Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Barbie is unapologetic. I am unimpressed.

Mattel and Sports Illustrated have teamed up to UNAPOLOGETICALLY celebrate their collective century of making females feel crappy about their bodies. The 50th edition of the Swimsuit Issue will feature a photo shoot of the original 1959 Barbie in her striped one-piece alongside the modernized 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Barbie (available in stores this month), as well as an advertorial to drive home the #unapologetic campaign, which fights back against haters by claiming unrealistic beauty standards actually empower women.

A Mattel spokesperson told ADWEEK, “As with Barbie, every year the Swimsuit edition sparks conversations about women and body image, and Sports Illustrated stands unapologetically behind this issue that women, in reality, love ...Unapologetic is a rally cry to embrace who you are and to never have to apologize for it.” 

Hmm... #notbuyingit. The doll, the magazine or the spin.

It never occurred to me to expect an apology before - my Barbie Dream House and Soda Shoppe provided hours of fun when I was a kid, and Barbie has become a bit less disturbing over the years, given the ability to return the male gaze in 1971 and a wider waist in 1997. But featuring a children's doll in a magazine meant for grown men (oh and women who apparently "love" the Swimsuit issue...), alongside hypersexualized, airbrushed images of supermodels writhing around on the beach? And claiming this is a "rally cry" for Average Jane to embrace who she is? I'm insulted. And grossed out. And now I want an apology.

Photo credit: http://www.adweek.com/news/press/sports-illustrated-swimsuit-issues-newest-model-barbie-155653

Friday, November 8, 2013

Lululemon pant problems chalked up to (fat) user error

Earlier this week on Bloomberg TV, Lululemon co-founder Chip Wilson seemed oblivious to the foot in his mouth when he said yoga pants "don't work for some women's bodies." He later clarified that "it's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time and how much they use it." Well, that sounds like not every woman can wear your pants, Chip. "No, I think they can. I just think it's how you use it."

Meaning... if you use yoga pants on your chubby, muscular or borderline average thighs, you might distress the fabric to the point of malfunction. If you face the fact that you should be purchasing two sizes above what you normally do, and wear the pants on, say, your arms, however, they work just fine! Or if you're one of the emaciated models posing for the "thinspiration" pins haunting the dreams of half the population of suburban junior highs chools, you're good to go!

It's no surprise a lot of women were outraged by Wilson's comments and have pledged to boycott the brand. But a lot of Interwebs commenters are coming to Wilson's defense for being the first person to say what everyone else is thinking - spandex isn't for everyone. First of all, I believe Kimmy Gibbler was the first person to say that. And second, whether he likes it or not (and judging from later in the interview when Chip talks about how wealthy he is, he does), a large part of Lululemon's success is due to its reputation for producing slimming yoga pants. And you know who buys slimming clothes? Well, all women, probably, but especially women who might indulge in a french fry on special occasions. Personally, I think Nike's are more flattering, but most of my friends swear by their Lulus and claim their butts don't look as good in anything else. Even Hoda Kotbe can't help herself from shrugging her shoulders after every negative story about Lululemon and talking about how much she loves her yoga pants and how thin they make you look.

While "Sure they're insanely expensive, but they make you look skinny!" might not be Lululemon's official tagline, that, along with "Let people know you work out, and you're rich!" are the incentives behind 90 percent of Lululemon purchases, according to me. So I think Chip should either stop participating in the mass production of spandex clothes, if he doesn't think the mass of human women can pull them off, or embrace his costumer base by reinforcing the confidence his magical pants have given them, instead of alienating them and contributing to the dangerously unrealistic "thigh gap" obsession with his bizarre comments.

Maybe because I do happen to love Lulu tank tops, I want to believe Wilson isn't a misogynist - he's just kind of a weirdo... and he needs to find a CEO to look into quality control issues (because he's too busy enjoying his wealth to do it himself)... and maybe a PR director who knows something about media training.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

People Google idiotic things. Idiots tend to be sexist.

This brilliantly disturbing ad campaign from UN Women uses Google's auto-complete function to show popular searches about women worldwide. As it has been pointed out in comments, search results are usually tailored by search history, geography, preferences, etc., but I think that's kind of the point... also written by a TIME reader: "Women aren't moral creatures, they don't have the stake in society that men do.  They shouldn't have the vote." Point furthered.

My first reaction to the campaign was to wonder how my feminist-leaning laptop might auto-complete searches about men vs. women. The results were worrisome - for men who want to live in warm climates as well as women who want to live as equals.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Starving feminism

I’ve always had a hunch that unattainable beauty standards were invented to keep women under the glass ceiling, too busy on the StairMaster to actually, er, metaphorically climb any symbolic ladders. Twiggy’s popularity was just too well-timed with second-wave feminism, and I don’t think any male politicians have had to worry about their “cankles.” But it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I actually saw this dangerously effective distraction in action.

I was attending a meeting of about 20 marketing colleagues that was run by an attractive, fit woman, probably in her 40s. I’ll call her Boss Lady. I had never seen her in person before the meeting, and her attractiveness was actually the first thing I noticed upon meeting her. (I realize that makes me a bad feminist, but the first thing I noticed about a male colleague was his wonky cross-eyes, so hopefully this habit just makes me shallow.) Boss Lady was very put-together, sporting a flattering pants suit – the kind that reminds me I’m in the wrong profession, as I could never pull the outfit off, and have no interest in spending the money to try.

On the second day of the meeting, Boss Lady was at the front of the room in another power suit, “whiteboarding” our ideas (kind of like waterboarding, but in business casual), when a colleague walked in front of her to get back to her seat after stepping out. Boss Lady was in the middle of saying something about strategic marketing strategies but lost her train of thought when the other woman walked by, who was probably in her early 30s and wearing skinny black pants – possibly jeans – that, if I hadn’t been second-guessing my push-up bra and sweetheart necklined dress that day, I would have thought were slightly inappropriate for our conservative office.

Skinny Pants apologized for interrupting, and Boss Lady excused her, saying “Oh, it’s not your fault. I was just thinking how it’s just not fair how some people get to be so skinny! Like you, and you!” She accusingly pointed at Skinny Pants and another waifish woman in the room. Disturbingly, I was a little insulted she didn’t point at me. Maybe it was the cleavage.

Slightly less disturbing than my reaction, and that the comment was made at all, was that Boss Lady appeared to be in excellent shape, and Skinny Pants was, in my opinion, verging on dangerously thin. When she had walked by the front of the room, I was actually noticing her wispy hair and wondering if she might have an eating disorder.

So at least two professional women in the room were more interested in Skinny Pants’ body than discussing strategic strategies – in my case I’ll blame it on the fact that my job bores me to tears (some days literally), but I’m worried about Boss Lady. Her outburst was followed by an uncomfortable silence – and a loss of authority.

And I’m pretty sure she was just saying out loud what many women are constantly obsessing over internally when they could be thinking about strategery, or reproductive rights, or world peace – something other than the unsolvable problem of their inner thighs touching.

To quote Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, which has recently inspired me to stop being such a crappy feminist (Thank you to my feminist role model/sister for recommending!), “You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fashion that makes me feel old and confused.

I've never really understood fashion, but this summer has been particularly befuddling to me. It seems that anything goes as long as it's an unflattering throwback to an era anyone over the age of 22 wants to forget.  

I don't even think celebrities look good in jean shorts.

Or mannequins.

So why the average McDonalds-guzzling American thinks they can pull them off I'll never understand.

Along with high-wasted jean shorts/underpants, crop tops have been dusted off.

And when it cools down at night, or to give your camel toe a break, those crop tops can also be paired with palazzo pants!

Don't forget your silly headband.

And you're all set to take totally cute selfies at Lollapalooza!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Two-piece solution to the bikini debate

Gwyneth Paltrow's kid bikinis have reignited a debate that has apparently been going on for years, according to my extensive (okay half-hour) Internet research, but I think a little vocabulary lesson should clear this right up.

According to Wikipedia, the word "bikini" was coined by its inventor, Louis RĂ©ard, who was competing with  a rival designer to create "the world's smallest swimsuit." He named it after Bikini Atoll, where testing on the atomic bomb took place, because he believed "the suit's revealing style would create a stir among people similar to America's atomic bombing of Japan the previous summer." (Um, weird... but it sure is still creating stirs!) The garment he created resembled women's underwear, and he could not find a model daring enough to wear his design, so he had to hire a nude dancer to model it.

And according to Merriam-Webster, a bikini is "a woman's scanty two-piece bathing suit." (I will ignore the second definition - a man's brief swimsuit - for the sake of my argument, and because America has agreed we're against those.) The definition of "scanty," FYI, is "limited or less than sufficient in degree, quantity, or extent."

So, what we've learned here is that by etymology and current definition, "bikini" denotes sexy, and "kid bikini" connotes creepiness.

What is okay, however, and where the debate gets muddled, is two piece swimsuits for girls. The difference? More coverage and less allusion to lingerie and cleavage. Following this logic, judgment of recent controversies becomes rather simple:

Apparently people were up in arms about this picture of Suri Cruise... there are plenty of creepy things about her parents, but dressing her in this two-piece is not one of them.

These swimsuits marketed by Elizabeth Hurley, however, are most definitely creepy. I even feel creepy posting them... and don't even get me started on the leopard print.

I actually don't mind Gwyneth's as much, but again, I just find the words "kid" and "bikini" being used together inappropriate, and there's something about the way the models are posed in the first picture that gives me the uneasies.

Which brings us to our worst offender: Jessica Simpson apparently Tweeted and shared on national television this photo of her daughter in a questionable swimsuit and obviously contrived pose. It's one thing to take a goofy picture of your kid in order to torture her with it later, perhaps in a wedding slide show, but it's quite another to share a questionable picture like this with the world, which is, unfortunately, full of sickos.

So there you have it. I'm sorry Gwyneth, but for the sake of ending this debate and curbing creepiness, "kid bikinis," no matter how relatively tame, need to go out of style. For good.

Photo credits:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

If Rossen Had Reported: Are Your Lululemons Revealing Too Much?

A warning about your yoga pants: A new study shows that your $100 Lululemons may not be buying you 100 percent coverage. 

That new study out Wednesday morning shows an alarming increase in the number of down dogs becoming obscene, nearly bare asses being revealed by shoddily made, yet insanely priced workout-wear.

You assume these yoga pants are going to keep your thongs from being indecently exposed. After all, you paid a good chunk of your husband’s hard-earned cash for those things. You may think: “Everyone says they’re so flattering! So how could they be making me look like such as asshole?” 

Even on the hottest yogis, it can be a frightening site. 

Sunshine Smith is president and CEO of the watchdog group Safe Yoga, and says these Lululemon pants may be part of a bigger problem. A new report just out shows a stunning 95 percent of yoga students are now clothed in head-to-toe Lululemon – that’s a 50 percent spike since the holiday season alone.

“It is definitely cause for concern,” Smith told us. “Today’s yoga students – and even some of the teachers – seem to be more concerned with their outer appearance than inner bliss.”

To test this theory, we observed a typical yoga class in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, Ill. After the class filled up (and we mean full – there was barely a centimeter between each mat) we found that the number of Lululemon-clad students did, in fact, roughly match the ratio stated by Safe Yoga. In fact, 31 of the 40 students appeared to be wearing the exact same pants. 

Within five minutes, the class was instructed to sit back into their first child’s pose. And what we saw was horrifying. 

When we pointed out one woman’s exposed cheeks to her in the mirror, she was shocked. “Noone told me about this ‘bend-over test’ when I bought my Lululemons. I just tried them on in the store, saw that I looked totally cute, and bought them.” 

What you may not know is that there is no federal law indicating how sheer yoga pants can be. “Should there be more specific quality regulations?” we asked Smith of Safe Yoga.

“I think Lululemon in general should be outlawed,” Smith said.

But for millions of mid-to-upper class white women, that’s not an ideal solution. If they want to keep looking super skinny and cute in their yoga-wear, whether while actually practicing yoga or picking up a tub of organic baby spinach at Whole Foods, experts say they should employ the aforementioned “bend-over” or “squat” test before purchasing Lululemon pants, or wear longer yoga tops over them – adorable tanks are available at Lululemon for only $64. 

Have an idea for Rossen Reports? Contact us! 

Photo credit: www.today.com. P.S. Jeff Rossen I heart you.
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