Dear ChapStick, We’re Through

Pfizer Consumer Healthcare
PO Box 26609
Richmond VA 23261-6609

Attention – ChapStick Consumer Relations

To Whom It May Concern:

I have used your brand for 25years, ever since my mom put my very first tube of ChapStick in the bib pocket of my snowpants before heading out for an afternoon of sledding. I can remember feeling very grown up, and ever since I have had a tube or six of Cherry ChapStick in a pocket or arm’s reach. I have used your brand on my own children, and they know to swipe their lips before heading out to play during our chilly Wisconsin winters. That’s all over now.

ChapStick, we’re through. My family will not be using your brand again. I tried to tell you why on Facebook, but you deleted my comment. You deleted the comments of many, many women who spoke out against your objectifying ad “Where Do Lost ChapSticks Go?” prominently featuring the back end of a woman bent over a couch. In fact, before you deleted it, the photo file uploaded to your page by some intern was labeled “Ass”. I do not support companies that use the objectified body parts of women to sell their product. I do not support a company that deletes the voices of its female customers, but allow sexist and sexual comments from men to remain. I refuse support a company that disrespects its female customers, both in its advertising and social media outreach. As a woman, a mother, and a small business owner those actions offend me. 

Why you paid an advertising agency big dollars to use a woman’s “Ass” to sell me a product I put on my lips seems a bit off. Why you chose to go with the ad that sexualizes a woman and gives off that low budget, basement porny-feeling right at the beginning of the winter season when every parent across America is in need a good balm to put on her kid’s lips seems to me as though you don’t understand that women control 86% of consumer spending. There isn’t much in question about your ad – the odd pose, butt in the air, the skin tight jeans, the sexy blowing hair – it is all a mind-numbingly sophomoric use of implied sex to sell a product. The thing is, for everyone who uses (used) ChapStick, we know that those little tubes go missing all of the time, and there were dozens of other very clever ways for you to depict this. But you didn’t. You chose to go with “Ass”.

So I no longer go with ChapStick. This weekend I spent $16.00 on four tubes of Burt’s Bees and I love my new balm. I’ll be a Burt’s customer now, because I don’t have to worry about them sexualizing and degrading me or my daughter, nor reinforcing to my husband and son that women are nothing more than sex objects. That is simply not good enough for my family, and I do not accept it.

Sincerely,

Melissa Wardy

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UPDATE: Because ChapStick is deleting voices from Facebook and does not have a Twitter account, should you choice to join you voice and speak out against this, I encourage a mailed letter, or add your signature to the change.org petition:

http://www.change.org/petitions/ceo-pfizer-healthcare-chapstick-remove-ads-that-objectify-women-and-sexualize-lip-balm

“Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person.”- Jean Kilbourne, Wellesley Centers for Women, Miss Representation

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Updated Update: ChapStick has removed the ad and issue a really crappy apology that is both deflective and untruthful.

We see that not everyone likes our new ad, and please know that we certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone! Our fans and their voices are at the heart of our new advertising campaign, but we know we don’t always get it right. We’ve removed the image and will share a newer ad with our fans soon! We apologize that fans have felt like their posts are being deleted and while we never intend to pull anyone’s comments off our wall, we do comply with Facebook guidelines and remove posts that use foul language, have repetitive messaging, those that are considered spam-like (multiple posts from a person within a short period of time) and are menacing to fans and employees

Commercialized Bananas, Freaking Fruit Chews, and Sex Tips at the Checkout

The most fun I’ve ever had grocery shopping was when my daughter was just over two years old, my son three months old, and my daughter shimmied out of her sundress and I had to chase her little diapered, sprinting bottom down the cracker aisle and around the corner into the cereal aisle, all the while holding my breasts so they wouldn’t leak as my newborn shrieked two aisles over. Good times.

You know what is also fun? Trying to make it through the aisles in the grocery store without one of those precious “teachable moments” parents get thrown in their laps every five minutes because of our marketing-saturated culture. My family needs bananas. Thus, we buy bananas. In fact, on many a grocery run it looks as though I might be raising chimps by the number of bananas I purchase. But this spring, when the bananas were sporting stickers for the new “Rio” movie (that we loved) I got a little annoyed. I miss the days when a banana was just a banana. For the record, I also miss the days when ballparks had real names and weren’t carrying the titles of banks or telecom giants.

Back to the bananas. My kids spent a good five minutes searching through all the fruit, picking out only the ones with stickers of the “Rio” characters.

“Guys, we need to buy bananas by the bunch. We can’t pull them apart and pick and choose ones with stickers.” -Me

“But Mom! I want the one with Rio and Benny wants the one with Jewel and we both want the dog.” – Amelia (5yo)

“Amelia, we buy bananas because they are healthy food to eat, not because they have stickers. Please choose two bunches, and let’s finish our list.” -Me

Things are usually pretty smooth at the grocery store, until Aisle 7. The freaking fruit chews are in Aisle 7, across from the craptastic sugar-loaded cereals we never buy. Fruit chews are my nemesis. We very rarely buy them, but there are boxes that sport the kids’ favorite characters: Penguins of Madagascar and Spiderman.

“MOM! Mom. Mom? Can we det the Fiderman frwuit zoos?” -Benny (3yo)

“Buddy! Look! You found Spiderman at the store. But you know, fruit chews aren’t good for our teeth.” -Me

“But but but I want dem.” -Benny

“I can tell that you want them. But we are working so hard for no cavities, and fruit chews give us cavities by leaving junk in our teeth.” -Me

“But I want dem.” – Benny

“How ’bout we finish up here, and when we get home we’ll color our Spiderman book?” -Me

“Otay.” -Benny

That round played out neatly. Sometimes it can get pretty hairy, and I use distractions like racing to the pickles or throwing something shiny on the floor.

And then there is Amelia, lobbying for her box…

“Mom, we can get these because it says Vitamin C on the box.” -Amelia

“Do you want the fruit chews because they taste good, or because of the cartoon you see on the box?” -Me

“Welllll……” -Amelia

“I know they look fun because of the Penguins on the box and we love that show, but these are not healthy for us, and we can get Vitamin C from other foods that are more healthy.” -Me

So what’s the best way to survive a trip to the store, with movie and cartoon characters jumping out at your kids, usually found on “food” that really isn’t food, luring those little kiddies into the purchase? Why you grab up that media literacy “teachable moment” and have them question why they want it. Question everything.

Depending on the age of your child, you can ask questions related to health or marketing and see if they understand why the cartoons are on the food.

~”Is that a food we normally buy? Do you think that is a healthy choice for our family?”

~”Why do you think the people who make that cereal want to get kids to buy it?”

~”Do you think Spiderman eats these fruit chews, or do they just use his picture on the box?”

~”You’re right, those are Disney Princesses on the grapes. Do princesses eat grapes? We eat grapes because they are a healthy fruit for us.”

Image from blogs.longwood.edu/brittanyclaud

So after fifteen aisles of shopping fun, more enjoyment awaits at the checkout lane. If you have a kid that can read, headlines like “Too FAT for her lover” and “25 Sex Tips That Will Blow His Mind” await you. With girls entering puberty earlier than their generation of mothers did, and our pornified culture, we need to start talking about body image and sex much earlier than we might remember learning. This is best done with a bunch of little talks, not one big “birds and bees talk” that looms over our heads sometime around puberty. Same goes for body image – it is hundreds of little conversations or statements made over the course of childhood, laying a foundation for how your children will think and react to information that comes later. And you know? You just can’t hide from it.

In fact, when our kids ask us questions about sex,  they give us a really awesome opportunity to give them accurate, safe information about something that will be a part of their lives forever. I’d rather my kids learn from me than another child whose information and family values might be far different from mine. Amelia knows that babies grow inside of moms, and the two ways babies come out. She has watched nature videos where animals give birth. She always wanted to know how they came out, but not until last week did she ask how they got in.

My sister-in-law and best friend just announced they are expecting early next year. Hooray for babies! But wait! The 5yo wants to know how the babies got in there. Well, I started off with, “Uncle Eric and Auntie Lisa waited until it was the right time and made sure Auntie Lisa’s body was ready and healthy to be a mama again, and then she got pregnant with a tiny tiny baby that will grow in her belly into a big baby and then it will be born and we will go visit to give him or her lots and lots of kisses!”

As she asks more questions, I will give her more information in short, factual statements. At 5yo, she just needs to know the mechanics of sex as she asks for that information.  The penis goes into the vagina. The next time she asks, she’ll get more information. We’ll get into our family values and morals around sex as she is older and ready to handle that information.

What’s the best way to handle the tabloids at the market? You could have your child stand close the checker, holding your coupons or bank card. Your child could help bag the groceries. I know a couple of parents who whip out their smart phone and let the kid play a game while they wait. You can discretely have them face the other direction and play I Spy.  You could not pick up the magazines yourself, teaching your child they really are just garbage wallpaper to begin with. And you can answer their questions honestly. If they ask what a headline means, or why there is so much cleavage and talk about sex, give them the info they need to know. Better they ask and learn at the age of 12 the definition of a blow job from you, than at a co-ed birthday party because they are being given in the bathroom by one of the guests.

Sometimes stores will have Family Friendly checkouts, with no candy or magazines. If your store doesn’t, ask the manager to consider it. It might be something they have never thought of before.

For more help on how to have those conversations about sex with older kids, I recommend Dr. Logan Levkoff’s book “Third Base Ain’t What it Used To Be”.

For more help with the little guys (but kids of all ages, too!) I highly recommend the work of Amy Lang, Birds + Beeds + Kids. You can find her book here.

Submarine Swimwear Sexualization Post Brings Police To My Kitchen Table

On June 22nd I wrote a post in the form of an open letter to Deborah Soriano, CEO of Submarine Kids, a swimwear company from Miami. The post had over 14,000 views, 220-some comments, and I couldn’t keep track of how many of you told me that you had contacted Submarine to express your disgust.

I never heard much from Deborah, just a vague threat about “hearing from her attorney”. I was never contacted by her attorney, but was emailed three separate times by her business partner and the company’s social media manager, Charlene Friedrichs, to address such issues as my hair, my weight, my ugliness, my daughter’s ugliness, my bitchiness, my ugly website, and my poor husband who she hoped was blind.

My ugliness aside, Submarine didn’t seem to be understanding the issue — the sexualized images of the young girls they were using to aide them in the selling of their swimwear. Deborah Soriano spoke to CNN reporter Richelle Carey when they ran this piece from my original blog post, and Deborah went on public record to say she didn’t realize the images were offensive, and that they were just little girls playing dress up. I quote, “…girls having fun, playing ‘grown-up’ with wigs and make-up and nothing more.”

Hey Deb? When little girls play dress up, they don’t elicit comments from pedophiles about how their pursed lips are so sexy they just jerked off, and that the child would be good at oral sex and then desired for anal rape. Because that comment? That comment came in to the blog over the weekend because of the image below. And yesterday I had a police officer at my kitchen table, reviewing my blog, a screen shot of the unpublished and profane comment and IP address it came from, and  your website for Submarine Kids.

Image on homepage of Submarine Kids

Now, Debbie, I don’t know how y’all at Submarine Kids do business, but if that were my company getting that kind of response from men who want to rape little girls because of the photos on my website turned them on? Well, I’d feel like a real shithead. Of course Submarine Kids has no legal liability or responsibility over the perverted creep who wrote the comment….or do they?

When will we start to take corporate pedophilia seriously?

How is the sexualized marketing of our children and childhood products blurring that line of taboo between kids and sex? 

Candies or Abercrombie, want to weigh in? Mattel, do any of your Monster High characters have anything to say? What was that, Bratz? No? Nothing?

Huh.

Well, Debbo, if it were me, I’d sell my bathing suits this way. And I’d sleep at night, knowing I didn’t put children in danger or disgrace the beauty of childhood while trying to make a buck.

This is how Pigtail Pals would advertise swimsuits for girls.

My swimsuit marketing photos would show little girls playing, not vamped up with pursed lips and Lolita eyes.

The Illusionists: Kickstarting a Body Image Revolution

Image from The Illusionists blog.

We live in a world where we take in an average of 4,000 advertisements per day, where the vast majority of those advertisements have been digitally retouched to inhuman ‘perfection’, where media has become the wallpaper of our life.

 I wonder if some people actually know anymore what a real human body is supposed to look like.

What are we learning? What are our children learning?

Children as young as 3 years old are reported to be aware of and unhappy with their weight.

By 7 years old, 70% of girls report wanting to be thinner.

From ages 11-17 years old, girls say “looking good” is their number 1 wish in life.

Half of women would rather be hit by a bus then get fat.

My friend Elena Rossini, the film maker and media literacy expert behind The Illusionists, knows it is time we get honest about how corporations are using the media to shift our perceptions about our bodies and bank on our learned insecurities. Our bodies have become the ‘finest consumer object’.

The preoccupation with physical beauty is as old as time; what is different today is the central role that the pursuit of the perfect body has taken. It has become our new religion. Everyone is affected: boys, girls, women and men from Los Angeles to Tokyo, passing via Mumbai. 

– Elena Rossini, The Illusionists

The Illusionsts intend to create a feature-length documentary to examine and discuss how this marketing is affecting all of us, all over the globe. As the mainstream media occasionally talks about the issues, but we need revealing and solution-based media with some teeth. And we need the creation of this media to be free of censorship and interference from media companies, which is why independent funding is crucial.

I asked Elena to tell me why this film would be important for families, especially parents:

Since the mid-2000s, I have noticed the emergence of some worrying trends. A vertiginous rise in media consumption by children (as much as 7.5 hours a day). The proliferation of TV shows, magazines, websites, and advertisements for products that sexualize and objectify girls. And reports about an epidemic of body dissatisfaction and self-objectification by girls as young as 6. I think the three phenomena are deeply interconnected. Teaching parents and children to analyze and interpret mass media and advertising messages is absolutely critical. I’m making this documentary because I would like to talk about what lies underneath the tip of the iceberg: an economic system based on creating “cradle to grave” consumers who are insecure about their appearance and that value their attractiveness above everything else. 
-Elena Rossini
When we control the media, we control the message. Let’s begin to have the message be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.

My family and my business will be contributing to The Illusionists Kickstarter campaign to help fund this desperately needed film. I hope you will join me. Give what you can give, as several hundred of us giving even $20 or $50 will make a difference. We will BE the difference the media needs.

***Learn more here and watch a preview, PLEASE CLICK HERE.***

 

Sexualization Shouldn’t Sell Swimsuits

Image from Submarine Kids (R)

Dear Deborah Soriano,

Yesterday I received a message from a reader of mine who had gotten an eblast from a company marketing your line of swimwear, with the tag line as being “kid-appropriate”. She was a little shocked, as was I, when we went to your website and found very young female models vamped up and posed provocatively in your Submarine swimwear line. Little girls do not wear wigs and make-up to the beach, nor does the way you have them posed come naturally to them. You have directly and willingly sexualized these young girls for your commercial purposes.

As a mother of a young girl and a children’s apparel manufacturer myself, the photos on your website make me extremely uneasy. I personally find them to have crossed the line of appropriateness. While not illegal or pornographic, you certainly are playing up the pending sexuality of these little girls to sell your garments. Deborah, I find that repulsive.

Image from Submarine Kids (R)

As a woman and as a fellow business owner, I ask that you take some time to examine your marketing practices, and consider a more appropriate and non-sexualizing approach when you shoot your next season’s release. Certainly you have creative staff on hand to allow your brand to continue to be trendy and hip without having to exploit children to make sales. Your company’s practices directly contribute to the culture of sexualization our children are forced to grow up in. There is no reason or excuse for it.

I frequent children’s boutiques regularly both for business and for my family’s personal shopping. When I see your brand in their retail spaces, I will be sure to mention to each and every shop owner my issues with the level of sexualization portrayed on your website, thus leaving me never wanting to purchase your clothing or swimwear for my own daughter.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the issues around sexualization and perhaps help you craft some better business practices.

Best-

Melissa Wardy

Owner/Family Advocate Pigtail Pals, LLC

www.pigtailpals.com

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PUSH BACK: If you find Submarine Kids (R) marketing practices to cross the line and directly contradict the company’s release (click to enlarge), I encourage you to email or call owner Deborah Soriano at  deborah@submarineswim.com or 305-931-4196 and in a kind and graceful way explain why these images upset you.

Text and image from Submarine Kids (R)