When “Going East” Is Code for “CHERRY BLOSSOM RACISM”

A friend posted this article about the recent launch of the “Go East” Victoria’s Secret line on their Facebook page, and a comment exchange ensued between some folks, myself included. I thought some points that were raised deserved a response (and a public one at that, not caught up in the FB privacy settings). I’ve paraphrased and bolded them here + added some responses.

  • How is this racist? A geisha is a sexual figure in East Asia already. 
This line isn’t just sexualizing the geisha—the entire LINE is all about “sexy exotic Asian-ness,” and it’s all predicated on a commodified, simplified, and inauthentic view of “exotic asian culture.” For the purposes of Victoria’s Secret, “going east” means “let’s put some cherry blossoms and red on some lingerie and make our models wear chopsticks in their hair and OH OH don’t forget the kimono!” Of course it brings in the geisha as one of the lingerie styles because that’s one of the easiest things to sexualize here in the U.S., since so many people are familiar with the concept. Speaking of which, most of us have a pretty simplified and misinformed idea about what being a geisha entails anyway, and the level of education and training geishas got/get as well as the diversity of their actions/professions is not something a lot of people know about. Most folks just think “yeah, a geisha, a Japanese prostitute with the white face and stuff, like in Mulan or something.”
  • Sexual fantasy doesn’t indicate personally racist/bigoted beliefs. Wanting to dress like a geisha doesn’t make someone a racist.
Sexual attitudes and desires don’t happen inside of a magic bubble. We all have the responsibility to ask ourselves why we like what we do instead of just saying “AH WELL I JUST LIKE STUFF WHO KNOWS WHY.” Just as we adopt racist, sexist, etc.-ist beliefs in other areas of our lives, we adopt them in our sexual life and sexuality too. It’s our responsibility to interrogate what we want and how that intersects with the world around us. It’s like saying “yeah I only date white people, I dunno, I just find them more attractive.” Beauty is not this magically 100% objective thing–it’s very conditioned by our upbringing and cultural surroundings, and if those have racism embedded into them, you betcha your ideas of beauty will also have racism embedded unless you actively work to fight that and deconstruct it as much as possible.
And even if someone doesn’t want to dress like a geisha due to “explicitly racist” reasons, it involves a degree of subconscious entitlement to do so–that “yes, I can wear this, because I can do whatever I want, I have access to these pieces of this culture and I don’t have to think about the context or the impact of this choice.” It’s that dismissiveness, that disregard, that idea that all things are possible/accessible and OK because “I’m not actually a racist.” Racism isn’t just lynchings and cross-burning and denying people jobs; it’s way more complicated and pervasive than that.
  • Taking this line down and not carrying foreign-oriented lines of lingerie = just as offensive as carrying them.
There’s a difference between carrying a line catered to a particular community and appropriating that community’s culture. There’s also a difference between actually trying to provide positive and accurate representation of a culture for that culture (or even for society) and doing something simplified to purely make profit and create the newest fashion collection. Here, the intent as well as the outcome are important. Furthermore, no, these things are not “equally offensive.”
Of course, product advertising and these sexy lingerie things are never going to fully capture the entire history of whatever they’re symbolizing/hinting at, but when it’s done along already tense axes, where there have been lots of struggles between those who are creating the products and those who they are “depicting,” it’s a problem. Why? Because it’s once again a reiteration of the same power dynamics. In a climate where there are still a lot of anti-Asian feelings (check out this website for example!), it’s just one more way in which U.S. culture, especially non-asian/specifically-white U.S. culture, asserts that it can take whatever it wants from these cultures for its own purposes, demonize the fuck out of those same cultures, and not be held accountable.

Notes on Fetishizing People

I’ve recently been part of some conversations about attraction where the following questions/ideas have come up–“am I a chaser? am I fetishizing a community if I’m attracted to its members? is this terrible? is this something I need to think further about? can’t I just say I like XYZ and have it be that, with no ulterior motive? we all have fetishes [here on Fetlife] and some of those things are actions or body parts or people, or IDs…”

There’s a difference between
(a) liking a person’s appearance/body and appreciating it sexually/aesthetically 
and (b) placing value solely or primarily on that person’s body/appearance/identity category.
In (b), the person’s story, their life, their individuality is not of primary concern. It is less important than the “hot” identity that makes a person want them. This is also tied to someone having particular ideas about that identity (enter stereotypes!), which increase the desire and do not depend on reality, but on a fictional set of ideas and narratives about a person’s identity.

There are things we might find hot, but we should still interrogate those desires a bit more closely because so often they’re deeply entwined with racist, misogynistic, [insert ID]-st shit and they deserve a closer look. Really analyzing our desires, I think, can also serve to clarify them better for ourselves as well as for potential partners. For example, liking transwomen can be a thing for many reasons–it could be something about the history of transness, or the presumed/assumed anatomy, or it can be about finding someone similar/likewise trans*, or it’s an assumed attitude, the list goes on. What are you attracted to within the demographics you say you like? Are you attracted to women? To masculinity? To femininity? To genderqueerness? To men? To people with lots of hair regardless of what’s in their pants? The list can go on…

Personally, it can be tough for me to interact with people that I know fetishize some aspect of me. Random example–people who love “BBW” (Big Beautiful Women)! Personally, if I were approached by a self-identified “BBW fetishist” I’d probably give them some major side-eye because my experiences seeing that community deal with its attraction to fat bodies has been pretty sketchy in parts, and pretty objectifying. Ditto to someone who loves “Latin@s.” I’d question their motives, their interests, and their desires. I’d ask myself what about me are they stereotyping? Why is my Latinidad important to them? Is it something they wanna celebrate with me or is it something they want to keep out of sight and out of mind (and thus is easy to do because I don’t have an accent and am light-skinned)?

I think stuff like this can happen with any ID “category” (even things like…”gamer”), but it’s just exceptionally complicated and potentially hurtful to people when it’s around identity categories that put that person through shit and other people use to oppress them. Being a person of color or being queer or being fat are not “neutral identities”–they are loaded one that have been previously (and currently!) deployed to control people.

Finally, this conversation this also relates to (but is not the same as) being attracted to someone for how they are perceived and not how they actually identify, or ignoring a piece of someone’s ID because they can “pass” as something else that’s less “problematic.” For example, someone only/primarily being attracted to folks who appear/”act” white, regardless of actual cultural/racial/ethnic background, or someone being attracted to trans* folks that can pass as cis for whatever reason.

Tumblin’ Into Self-Love

The media is everywhere, dictating what we should do, buy, eat, and think. It’s also dictating, subtly and not-so-subtly, how we should look in order to be appreciated and desired. Because we live in a media-heavy world that (overall) uses racist, ableist, sizeist, sexist, homophobic, distorted images in marketing, many people don’t see themselves as represented (or at least not fully). Certain bodies and communities don’t get attention, and if they do, it’s usually negative on some level. Furthermore, based on what’s perpetuated, many people see themselves as flawed and unattractive, creating a barrier to establishing loving, intimate relationships with others and with oneself.

So how can we disrupt the constant signal from mainstream media and learn to love ourselves more? How can we undo some of the damage that has already been caused? Smashing the entire advertising industry and all forms of media is not the immediate solution. There are steps we can take, smaller but meaningful, that involve our media more carefully and surrounding ourselves with positive images and empowering messages.

There are havens for different types of bodies and niches for all sorts of desires and communities out there, and one of those places can be Tumblr.

So what’s Tumblr?
Tumblr is a blogging platform where users can post text, videos, audio, links, images, and quotations to their “tumblelog” and other users can “follow” them. Every member has a “dashboard” where all the posts from the people they follow are aggregated, making staying up to date with other users quick and easy. Its focus isn’t on personal, “journal-like” entries (though those certainly exist in great numbers), but instead on “microblogging” and sharing interesting content. Essentially, Tumblr is both a place and the medium for collage-creation; Tumblr provides the cyber-territory as well as the content that people can use to paste information and build networks.

What makes this different from Livejournal, WordPress, Blogger…?
Unlike other platforms that focus more on the individual’s story (e.g. Livejournal), Tumblr focuses on sharing and dialogue. Due to Tumblr’s structure, it functions as a big social hub for people all over the globe. I think the key is its “reblogging” feature, which allows users to put someone else’s content on their own tumblelog. This, in turn, not only spreads content rapidly (making certain things go viral immediately), but also allows for dialogue between users (when people reblog others’ content and then add on comments and/or more information) that spreads commentary beyond the place where it originated.

And how does this relate to self-esteem?
By making conscious choices about which blogs to follow, people can essentially curate their own little empowerment stream. By providing people with a constant flow of content on their dashboard, Tumblr can help people grow more comfortable with and/or accepting of certain bodies and communities. Like I mentioned earlier, Tumblr can also open up dialogue and facilitate community-building/networking, so people can discuss and come together via this platform. The “dark” side of this is that people can isolate themselves and create a “bubble” that some say excludes and marginalizes as well. However, I’m not advocating for Tumblr to become the one and only tool for consciousness-raising that’s supposed to build community and expand minds and achieve world peace…I’m saying that people can use Tumblr as productive tool to help them in a larger project of self-loving and appreciation.

So where do I go from here? How can I use this tool?
Join Tumblr and follow blogs that you find empowering–blogs that show people like you and/or those that you find attractive. By surrounding yourself with self-selected, positive content, you’ll be able to undo some of the damage that mainstream media has potentially caused, see bodies and opinions that are otherwise invisible, and get in touch with like-minded individuals. Be warned, though, that like any other place where people can post content, you may find certain things offensive and/or triggering, so practice self-care and be aware of what you’re clicking (or what to do in the event that you click something unpleasant). Take the opportunity to also step outside yourself and beyond your comfort zone. Because we all have multiple identities, it’s likely that by following even like-minded individuals, you’ll be exposed to new things that might push your boundaries and/or expand your horizons.

Now that I have Tumblr, how do I start building an empowering dashboard?

  • Take advantage of the fuckyeah[insert noun].tumblr.com phenomenon. Basically, these Tumblrs are repositories for the things they advertise on their URLs (so fuckyeahfreckles would have tons of content related to freckles). There are many useful ones that relate to body image, self-esteem, appearance, sex, erotica, and more! If you want to check for FYs, search for them here: http://isitafyeah.com/. If your desired FY blog doesn’t exist, create and curate it!
  • Look at the Followers Lists for small blogs you find empowering. You can do this with bigger blogs, too, but the more well-known the blog, the harder it will be to sift through followers to find ones that directly appeal to you. Another variant of this is to look at the people who have liked or reblogged certain posts you find empowering and inspiring.
  • Explore Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com/explore) by clicking on categories or by searching for specific tags (e.g. lace, empowerment, sexy, food, etc.).

Poetry: El secreto / The Secret

I love translating things, so I wanted to share this beautiful, super sexy poem I carried from Spanish to English for a class. 🙂 Aside from translation, what else do I love? Sex. And beauty and romance and language, of course. And this has all of that.

I wonder what my professors think of me when all I generally focus on are these things…

El secreto
Adriano del Valle

A orillas de la fábula, secretamente mía,
desde el árbol de sangre donde nace el latido
que se asoma a tu pulso, tu lengua, flor mojada,
era un sésamo oculto para el paisaje mórbido
de tu floral desnudo, desgajado en pudores
y amorosas laderas silvestres, en la sombra
de tus senos en vilo, colmenas del enjambre
cuyo vuelo guiaba el beso más antiguo.

Sempiternas colinas con pétalos y zumos,
el sí y el no acertaban, dudoso de tu aroma;
áureo botín de besos, acosadas axilas,
fugacísima imagen traída en tus relámpagos,
abriéndome entre lirios palomas y moluscos.

Y tú, ya casi un claro de luna en tus pestañas,
arcángel sin edad eras sencillamente.
Y acueducto sin lluvia, la luz del arco iris
nos volcaba el secreto flamígero del beso,
la soledad abriendo a nuestras almas juntas
donde las aves urden sus alcobas de trinos.

¡Oh amada mía! Siempre tu inaccesible cumbre;
y ya en ti, me despeño virgíneamente tuyo,
cuando el aire y el río te huelen desde cerca
el tatuaje invisible de la piel de tu aroma.

Y entonces, voy bajando por la rampa del grito,
del fulgor y la piedra, del viento y de la nieve;
ave soy rubricando con el vuelo las cumbres;
Ángel Caído soy recluido en tus ojos,
mordiendo en tu cabello sus pendulares frutos,
desplegando en mi torso su funeral bandera,
tu ardiente cordillera midiendo con mis brazos…
Con mi equinoccio envuelvo tus claros hemisferios
de antípodas caricias, cuando exploran mis besos
la tibia sangre nómada de tus venas azules.

La luna era el ex-libris del éxtasis nocturno,
tallo de flor nacido de tu propia semilla,
soledad sin los árboles que sostienen el cielo,
la delicia ignorando de beber en tu lengua,
como la piedra ignora el lenguaje del pájaro.

Si el beso no era un símbolo creado en tu homenaje,
su corola en tu hálito tuvo pétalos dulces
para impregnar la tierra con mieles suficientes
cuyo dulzor brotaba de la raíz del mundo.

Te conocí en el lecho mineral del planeta,
mientras tú apaciguabas la luz en la montaña…
Cósmicamente mía… Norte, Sur, Este, Oeste,
nupciales, cuatro vientos te velaban el sueño.

The Secret
Translation by Aida Manduley

On shores of the fable, secretly mine,
from the tree of blood where the beat is born
that peeks into your pulse, your tongue, wet flower,
was a hidden sesame for the morbid landscape
of your floral nude, ripped into modesties
and amorous wild slopes, in the shadow
of your suspended breasts, beehives of the swarm
whose flight guided the most ancient kiss.

Sempiternal hills with petals and juices
the yes and no guessed, doubtful of your aroma;
aureate contraband of kisses, harassed armpits,
most fleeting image brought in your lightning,
opening me among lilies doves and mollusks.

And you, a moonlit clearing almost on your lashes,
were simply an ageless archangel.
And rainless aqueduct, the rainbow’s light
emptied on us the kiss’ flamiferous secret,
the solitude opening our souls together
where the birds weave their alcoves of chirps.

Oh, my beloved! Always your inaccessible summit;
and already in you, I fall virginally yours,
when the air and the river smell you up close
the invisible tattoo of the skin of your aroma.

And then, I am going down the ramp of the scream,
of the fulgor and the stone, of the wind and the snow;
a bird I am signing the peaks with flight;
a Fallen Angel I am secluded in your eyes,
biting in your hair its pendular fruits,
displaying on my torso its funeral flag,
your burning mountain range measuring with my arms…
With my equinox I wrap your light hemispheres
in Antipodean caresses, when my kisses explore
the warm nomad blood of your blue veins.

The moon was the ex-libris of nocturnal ecstasy,
flower stem born from your own seed,
solitude without the trees that hold up the sky,
delight ignoring to drink on your tongue
like the stone ignores the bird’s language.

If the kiss was not a symbol created in your honor,
its corona on your breath had sweet petals
to impregnate the earth with sufficient honeys
whose sweetness flowed from the world’s root.

I met you on the planet’s mineral bed,
while you soothed the light on the mountain…
Cosmically mine… North, South, East, West,
nuptially, four winds watched over your sleep.

Representations of Sex/uality

Or, alternatively titled: “Making the Sex Week 2010 Poster”

This is kind of a cross-post from the SHEEC blog, so forgive me.

My goals for the poster:
  • Wouldn’t imply a certain relationship status
  • Wouldn’t be objectifying and just like any other ad on TV
  • Wouldn’t be heteronormative (and ideally not homonormative, either, which is…not easy to do–most images out there are very either/or)
  • Would simultaneously bring something “non-traditional” to the fore but NOT in a “LOOK HOW RADICAL I AM!” way or in a “LOOK HOW FREAKY THIS IS!” way
  • Would focus on sexuality and sensuality, but in a fun, not intimidating, fashion
  • Re: above, would also not be too explicit or obviously and “traditionally” sexual, so that it could have more interpretations (including “platonic” ones?)
  • Would reflect an air of inclusiveness
  • Would not represent people from just one ethnic group (and this was the hardest to achieve while still trying to keep to the other points; I resolved this issue by making the skin tones a rainbow)
  • Would not glorify a particular body type, especially one that corresponds to the dominant ideas of beauty in the media
  • Would be welcoming and attractive
  • Would hold all the text necessary!

Advertising: Hope, Crying, and Culture

I often feel a desire to cry during movie previews. Well, not the movie previews, exactly, but some of the ads they play before movies–the ones with swelling music and Spanish words and some bullshit about what it means to be Puerto Rican. The Banco Popular one? Dear lord, it makes me well up like nobody’s business. There’s a longer version out there, but this the version in theaters (and it’s faster-paced):

Click here for it. Like, I’m watching it right now and I’m tearing up, even though I’ve watched it a bunch of times before. The part where the children’s chorus comes in? Ohhhhh man. If I haven’t cracked by then, that does it. (Of course, I have to be in the zone for the tears to be inevitable; catch me off guard or stressed and I will wave away the ad with annoyance.)

Anyway, I’ve translated the lyrics for those of you who are Spanish-impaired. 😛

I’m the light of the morning
that illuminates new paths,
that goes flooding the mountains,
the farmer trails.
I’m the fruit of the future,
the seeds of tomorrow,
planted in pure dung (read: fertilizer)
of my boricua land.
I’m a fisherman of dreams;
I go looking for a sea of spume
of shells and sands,
of sirens and moons.
Of stars and horizons,
my fortune is composed.
I’m a sailing seagull and an astronaut of fog.
Of the bread, I am the yeast that feeds the hope
of the Puerto Rican man,
of the awakening of my mother country.
I bring boricua blood;
I’m the son of the palm-trees, of the toads (does the song say sapos?) and the rivers
and of the singing of the coquí,
of valleys and coffee plantations,
of sugar-cane and pineapple,
of guava and mampostiales,
of tembleque and maví.

I chose to not translate tembleque, maví, and mampostiales. It feels too weird to see them in English, somehow linguistically reduced, or transformed into something else. But, if you MUST know:

  • mampostiales = “very thick, gooey candy bars of caramelized brown sugar and coconut chips, challenging to chew and with a strong, almost molasses-like flavor”
  • tembleque = creamy coconut pudding usually garnished with cinnamon on top
  • maví = “mauby,” a drink! (“The drink or syrup for the drink is made by boiling a specific buckthorn bark, Colubrina elliptica, with sugar and a variety of spices. In looking at individual recipes on how people make mauby, you’ll note spices and flavorings vary exceedingly. Cinnamon is usually included, but then the drink flavoring diverges according to recipe. Some people add cloves, anise, vanilla extract, or cola flavoring. For more info, just check the wiki.”)

If this doesn’t make your mouth water at least a LITTLE, you should get your salivary glands checked. Anyway. Why do I get so emotional? Part of it is the setting of the theater, of course, that sets the stage (no pun intended); everything is bigger and louder and more intense there, plus the darkness creates an air of intimacy and solitude (that’s more believable when one is not in a packed room with some dingbat kicking the back of one’s seat), or at the very least of uninterrupted connection to what is onscreen. However, even when I’m not in the theater, I can get teary-eyed. It’s the idea of this, well, idealized Puerto Rico. It’s a longing for that, and not coupled with the belief that it’s nonexistent, but with the belief that there IS that beauty and that wonder in the Puerto Rico in which I live–that it’s just a matter of stopping and appreciating it, or finding it, or even just knowing how and when to look. The beautiful visuals and music create an air of hope…and if an ad is going to make me feel something, hope is a fucking fantastic choice. It makes the viewer tune in to that part of themselves, the hopeful part, the part that identifies as Puerto Rican, the part that wants to be proud of the mother country and not ashamed. It’s the part that goes “yes yes yes” during the whole ad.

To me, advertising is important. Heck, I wanted to GO into advertising for a while! All things being equal, or more or less equal, I WILL give preference to the organization with better ads, not because I believe their product is better, but because I admire their advertising and feel like rewarding them for a job well done. I will purposefully choose to support a company whose ads I like. And speaking of other ads I like, Harris Paints created a CLASSIC with this one:

Click here.
This thing was played at EVERY MOVIE SHOWING IN EVERY THEATER (of the Caribbean Cinemas chain, at least, but I’m pretty sure CineVista also played them). It ran for YEARS. People went into a movie and sang along to this during the previews, some in barely audible whispers, others in great, booming voices. It was glorious. They eventually retired the commercial after a bunch of years and everyone got upset. And what does this ad have in common with the Banco Popular one? It invokes our sense of Puerto-Rican-ness AND it has great visuals AND catchy music. It talks about paint colors in terms of Puerto Rican things, colors WE know because we see them every day or we are at least pretty damn familiar with them. Green is not fucking…kelly-green or hunter green or limeade green, it’s “verde quenepa.” Red is this red, of the flamboyán (Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant). Blue is the blue of the cobblestones that line San Juan’s streets. And so on. In fact, here are the lyrics:

Paint your life
with the colors of my land.
Paint your life.
Piragua strawberry,
white like coconut,
mango yellow.
Quenepa green,
cobblestone blue,
flamboyán red,
turquoise of the sea.
The colors of my land,
our colors,
paint your life
with the colors
that Harris gives you.

Mmm, gotta love appealing to people’s sense of unified culture. I’ll avoid cynicism for now (shocking!). And for clarification, a piragua is like a snowcone, but the top is pointy like a pyramid (not rounded like a snowball). SO yes. Other ads or previews make me cry too, for different reasons. It’s usually the beauty in them, though, that captures me; they’re so intense and beautiful that I just can’t help but tear up. Same thing with music.

Lose the blubber? More like lose the douchebaggery.

PETA Save the Whales Obesity Billboard

Dear PETA:

Sometimes you have pretty cool campaigns.

Sometimes you miss the mark entirely and produce crap like this.

I don’t know who thought “YES, this is a great idea! Let’s use one of the most derogatory words for fat women and put it on a HUGE billboard and imply that women are whales that need to be saved from their gross obesity through vegetarianism (because only meat-eating women are obese)! This will entice people to become vegetarians! GENIUS!”

No. You fail.

And “trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach”?

Really? Really, PETA?

I’m not even going to go into their implications that ceasing consumption of meat equal healthiness (because that’s just not true) and that the differences between skinny/fat and vegetarian/omnivore are all caused by the meat or lack thereof in people’s diets. Jeez.


PETA’s press release:

Jacksonville, Fla. — A new PETA billboard campaign that was just launched in Jacksonville reminds people who are struggling to lose weight — and who want to have enough energy to chase a beach ball — that going vegetarian can be an effective way to shed those extra pounds that keep them from looking good in a bikini. The ad shows a woman whose “blubber” is spilling over the sides of her swimsuit bottom and features the tagline “Save the Whales. Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian. PETA.”

Anyone wishing to achieve a hot “beach bod” is reminded that studies show that vegetarians are, on average, about 10 to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters. The meat habit can ruin the fun in other ways too. Consuming meat and dairy products is conclusively linked to heart disease, diabetes, and several kinds of cancer — not to mention higher rates of infertility in women and impotence in men. And not only is following a healthy plant-based diet good for the environment, it is also the best thing that anyone can do to help stop the routine abuse of animals raised and killed for food. Animals on factory farms are subjected to mutilations like debeaking, tail-docking, and branding (without any painkillers) and are often slaughtered and dismembered while still conscious.

“Trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA has a free ‘Vegetarian Starter Kit’ for people who want to lose pounds while eating as much as they like.


You know what’s better than a Twix bar? A fake Twix bar marketed towards women. Especially one that SHIMMERS.

“We created FLING™ Chocolate Fingers to celebrate the female spirit – the unapologetically feminine playful, naughty, flirtatious, and alluring nature that brings shimmer into the world.

FLING™ is a sweet, light truffle on a subtle crisp layer enrobed in shimmering chocolate that’s as glamorous as you are. At under 85 calories per finger, it’s slim, but not skinny. Indulgent but not greedy. Naughty but nice.

It’s also a way of living. As FLING™ women we are spontaneous – we shimmer! And when it’s good? We share it. So let yourself go! Have a FLING™ in private, or wave it all around town; in the office, the bedroom, or the great outdoors.”

What in the world–? You need to look at this website.

Shimmery sparkling pink overload. Also, just look at the language used! I can’t believe they were able to pack so many stereotypes onto one site. Women are “playful and naughty and flirtatious” and we “bring shimmer into the world.” That’s actually true because we FLING women excrete glitter and rainbows and fairy dust. DUH. 😐 Anyway. I don’t have a problem with women being naughty, flirtatious, playful, and shimmery, but I DO have a problem when that’s what women are reduced to. Welcome to the marketing world.

I love how they describe the “fingers” as “enrobed in shimmering chocolate” that are as “glamorous” as women are. The parallels between describing this food item and women are incredible. And, notice how they differentiate between skinny and slim? This is a worthwhile distinction; it’s bad if you’re “skinny,” but slim is fine…never mind healthy, though? That whole section seems like it’s describing the “ideal woman,” too (cf. the “FLING” woman, which is even interesting from a linguistic/semantic perspective–a FLING woman? the “other” woman? a mistress?). Slim, but not skinny; indulgent, but not greedy; naughty, but nice. Are we marketing a chocolate or are we marketing ideals of femininity and womanhood?

And the crazy relationship subtext here is intense–“have a fling; let yourself go” and “Have a FLING™ in private, or wave it all around town; in the office, the bedroom, or the great outdoors.” Really? Could we be a little more explicit about promoting cheating here, folks? I didn’t think so.

Actually, here’s some more:

“How should I properly care for my FLING™?

Like the women who crave it, FLING needs to be handled with care — try not to ruffle our delicate truffles and keep them in a cool, dry place. Between 65-75 degrees is ideal. Then you can pleasure yourself with this chocolate sensation time and time again.




“Keep things interesting and try a FLING™ Chocolate Finger in all three flavors – Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, and Hazelnut – a ménage of flavors. Variety is the spice of life, so tear it open and sneak in a quickie.” REALLY? REALLY? A “ménage” of flavors? ROFL. Let’s have a threesome with these “chocolate fingers” because “variety is the spice of life.” I could go off the deep end and try to make some racial implications here, but that would be too much, albeit hilarious. This entire website wraps up ideals of womanhood, food, sex, and relationship models all into one big shimmering, glamorous package of fail.

However, the chocolate actually SHIMMERS, which is awesome. If I weren’t so amused by/disgusted at the marketing, I might actually buy some. You know how girls love their sparklies! (But really–I totally do.)


Real Women Have _______ [edited]

Statement by Gabrielle Hennessey via Flickr.

I hate Dove’s “Real Women Have Curves” slogan with a passion. I stuffed my bra in seventh grade because of ideas like that, because of society’s undying belief that Breasts = Woman. A few days ago I walked into a store and a fellow shopper didn’t hesitate to tell her partner that my body was “gross.”

She said this while three or four feet away from me. I assume she wanted me to hear her and feel bad about my alleged eating disorder/unhealthiness/low self esteem, so that I’d go home and cry over some bonbons about my wasted life and listen to Christina Aguilera and discover my inner beauty and suddenly gain thirty pounds so I could be normal like her.

Real women have hearts and blood and bones. They have skin that breaks and nerves that feel the cold. They are made up of carbon and water and constantly renewing cells. They know who they are.

Real women may not have breasts. They may not even have vaginas. They might like girls or boys or a bit of both or neither at all. They may not always consider themselves to be women, or they might have to fight to be called such since no one else believes them.

Find a new slogan, Dove. Thousands of the people you’ve unwittingly condemned as Not Real Women are waiting.

Enjoy your profits.

Oh, labels. What makes a “woman”? What makes someone “[insert group here]”? What makes someone anything? If breasts don’t make a woman, what does? Is it the chromosomes? Is it the genital appearance? Is it the clothes? Is it other people’s perception of them as a member of a certain group? Is it a certain grouping of these aforementioned things? Is it an intangible essence, a “je ne sais quoi” of “woman-ness”? What does that even MEAN? And why is it necessary to make this distinction?

If we reduce these broad categories (e.g. woman, man, Latin@, homosexual, American, etc) to a list of “traits,” no one person will embody all of them. However, devoid of things that describe a label or devoid of things that make UP a definition, categories become meaningless. With no signified, the signifier becomes empty–just surface, with nothing beneath it. We keep using these terms in hopes that they will represent our realities somehow and allow us to communicate with one another, and ourselves.

The problem with all labels is that they ultimately define through exclusion; they purport to build a community based on, yes, shared traits or ideas or WHATEVER, but it always happens at the expense of keeping “something” out. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not going to ask for the abolition of all labels and categories because I DO find them useful (although inherently flawed). What I’m going to ask for is the fluidity and openness of thought to think outside those categories and constantly question them. What I’m going to ask for is a critical, analytical approach to definitions and life in general–one that will allow for change, multiplicity, and a degree of uncertainty about it all.

Next time you ask yourself “Oh, is that person [insert label here]?,” ask YOURSELF why you even need to know. Not because you don’t need to know the answer to your original question (maybe you do, maybe you don’t, whatever), but because I feel an integral part of understanding the world is understanding (or at least trying to understand) ourselves. Being introspective and looking at our own minds and our own actions in a way that is honest, questioning, and even slightly playful (because taking things seriously 24/7 only leads to nasties like high blood-pressure and a permanently furrowed brow) can tell us a lot about the world and why we perceive it the way we do. Asking yourself why you need to know if the person sitting next to you on the bus is “a girl or a boy” or “Mexican or Asian” will probably (eventually?) show you some of your own preconceptions, and by becoming self-aware, you can finally begin a process of growth and change. You can’t break the bars of cages you can’t see.