Cold comfort for feminists
I am currently sitting in my favourite salon being worked on from head to toe….these days, it takes just that little bit more maintenance to look this gorgeous. Now, I doubt that many of today’s post-feminists will see this as a particularly liberating activity, but I am lucky enough to be able to afford to spend time on myself, and it is my choice to do so. The whole point of the ‘feminism is dead’ argument over the last couple of decades has been to insist that gender equality is enshrined in law, and that women no longer need to be demonstrably bra-less dungaree wearing harpies in order to believe that the sexes deserve equal respect, equal pay and equal access to body grooming facilities.
Last night’s episode of Downton Abbey was a glamourised reminder of the days when husband-less women had to be workers, widows or wantons. Enjoyable escapism and a window on a world long past.
Cue the break, an advertisement for fabric conditioner, and the sort of pseudo-scientific rubbish that could only be aimed at the ditsy unemancipated woman that the creative team at Unilever imagines is still central to a domestic world of perfect linen and high standards.
Picture this. An animated male fabric doll bursts through a door and declares that his female partner looks gorgeous. Ignoring the hard truth that in Real Life this would probably mean that he was drunk, feeling randy or possibly both, his fabric doll woman twinkles sexily and points out that the ‘Pro-White Illumina Technology’ of her new fabric conditioner with ‘Anti-Fade’ has restored her complexion to its former radiance. Now, it certainly would be simpler and cheaper for my beautician to dump me in a vat of Comfort if it meant that I was going to come out of it a lot less faded and softer to boot, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon. And why is it the woman who has to extol the magical properties of her new fabric conditioner? I wouldn’t mind if the male who burst so unconvincingly into the scene was looking a bit grey in the face, with distinctly over stuffed middle or frayed edges, but instead his stripes are as sharp as ever. Clearly, she’s already done his laundry or he’s been seeking Comfort elsewhere. Then, the emotion peaks as he delivers his verdict: ‘Now we are all happy!”. Really? Fabric conditioner can transform your moody teen, troublesome twins and faded wife into one happy family unit again? As I said, it would be a lot easier to whizz down to the supermarket than sit here with bacofoil on my head.
A century after the Victorians’ penchant for Miracle Cures, Efficacious Linaments and Wondrous Household Devices vanished for good, is it too much to expect that advertising agencies come up with a creative brief that avoids the sort of sexist rubbish that sells fabric conditioner to women with a load of scientific window dressing and a reminder of their sacred domestic responsibility to avoid greying and fading at all costs?
Now I am happily avoiding greying and fading, but that’s my choice. And not a washing machine in sight.. Mind you, I may yet have to find a new bra to burn…