And no — I won’t be pledging allegiance to your bra, either.

hope you like feminists


Dear Producers of the Marketing Campaign for Playtex TruSupport Bras:

I have a bone to pick with you.

In fact, let’s call it a whalebone to pick, since you are so fond of punning.

It’s about that video ad series you did a few years ago — the one that gets run every summer, and always just in time for the 4th of July.

Ring a bell? No?

You must not watch much Internet tv. This thing’s been on so much rotation with every show I watch, I can almost recite it from memory.

But here, let me jog yours:


Transcript: 

All bras are not created equal. And all women are not the same. We should all be endowed with certain rights. Some of us are more endowed than others. The right to a gorgeous TruSupport bra….

We declare our independence — from frilly bras that don’t work. And bras that work, but aren’t pretty. Hello?!

Playtex. Be uniquely you.

Pursuit of happiness? Check.

Look, I get it. The word “endowed” is kinda old-fashioned and fuddy-duddied — and today, most commonly functions as a reference to women and their breasts. Women like me, with our B.O.U.S.’s [Boobs of Unusual Size].

Well, not exactly like me, since I am also an entire Person of Size — and middle-aged, to boot — unlike the thin, hourglass-shaped young women in your ad. (We do all have whiteness in common, though, with the exception of your one, very light-skinned black actress. But let’s come back to that.)

This ad makes you seem like the kid in my 10th grade class who, when his turn came to read aloud, always put a drawn-out emphasis on every word that had the slightest sexual connotation. (And many words that didn’t, which made us all wonder about the education he was receiving at home.) I can still hear him reading: “Balanced on the narrow ledge, the man pulled himself EEEEEEE-RECT.”

It was super-annoying, coming from an immature kid whose idea of courtship hadn’t yet progressed past the “oooh! you have TITTIES, har har!” stage.

Pro-tip:
Pro-tip: “Equal rights, schmequal right — just gimme a pretty bra!” is perhaps not the best approach for an ad. Unless you meant to make me think of anti-suffrage postcards?? (via)

It’s even more annoying when it comes from a massive, international conglomerate, which clearly thinks the way to court my dollars is by cooing “oooh! some of the PATRIOTS have TITTIES, har har!”

Here’s the thing: my rights are not dependent on my body. My citizenship neither starts nor stops with my mammary glands, nor my ability to embody certain racialized and/or cis-heteronormative standards of female attractiveness. 

I am not an after-thought member of the polity.

Except when I am. 

And that’s the super-SUPER annoying aspect of your ad: it reminds me just how often women are still seen that way.

In fact, here are just few of the less enticing facts I am reminded of by your “who wants full equity when we can just play with own own knockers all day, amirite ladieez?!” advertisement: 

The Founding Fathers whose documents your ad invokes were pretty clear that they were building a ‘WHITE BOYS ONLY — NO WHITE GIRLZ (OR ANYBODY ELSE) ALLOWED!!’ kind of clubhouse. Everyone else’s participation was predicated on their proximity to that power source. Even today, the idea persists that women’s political power is at best proximate — or (translated), women’s power is still seen as grounded in their “attractiveness to men with power.”

And, well — your ad does a nice job of keeping that tradition going! Kudos! (I guess?)

Sincere apologies to both Calvin and Hobbes for including them here! (via)
My sincere apologies to both Calvin and Hobbes for making them party to this conversation. (via)

The first woman to seriously contend for becoming a major party’s presidential candidate is frequently derided for her “hag”-like age and “Hideousness Factor,” as well as — QUELLE HORREUR! — the fact that she’s a grandparent. (I’m scratching my head, trying to remember how many times the media questioned Mitt Romney’s competence to run for forgetful Grandpappy-in-Chief. Which should have disqualified him twenty-three times over, by my count).

[And no, TIME Magazine, telling us how the hormonal levels of post-menopausal women actually makes them totes better suited than men for having their finger on the red button does not put you on the softer, gentler, less-sexist side of Hillary Clinton coverage. Looking for tips on how to do it better next time? Howsa ’bout we let Jay Smooth and his women friends sort that out for you.]

I can hear what you’re thinking, Playtex Ad-People: “Oh lighten up, Alice. It’s just a joke! Can’t we poke a little fun at big boobies and their civil rights??”

Thing is, it’s not just a bat in my belfry I happened to wake up with this morning: the whimsical notion that people issued the standard Breasts-and-Vagina Edition™ body at birth have a much harder time getting the needs of those bodies recognized as valid.

Are you aware that “sanitary and healthful menstruation” is a special privilege, not a right?

#TheHomelessPeriod: Not just a UK problem. (via)
The Homeless Period: Not just a UK problem. (via)

Which is, as Jessica Valenti puts it, total “bullshit”:

“In the United States, access to tampons and pads for low-income women is a real problem, too: food stamps don’t cover feminine hygiene products, so some women resort to selling their food stamps in order to pay for “luxuries” like tampons. Women in prison often don’t have access to sanitary products at all, and the high cost of a product that half the population needs multiple times a day, every month for approximately 30 years, is simply, well, bullshit.”

“Food vs. tampons?” is a real struggle for many people with vaginas (women or otherwise). Of course — back to the political angle — not everybody believes that food for children is a human right, either. But I recognize that’s not really your problem, Bra Advertisers. So back to my point…

What seems most unfortunate about your ad is that I really really want a bra that is what you say these bras are! Meaning: something that fits my B.O.U.S.’s — without being hideously ugly. I’m even happy to have that bra advertised in a funny, light-hearted way.

Because, let’s face it: shopping for bras that fit is a #lolsob experience, no matter how it’s advertised.

Just don’t keep advertising it this way, mmmkay?

Sincerely yours, 
Alice

7 thoughts on “And no — I won’t be pledging allegiance to your bra, either.

  1. “My citizenship neither starts nor stops with my mammary glands, nor my ability to embody certain racialized and/or cis-heteronormative standards of female attractiveness.”

    Indeed.

    I’m also struck by the models’ playfulness here as they strut towards and smile knowingly at the camera, tongue almost in cheek. As if our citizenship is also contingent on a light, airy demeanor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting how often these ads use women’s empowerment to sell their products-making it about their products and not the liberation itself. It can be subtle and hard to detect but often still there. I’m also thinking of those Dove ads that I loved until someone pointed out they were still using my desires to make a buck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yes. *sigh* The Dove ads…

      I don’t know about you, but I find myself often torn by these advertisements that invoke (or evoke) feminist imagery and language as a core part of the ad. On the one hand: “yayy! visibility!!” And on the other, the revolution *I* am looking for ain’t getting televised. I experience a real tension between feeling happy to see myself/my concerns achieving more parity of status. . . in a capitalist system that’s hugely problematic.

      Like

  3. I am more than willing to embrace the long forgotten (?) bra-burning ideology of my feminist sisters way back when. I hate wearing a bra, and while my endowment is not extreme, I believe using the word pendulous (3 breastfed babies and age) is a’ propos…but I so long for the days of youthful halter tops and freedom…and yes – perky boobies 🙂

    Like

    1. And…I apologize for the accent on the little ‘a’ there but I didn’t want to take the time to try to figure out how to get the correct accent grave into my comment so…there ya go.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ah, yes — perky boobies! I’ve heard of those. 😉

      Never had ’em myself, though. Whatever size I’ve been — and I’ve been nearly all of them more than once! — my own endowment has remained steadfastly in the “Give me underwire — or give me death!” range of bazoombas.

      Liked by 1 person

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