As a blogger, I get my fair share of inane press releases landing in my inbox – from greetings with gender identity problems (“Dear Sir/ Madam”) to those that sidestep the problem of my having a name by beginning with the all-encompassing “hello there!” That’s just the opening though, the prelude to whichever product I’m about to be convinced will change my life – or at least my wardrobe.
I understand the necessity for these emails – they’re informative for those in the business of selling or writing about the shiniest, newest, most up-and-coming handbags out there. And, on occasion, these releases can be interesting. Sometimes a work or particular design catches my attention, and I’m tempted to follow it up - some things are worth celebrating. However, the majority of press releases get little more than a cursory glance and a flick of the delete button. I’m wondering if a new category of response should be created though, devoted to those so awful I spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about them. These are the emails that raise hackles when clicked on; the message somehow designed to ensure that I have to sit on my hands to stop me responding rudely.
A slight shiver of these hackles – a minor gnat of an irritation – was raised with an email earlier this week titled ‘New Feminist’. I was excited. Perhaps someone had read about my fascination with feminism, and thought I might be interested in a new publication or website – maybe it was going to be absorbing, interesting, thought-provoking (the mind runs away). Instead, I was greeted with a press release for a range of bags and shoes that were a contemporary take on the 1950s femme fatale figure (I paraphrase). The words feminist and feminine were thought interchangeable throughout, as though Betty Friedan was nothing but a twinkle in the eye of the struggle for equality. It’s a relatively minor annoyance – and there’s nothing wrong in a bit of Mad Men style dress up (although I’m not sure how Betty or Joan would feel about the shiny Mock-Crock accessories) – but I just felt the word was misplaced and pretty misinformed.
However, the next email that convinced me that I was living in a parallel universe where feminism never happened was the one titled ‘5 lingerie styles men adore’. My first response was to wonder whether my inbox had been mistaken for the Cosmo press office. My second was to wonder what these five styles actually were. Assembled by an expert who knows what men “love seeing there (sic) girls in”, I read through the suggestions with a rising sense of horror. My God, I had never worn a red lace bra underneath a white tee so that guys could see this “hot colour peeking through”. That was where I was going wrong! And never had I thought to pair a bustier with a high-waisted skirt on a night out so that “guys know what they might be getting”. It was also beyond me to have realized that a see-through, key-hole nightie in black lace was a “dream come true” for the man in my life.
Well, the man in my life doesn’t exist (hasn’t ever done yet – plenty of time for that though), so I wasn’t exactly the target audience for this press release, complete with its assumptions that one needs only don a leopard-print thong to fulfill the wildest fantasies. But I don’t need a boyfriend to know the worth of good underwear – Caitlin Moran writes a whole little ode to it in ‘How to Be a Woman’, finishing with the statement: “Oh, if only the world knew how amazing we look, underneath all these clothes”. Lingerie can be amazing and confidence-enhancing and very, very sexy. Do you know what isn’t sexy though? Calling women “girls” whose every decision is tailored towards what their “men” are going to find hot. Assuming that all women (sorry, girls) are desperate to show men what they might “get” if they’re lucky. Underwear designs that look so flammable one would be afraid of the smallest spark, and so uncomfortable that all the models have rictus-grins.
But wait – there’s light at the end of the tunnel! This particular stylist is asking for additional tips on lingerie styles. Not sure whether she would publish my suggestions of “Something very nice in silk that the woman feels sensual and thrush-free in” or “A lovely pair of knickers by ethical company ‘Who Made Your Pants’ – each pair described as ‘a little bit of gorgeous, just for you, every day’”. Because that’s who underwear should ultimately be for – you. If you’re not enjoying what you’ve got on, then it’s not worth it. Perhaps we need some more suggestions – a bevy of ‘Alternative Underwear’ ideas and observations on what women feel good in, rather than what men “adore”.