A product release party and "womens' views of themselves"


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Posted by Anne Beltestad on October 11, 2002 at 16:10:52:

hi all,

some time ago I was contacted by someone who got my card at a "Modern
Bride Magazine" pseudo-bachlorette party back in late spring. She
said she was a party planner, it was a corporate event for this past
Wed. I didn't think much of it but she wanted all sorts of things I
never provide, such as an invoice and my social security number(?!)
and was businesslike to the point of unfriendly on the phone.
Whatever, I thought. this is Manhattan after all.
Well, I got there on Wed. night and walked in the door of the bar, and
it was, of all things, a release party for Tampax's new product,
"Tampax Pearl"! Apparently this new tampon is revolutionary not just
because it's more comfortable than "the plastic you have been using"
(huh?!?) but because it's pearl-colored, and thus "more feminine". It
even comes in a scented version (I thought that was BAD for you...?).
The woman in charge of this new product made a little speech and
showed a video presentation. I was fortunate enough to be hennaing
someone, with my head down, so I missed the latter, but it's the
speech I want to share with you here.
"Tampax Pearl" apparently is significant for the New Woman who can be
described as "Power and Pearls." Apparently two scientists from the
University of Michigan (women, no less) had conducted a study about
women today, and our views of ourselves. This new woman feels
confident in herself, is independent and successful, and yet "not
afraid to be feminine." So far so good, right? Well, the examples
used to describe this phenomenon were, for example, feeling
comfortable wearing makeup to an 8am chemistry class (note, chemistry,
not French!) and being independent and spontaneous enough to decide,
on a whim, to get a manicure during a shopping trip!
I couldn't help myself. I laughed out loud. I did refrain from
snorting food all over the table (they did feed me!), or making too
many comments, or allowing my brain to even BEGIN deconstructing this
crap.
The really sad part was that as the henna artist I was trying to bring
a breath of fresh air and an idea of some more holistic beauty ideas
to this event. I believe that every person I henna gets a little bit
of a blessing, something to make them feel special and calm. I even
told the beauty editor of Cosmopolitan that where I come from, women
don't necessarily shave off all their body hair. ("Really? How
Quaint!") I did tell several people how old henna was, and that
trends may come and go but that this "womens' art form" lasts.
My point is is that as a feminist and a henna artist, as a scholar and
a human being, this is the tide I'm swimming against. Henna honors
all people, from the person with disfiguring scars to the
flat-stomached teenage beauty queen, from the six-year-old to the
crone. I want to share something of beauty with these people,
something different that, even for a moment, makes them feel calm.
Yet it's hard when I hear that "being independent and *still*
feminine" means caring about beauty. No mention whatsoever of women
athletes, doctors, artists (oh, sorry, the girl from The Sopranos was
their spokesperson for the evening. NOT the sharpest knife in the
drawer to say the least), scholars, stateswomen, lawyers, spiritual
leaders, single moms, advocates, etc etc. Not a mention. The
achievements were in terms of being feminine, being pretty.
I believe with all my heart that it is my duty to combat this.
Needless to say I arrived dressed like Indian meets Post-Punk meets
Nordic Witch, riding my bike from Brooklyn in this all-black jangly
getup with a weird Icelandic sort of hat, and I must say when I left I
was proud of myself, of my mom and all the strong women I know who
don't buy the party line about what a woman is supposed to be. Now
let's keep it up!

up with REAL women!

Anne

 


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