Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Selling It Like It Is

Kotex recently rolled out a new product line in the US called U by Kotex that finally gets women.

For years, my friends and I have commented on the gag-worthy feminine hygiene commercials we're subjected to. You know what I'm talking about, the commercials with the girls on the beach playing volleyball or twirling around in flirty skirts, or most heinous of all, receiving a "monthly gift" from Mother Nature.

My least favorite ad? Always, please stop telling me to "have a happy period." I might have to ram a tampon into the collective throat of the feminine hygiene products industry. While these ads are made for women, it is clear that they are made by men and are not entirely that appealing to a female viewing audience.

So, I have to thank Kotex for not trying to make periods something more than they are. From their ad campaign: "At U by Kotex®, we think it’s high time we all stopped being so damn shy about our vaginas." Let's not try to sugar coat the period. It's a mundane part of the average female experience. But it's not a happy, carefree, twirly, fun time. It's more of a I'm bleeding, bloaty and my hormones are out of control, so please just give me a product that will make me feel a little less uncomfortable time.

Honestly, I think commercials for tampons and pads are kind of superfluous. I mean, speaking from experience, once you find a style you're comfortable with and find a brand you can trust, that's what you stick with. Though I don't care for its packaging, I think U by Kotex will draw some positive buzz for their fresh, humorous parody-of-hygiene-commercials commercial. Thanks for keeping it real.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Inner Beauty Don't Cost a Thing

Pop musician Jessica Simpson's Vh1 show, "The Price of Beauty" premiered last night. Unlike the former music channel's typical 'celebreality' programming, this show appears to be less about ex-stars grappling for another pass at fame and more about real people.

I thought this show, which is hosted by Simpson and her friends hairstlyist Ken Paves and her assistant Cacee would be an interesting experiment. The premise of the show is that Jessica and her friends travel around the world to understand beauty in a global sense. Whatever country they visit, they are taught about beauty norms, and sometimes treated to extreme beauty regimes.

One would wonder what she's doing on a Vh1 reality show since the usual "stars" are of the caliber of Flava Flav and Jeff the-guy-from-"Grease." I can see why she would be up for the project though since she's taken a lot of crap post-John Mayer break-up about her weight, her body shape and her poor choice of jeans. Still, I can't help but shake the image of her questioning whether Chicken of the Sea is actually chicken or fish.

Now, like Sarah Palin, I don't think Jessica Simpson's flat-out stupid. She (with her father's help) was smart enough to brand herself as the dumb blond. So, I guess I shouldn't have underestimated her so much. The show was less obtrusive than I thought it would be. Certainly, in the first episode, which focused on Thailand, there were some ethnographic/ethnocentric elements, but nothing was exploitative. On the whole, I thought the show was well-intentioned. In this episode, Simpson and crew first visit a woman whose skin has been discolored by a bleaching cream, who as a result, is unhappy with her life. Later, they visit a village where elongated necks are celebrated by way of encasing one's neck in a neck ring.

"The Price of Beauty" both demonstrated that people will do anything for beauty, regardless of the cost, and communicated its purpose that when it comes to beauty, there is no true standard.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Census or DIE!

It's that time of the decade again. Census Time! Some thoughts as I look over the brand-spanking new census form...

I've enjoyed watching the US government passively-aggressively push the census with their inspirational yet mandatory commercials.

O won't you please take a few minutes and fill out the census? (happy face) By the way, YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW! (evil face) No really, please fill it out (desperate face) .

Side note: Reminds me of when I pay toll and as a drive out, there is a sign that thanks you for riding the tollway...as if I had a choice! hmmmph

Ah, the race box.
What to check, what to check. Well I'm not sure how the last census categorized races, but this one is full of goodies.

For example, instead of the umbrella race of "Asian/Pacific Islander" you can check Asian Indian, Guamianan (did you know Guam is a US territory nearby Korea?? and Guamanians are US citizens???), Vietnamese, etc.

However, there is an "Other Asian" box where you can write in races that do not have their own designated boxes, like "Pakistani." Isn't it amazing that two nations (India & Pakistan) artificially carved out 60 or so years ago, can be so socially and economically different as to deserve a different racial regonition (as opposed to the catch-all, South Asian). Social construction at its finest!

The government giveth, the government taken away.
Did you know the US government invented the term "Hispanic" for census purposes? This time around, the governments makes it clear that "hispanic origins are not races." One can be Mexican, Chicago, Cuban, or even Spaniard. Well are not Spaniards FROM Spain and thus = White?

The Duggers

The census only allows 12 household members to be listed. Forget about undocumented aliens, what about Undocumented Duggers? Scary, scary thought

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Hairy Situation

On the Barbara Walters Oscar special, Monique told Babs that she absolutely refuses to shave her legs.

A few months back, I remember reading a story about Monique's post-Precious weight loss in People magazine. And I remember commenting to my friend Sha'Donna that I was really excited for Monique; she looked great but dang, did she forget to shave her legs?

Well, I guess the egg's on my face. What I thought of as a big slip-up on the magazine's part was intentional.

I think it's commendable that Monique refuses to bow to cultural norms. While it may seem totally nonchalant not to shave your legs because you're not taking any action; it's incredibly brave as a woman to step out in a ballgown with hairy legs. Just by the face Barbara made and the incredulous tone in her voice, you know it's one of those things that's just not done.

Society wants women to feel embarrassed when we walk outside with our legs covered in our own fur. That's our natural state; that's the way our bodies have evolved. Hair serves a purpose - it keeps our bodies warm in the winter (trust me, I live in Illinois). When did society come up with this arbitrary rule that it's unsightly, improper and downright unfeminine to publicly display our hairy legs?

I have to give the woman her props. Now Monique told Barbara the reason she doesn't shave her legs because she did it once and it hurt and it grew back thicker. Well, I recently read that our hair does not grow back thicker; we just think it does since it's more visible against our skin.

I'm not sure I buy her story. It takes a lot of careful consideration not to give in to the pressure to groom your legs. Especially when you're in the public eye. Remember the backlash Julia Roberts got for not shaving her underarms and going to a movie premiere? How dare she?! I'd prefer to think Monique is purposefully flouting arbitrary social norms to prove a point. Because as much as I agree with her, I really don't have the strength to let anyone see my winter growth.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How much is your Barbie worth? Depends on if it's black or white...

(photo from Guanabee.com)

Wal-mart has been getting alot of attention for a photo captured by one website showing the store selling a black Barbie doll on clearance while its white counterpart was marked as regular price. A rep for the Louisiana store commented that in order to make room for their spring inventory, Wal-mart had to mark many items on clearance to create greater demand for them.

One Chicago radio DJ was clearly incensed over Wal-mart's move. He could not believe that there would be a low demand for black Barbies at Walmart. "Are there no Black families who go to Wal-mart to buy dolls for their daughters?"

Well, that is a good question.

Families obviously buy dolls for their children, but how many buy dolls that "look" like their child? Being Indian-American child of the 90's, I only had white dolls. The only doll that remotely related to me was the special edition Indian Barbie that was dressed up in a Sari. Other than that, there was no barbie that "looked" like me or even "dressed" like me. The toy stores only provided two options back then...Blonde or Black...and I consistently chose blonde. I grew up thinking the standard of beauty was my cherub-faced, blond-haired, and light skinned Barbie (or Cabbage Patch Kid or Polly Pocket). I would shy away from the ebony-skinned, curly-hair African-American dolls simply because I thought that only black people had "black" dolls...and I surely wasn't black. But I wasn't white either...

Today, kids can buys dolls that come from a variety of flavors and colors and ethnicities (i.e. the American Doll Store--although it's really not accessible to most people). So why is this black Barbie doll on clearance and why is its white counterpart not? Is there really no demand for this particular doll? Or when it comes to playthings, are white dolls really supreme?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On With the Show

And on and on and on.

Coming off of last year's Slumdog Millionaire whirlwind, this year's Oscar broadcast just fell flat.

There were some enjoyable moments to be sure. But for the most part, I kept waiting for the show to get over. I hate to call the technical awards in the middle tedious because I totally respect techies, but this year I was too bored by the rest of the show to care.

I yearn for the song-and-dance spectacles of yesteryear. Last year, Hugh Jackman attempted to capture some of that old-school entertainer spirit. This year, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin engaged in some witty banter, but their two-man show got old after the first five minutes. I know that it's tradition for the host to look into to the crowd, and make a quip or two about easy, popular targets so the cameramen can get their money shots. Honestly, it just seemed like Martin and Baldwin were just calling out actors' names. It felt lazy. I strongly believe Neil Patrick Harris should host every award show on TV because his show opener was the only intentionally planned entertaining moment of the night. And props on the sparkly blazer, NPH! Loved it.

I'm glad all the people who won won. There was no one who I felt was robbed or who I thought didn't deserve their Oscars. But since the awards in the acting categories went to the same people at every award show I've seen this season, it was all so predictable. I've heard these speeches over and over and over. I love a good upset.

That's why the women who jumped on stage in the middle of the Best Documentary Short director's speech (which will forever be known as 'pulling a Kanye' or 'the Oscar's Kanye moment')was a nice mid-show refresher. She breathed some life into the otherwise dull award show. Not because of what she said. I have no idea what she was talking about. She was incoherent and kind of messy. I hope she was drunk; at least Kanye was. I was fascinated wondering how she got on to stage. I get the MTV awards thing. I mean, the VMAs are not exactly a classy institution and Kanye's a big star. But the Academy Awards? Come on, the Academy should not have allowed it. The room was filled with some of the most famous people in the world so I would have imagined they would have quality security.

Other high and lowlights:

The Good

Monique has transformed from raunchy stand-up comedienne to a force to be reckoned with. Does this means she's the next Whoopi? Or with her BET show, has she already surpassed Ms. Goldberg? With the gardenia in her hair, she paied homage to Hattie McDaniel. Sadly, Monique is only the 5th African-American woman to win an acting award (Halle Berry is still the only Best Actress in a Lead Role). And I just learned from her pre-show interview, she accepts all her awards with hairy legs. Power to ya, sister!

Gabi Sidibe - I love her confidence on the Red Carpet and at the beginning of the telecast, posing and posturing on stage instead of standing around stiffly like her fellow nominees. I can't help but root for the girl because in the words of Oprah herself, she embodies the "new American Cinderella story." College girl one day, Oscar nominee the next. And damn, if Oprah ever introduces me at an award show, I'd be bawling too.

Kathryn Bigelow - She scored the first Best Director Oscar for a female. As Barbra Streisand so succinctly put it: The time has come. What's sad is that Bigelow was only the fourth female director ever nominated. Are we still stuck in the 1960s? I'm tired of those 'behind every man, there's a woman' director speeches. I want to hear some women roar.

Sandra Bullock - She always makes light of every situation. It was nice to see her get emotional. And I love how her tough-man husband always breaks down when she wins.

Fashion - Seemed like celebs tried harder to keep it classy this year (minus Charlize Theron and her rose/vagina breasts. I'm still a fan of the origami layer look. And I adore the crimson dress trend.

The Bad

The Oscars cut off the Best Foreign Film director when he made a statement about Chile. Come on, we had to sit through the weak interpretive dance number and listen to some rambling speeches about the Best Actor/Actresses. I think we could have stood to hear a message in support of the tragedy in Chile.

The dance segment. What happened to nominating popular, interesting singers who deliver great performances (ie: Celine Dion) instead of filling time with a poor attempt to mimick the dance show trend?

Molly Ringwald. The whole Breakfast Club reunion thing was sort of strange, but Molly Ringwald must have done something to her face cuz she looked crazy shell-shocked. Also, the 'bad boy' from Breakfast Club and Macauley Culkin both looked gross, like they have been taking hard drugs for the last few years.

The "In Memoriam" montage. How do you choose who goes and who stays out? Did we need so many shots of James Taylor playing his guitar? Leaving out Farrah Fawcett was trashy. Did MJ deserve a nod? Duh, yes. He has been directed by Francis Ford Copolla and Martin Scorsese. Plus, he was an Oscar-nominated musician (at the age of 14). It's not about who deserved a slot. Every person is just a valid as another. The montage should have been inclusive.

The Young Victoria costume designer. So, she already had two Oscars. Could she not even pretend to be excited (or even just happy!) in her acceptance speech? Someone should have put her out of her misery and just given her award to another nominee.

The length. Just far, far too long.