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Monday, May 5, 2008

Body Envy...the Shampoo

Envying someone else's body is so normal in our culture that a major shampoo brand can make an advertising pun out of it for the name of their product. Introducing Body Envy - the shampoo.

This is a 'volumizing' shampoo - it gives your hair 'body.' Body--as in bulk, resilience, stand-tall-and-be-proud fullness. We want our hair to be noticed for its fullness, its body, while we whittle away at our actual bodies in the hopes that they will be as small as possible.

Beauty standards just seem so random to me, and so damaging.

Commercials make it very clear that having shiny, "perfect" hair complements the rest of our necessarily sassy selves. Flawlessly gorgeous models swoosh their hair to show us that all kinds of things from happiness, sexiness, youth, feeling liberated and natural, to being better than the next gal are won through hair confidence. Girls spend hours posing front of the mirror, practicing to be attractive, and these motions definitely include that particular hair swooshing neck-throw-with-coy-look, which supposedly lands us a mate. (Not to mention that my African-American friends always complain, "How am I supposed to love my hair when I can't swoosh it?!")

And the shampoo takes it one step further, lest we didn't quite get the double meaning: the tinier slogan on the bottle says, "get a lift in all the right places." I'm glad that using shampoo is cheaper and less painful than plastic surgery, but it's pretty clear that having 'volumized' hair is just another piece of the pie when it comes to putting together the "perfect" image.

So, why is puffy hair better than flatter hair? Why do I need to envy other women's hair and looks, instead of appreciating their beauty? Why should I want other women to envy my hair? This is not the kind of power women really need.

It's just a name of a shampoo, you say. Your panties are in a wad and you need to chill out. I'm not blaming Herbal Essences for all the beauty regimens and lack of confidence women have to face every day, but just doing the usual probe. Most of the things we accept as obvious reveal major things about our culture that can be quite disturbing.

Looking at this shampoo bottle I'm reminded that women's lives are often spent in comparison, feeling inadequate, primping and posing and continuously being conscious of the impact looks have on social interactions and relationships. The fact that a name of a shampoo can tap into such dark feelings (that women often injure themselves or die over) in a coy, playful, attractive, making-light way bothers me.

Who knew that keeping your hair clean could be so complicated? Phew.

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