Feb 26 2009

I feel so dirty

Blamer Belenen sent in a video clip the other day with the note “check out this animated tribute to sexism.” It was a cartoon called “Only in a Woman’s World.” Four young female characters obsess about femininity, particularly body image and food, in that glib, self-depracating-but-psuedo-edgy way that hot young empowerfulized women are popularly imagined to talk.

“Sex and the City with lower-paid actors,” I wrote back. “Pah.”

I thought it was a trailer for an actual TV series to be aired on the Oprah Lady Channel or something. But it turns out it’s a new ad campaign ad for Frito-Lay. Blamer feral hipped me to this piece in the New York Times outing the thing. The characters are “fab, funny, fearlessly female,” and, sure enough, the obvious rip-off of “Sex and the City” does not elude the Times.

The gist of the article is not a cartoon review, though. It explains how advertising is using “pop neurology” and “neuromarketing” to get inside women’s brains in order to sell us shit snacks that taste like shit, i.e. Baked Lays.

They’re analyzing anterior cingulate corteces and hippocampuses and making women test subjects keep self-hatred journals, all of which reveals the astonishing scientific conclusion that women feel guiltier than men about, well, everything. Frito-Lay’s new ad campaign, featuring “characters [women] could empathize with,” is designed not to “trip” women’s guilt.

They do this by packaging everything in beige bags with pictures of herbs on them.

I consider myself pretty media-savvy, but the fact that I couldn’t tell the difference between a stupid TV show and a stupid advertising campaign makes me fairly queasy. But of course, every single thing on television sells something nasty, whether it’s Baked Lays or boob jobs.


Skip to comment form

  1. hero

    Do they want to help us along with our bulimia? Because I can’t stop throwing up.

  2. vitaminC

    @ hero

    Yeah, and you can totes reuse that matte beige bag! It’s, like, green and stuff!

  3. mir

    Is it similar in substance to the McDonalds commercials where the characters say things like “Finally! I can stop reading stupid lady poetry and go back to patting my boyfriend’s forehead with a napkin while he plays Grand Theft Auto”? It sounds like it.

    I think our psyches are far more fragile than we know. I’ve discovered that mine is, or maybe it’s just become moreso after decades of breathing patriarchal oxygen.

    I gave up television and feel more human because of it. I now flip radio stations when a male voice or a commercial comes on because I found myself FURIOUS after a few seconds of distracted listening. One night I went through all my mp3s and made a playlist that includes only instrumental music or female vocalists- most days it’s all I can stomach. I’m currently working on a sort of portable spacesuit with earmuffs and blackout glasses so I can move unhindered through the world, innocent of how much it hates us.

  4. Ron Sullivan

    Are you sure “Baked Lays” isn’t the marketers’ catch-all term for those cartoon characters?

  5. ChelseaWantsOut

    Wow. Between that and the stupid Fling candy bar, I’m happier than ever with my decision never to eat pre-packaged “food” items again.

  6. B. Dagger Lee

    It makes me want to shit in an empty Frito bag, seal it up, and send it with a frosty letter to the ad agency, except that I probably am not agile enough for the first part.

  7. vitaminC

    Haaay ladies! Introducing new Lays® ‘Chix Mix®’! Made from the finest-quality milling-byproducts and unrefined sawdust, Chix Mix® are goodies you can feel GOOD about. Why? Cuz you feel so damn bad the rest of the time, of course!

  8. lawbitch

    The site has charming videos like “Cow Eats Baby Chick” and “The Buttcrack Chainsaw.” Classy!

  9. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Ms. Lee, when a bag of Fritos is opened, the heady fragrance that wafts out is reminiscent of what it would be had you been agile enough to perform the first part.

    A librarian friend once told me that upstanding conservatives made such deposits in homo-friendly literature. I’m not all that delicate-natured, but it took me a while to get over the thought of that.

  10. yttik

    I need a marketing campaign that just sells me whiskey. Tired of being viewed as a baked lay? Get those patriarchal voices out of your head! Try the new version of fukitol whiskey, made especially for women.

    Bah, we already got a whole pharmaceutical industry dedicated to trying anesthetize those who suffer from chronic maladjustment to patriarchy. Depressed, obsessed, suffering from social anxiety disorder? Take a couple of these and Have A Happy Period. You’ll feel so good, you can fly around the room on a maxi pad.

  11. slythwolf

    The phrase “fearlessly female” triggers my blame reflex. Nobody is fearlessly female. Female people have so much shit to fear that it’s, well, scary.

  12. CLD

    Baked Lays blow.

    Wow, as I typed that I realized that it sounded like one hell of a double entendre. Blech.

  13. Cocodamolly

    “a whole pharmaceutical industry dedicated to trying anesthetize those who suffer from chronic maladjustment to patriarchy.”

    what do you mean, your problems are a function of your maladaptive environment and not your defective neurochemistry? obviously, you need better pills.

  14. Lovepug

    I cannot eat Baked Lays because I am too busy chasing down that floating 3Musketeers bar.

  15. Jan

    From the Times piece: ““The obvious is what’s insulting to women,” she said, like a pink package or something highlighting calories.”

    Right, that’s what’s insulting. Maybe it’s not quite so obvious.

  16. Amy

    I guess I’m the only one here who likes Baked Lays. I’ve always considered them a sort of poor man’s Pringles. I haven’t seen the lady-brain friendly packaging. I guess my local Subway hasn’t cleared out the plain, yellow bags yet.

  17. Courtney

    “Haaay ladies! Introducing new Lays® ‘Chix Mix®’! Made from the finest-quality milling-byproducts and unrefined sawdust, Chix Mix® are goodies you can feel GOOD about. Why? Cuz you feel so damn bad the rest of the time, of course!”

    Why not just make it Soylent Green?

  18. thebewilderness

    That was my though too, Courtney.

  19. another voice

    Mir – I have similarly attempted to insulate myself from dood nation by eschewing a television and avoiding most pop “culture” including radio, but alas, I leave the house. And I work. In fact, I teach literature. You know what that means, dozens of poems, novels, films [so edgy, I am], short stories, plays – all about doodz and their “development.” It makes me a little nutty some days. As others point out, whiskey helps. Teaching texts written by women sometimes also helps, but then the boyos in the class get upset. You know, when it’s not all about them. Their poor little egos, as we “leave boys behind.”

    Bah, I have wandered off topic. Maybe some fearlessly female crapsnax will help.

  20. Michele

    More anti-woman advertising: http://adpharm.net/displayimage-lastup-0-5.html

  21. magriff

    This reminds me of my current fave comic, Sarah Haskins, and her mostly spot-on skewerings of advertising targeted at women, called, aptly, “Target Women”


  22. TheBellWitch

    Ha! I saw something on this yesterday and went to look at the website. I’d say my favorite feature are the games(!), like “Anna’s Yoga Boot Camp,” where you… go get people stuff. Because women live to serve? And then eat baked snacks?

    I also liked the e-card depicting one fab, funny, fearless female mentally flagellating herself for eating a cookie. Ah yes, the continued normalization of women’s guilt and self-recrimination around eating! That’ll sell some chips!

    Seriously though, the neuroscience behind this is incredibly sketch, as the NY Times so wryly pointed out. I’d love to see Sarah Haskins take it on, magriff.

  23. terristrange

    Don’t be upset that you couldn’t tell the difference between a painfully sexist show and an piece of advertising, there isn’t one.

    Magriff, I’m happy you posted the yogurt edition of target women. I never could understand the desire to eat highly processed yogurt with all of the disgusting unnatural flavors and xylitol. ick.

  24. Ayezur

    What confuses me is the whole notion that they can somehow make any human being eat their food through the power of MARKETING. I mean, that most it’s gonna make me do is try it, once. If I don’t like it, nothing short of it being laced with crack cocaine will make me eat more of it.

    Of course, this is a girl who once held a potato in her mouth for five hours, from dinner through bed (when it was discovered), because mom said I had to take a bite BUT SHE NEVER SAID I HAD TO SWALLOW, HA!

  25. janna

    Personally, I think my favorite chip commercial is the one where the woman’s looking at a bag of chips and thinking about how cheesey and crispy and delicious they look and how small the bag is… and then she eats a piece of gum. I don’t really get the ending, but it puts forth lots of good reasons to eat chips if someone sets them in front of you. At least I assume it’s a chip commercial, because it sure would be a stupid way to try and sell gum.

  26. feral

    “Depressed, obsessed, suffering from social anxiety disorder? Take a couple of these and Have A Happy Period. You’ll feel so good, you can fly around the room on a maxi pad.” I am uninsured (go figure!) but saved enough cash to see a midwife last year for my annual exam. I thought it would be a refreshing contrast to the sadistic gyno employed at the free clinic who remarked while my sister was being wheeled out for an emergency caesarean delivery, “Women these days just can’t handle the pain of birth.” After a long conversation and the exam, she presumed that I was heterosexual and should be on a birth control that will help with ‘my anxiety,’ though I specifically stated that I had been on birth control pills in the past and had no need or desire to take them again. I also don’t recall mentioning any anxiety aside from the similarities I see between the act of rape and the gynecological exam. She prescribed Yasmin, which I was naive enough to take for two weeks, at the end of which I was swinging between suicidal depression and full-on rage and suffering from the worst yeast infection of my life. I couldn’t make it through a day at work without sobbing in the restroom. I finally broke down and called her, informed her that I was going to stop taking them, and she seemed nonchalant about these adverse side-effects. It infuriates me that female anxiety or depression are seen as internal, ‘hormonal’ problems with no external cause and that doctors, even midwives, push birth control on women knowing full well the negative repercussions of this treatment.

    yttik, I, too, prefer fukitol whiskey.

  27. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.


    @I’m currently working on a sort of portable spacesuit with earmuffs and blackout glasses so I can move unhindered through the world, innocent of how much it hates us.

    Let me know how it’s going. And can I donate something toward development costs?

    One way I have isolated myself–a bit, anyway–is by becoming self-employed. It helps. Also, no radio and I recently swore off tv. So now I have to actually go to a website and deliberately click “play” and voluntarily watch an ad so I can see what the fuss is all about.


  28. MarilynJean

    Janna: It’s a gum commercial. The point is that gum reduces hunger cravings. If I’m not mistaken they also claim the gum is only five calories or something like that. So chew gum the next time you’re hungry. The other funny part about that commerical is that the men in the clip have no problem devouring the chips.

  29. ChelseaWantsOut

    Magriff, thank you SO MUCH for introducing me to Sarah Haskins. She is hilarious! I’ve queued up all the videos of her I can find on youtube and have them playing while I animate. My productivity levels have plummeted.

  30. Squiggy

    I saw that article in the NYT last week and felt sick. It reminded me of the spam humor that my religious right relatives send me regularly. That delicious point of view ‘that all of us women have that men don’t have a clue about’ that binds us together. Puke.

  31. Jonathan

    So it sounds like the only people who ever voluntarily ate Baked Lays were myself and one of my S.O.’s metrosexual dude friends from college. (I’ll admit to having no taste in food or basic survival instincts. I don’t know what his excuse is.)

    That said, Baked Lays are now on my permanent black list, right next to the Special-K bars that I ate until I saw the box (damn them!). I’ll also tell my S.O. about Frito-Lay’s ad campaign. Perhaps she can email her metrosexual dude friend and we get him to drop the chips too, then Frito-Lay’s sales will plummet. Who knows? Maybe we can actually bankrupt this product.

  32. Irlandese

    I am LMAO! I swear, these fauxchicks get skinnier and skinnier eating all this fauxfood while I myself have acquired a lovely, rounded, womanly figure eating whatever the hell I want to. Chocolate, carbs, fat, sugar, bring it on. Oh, and some of the fukitol whiskey for me, too. Everything in moderation, but I’m done depriving myself of ANYTHING in order to achieve any sort of patriarchal approval WHATSOEVER. Baked Lays….Lordisa. D’liver me.

    My favorite newspaper cartoon of all time was three women sitting in a living room having a bad hair day while the TeeVee was proclaiming, “again, no crimes were committed today”, one woman was asking the other two, “another slice of pie?”….and the caption underneath it all read, “a world without men”.

    I’m still laughing here.

  33. Lara

    “It explains how advertising is using “pop neurology” and “neuromarketing” to get inside women’s brains in order to sell us shit snacks that taste like shit, i.e. Baked Lays.

    “But of course, every single thing on television sells something nasty, whether it’s Baked Lays or boob jobs.

    Using fabulous and hilarious redundancies AND alliterations is the key ;)
    I’ll add that I’m currently enjoying a bag of “restaurant style” tortilla chips (“all natural,” of course) instead of Baked Lay’s crap.
    And the fact that you couldn’t tell the difference between a stupid TV show and a stupid advertisement shows that you are, in fact, very media savvy. Because the blurring of lines between entertainment and advertising is the exact aim of our media.

    “Empowerfulized” should be a word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary (because everyone uses that dictionary :P).

  34. PatriarchySlayer

    yttik, great comment. I’d buy your Fukitol whiskey if you decided you wanted to patent it. Just let me know, I’m behind you 100 per cent. I also am in love with “Target Women”, thanks to this blog. Makes me laugh/cry every time.

  35. Lovepug

    Okay, Target Women: Disney Princesses and Feed Your F__cking Family are just about the funniest dang things I’ve seen in a long time. So much for going to bed early.

  36. Metal Guru

    I love Sarah/Target Women! And because I love her/it so much, I think I should point out that the official Target Women site is: http://current.com/topics/88813968/target_women/default/0.htm

    I only mention this because I doubt she gets paid when y’all watch her stuff on Youtube. Of course, it’s also possible that all the ad revenue from the website goes to someone — or something! — else. I don’t know how money is transmitted over the internet tubes.

    Either way, I think we all know what Sarah Haskins would say about Baked Lays: “I’d rather stick them in my ear-hole!”

  37. madeleine

    Even more scary brain research:
    claiming men are physically stimulated only by visual material related to their sexual orientation, while women physically react to any and all visual material relating to sex, though they are not consciously aware of their reaction. The evolutionary reason of this, according to the article, is that women who don’t start immediately lubricating at the remotest hint of sex have more chance of getting hurt by rape and dying, and thus not breeding of course.
    So what it essentially says is that subconsciously we are all sexbots because if you’re not, you die.
    Bring on the Fukitol!

  38. Silence

    Drugs to ‘cure’ anxiety and depression, yup.

    Because naturally we should all wake up and shit happy bricks at the prospect of another day dealing of with the Patriarchy.

  39. meerkat

    Gnuhhhh! Shoes and diet talk! They are to me like holy water and garlic to a vampire. I used to enjoy Frito’s curls-of-ground-up-corn-cob-with-salt-and-oil. No more, I think.

  40. CoolAunt

    What? No comments about how empowerfullingly feminist Sex and the City was? The mod queue must be eating them because surely there can’t be none.

  41. Donna

    Just to join all the people who don’t watch TV anymore – gone a year without! And it’s completely amazing how suddenly the world seems much less small in size. As a consequence, patriarchy is way less suffocating.

    Why do people need the idiot box anyway?? I just write a lot, read a lot, and see the friends I like.

  42. thebewilderness

    “Why do people need the idiot box anyway??”

    Know thine enemy? But not in the Biblical sense, please!

  43. yttik

    TV is dreadful. One thing about US TV is that sex is bad and violence is good. Terrible message. I like to watch the BBC because it’s slightly reversed. Only slightly. A bare bottom is okay, but they won’t show you an actual guy being shot. (Sheesh, last year on the BBC I saw two guys kissing. I about fell over. It’s simply not done in the US. Blow someone’s head off in graphic detail, that’s alright, but don’t even think of showing men holding hands! The FCC would be all over you.)

    Of course I blame the patriarchy. And Baked Lays.

  44. Interrobang

    My problems are caused by both my maladaption to my malevolent environment and my malfunctioning brain chemistry. It ain’t an either/or proposition, and I can show you the serum levels to prove it (nicely corrected now to the appropriate level of crankiness; bitter living through chemistry, says I). Besides good pharmaceuticals, socialised medicine, and female doctors who are Big Medical Nerds, shooting one’s tv does help, though.

  45. Hedgepig

    yttik, the message I get from all TV is that sex is good. The best. Better than anything else in life. You HAVE to do it as much as possible or you might as well lie down and die.

  46. polly styrene

    “She was especially interested by the guilt factor. Frito-Lay and Juniper Park asked about 100 women to keep journals about their lives for about two weeks. According to their logs, the women felt guilty about quite a lot, whether it was snacking, not seeing their children enough, or not spending enough time with their husbands.”

    WTF? Remind me not to take these conscience laden women with me if I ever go on a Thelma and Louise style crime spree. (Scheduled for next week, the mood I’m in at the moment).

  47. ivyleaves

    I tried to look for the cartoon and found this:
    “Can you imagine a world without men? No crime and lots of happy fat women.”
    — Nicole Hollander

    An illustration of this quote?

  48. Donna


    Made my day (..although it’s been a shit one).

  49. yttik

    Quite right, Hedgepig. It’s quite a contradiction. Half the time we’re selling the idea that sex is all we value and the other half of the time we’re selling that idea that sex is bad.

    I had to laugh tonight, right next to the baked lays is a magazine with the headline, “Octomom’s dark secret….8 yrs without sex.” Oh noes! The patriarchy is having a tough time with this one. I think they’d very much like to punish her for having sex, except apparently she isn’t.

  50. Serenity

    ‘…chronic maladjustment to patriarchy.’

    Oh, that is just the perfect, concise explanation of what I’ve been dealing with my entire adult life. No wonder patriarchal biomedicine and pills didn’t help! Pity I didn’t realize it earlier.

    I’m going to have to find a way to work that phrase into conversation now.

    I would love to get rid of my TV – unfortunately, my family would never agree to it. They already think it strange that I don’t have one in my bedroom. I’m surrounded by enough soul-destroying advertising every time I walk out the door, I don’t need to invite more into my home. (That said, I’m quite fond of recording certain shows and then just switching to fast-forward during the commercial breaks. Analysing the gendered nature of advertising at high speed is somewhere between enlightening and depressing. Maybe both.)

  51. PatriarchySlayer

    madeleine, I too have read the article, and I didn’t really know what to make of it either. Does that mean that women’s sex drives are just more evolved than men’s? Or does it have to mean anything at all? I personally am not turned on by two guys going at it, but that’s just me…must we continue to make generalizations about a woman’s sexuality?

  52. madeleine

    PatriarchySlayer: The women in the study reported NOT being turned on by the material that didn’t relate to their sexual orientation. At the same time, their bodies were already working on preventive damage control of a probable rape. It makes a scary kind of sense that that kind of subconscious reaction could very well be an evolutionary consequence of thousands of years of rape culture. Chances of survival obviously would be much better for women with this reaction.

  53. lawbitch

    Maybe those of us who are anxious and depressed have screwed up brain chemistry from our heads exploding because of our experiences in the patriarchy? Experiences and environment can cause changes in brain chemistry.

    I don’t eat processed shit like Baked Lays. I consider BDL’s idea perfect commentary on this product. I do eat Newman-O’s which are yummy.

    The cures for the dood wishing you a “happy period” are glad rags and diva cup. I smirk every time I pass the “feminine hygiene” products.

  54. PatriarchySlayer

    lawbitch, I have always been curious about what women use when they want to avoid traditional “feminine hygiene” products. I have heard of the rag idea, but doesn’t this cause more problems? Isn’t part of the point making things easier/ women’s quality of life better? What do you do with the rag once it’s done? I guess for me it comes down to practicality. Am I off track here.. or is that what you were referring to when you say “glad rags and diva cups”?

  55. bluedancer


    PatriarchySlayer, I don’t know anything about glad rags, but a lot of people find diva cups or other reusable menstrual cups to be an excellent alternative to maxipads and tampons or what have you. The cup sits pretty much where a tampon would, and you just dump the blood down the toilet (or shower drain or whatever) a couple of times a day. I personally think it’s about, oh, 138 times more practical than pads or tampons – no toting around spares or disposing of used materials or running to the store on no notice because you ran out. There seems to be quite a contingent of blamers who are happy to evangelize for the thing, for whatever that is worth.


  56. jael

    MASSIVELY off topic: anyone in sydney know a store in the city that sells the cups? (the blank faces in the paddy palin were priceless; the men, the squirm at the word menstrual) mailorder no good; need before thursday.

    evangalise me. i am ripe for the picking; but i need the store directions.

  57. lawbitch

    *off topic evangelizing*

    I love both products. Not more inconvenient for me. For more info, google “gladrags” and check out their website. They carry both products.

    *sorry Twisty, for being off topic*

  58. Twisty

    I have just added “off-topic” to the list of words not to begin a post with! Thanks for reminding me!

  59. Julia

    ““Haaay ladies! Introducing new Lays® ‘Chix Mix®’! Made from the finest-quality milling-byproducts and unrefined sawdust, Chix Mix® are goodies you can feel GOOD about. Why? Cuz you feel so damn bad the rest of the time, of course!”

    Why not just make it Soylent Green?”

    Soylent Green has calories and/or nutrients.

  60. Nolabelfits

    I have always thought that it has to be a man that invented pads. They are the most inconvenient and messy menstrual product of all time.

  61. PatriarchySlayer

    Thanks ladies for the tips. I’m not sure how enticing the dumping method would be with me, but I haven’t tried it yet. So maybe I will. Twisty, it’s all my fault, I got them off topic. You can blame me…or we can all BTP together.

Comments have been disabled.