.

    It is not because of “the patriarchy”. It is because we each have different nutritional needs, especially from a vitamin. A universal multiple is alright, but one designed specifically is much better.

    Apparently you’re one of those feminists that believe that biologically, we’re identical, (when we are not), and that there is no difference between men and women (except when you’re calling men inferior in all ways to women.)

    You. Are. Clueless.

  77. shermanvolvo

    Yes, like other forms of oppression (e.g. fatphobia), people with acne have a lot of assumptions made about them.

    I moved from a dry climate to a really really dry climate and for a year, I experienced a lot of acne.

    I visited my mother in the previous city I lived in at some point during the year, and she automatically made assumptions – I wasn’t washing my skin properly, drinking enough water, eating right, etc. I OBVIOUSLY was “picking” my zits for my face to look like it did. She was most invasive with her comments and questions and I felt like shit.

    I asked my friend who is an esthetician (spelling?) about my acne and she said “It will take about a year for your skin to get used to it” and she was right – down to the month.

    It is sad that it bothered me enough to ask.

    So back to the clear skin issue – fuck the patriarchy and fuck these vitamins.

    That’s all I have to say!

  78. Aine

    The clear skin bias has scary effects- my cousins were prone to acne -I don’t know if it was the scarring kind that’s been mentioned here, but it wasn’t covering their faces or anything, just rather large pimples- and my aunt got them on a prescription. This medicine had two side effects that I remember:
    1. it made skin extremely sensitive to sunlight, so they went from using spf 15 to spf 45
    2. it was linked to suicide. I kid you not- there is medication for a skin problem that can cause depression that severe. I couldn’t believe it.

    What I find almost sadder is the fact that when I was still a teenager, it didn’t bother me- one of my first serious crushes was on a boy with severe acne, and I still thought he was gorgeous. Makes me wonder if I should have told him so- it might’ve made him feel better about his skin, because I know it bothered him.

  79. Tigs

    “Bayer is just a mirror — the reason it sells these gender-specific products is because it’s reflecting what vast majorities of people want. These products sell, big time. Boys want muscles; girls want nice looking skin. Why on earth single out Bayer when virtually every “beauty aid” ad is the same type of mirror?”

    Um, so, institutions of society do nothing to produce the society itself? That’s awfully undialectical of you.

    Obviously Bayer didn’t come up with the oppressive beauty standards, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t continue to expand their influence and seeming reality. We need to reject the underlying structural forces of patriarchy as well as the particular expressions of it–i.e. Bayer’s advertising.

  80. thebewilderness

    Back in the ’70s it was in all the newspapers and on all the tv talk shows about how vitamin pills don’t do us any good because we can’t metabolize them. It was the story of the week.
    So then of course nothing much happened except that the drug companies started to make them look and taste like candy and market them to children. Now, millions of women all over the patriarchy are conditioning their children to take pills that do them no good whatsoever.
    Bayer makes chemical pesticides and patent medicines. You wouldn’t really think those should go together, would you.

  81. Cathy

    (dads, it is well documented, are oblivious to their children’s health; their top health concern is erectile dysfunction).

    *snort!* Need to get it up to 3 hours, 59 minutes you know.

  82. jael

    is ginko biloba classed as a vitiman? becuase hell – that’s the stuff everyone should be taking. just ride out the first month (and the nightmares, though i seem to be the only person i know who got the nightmares). the pay off is incrediable.

    doesn’t help with acne though.

  83. Fat Angie

    I used to take a womens’ multi, because it contained twice the iron and calcium of the mens’ version- and I tend toward anemia and I’m lactose intolerant. It also had about three times the amount of copper, vitamin D, and folic acid. I feel that these are proper nutritional concerns for women that men don’t have, because I get very anemic during my period (I tend towards anemia anyway), women are more prone to osteoporosis (although I’m not entirely convinced that it’s not because of all the fucking dieting we “have” to do to appease the patriarchy). Also, folic acid and vitamin D are important for women who are planning to conceive.

    So, I have no problems with separate multis, if they’re actually formulated for women vs. men, with different nutrient ratios. The same vitamins, which cost more for women, that’s just bullshit.

  84. Megan

    “The company that made the ovens for Auschwitz is still in business.”

    Ok, that’s terrifying.

    Livingontheearth: thank you. My younger sister and I have always had problems with acne, in spite of our different lifestyles and diets (my personal theory is that folks who suffer from acne have a hypersensitivity to the chemicals and environmental pollutants that are such a huge part of our everyday lives now). That said, I’ve noticed my acne gets noticeably worse when I don’t get enough sleep. I was actually reminded of this today. I pulled an all-nighter last night and then had to drive four hours round-trip with my husband for a doctor’s appointment. On the way home my skin just started burning and itching–just like it used to do all the time during my sleep-deprived youth. I’ve also noticed that, as I get older, my skin tends to be dry, scaly, and, cruelly, acne-prone. All three conditions improve when I drink copious amounts of h2o–like, going-to-pee-every-30-minutes amounts. But, like you, I take issue with the popular belief that acne sufferers have brought about their own condition in some way. I have friends who are very negligible about what they put in their bodies, skin care, sleep, and yet, have beautiful, glowing skin. Go figure.

    Sarah: I think you’ve missed the point of the blog. Reread?

  85. Megan

    Oops, “negligent,” not “negligible.”

  86. R.

    Teenagerdom was not invented only to sell acne cream. It was also invented to sell Rock N Roll.

  87. incognotter

    “Bare Minerals” astounds me because it wants you to pay a small fortune to *put dirt on your face*. I prefer to wash dirt off of my face. The sheer audacity of the product stuns me.

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