Jul 24 2011

TV ad is puke

Whenever I accidentally ingest poison and need to induce vomiting in a hurry, I watch a TV commercial for a beauty product. Recently, none* has been as efficient in producing instapuke as this ad for Mederma stretch mark remover.

Navel-gazing as beauty ritual

The commercial features attractive young women in underwear and fuzzy socks. Light, fluffy “la la la” soundtrack. The women childishly, gigglingly give us a quick peek at their young thighs and tum-tums. Their body movements, expressions of wide-eyed innocence, and fascination with their own navels recall very young children. Not regular children, though. These are young, sexy children performing a peep show. Seriously, these women’s relationship to the camera is precisely that of a 5-year-old to whom creepy Uncle Ernie has said “show Uncle Ernie your wee-wee,” where the 5-year-old is not a real 5-year-old, but a pedophile’s fantasy 5-year-old who likes to seduce grown men.

I urge you to watch the vid (embedded in the afore-linked-to page) and do the regender thing in your head. Imagine a straight dude in fetching spandex hip-huggers lifting up his shirt, bending over, and giggling like mad at the sight of his own adorable stomach.

The childified woman is a prominent archetype in the Beauty Industrial Complex. Infantilization is a major component of femininity. See leg-shaving, head-tilting, sexy schoolgirl porn, pinkification, the dumb blonde, the ubiquity of the phrase “women and children” (American version). See driving ban, ownership by male family members, arranged marriage, hardcore restrictions on education, employment, and legal rights (“Over There” versions).

* Well, almost none. Next: an even more horrible commercial for a douche product. You aren’t gonna believe this shit!

Photo from Mederma website

Note to blamers contemplating using annoying baby talk (e.g. “widdle”) in their comments: you will be spamulated.


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  1. Orange

    Coming soon to a radfem blog near you: Breathless coverage of the “vertical smile” (now available in multiple ethnicities!), its rational demands for scented cleansing products, and its principled resistance to the drying effects of soap and water. Until Summer’s Eve came along, I really didn’t understand how I had been oppressing my vulva, so I thank the good lord that the vulva finally has its own commercial spokespeople.

  2. allhellsloose

    To add to the hall of shame on creepy adverts is this one from O2


    As with Twisty’s link go to the website and the advert is available to see. The Mederma advert is THE creepiest advert I’ve seen. It’s not even subtle about it. Can we please not return to the bad old days of 50s advertising – they use the same language but in a updated ‘contemporary’ setting. I’ve been noticing it with other adverts as I’ve just recently started watching TV again. It was a brief return and I’m sticking to the BBC.

    Thank heaven’s I’ve never felt the need to cleanse my vagina, or vulva other than when I take my daily shower. And. No. I’m. Not. Smelly.

  3. amrit

    “You can’t go through life without getting a scar.” (From the Mederma webpage)

    So true. I didn’t get as far as imagining the doods recapitulating the infantile posturing, because I had a massive flashback to last week at work. I walked into the break room and three doods, my “colleagues”, were prancing around the room.

    I couldn’t tell if they were pretending to be women or gay men. According to Valerie Solanas, it’s the same hateful deal, either way. (“To be sure he’s a `Man’, the male must see to it that the female be clearly a `Woman’, the opposite of a `Man’, that is, the female must act like a faggot” From the S.C.U.M. Manifesto.)

    They were pretending to compare each other’s asses, asking things like “Do these chinos make me look fat?” and taking turns reassuring each other that they looked fabulous. The other women in the room were laughing. Needless to say, a blaming invective resulted. But at least they had their clothes on. It was way too early in the morning for huge, hairy guts, even for this grizzled and cynical blamer. I do feel scarred.

  4. sjaustin

    Even if the commercial weren’t so gross and bizarre, the product itself fails the regendering test – dudes don’t care about stretch marks and would never waste money on that shit. The only time I’ve ever heard a dude express any concern about stretch marks has been on bodybuilding forums, from idiot dudes who actually want stretch marks on their shoulders.

  5. Rididill

    That o2 one is damn scary. ‘Live your dream of enacting controlling aggressive misogyny TODAY and achieve your potential!’

    Interestingly, I was recently with a guy who found my stretchmarks hot cos it made him imagine how much fatter my thighs used to be. Didn’t make him any less of a patriarchal bastard, but stuff that in your navel Mederma!

  6. anne

    July 24, 2011 at 9:52 am

    They were pretending to compare each other’s asses, asking things like “Do these chinos make me look fat?” and taking turns reassuring each other that they looked fabulous.

    Funny how my entire life I’ve never seen any female person engage in this stereotypically female ritual of asking other people what our own asses look like.

  7. Saurs

    Now, now, amrit, don’t let’s be ungenerous with your fellow employees. I’m sure that their impromptu drag show-cum-performance art was intended as an expression of solidarity with women struggling valiantly to comply with the many oppressive, expensive, painful and contrary standards of beauty ladyfolk are expected to know by heart, and a highly sophisticated skewering of male entitlement to boot. If you were to apologize gracefully (perhaps with a downcast and submissive feminine glance while proffering them freshly baked cookies?) and offer to secure them dates with a couple of your more heavyset and butch female friends, they couldn’t possibly refuse. ‘Cos dudes, by virtue of their kodachromes or whatever, are biologically Less Shallow than woman, less hung up on looks, and couldn’t care less about what women wear, how they smell, how tall they are, or whether their dudely friends are appropriated Awed ‘n’ Jellus of the pretty baby they bagged. “All these hang-ups chicks have about they way they look, amiright, fellas? Crazy.”

  8. yttik

    Not that anyone needs a referral to more lobe blowing evidence of the pedophiliac nature of patriarchy, but has anyone watched “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding?” I don’t shock easily anymore, but that one kept me up all night and the nausea still hasn’t left.

  9. amrit

    Saurs: Heartfelt thanks for helping me to deconstruct my false consciousness regarding the ‘Lads’ at work. I stand corrected. Not being one of them, despite my outward appearance, I lack the sophistication to apprehend the exquisite multi-layered subtlety that characterizes mature adult male discourse. Of course, they were exploring all the axes of oppression in their clever skit. I’ll just go bake those cookies now.

    I haven’t had this much of a healing course correction since those halcyon days in the separatist collective when I was nearly expunged in a marathon Maoist self-criticism session for speaking to ‘pricks’ while ‘off the land.’ Back then I tried to defend myself by arguing that I was just giving directions to some migrant farmers who were looking for the tobacco fields, but once my errors were duly pointed out, I was back on course again, fixing toilets and cooking vegan meals for my sisters.

    But it’s been awhile since I baked. Exactly how much emetic goes in cookies, anyway?

  10. Saurs

    O amrit, I’m wheezing with laughter and nodding in recognition. I, too, remember being heartily chewed out by the male half of the collective for my perennial sins, most of which involved undermining elderdudes by contradicting them in public over the most rudimentary of philosophy, or dumping, on the rare occasions I was allowed to venture into town unescorted, hastily written and poorly translated pamphlets into the handiest bin, where they belonged, rather than risk embarrassing myself by helpfully passing them out, like some wide-eyed Christian missionary, to “locals.”

    I made the mistake the other day of watching a documentary on the making of the Alex Cox film ostensibly about William Walker, and it was like a flashback to my early childhood, a lot of pasty middle-class Englishers and Americans (and, in my case, Australians and Irish) running around and making a mess out of small, impoverished communities which could ill-afford that particular strain of the white man’s burden, shirts off and beards low, belching out utterly inane, boring, and wildly hypocritical shit re exploitation, American imperialism, and laborers’ rights (all theoretical as the entire collective was leeching off local folk’s generosity and bullying female members into taking on dangerous outside and often unpaid manual work on top of all the shit they already had to do on “the farm”) while in the same beery breath propositioning, through mime, every young girl they met on the street to let them fuck ‘em up the ass in the exchange for pennies, sneakers, soda pop, any trinket they had on hand. I had to laugh to keep from crying, it was so familiar and so hopelessly nauseating.

    I say go whole hog, skip the cookies, and just plonk some drain cleaner in their tea / coffee. Then claim inherent female ignorance when the jig is up. If while being interrogated you can tilt your head to the side just a hair lower than your knees, you’ll have convinced them you’re just another harmless lil female.

  11. Jodie

    Mederma is actually a pretty good product — when I worked in ENT, it was used with good results for surgical scars on the face (I’ve even used it myself, on a wound on my hand — but only on half to see if it really worked…the half I used it on is very slight, the other half is obvious).

    Having said that, WHY did they have to go and ruin a good product with crappy advertising?

  12. Kea

    Yep, everyone should have scars. I have some pretty scary mountineering ones!

  13. Mary

    I actually love my scars, even the self harm ones. I don’t even mind most of my stretch marks. It’s only the ones on my stomach that make me cringe a bit. Being pregnant with my son made my stomach look like I had been slashed about 14 times with a knife. I’m not going to buy their shit, though.

  14. amrit


    “Not that anyone needs a referral to more lobe blowing evidence of the pedophiliac nature of patriarchy, but has anyone watched “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding?” I don’t shock easily anymore, but that one kept me up all night and the nausea still hasn’t left.”

    I made the mistake of watching part of an episode while on the treadmill at the gym. What a disgusting piece-of-shit spectacle. I don’t know what’s worse, the abject resigned misery of the young brides-to-be or the smug self-righteousness of the “free” (read non-traveller) women commenting on the enslavement of gypsy women and how free the rest of us are by comparison. Sick-making in the extreme. I’m taking a TV break before I hurt someone.

  15. Radical Weasel

    I did the re-gender thing. Depressing, depressing, depressing. The whole “you caught me checking out my now ‘flawless’ body, so I’ll smile coquettishly” makes me want to vomit.

    It wasn’t until recently that I realized how radical (or “brave”) it is to present as a young woman and shamelessly parade around with splotchy skin, hairy legs, hairy arms, scars on my hands, acne with no concealer, no makeup, all wrapped up in a “clothes for men” package. Fortunately, I’ve not yet been subjected to any obvious abuse by strangers (I’m betting it’s a matter of time though), and that I won’t lose my job unless I turn up naked and/or obviously unwashed.

  16. Jezebella

    Five minutes of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” made me terribly depressed for the girls about to get married into a life of servitude, and incredibly angry at the smug dirtbag who, 30 minutes into a horse-and-buggy ride to some dude-fest, called his wife to bring him a hot meal via automobile. I won’t be watching that shit again, no ma’am.

    Saurs and amrit, y’all should take that bit on the road. You’re feckin hilarious.

  17. Jill

    I have never heard of this fat gypsy wedding thing, which is astonishing given the amount of channel-flipping I do while hot-flashing through the night. It sounds like one of those “look at these fucking freaks and feel superior” type deals.

  18. sjaustin

    Having said that, WHY did they have to go and ruin a good product with crappy advertising?

    Mederma has used weird crappy sexist advertising for their scar reduction products in the past as well. I remember one with a woman who was afraid to go sleeveless because she had some tiny scar on her upper arm. Apparently women can’t be seen in public looking anything other than utterly flawless.

    And apparently we’re not supposed to do anything that could result in unsightly cuts, scrapes, or calluses. This confuses me, because I thought gardening was a Patriarchy Approved feminine activity (although I must admit I’m not clear on the boundary between womanly “gardening” and manly “yardwork.”)

  19. Shenonymous

    I made the mistake of watching the video. Now I have that puerile, sing-songy, “La la. La la la. La la. La la la.” ditty going through my head. That song along could strip a mature woman of at least a decade or more of accumulated wisdom. Sheesh.

  20. Frumious B.

    It sounds like one of those “look at these fucking freaks and feel superior” type deals.

    More or less.


  21. MariaS

    There’s a recent post on Sociological Images relevant to this:


    Sociologist Erving Goffman described and exhibited subtle features of gender displays in his book Gender Advertisements. One significant feature that he noted was the ritualization of subordination in which women are portrayed in clowning and costume-like characters. This still rears its ugly head in today’s advertisements.

    According to Goffman, “the use of entire body as a playful gesticulative device, a sort of body clowning” is commonly used in advertisements to indicate lack of seriousness struck by a childlike pose …

    The clownish poses represent in these images clearly remind us some photos of female hysterics taken by Jean Martin Charcot (1825-1893) who was not only a neurologist but also an artist.

    Charcot was the inventor/discoverer of the female psychic affliction of “hysteria” at the Salpêtrière asylum in Paris that confined four thousand incurable or mad women. For delving into the nature of hysteria, Charcot armed himself with photography. He extensively photographed the different stages and forms of hysteria and calibrated them into a general type called “the great hysterical attack.” Charcot believed that this attack proceeds in four phases, the second of which is called clownism or so-called illogical movements.

    There’s a Dove ad here in the UK that seems to be on all the time at the moment and does my head in. I’m not sure what the product’s called, but it is some kind of moisturising body wash which is supposed in some vague way to make your entire skin wonderful. The ad starts with showing lots of women either staring listlessly at the terribly inadequate skin on some part of their body, or hiding behind a curtain or covering themselves up completely with clothes (including hiding their faces). Then they use the product and suddenly they are smiling and joyful, they skip and dance around, and wear strappy summer dresses without fear. The music is a version of the children’s action song the Hokey Cokey (“you put your left leg in, your left leg out…”). The strange thing is that there’s not actually a great contrast in how the women look in the before and after parts of the ad, which somehow makes the women seem even more childlike, as if it’s all a game.

    Video here: http://www.visit4info.com/advert/Let-the-Skin-Out-Dove-Range/91569

    The other infantilising ad that I always think of is for a Lacoste perfume. It has been around for years but still gets aired occasionally. In it a blonde young white woman wearing a short pink dress skips around ecstatically in the street. The dress is rather childlike. I may be remembering wrong, but I think she even chases after a balloon. The other thing that infuriates me about it, is where are her house keys and her money, and other things that one would generally carry around? (Of course, children don’t carry stuff like that around, somewhere offscreen there must be a grownup/man who takes care of all those boring things).

    Still image here: http://www.visit4info.com/advert/Lacoste-Touch-Of-Pink-Lacoste-Womens/65525

  22. anne

    MariaS, with the pink minidress, white boots, and long blond hair she makes me think of a Barbie doll.
    I’ve never seen that clowning phenom explained before. I’ve always wondered why images of men always have their feet realistically planted on the ground but images of women have to have them contorted in all directions and flung in the air.

  23. Jodie

    Oh, and Mederma does not work after the wound has healed.

  24. KelD

    When did it become basically illegal for a woman who has given birth to a baby to actually look like she’s given birth to a baby?

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

    […] “TV ad is puke” and “This TV ad is also puke“ (2011-07-24) on a stretch-mark remover and […]

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