Influencing us into oblivion.
Most adult women are pretty aware of marketing and the pitfalls of paying too much attention to advertising. That it is rife with oppressive beauty conditioning and hetero-normative misogyny.
In our lifetime we've have been told to be sexy, strong but quiet, cheerful, understanding, supportive, smart, submissive. We need big boobs, full lips, a tiny waist, a thigh gap, pretty fingers, long nails, immaculate hair and makeup and we MUST be thin.
Of course the list is never ending. This struggle to fit in with feminine norms is exhausting. Reach for any magazine targeted at women and you'll quickly discover how to make your hips/waist/butt/pimples/cellulite/shadows/greys/bad attitude disappear.
I think as we get older we become a little more resistant to these messages because we begin to understand that our lives are finite and a tight butt and firm abs won't be joining us in the hereafter. Focus leans towards health and fitness and fuelling our bodies, though on low days we are always susceptible to comparison. It's more likely we are comparing ourselves now to perfect women at work who "have it all" or other Mothers who "do it all" than simply skinny beauties in a magazine.
But what about our girls? They don't read magazines, rarely watch tv. Their messages do come from some advertising before YouTube clips but more influential are the "influencers".
These hyped up media peeps and their ridiculous IG accounts are the new advertising juggernaut for the fashion, diet and beauty industries. If you want to sell your product to the largest market online, teen girls, you simply need to "sponsor" an influencer and have them chat about your amazing product online. Have them wear your label, stay at your hotel and drink your diet tea.
The most obviously example is the Kardashians. Whilst they might be cringeworthy to me and my pals, a quick search through my kid's friends' IG accounts shows just how much influence they have with young people. Everyone is following them. EVERYONE. In the latest Kardashian nonsense causing ripples online (and let's not forget that ripples are their main source of currency) Kim tells her fans on to try these "literally unreal" lollipops to suppress their appetites so they can stay thin. Be like Kim, suck on the lollipop. The implication being that all it takes to look like someone who's entire existence relies on their appearance is to use a diet lollipop, or tea or tummy band, or whatever. We all know that to be a Kardashian actually requires hours at the gym, personal chefs and masseuses and makeup artists, plastic surgeons, and sad bedraggled PAs getting sore arms from taking a thousand photos of said Kardashian until they get that perfect "natural" shot.
This woman who jumps on bandwagons and pretends to have social morals by committing publicly to help Cyntoia Brown get out of prison whilst simultaneously telling teens to starve. Nice. Yet it would seem she is too compelling, too "important" to unfollow, double-standards or no. With 60 million followers on twitter, she's obviously doing something right.
Note: Kim's Mother's Day post on IG was a photo of herself and her bubs with this comment:
"You don't even understand how many lollipop bribes this pic cost me..."
Were they Flat Tummy lollipops Kim??? Ah, the irony she would never understand.
I can't even.
It's despicable. It's the world our kids live in. And I do mean live. They live so much of their time online, giving us little opportunity to be of influence in the opposite direction. This messaging is so much more insidious because these influencers are constantly pushing new products and care only about followers and likes and more products and followers and likes. There are no advertising standards or guidelines for them to follow. They can do as they please.
Some of my least favourite woman influencers are the Kardashians and Jenners alike. Just no. Tana Mongeau is up there with Logan Paul for gross behaviour IMO.
What can be done? Other than raising the issue regularly and trying to keep up to date I'm not really sure. I work hard to discuss subliminal messaging with my kid and she is quick to spot it, but that doesn't necessarily mean she is immune. If her peers are worshipping influencers and pushing their culture via their own lifestyle choices my kid will feel compelled to conform. Because there's nothing worse than feeling other when you are thirteen. Right?
It does restore my faith that most girls are also following Zendaya, Millie Bobbie Brown, Michelle Obama and Emma Watson.
A little bit.
What a world our kids live in! It's scary to us but completely normal for them. I have no answers, we can just keep trying to hold a non-skinny mirror up to the world for them and cross our fingers and toes.