Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

The NO SCRUF website purports to represent a group of female activists, the National Organization of Social Crusaders Repulsed by Unshaven Faces, who are seeking grassroots support for their cause. In true Video News Release style, we see footage of shouting women waving signs on the steps of government edifices.

The bald truth is here at the Museum of Hoaxes. The site is a Gillette viral marketing stunt designed to promote its products. Although ostensibly aimed at controlling male grooming habits, the obvious target is women, who are assumed to be disgusting in their natural state, even if they are improbably proportioned models. In addition to policing the standards of beauty for women, it also sends messages to voyeuristic men about appropriate desires. Sivacracy's Ann Bartow has spotlighted the work of Rachel Nabors, who points out that this is a remarkably recent historical phenomenon, dating back only to the 1920's when razor companies decided to increase market share.

Yes, but it's a joke, so what does this have to do with digital politics?
  • When people are increasingly dependent on search engines it is disturbing to realize that the name that they picked for the made-up auteur of their mockumentary described in this bio, "Emily Bergstrom," is also the name of a real-life activist at the nonprofit Seattle-based Agros.
  • The strategies of the ad aren't that different from real taxpayer-funded social marketing efforts that also follow the advertising industry in emphasizing physical attractiveness to the other gender in campaigns against smoking, for AIDS testing, and to get the citizenry to lose weight.
  • It's an obvious effort to lampoon the feminist movement, which ironically is also attempting to market itself more girl-centrically at political websites with pastel colors like the Protect Choice site, where the women don't look that different from the big hair, big jewelry models on the spoof site.

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