“The consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife.”— David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man
Below, five women talk about how the advertising industry has made has them feel and the impressions advertising left on them.
Mary Leppert, 52
For over forty years, I thought my menstrual blood was supposed to be blue. I went to so many doctors over the years trying to figure out why my pads and tampons were a pedestrian red. Now I’m seventy-five thousand dollars in medical debt. On a desperate night in my mid-thirties, I even tried to dye a tampon with blue ink so that it would give my menstrual flow that cornflower hue I wanted. I am menopausal now, and it turns out I’m supposed to leak a little bit of blue urine every time I laugh or sneeze. I’m so glad to have this second shot at blue excretion onto my new pack of bladder-leak pads.
Amira Sadiqi, 35
If you can show Tide working on a stain, then you can show a razor working on a hairy leg, right? But no razor ad I saw showed hair, so I thought that using a razor was more of a preventative measure (“shave so your hair doesn’t grow back”) than reactive (“shave to remove your hair from your skin”). When my hair kept growing back after I shaved, I was confused and embarrassed. The internet told me that I must have higher testosterone levels than average (I don’t). Now that I get waxed at the salon down the block, the owner comments constantly about how hairy I am, which is how I became diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.
Daisy Wu, 42
The Dove ad about blindfolded children being able to recognize their mothers out of a line-up of random women just by touching their hands—I was never the same after seeing it. Anything that gets to the core of being a woman—a wife, a daughter, a sister, and especially a mother—makes me convulsively sob. My mom friends and I felt the Dove ad so deeply that we replicated that exercise on a play date. Only three of our seven kids were able to identify us correctly. That’s when I switched to Suave.
Carmen Mendoza, 36
I thought my period would be the happiest, most active time of the month. “Sailing on the red sea” was supposed to give me tennis skills and the ability to overcome my fear of water to go jet skiing and a bounce in my step as I buy yogurt with my five attractive, white, thin, married, fertile friends. Instead, I’m doubled over with cramps every twenty-seven seconds, hating my boyfriend whom I lie to about being on my period so that he doesn’t think he’s won whatever fight I just started, and I have energy only for scrolling through Twitter because it matches how I feel inside.
Adaki Eze, 27
For me it was the pink Bic pens. The only products advertised to women are for the home or for the baby or for our specific bodily needs. But here was a product made especially for our thoughts, a product that said: YES, women, you are a whole person! With a mind! You have opinions and to-do lists and business papers to take care of! And here, finally, is a pen you can do all that with. Then, of course I witnessed the backlash and realized how stupid I’d been. So now I just use whatever pen my husband isn’t using at the moment. Although I tossed out the Bic Pens for Her, I handed down all my Bic notepads to my daughter, which she covers in glitter and calls her princess papers. It’s really cute.
Rumpus original art by Kaili Doud.
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