Earlier today, while performing some rigorous online research on various Mad Men images, I stumbled upon this vintage MaidenForm advertisement. Overall, I find the aesthetic endearing and obviously nostalgic, both a veritable, intrinsic nostalgia for my direct childhood and a sort of assumed nostalgia for an imagined childhood in which one did play with paper dolls, affixing on their dresses and accessories with square tags. Simultaneously, I cannot help but examine this with a sharp first wave blended with second wave feminist lens, in which this cheeky tag and endearing, subtly alluring image contributes to popular public discourse objectifying the female body, enforcing a feminine ideal, propagating an obligation to the domestic realm, and suggesting an inherent single dimension to the female brain. This type of analysis is both obvious and general, I admit. Whether this was a successful campaign in targeting a key demographic in the market, housewives and professional women who wear underclothes, a predominance of the female population, it is difficult for me to assess, personally, having clearly not lived in that era and participated in that flavor of public consciousness. I cannot remove myself from the layers of evolving discourse and historical, political, and cultural events that lay between my life and the first appearance of this piece.
Today, when what are construed to be traditional gender roles and stereotypes, at least by Western standards, are manipulated in promotional campaigns, there is often an outcry. Despite media magnification of this type of denunciation, I do often wonder: what is the result in terms of sales? What are the grander market forces, beyond the image with accompanying words on the page or on the screen? There are creators for these campaigns, violent thrusts for these campaigns, because there is an audience, loud and hungry and powerful, willing to listen, or, perhaps more dangerously, unwilling to question what they feed upon.
(image taken from The Beauty Perspective)