After a yearlong absence, I finally returned to the United States for a 3-week stay; I am currently based in Cambridge, MA, right in between MIT and Harvard. My first supermarket expedition brought me to Walgreens. What was supposed to be a quick visit to buy toothpaste turned into a 30 minute anthropological study.
The things I saw! First off, the marketing of Snuggie blankets has yet to cross the Atlantic. Thank goodness for that! I was in awe in front of a camouflage Snuggie, with the picture of a man fishing in the great outdoors while wearing the blanket. And don’t get me started about Snuggie for dogs. When I saw the box for it, my jaw literally dropped. I thought: only in America.
There were also other ingenious American contraptions that caught my attention, especially for their “beauty myth” implications.
#1: The Kymaro Body Shaper
– “Look up to 10-20 pounds thinner instantly”
– “Smooths & slims, no more budges”
#2: The Neckline Slimmer
#3: The Instant Breast Lift
All these products promising miraculous results were up on shelves a few steps away from rows and rows of junk foods. Aw, the mixed messages! I felt I was in Willy Wonka’s factory – that is, if it had been taken over by Suzanne Somers.
I have been in the U.S. for a little over 24 hours, but the things I have noticed over and over again are marketing messages pushing for:
– instant pleasure
– immediate results
– absolute flawlessness
Who in her right mind would think that a sticky tape may dramatically lift her breasts? Or that a vibrating device could “take years off [her] appearance”? Also, don’t get me started about the Body Shaper. Ludicrous claims aside, the unspoken message is that one’s body needs to be homogenized to adhere to the One Official Body – stick thin, with large, gravity-defying breasts, and wrinkle (and pore-) free skin.
As Elayne Daniels and Joan C. Chrisler wrote at the end of their incisive essay “Beauty is the Beast: Psychological Effects of the Pursuit of the Perfect Female Body”:
Imagine an American society where the quality and meaning of life for women are not dependent on the silence of bodily shame. Imagine a society where bodies are decorated for fun and to express creativity rather than for self-control and self-worth. Imagine what would happen if the world’s women released and liberated all of the energy that had been absorbed in the beautification process. The result might be the positive, affirming, healthy version of a nuclear explosion!