Friday, April 25, 2008

Adams: Life Can't Wait

Many Americans extra time today consists of sitting in front of a television and entertaining themselves with public media that society deems as an enjoyable past time. The mass media – including televisions, commercials, and printed material – today is giving women a false sense of what beauty should be. Many times the mass media portrays women in a way that seems unreachable by many. Sunsilk Shampoo came out with a new advertisement campaign that challenges women and those who use the shampoo with the slogan that “Life Can’t Wait!” The commercial presents famous female icons including Marilyn Monroe, Shakira, and Madonna all singing their individual songs while the advertisement pops in the little saying of “Life Can’t Wait.” Sunsilk also had a contest running along with this advertisement for women who have taken charge of their life and done something about it, whether it is a single mom raising children to unintentionally fighting breast cancer. Through this commercial and contest, Sunsilk has encouraged women to question and realize the typical beauty persona of today in order to better their own lives and also encourage women to do something for themselves because “Life Can’t Wait.” In this paper I will discuss what the “ideal” beauty image of a woman is, what women can do to go against the norm, and how this Sunsilk ad has helped open women’s eyes to the above and also maybe how they also contributed to the “ideal women” image.
The ideal women, who is she? As much of the mainstream media puts it she is tall, skinny, and beautiful. According to Hitchon, Park, and Yun in You Can Never Be too Thin – or Can You? today’s standards are starting to say that “notions of beauty involve beauty shape, skin color, and even the length of legs.” The same article also stated that with the preoccupation of unrealistic expectations of women’s weight, researchers also saw an increasing change in eating disorders. The idea of “merely being a woman in society means feeling too fat” (Hitchon, Park, and Yun). Sunsilk’s use of women typically known as common sex symbols plays into the ideal woman for society and that they need to change in order to become successful like these women. As many know though, in advertising and publications of women, many times the image is digitally enhanced to “beautify” women. This used to only be used when the woman in the photo was too large and flaws, now days it sometimes seems to be used to give a healthier appearance to those in the image. This is a step in a positive direction in trying to change the ideal woman’s image. has had posts on the topic of “photo-shopping up” and how many of today’s famous role models have “spoken about the concept that the media essentially commits ‘visual violence against women’ by often airbrushing against an actress’s will.” Some feminist and I will agree that the use of Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and Shakira in the Sunsilk advertisement helps to promote the ideal woman image. Because all of these women were and are known for their beauty and sex appeal, Sunsilk is falling back on the social norm of beauty sells. The societal norm of enhancing images and using “sex symbols” makes it hard for feminists to express the positive message of being yourself without trying to change your image really is the true beautiful woman.
“Life Can’t Wait,” the slogan of the current campaign, to me means to take life by the horns and do something that does not conform to the social norm. Upon reading the Sunsilk’s MySpace page and the stories of the women that contributed to the contest they were holding, I came across one excerpt that caught my eye. There was a post by a thirty-seven year old woman who has had a family history involving breast cancer. This woman decided to take control of her life because of her history and have a preventive double mastectomy. She was not fazed by the societal norm of beauty. She was more inspired by the chance of living a longer and healthier life even if it meant altering her image in the opposite way than the normal. This woman actually had breast cancer, and unknowingly her decision that life can’t wait and not worrying about how she would look in society’s eye saved her life. According to Mathieson in her article Women with cancer and the meaning of body talk, “any inter change with the social world we inhabit can remind us that being ill carries a certain stigma and that body image seems to have been cast as a woman's issue,” which is problematic. I think that the contest that Sunsilk held helped women all over either share their stories of overcoming issues and also helped many to be inspired by the stories shared. The idea of women being proud of whom they are and the idea to take charge of their life with the slogan “Life Can’t Wait,” I feel was the main goal in the Sunsilk campaign.
As Naomi Wolf states in an excerpt of The Beauty Myth, “’Beauty’ is a currency system. Like any economy, it is determined by politics and is a belief system that keeps male dominance intact.” Wolf does a very good job in summing up the beauty problem we have today. If we keep portraying women the same way we have been without a significant change, then all the hard work that women and feminist up until this period in time is a waste. If numerous amounts of women come together to try and change something it is easier than fighting the battle solo. That is why even though Sunsilk has fallen back on the typical beauty image featured in their advertisement, they are at least trying and take a stand and get people motivated to make a change. “Life Can’t Wait,” stated by beautiful and successful women, gives other women hope that one day they feel the urge that they need to take control of their life and make a change.
Here is one of the advertisment:
Here is a second one:
And Here is Sunsilk's MySpace page address:

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