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Archive for August 2nd, 2010

While at the cinema last week, I nearly choked on my crisps when I saw this new ad for Reebok’s Easytone trainers. Sure, I get that the point of these trainers is to tone up legs, bums and all those other ‘trouble zones’ we’re supposed to give a rat’s arse about, so it’s understandable that the camera is going to focus on those areas.

But why does it have to feature headless women? This ad is nothing but a sea of lithe limbs – be they bare, stockinged or otherwise – doing a variety of fun-yet-sexy movements. Notwithstanding the fact that not one of the models has legs resembling anything like a typical pair of pins belonging to an average woman (no cellulite, no thread veins, no stretch marks, nothing but glowing flesh), I don’t for a minute believe that shaking and vac’ing my way around my apartment while wearing them will turn me into a sylph-like goddess.

Even with all of that aside, it is the headless woman aspect that creeps me out the most. It’s the ultimate in reducing women to their parts, in this instance turning athletes, nightclubbers and office workers into bouncing buttocks, taut calves and slinky ankles. There’s no need to even show these women’s faces (if these are indeed women rather than a woman – they are all light-skinned and all look eerily similar) when you can see their lower halves, and fixate on their arses rather than having to – god forbid – hear what they actually have to say about the product. The horror!

We have gotten off pretty lightly in Ireland however, as these are some American ads (‘make your boobs jealous!’):

We can all appreciate the aesthetic beauty of these impossibly sleek thighs, but we know the reality too. That very little of us look like that, which spoils the sexy illusion somewhat. I’d love if Reebok kept it real, if their ads featured women of all shapes and sizes, women just like us, who wear these shoes and then see their generous behinds and dimpled thighs reduced and smoothed. But perhaps both of these things are too much to ask for.

What do you think about these ads?

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When women, especially high profile women, get married everyone has an opinion. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of you-know-who wed Mark Mezvinsky over the weekend, which spawned this sniffy piece in the New York Times. The writer critiques everything from her dress (“not an especially high-styled choice”) to her updo (“betrayed the Clinton women’s complicated hair history”). Why should a smart, educated woman who has made her way in the world – a world where your parents have been two of the most powerful/famous people on the planet – have to endure a such a high-profile fashion post-mortem on her “big day”?

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A great friend of mine, with whom I shared the lurching stumble through secondary school, was telling us a story the other day about an unexpected run in she’d recently had with our year’s superbitch.

And I mean superbitch. Not in the traditional bullying sense, for she was no great physical presence and was far too into her looks to risk them in an altercation, but in the Mean Girls brand of obnoxious knobbery; she’d get people’s names wrong on purpose, she’d laugh at the dress sense of girls less economically privileged, she’d whisper and glint and coerce and sneer – she was a nasty piece of work. Insecure, now that I look back on it. Possibly there was something horribly wrong with her, but certainly, at the time, she was wedged into a nasty rut and seemed in no hurry to let an adult conscience prise her out.

Anyway, my friend was surprised to get an email from her a couple of months ago. They hadn’t been at all friendly in school – my friend was a teacher’s daughter, and bound by that into acting with respect for her educators, meaning that she got no respect herself from the likes of Superbitch and her equally empty-headed minions – so to hear from her as an adult was unexpected, to say the least. Superbitch dispensed with pleasantries after a couple of lines. A buddy of hers was doing the same course as my friend had recently completed, and she was wondering if my friend would send on her notes, essays, and other study materials, kthxbye.

“Can you believe the nerve!” my friend spluttered, over a glass of wine (which was kind of messy, as you can imagine). “Ten years out of school – and God, did she make my life a misery when we were in school – and she thinks I’m going to go out of my way to help her and her friend that I’ve never met because she can’t be bothered doing her own course work?”

“I see she hasn’t changed,” said the more sophisticated of our gang, whereas I registered my disgust with a mature, “I would have sent her a picture of my arse.”

“I don’t know,” said our resident devil’s advocate. “I would have sent on the notes.”

In unison, “WHAT?!”

Could we really believe our ears? Was someone actually suggesting cheek-turning here (and not in the pictures-of-arse sense)?

“I would have done my best to help her,” said our (contrary) Good Samaritan. “I would have given to her what I could, knowing that I was the bigger person, and that I was mature enough not to base my reactions on ancient history.”

There have been plenty of times in my life when I wished I could go back to secondary school, just for a couple of days, with my adult outlook and sharply-honed sense of right, wrong, and revenge. I fancy I would have the place fawning over me within an hour. I’d tell the mean girls exactly what I thought of them. I’d stand up for the poor souls who were bullied incessantly just because they were meek and sweet-natured. I’d tell the loudmouth mucksavages that no one thought they were heroes for making substitute teachers cry. I’d tell my friends that no matter how things seemed at fifteen, the world was a much bigger place and we would shortly be much better people for living in it, that there would be adventures, and laughter, and love and loss and exams like we could never predict.

But perhaps I was wrong. Maybe it is pointless to harbour ridiculous fantasies of putting everything right when my adult self knew there was very little wrong in the first place. Maybe the last step towards adulthood, maturity, contentment was realising that the superbitches were but blips in an otherwise successful school life.

We were all silent for a moment.

And then someone said, “Fuck that. You treat people like shit, they will have no inclination to bend over backwards for you. That’s life. That’s a lesson worth learning.”

What do you think?

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