Via Jezebel and The F-Word, a nauseating ad campaign from Bacardi (warning: link plays music and also destroys your soul) suggesting we all make ourselves feel prettier…by standing next to an “ugly girlfriend.” That concept right there tells you everything you need to know about what sexist assumptions underwrite these revolting ads: self-esteem is a zero-sum game; the key to feeling good is feeling pretty; you are always in competition with other women for male attention; standard beauty is the only way to be “hot;” women are commodities that you can “get” and trade; and so on. You know the drill; we’ve all been living it all our lives.
What the concept alone doesn’t tell you is what makes these particular women “ugly,” which is, as you can guess, that they each deviate from the beauty ideal in one or two ways. Remember, the following women are supposed to be self-evidently ugly.
This is how the patriarchy and the beauty ideal collude: we are supposed to see these women and be so stunned that they aren’t thin, white, blonde, able-bodied, and perfectly symmetrical that we can only call them ugly. We’re supposed to look at these pictures and say “At least I’m prettier than her.” We’re supposed to view our female friends as accessories in our true life goal, which is to look hot for men. There are hot women, and there are ugly women, and if you’re not the hottest woman in the room, you’re automatically the ugliest.
The appalling part of these ads is not the women; it’s the blatant misogyny. Once you take off your Patriarchy Blinders (patent pending), the charge of “ugly” doesn’t even begin to make sense. If you saw these pictures without any text surrounding them, what would you think of these women? Even with the pernicious text framing them as objects of derision, this ad doesn’t work on me: these women are straight-up pretty. Pretty, stylish, and flirty even. I guess they have some of that self-esteem that’s been going around lately.
Update: Sean-Patrick Hillman of bacardi.com comments below:
June 21, 2009
Thank you for taking the time to post your story regarding Bacardi Breezer.
The campaign you are referring to ran in 2008 for two months in Israel. Even though Bacardi Breezer is not sold or distributed in the United States, we immediately notified the appropriate Bacardi affiliate and had this website shut down.
Bacardi proudly celebrates diversity and we do not endorse the views of this site.
We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this site and thank you for bringing it to our attention.