May 23, 2010

Is empowerment found in a "pink disco ball" vagina?

Guest post by Marley P with Melanie K.

Jennifer Love Hewitt  recently appeared on “Lopez Tonight” promoting her new dating book and simultaneously bragging about how her vagina looks like a “pink disco ball”.  Vajazzling has become not only one of the most searched terms on google but the newest below the belt “beautification” procedure in which the vagina is waxed bare and then embellished with Swarovski crystals. According to Love, she vajazzled her “precious lady” for the first time after a painful breakup and is now a proud advocate of a shiny, blinged-out crotch.

I initially heard about vajazzling from a girlfriend of mine who works at a medical spa who recently tried out the product as a way to see what all the buzz is about.  The jewels supposedly stay in tact for two weeks and are a simple way to bling out and embellish your otherwise boring lower region– just like a celebrity.  She is going strong on day five and reports feeling “accessorized”.

Personally, I don’t understand the interest in bedazzling your “lady parts”.  In fact, the cons seem to outweigh the pros in my book. I guess I could understand the appeal if the jewels somehow improved the quality of the sexual experience but the possibility of condoms tearing, the possibility of irritation or a misplaced crystal seem like an uncomfortable (not to mention unnecessary) burden to have to think about when engaging in sex.  Vajazzling poses as a seemingly benign procedure, that works to promote sexual empowerment but I can’t help but think that it is really promoting quite the opposite.  It is just the icing on the cake of “pink think” consumerism, isn’t it?   The beauty industry runs on selling women an innate insecurity and notion that self worth is implicitly tied to what we look like and simultaneously co-opts feminist ideals of empowerment as a way to sell a product.  We are not being sold empowerment; in fact, we are being dooped into believing that empowerment and liberated sexuality can be bought at a medical spa (that is, if you can afford it).


April 28, 2010

Advertising trimmed, shaped or shorn lady parts

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , , — Melanie @ 4:14 pm

We know it’s not just arm and leg hair that is considered unattractive. 90s porn culture targeted a new area of hair growth on women and deemed it unattractive and unacceptable. In fact, trimmed, shaped or completely removed pubic hair has become normative. It is difficult many to remember the previous aesthetic, an aesthetic that did not require a woman’s vulva to be shaved, waxed or shorn to be considered “attractive” or desirable. As quoted in the Times Online UK piece from 2007:

But then around the mid-90s some mysterious memo went out to twentysomething women that it was no longer sufficient to tidy the “bikini line” so it didn’t cascade down the inner thigh like a spider plant. The gyms of Britain were suddenly full of women waxed into weeny welcome mats, with all the stubble, bruises, pimpled hair follicles and burst blood vessels that accompany this excruciating sexifying of the sex.

Like a trend for comedy-size breast implants, inflatable lips, hair extensions, extreme nails and high street daywear revealing more tittage than a ten-quid hooker, waxing filtered down from the porn industry. Here defuzzing makes the action, as it were, easier to follow. And for male performers depilation adds the illusion of an extra inch. Maybe Hitchens had that in mind.

The aesthetics of porn reigns in an age when sex is so commodified that lapdancing is deemed “empowering”, prostitution glorified in TV drama, sex less concerned with pleasure than display. Young women have swallowed the idea that they must look so “hot” that men would pay to sleep with them: pity the poor cow so badly maintained that she’d have to give it away for free.

And bikini-area maintenance is, after all, big business. I mentioned the latest trend in pubic hair removal in the form of “virgin waxing” in my post from September 2008.  Virgin waxing is being offered in salons across the country as a type of preventative maintenance. This salon’s website states:

I call it the “Virgin”- waxing for children 8 years old and up who have never shaved before [my question, why would an 8-year-old be shaving?]

What’s the motivation to subjecting your pre-pubescent daughter to bikini waxing before the hair has even arrived? Apparently, virgin waxing is a pro-active measure designed to eradicate pubic hair in 2 to 6 sessions, eliminating the need for lifetime waxing. The salon claims that the savings can be applied directly to a college fund. Well, I am guessing that these virgin waxing treatments aren’t cheap in the first place and the notion that a girl’s pubic hair will be removed before she gets it, maintaining her pre-pubescent appearance is inherently disturbing.

Aside from all the glaring problems revolving around women’s sexuality and women’s bodies, hair-free or neatly groomed bikini-areas are expensive. According to UK author, Janice Turner:

You don’t need to page Dr Freud to wonder how the craze for bare pudenda might be tied to some unsavory fetishisation of youth. And now the waxed look is supported by a massive industry — hair removal in Britain is worth £280 million a year.

We plan on writing about the the relationship between patriarchy, porn culture and pre-pubescent privates in an upcoming post but this post is devoted to the products sold to women to maintain trimmed or hairless vulva.

Remember this ad that I posted for the Schick Quattro Trim Style (the gadget every gal needs to “stay groomed”) for women last year?

Well, Schick’s European counterpart, Wilkinson Sword takes the campaign for a step further in a series of less subtle advertisements.

On their interactive website, women can trim the pooch at the Poodle Parlour (I guess shaving a pussy cat would be too obvious for these folks). There’s also a series of extended ads called The Neighborhood (“the neighborhood is open, come and see”) with titles like The Landing Strip and Tidying Up Downstairs.

September 24, 2008

Virgin waxing and botox babies: the cash keeps flowing

Filed under: Body Image,Media — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 11:50 am

The New York Times reported on the newly emerging phenomenon of young women seeking preventative measures for the inevitable impact of the aging process in 2005.

“Did you hear about the 19-year-old girl who had botox injections to stop the crinkling around the eyes when she smiled? Or the 26-year-old beauty editor with a porcelain complexion who went for laser treatments to prevent sagging skin and sun spots from appearing in the future? Or the woman in her 20’s who, alarmed at the incipient folds forming at the sides of her mouth, made the rounds of top Manhattan plastic surgeons until she found someone willing to give her a face-lift?

Welcome to the Freeze-Face generation. Its members may grow up, but they won’t grow old. These cryonic enthusiasts aim to put themselves on ice while they are still smooth, not when they are as creased as Walt Disney. Many of these cryon babies have boomer moms who sunned and smoked with abandon, who, if they thought at all about living past 30, imagined themselves looking gorgeously weather-beaten like Georgia O’Keeffe. For their daughters’ obsession, you can credit or blame those same boomer moms who ran screaming to the plastic surgeon when their faces turned out more Keith Richards than O’Keeffe.

You can also credit, or blame, the face doctors who lure women in with an ever-changing menu of sexy rejuvenating treatments. But whatever the reason, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, last year people from ages 19 to 34 had 427,368 botox procedures; 100,793 laser resurfacing treatments; 128,779 injections of hyaluronic acid (Restylane or Hylaform); 29,160 eyelid surgeries; and 1,094 face-lifts.”

Recently, Viktoria, turned my attention to the recent article in Marie Claire entitled, “Beginners Botox.”

“On the eve of my 29th birthday, I got Botox. Let’s just call it a present to myself ($250 is a lot cheaper than the latest Louboutins anyway), a sanity-saving panacea for the panic of seeing a new decade so close on the horizon. Wanting to stop time, I found myself on a recent morning sitting on the edge of a paper-covered examination chair (the business-class version of what you’d find at the dentist’s office), with dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco scrutinizing my forehead while she asked me questions about my job and family and told jokes to make me laugh – all so she could watch how my face naturally moved. Then, four quick pricks later, I was done…

“If you ask a 13-year-old when people get old, they’ll say 30,” says Pennsylvania psychologist and dermatologist Dr. Richard Fried. “We’re bombarded with unbelievably unattainable images of airbrushed models and celebrities, so we all look into a circus fun-house mirror whenever we see ourselves. The human tendency is to accentuate the negative and minimize the positive. We’ve been sold a very destructive philosophy that somehow when you’re past 30, you start deteriorating. Any thrill, passion, or excitement has fizzled, and you’re just biding time until you croak. Doing something as simple as Botox can be enormously liberating and help fight the negative messages.”

It’s no surprise I’m not alone in my quest for eternal youth. In 2007 almost 400,000 Botox procedures were done on patients ages 19 to 34, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Chapas estimates that 15 percent of her Botox patients are in their mid- to-late 20s. And Liz alone has convinced at least four other 20-somethings (not counting me) to submit to the needle.”

The author clearly acknowledges the impact of our cultural environment that designates 30 as “old” and cherishes youth at all costs.  So much so that younger and younger women decide to inject, pluck, pull and go under the knife earlier and earlier to avoid aging all together.

This trend of targeting younger and younger women and “educating” and training them to abide by the unrealistic and increasingly difficult measures outlined by the beauty ideal is evident in the trend of “virgin” waxing and other professional beauty services for prepubescent girls.

Jezebel reports:

“1. An eight-year-old receives a bikini wax.
2. A ten-year-old gets microdermabrasion.
3. Numerous children under ten get highlights.
Funny you should ask! This is not dystopian work of satirical science fiction. (Though there is a stylist who finds himself in a sort of Guy Montag type of role when a woman asks him to relax her 12-year-old’s “beautiful, wavy hair.”) (He now “hawks an all-natural product to moms who want to lighten their five-year-olds’ locks; applied daily, it brings out subtle highlights.”) No, this is a story in Philadelphia magazine, a place I used to work in a city I used to live, a city that always seemed disarmingly normal and unmaterialistic relative to my current place of business. So reading it was kind of personal for me, especially since I know its writer, Carrie Denny, and I have to say, it was weird reading sentiments of such earnest dismay as “Without the ugly years, when do you learn to accept yourself?” coming from her.”

To read more on “Pretty Babies,” click here.

Simply scan the internet and you will come across advertisements that provide services for pre-teens. Browse the themes for children’s birthday parties and you will come across numerous sites offering make-over and fashion parties.

Don’t get me wrong, I painted my nails and put on make-up as a young girl but the final product was much less serious.  I remember peeling the polish off the skin surrounding my nail bed.  It was role playing in good fun.  The stakes have dramatically increased and should not be taken lightly.

In the end, the only ones benefiting are the purveyors cashing in on the insecurities of younger and younger women.