Breguet watches are extremely expensive luxury products; I found them for sale online starting at $11,000 and going up to $235,060 (on sale–$51,000 off!). I saw this ad for them in The New Yorker (where else?) and thought it was interesting how the company evokes a certain class sensibility by highlighting a flattering reference to Breguet written by an Important Literary Figure (Pushkin):

It’s also kind of interesting that the company clearly did not think their image would be damaged by the statement that the watch was worn by a “dandy,” a term often used to imply a man is overly feminine (though how negative the term is varies; recently, some hip hop stars like Andre 3000 of Outcast have adopted the term “dandy” and used it in a positive sense to indicate a man who is stylish and well-dressed, but without the negative implications of being effete).

I went to the Breguet website and read a bit about the watches. Each one has a “secret signature” and an individual number to guard against forgery. One section of the website is dedicated to “celebrated patrons”:

The House of Breguet was privileged to create timepieces for the diplomatic, scientific, military and financial elite. Among its clients, Queen Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Talleyrand, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Caroline Murat, Tsar Alexander I of Russia, Queen Victoria, Sir Winston Churchill and Arthur Rubinstein who put their confidence in the taste and artistry of Breguet.

There is also a section on “Breguet in Literature”:

The number of references to Breguet watches in French and foreign literature is an indication of the remarkable reputation enjoyed by both the firm and its founder. Breguet is now so deeply rooted in European culture that the name is virtually a sine qua non of any depiction of the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie or, quite simply, a life of luxury and elegance. Stendhal, Mérimée, Pushkin, Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, Thackeray and Victor Hugo are only some of the writers who have made reference to Breguet in their works…

The ad might be useful for a discussion of social class and the way “class” is often used not just to indicate a level of income, but as a personal characteristic: you “have class” or are “classy” if you like the particular things, speak and dress a certain way, etc. Here we see a connection between wealth, an appreciation for (French and foreign!) literature, an affinity for aristocratic figures who recognized “taste and artistry,” and a particular (extremely expensive) product that connects you to those ideas and symbolizes “luxury and elegance.” By wearing a Breguet watch, you’re associating yourself with all those indicators of classiness and status…in addition to screaming, “I’m rich enough to wear a quarter of a million dollars on my wrist,” of course.

Samantha J. brought me two brochures she saw at a doctor’s office the other day, one for Botox Cosmetic and one for Restylane. Here is the front cover of the Botox pamphlet:

I had seen the (ironic) “Freedom of Expression” tagline before (see here and here). But I hadn’t previously seen the “Men and women of all skin colors and ethnicities are enjoying the freedom!” line.

Here are two images found side-by-side inside the brochure:

Notice the text under the question “Who is being treated with BOTOX Cosmetic?”

Men and women of varying ethnicities have been treated with BOTOX Cosmetic. Because it works only on the underlying muscles, it is not expected to affect skin color.

I had no idea there was any concern that Botox might affect skin color. Anyway, apparently Botox is making an active effort to market to “varying ethnicities,” represented in the brochure as White and Black.

Here are three pages from the Restylane pamphlet, all answering the question, “Why do I use Restylane?”

“To look good…even in fluorescent lighting!”

“To lose these wrinkles…and my inhibitions!” (Which apparently means riding a mechanical bull.)

“To hide my real age…because he thinks I’m younger than I am!”

Honestly, those last two sound like parodies of how these procedures would be marketed. I don’t know which one creeps me out more: the connection between getting Restylane and being freed of inhibitions, or the complete normalization of the idea that a woman should lie to a man about how old she is (because what could make for a happier relationship than lying?) and spend money to keep him from finding out the truth, and that if he found out, he presumably wouldn’t love her anymore…not because she lied, but because she’s too old.

Apparently Restylane is not used by people of varying ethnicities, because everyone in the pamphlet is White.

I also think it’s really creepy that these brochures were available at a doctor’s office.

Thanks, Samantha!

In her book The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls, Joan Jacobs Brumberg has a chaptered titled “Perfect Skin” in which she looks at the rise of acne as a significant concern among adolescent girls. Because pimples and blackheads were believed by some people to be a sign of immorality–masturbation, lascivious thoughts, or promiscuity–both teenagers and their parents were quite distressed at the appearance of teen acne. Though teens had long been concerned about their appearances, the widespread use of mirrors in bathrooms starting in the Victorian Era gave them many more opportunities to examine their faces and find themselves lacking. And girls tended to be more concerned about their faces than boys, perhaps because girls were judged more harshly for any perceived sexual immorality. A whole industry arose to sell generally useless products to teens, particularly girls, to cure their acne.

Marketers for soap and other products used concerns about morality in their ads. Here is an ad for Hand Sapolio, a popular soap in the early 1900s (found in a 1906 issue of McClure’s Magazine):

Notice how the text in the top box mentions that cosmetics, which might be used to cover pimples, were being “inveighed against from the very pulpits,” meaning good moral girls couldn’t use cosmetics to hide their acne. Also I like how the title (“Be Fair to Your Skin, and It Will Be Fair to You–and to Others”) implies that if you aren’t fair to your skin, it is going to do something dreadful to the people around you…presumably busting out into a hideous display of pimples that will pain people to look upon.

I zoomed in and did a couple of smaller screen captures of some sections of the text that also stress morality or “goodness”:

Be clean, both in and out. We cannot undertake the former task–that lies with yourself–but the latter we can aid with HAND SAPOLIO.

This section of text makes it clear that good skin is essential for popularity, at least among the “best” people:

This Hand Sapolio ad (from a 1903 issue of New England Magazine), sums it up:

The first step away from self-respect is lack of care in personal cleanliness: the first move in building up a proper pride in man, woman, or child, is a visit to the Bathtub. You can’t be healthy, or pretty, or even good, unless you are clean. HAND SAPOLIO is a true missionary.

So there we see a connection being made between having good skin and being “good,” which means that, like missionaries who help save heathens, Hand Sapolio is a “missionary” spreading moral goodness and self-respect. Because what could build up self-respect more than being told that if you have less than perfectly clean skin, you can’t be pretty or good?

These could be useful for discussions of how physical appearances were steadily connected to ideas of morality and how biological processes, like getting pimples in adolescence, were turned into diseases that required (often expensive) intervention to “cure.” They could also be good for a discussion of marketing, particularly how ideas of morality were tied to particular products, such that goodness was commodified–by buying the item, you were buying goodness.

My race and ethnicity class is discussing American Indian team mascots today, so I thought I’d put up some images of a few. There are many, many more than what I have here (think of every high school with teams called the Redskins), but these are some of the most often discussed.

This is the logo (found here) of the University of Illinois’s sports teams, the Fighting Illini, named after the Illini tribe (really a confederation of tribes such as the Peoria) originally inhabiting the area:

Each year a student is chosen to represent Chief Illini at sports events. The student wears what is described as “traditional” Indian clothing and until recently performed dance routines that have nothing whatsoever in common with anything I’ve ever seen at a powwow. Here is a student dressed up as Chief Illini (found here):

I found this video on youtube of Chief Illini’s “last dance,” meaning his last performance at an official NCAA-sponsored sporting event:

Last I heard the University of Illinois bowed to decades of pressure and has retired the embodiment of the mascot. They apparently no longer have a Chief Illini (a man who dresses up like an American Indian and jumps around), but they have retained the “Fighting Illini” language.

UPDATE: Not so fast.  Resist Racism has a great summary of how the University is keeping Chief Illini around even after retiring him.

The University of North Dakota’s mascot is the Fighting Sioux (found here):

Florida State’s teams are the Seminoles; here is a student representing the team at a game (found here):

Here is the Florida State NCAA logo (found here):

This is the original Chief Wahoo, the mascot for the Cleveland Indians (found at Wikipedia). According to Wikipedia, it was used from 1946 to about 1950.

Here is the updated Chief Wahoo (found here):

A quote from the Wikipedia entry on Chief Wahoo:

According to polling results published in Sports Illustrated, “Although most Native American activists and tribal leaders consider Indian team names and mascots offensive, neither Native Americans in general nor a cross section of U.S. sports fans agree.”[9] According to the article, “There is a near total disconnect between Indian activists and the Native American population on this issue.”[9]However, the results of the poll have been criticized due to Sport’s Illustrated’s refusal to provide polling information (i.e. how participants were recruited and contacted, if they were concentrated in one region, if one ethnic group is over represented and the exact wording and order of questions).[10]

Here is a link to an article by King et al. discussing both the discourse in and the methodology of the Sports Illustrated article (in the March 4, 2002 issue).

Here is a website with lots of cartoons related to the issue of American Indian mascots, and the documentary “In Whose Honor?” looks at the protests surrounding Chief Illini.

The February 2004 issue of Journal of Sport & Social Issues (vol. 28 issue 1) has several very good articles about American Indian mascots that I’ve used in both race and sport classes when we talk about the continued use of caricatures and other portrayals of American Indians and why they are viewed differently than, say, an old Mammie-type image of African Americans. We also always discuss discourses surrounding American Indian mascots, particularly the idea that they honor or respect American Indians, and the selective use of certain American Indian voices to invalidate critiques of Indian mascots. Who gets to be Indian for the purposes of speaking about whether or not Indians resent the mascots? Why do non-Indians feel a special attachment to, and often identify with, these images? Does it really matter whether or not most American Indians personally oppose the mascots–is that the issue here?

The Sports Illustrated article could also be good for a discussion of methodology and the scientific method; the fact that the magazine would not release information on their methodology violates the very spirit of scientific inquiry (the ability to replicate others’ work to check its validity, as well as open sharing of information).

For other examples of the use of images of American Indians, see here and here.

This cartoon suggests that the idea that these mascots are a way of honoring American Indians is pretty absurd.

NEW! Brady P. sent in this image that questions why American Indian mascots are acceptable when most people would define the mascots that caricature other groups as patently offensive:


Of course, there is a Dutch soccer team called The Jews.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Amanda B.-P. sent in this Coke ad that illustrates the idea of consumption as activism (that is, you can be an activist simply by buying things). The ad tells you that every time you buy a Coke you’re supporting both the Olympics and Special Olympics.

The Coca-Cola company issued a press release titled “New Advertising Shows that Nothing Brings People Together Like the Olympic Games and Coca-Cola.Olympic-Themed Ads Invite People to ‘Connect with the World Over a Coke’.”

For other examples of consumption as activism, see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Thanks, Amanda!

On an unrelated note, Lisa’s off doing crazy stuff again, so you’re stuck with lots of posts from me for a week or so. Sorry.

The ever-awesome Elizabeth, of Blog of Stench, sent in this image of a reusable shopping bag (found here):

Elizabeth says this “conspicuous, confrontational environmentalism” annoys her,

…because its point is not just to “save a tree,” but also to “look fashionable while doing it” [quote from]. I have a problem with pro forma environmentalism where the appearance of environmentalism matters more than actual actions, as is the case with this bag. The text on the bag equates “saving the planet” with using this particular bag or, by extension, making a show of one’s environmentalism. Furthermore and much more problematically, the implied contrast between the owner who is “saving the planet” and the audience who is being interrogated suggests that the audience is not doing anything to save the planet. The audience may be doing environmentally conscious activities in other areas of life; or the audience may have mitigating factors that prevent them from spending extra money in order to flaunt their environmentalism like white urban bourgeois hipsters.

For another example of environmentalism as fashion statement, see this post.

Thanks, Elizabeth!

Zach W. sent in this Mini Cooper ad (found here) that talks about the car’s “carfun footprint,” which is “a measure of how fun your car is versus how much impact it has on the environment”:

Clearly it’s awesome if car manufacturers are realizing they actually have to address the environmental aspects of their cars, but what grabbed my attention is that in the main text it says the Mini gets 37 mpg, but when you read the fine print at the bottom, you find out that in town it’s 28 mpg, and that’s the hard-top manual transmission Mini. According to this article, the convertible gets 30-32 mpg on the highway, and Yahoo’s autos page shows them getting in the low-20s per gallon in-town. As a Honda Civic driver, that doesn’t strike me as much to brag about, really. I mean, ok, yes, better than the Mercury my grandma bought last year, but still. (Note: I think my grandma is the last person on earth to buy a Mercury.)

Thanks, Zach!

NEW: Claire T. sent in this ad for o.b. tampons (found at Science Daily):

I think when even tampons are being advertised as environmentally-friendly, we can safely say that the idea of being eco-conscious is becoming fairly mainstream (though that, of course, means little about how people actually act).

Thanks, Claire!

Certain consumption choices have become badges of environmental consciousness, often to the exclusion of encouraging people to engage in other, less obvious lifestyle changes like, you know…maybe not buying so much stuff.

This tote bag, designed by a British activist group, came out last summer and became a fashion accessory:

According to this story from Time (which is also where I found the image),

…the bag was first introduced in Great Britain in April —Keira Knightley, Alicia Silverstone and singer Lily Allen were photographed carrying it, fashion magazines jumped on the trend, it was part of the Oscar swag, and before the bags hit the country’s Sainsbury grocery shops, supposed to be its primary retailer, a fanatic fashion following had taken root. The bags sold out immediately, with many turning up on eBay for hundreds of dollars. When 20,000 were released at 450 supermarkets across England, women got in line at 2 a.m. and had snapped up all of them by 9 a.m.

Soon enough, the controversy erupted…The Evening Standard revealed that the so-called green carriers were made in China, using cheap labor, and that the bag was neither organic nor fair trade.

Hindmarch responded that the message of We Are What We Do is that by changing the small things you do in everyday life you can make a large difference. Her company, she said, worked with a reputable supplier in China whose workers are paid double the minimum wage and that complies with Chinese Labor Law. And the bags were shipped by sea, and carbon credits were purchased to offset the environmental impact of production and transport.

Click here to watch a 1 1/2 minute segment about Dr. Matlock and vaginoplasty.  It’s TOTALLY SURREAL.  (And not safe for work.)

Also, and this drives me crazy, the proper term is “vulva,” not “vagina.”  To call the whole thing a vagina reduces women’s genitals to where the penis goes in/baby comes out.  There is a lot more going on down there! 

I blame you, Vagina Monologues.