Monday, January 25, 2010

Just stop it, you're not really rebelling.

Was feeling a bit on the rampage today over conforming to non-conformity. At the mall this weekend I saw a guy dressed all goth, not to mention a ton of emo kids. The way I feel, if how you look/act/talk is popular enough to have its own name, you're not being a rebel. You're just conforming to something slightly less popular than oversize sweatshirts, jeans, and white sneakers (the official uniform of northern Wisconsin outside of hunting season). So, in honor of my screaming at the window about "those darn kids today," I'm pulling a golden oldie out of the vault. Please forgive the slightly less polished form here - I wrote it way back in 1999.

Has anyone else noticed that lately it is so important to be different that we are forgetting to be ourselves?
I came to California about three years ago, and to my shock, most of the people I met were espousing the theory that the most important thing in life is to different than everyone else; that you HAVE to be different. Coming from Wisconsin, where being different was still looked upon as a very bad thing, this was quite a new idea. It sounded like a good one, at first; after all, we all should be our own person, right?
Then I started thinking about it. And the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. But I didn't know why. There still didn't seem to be anything wrong with trying not to follow the crowd; after all, I had been trying not to for most of my life. The New Kids on the Block, their ilk, and their fans had been a favorite target of mine in my youth. Actually, most fads (things that people seemed to like because other people liked them) received at least a critical *Ptttb!* from me.
But I continued to think, and I realized that I too was a fan of something that was at one time a fad. Ninja Turtles. According to the HAVE TO BE DIFFERENT theory, this was unforgivable. And the more I thought, the more I realized that there were many things that I like that could be considered fads; Star Trek, Star Wars, science fiction, James Bond, etc.
Then I thought: why is that so horrible?Really? Why is it so awful that I like something that other people happen to like? The only conclusion I could come to was that it wasn't.
Yet something inside of me continued to twist when I saw the hordes of screaming girls looking at the Backstreet Boys (or Spice Girls, Hanson, Nsync, Furbies, Beanie Babies, etc.) I felt like a hypocrite; after all, they were just excited about something they liked.
Except, there is a difference. It's subtle, that difference, but it's there. And it has nothing to do with what they like, and it has nothing to do with what I like. It has to do with the feeling behind it.
I like the Ninja Turtles because I want to like them. There's something inside me that responds to them. The same goes for the other things I like. I like them because I like them, not for any other reason.
Now we come to the mob mentality of fads. At first a few people like something because they really, actually like it. Then other people hear about it, decide it's cool, and start "liking" it too. Now, some of these later people might actually like whatever it is that started the fad, but many of them don't.
A subscriber to the theory of differentness will say they are all wrong. I have heard it said by some people that once something becomes popular, it is no longer worth liking. This is real hypocricy.
The people who say that you must be different are doing exactly the thing they preach against. They are doing a thing (being "totally different") because someone else said it was the right thing to do. It's the popular thing, now, to be different; but it's a fake difference.
I believe that if you HAVE to be different, you are just cheating yourself; you're following the crowd just as surley as those you mock. Better that people should try to be themselves, and not worry about if they're doing something different. If you really like Nsync, then listen to it, regardless of what critics like me say. If you don't like Nsync, then don't listen to it, regardless of what the mob of humanity might say.
Just be yourself; that is being truly different.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Marketers, listen up

OK, I'm mad. I'm more than mad. What started this all was this crazy sexist commercial. In it, a group of women (and only women) are shown around the "clorox testing facility", where a group of stain testers (men included in the "scientific" role) are testing the stain fighting powers of a clorox product. Now, of course, the women are horrified by the stains that are being caused on male mannequins - in the office and school only male mannequins are used, and on the soccer field its a boy. But of course the tester shows the women that all they need is clorox!

Holy mother of pete. Now, I very much respect the role of stay at home parent. My own mother was one. But let me tell you, its not only women who do laundry (and not only men who work in offices!) EVERYONE at some point in their lives do laundry - or they lose all their friends. The blatant sexism of this commercial made me scream at the tv - and write a letter to the makers. Their completely useless reply follows at the end.

Now to my main point. Marketers, LISTEN UP!! There are a lot of things that "define" me that I've chosen. I am a nerd, I am a designer, I am a foodie, I enjoy fashion, I like football, I fancy myself a renaissance person. None of these have to do with the fact that I was born female. That is not something I chose for myself; its simply a biological fact. Guess what else? There's lots of people who weren't born with ladybits that like the EXACT SAME THINGS. So, my final suggestion: STOP TARGETING MY GENDER FIRST. Target the fact that I might like your product regardless if I have breasts or not. If you spend more time telling me about your product and less on saying its something only someone who was born the same way I was would enjoy, I might actually buy your product.

Unlike Clorox. Guess who I'm not buying from anymore.

Dear Ms. Wassink,

Thank you for contacting us.

As you can imagine, advertising is an integral part of our company's operation, and we devote a great deal of time and research to it. The objective of any Clorox Company advertisement is to provide the consumer with accurate, useful information about a product in a manner that makes the message memorable. On those rare occasions when there is disagreement about an advertisement's content or impact, we appreciate the feedback we may receive from our loyal consumers. Such feedback is always kept in mind when reviewing future advertising.

Again, thank you for contacting us.


Sherri Knight

Consumer Response Representative

Consumer Services

P.S. I'd like to add as a corollary, that the "real men" style of commercials can stop too. I would think men would also like to be respected as people and not just a gender... especially when "real men" are made out to be "real stupid".