Essential Femininity, Bottled and Ready for Purchase

It doesn’t take much to notice that essential femininity is being branded, packaged, and sold. The clothes and food we buy are codified, and now, so are our body washes. Just in case you didn’t notice the curvy shape and pearly pink color of Johnson’s and Johnson’s Body Care 24 hour Moisturizing Body Wash (because curves and the color pink are always universal signifiers for femininity, aren’t they?)  the message on the back of the bottle is quite clear:

“She is caring and warm, always ready with a hug or an encouraging word. You can’t help but feel nurtured in her presence. She loves this delightfully scented body wash because it does more than indulge her skin with irresistibly soft lather. It’s also shown to moisturize for 24 h ours, leaving her skin feeling irresistibly soft and smooth. Her spirit is effortlessly beautiful. Her skin loves Johnson’s.”

This message is not covert by any stretch of the imagination. In its bluntness, it sculpts an ideal of essential femininity that Johnson’s hopes the target consumer will consume. As primary producers of baby products, the transition for Johnson’s to products for grown women is not completely unforeseeable. The shape, color, and text of this product connect the buyer (read: women) with motherhood. The call for women to be “caring,” “warm,” to “encourage,” and “nurture” are words that align themselves with the conservative ideal that women are breeders, mothers, caretakers. In many ways, this product is encouraging “effortless beauty” via the platform of motherhood; woman is not valuable or beautiful unless she nurtures. This is most problematic as it privileges one, hegemonically sanctioned option for women, a reductionary model that treads on dangerous ground.

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2 Responses to Essential Femininity, Bottled and Ready for Purchase

  1. “She is caring and warm, always ready with a hug or an encouraging word … Her spirit is effortlessly beautiful. ” Bleurgh! I’m glad I don’t know “her”, she sounds well boring.

    I hate this kind of patronising shit, so old-fashioned. Interesting how this is all around us but you forget and kind of look past it … it becomes so obvious again when looking at/buying children’s clothes and toys etc. No wonder little girls still love pink when it surrounds them!

  2. You are right. It is definitely hidden and forgotten. I think that’s the point…it’s insidious to say the least, but we as women are being sold something very specific, something very regressive. Thanks for the feedback!

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