Archive | shopping

underpants for the underage

I will not be the only blogger who writes about this latest “ooh aren’t we edgy” marketing campaign; there are bloggers with far bigger platforms than mine who will draw attention to the latest entry in the “How Low Will Corporations Go” sweepstakes.  You thought perhaps the JC Penney “I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother does it for me” shirt was lame, right?

Is your daughter too pretty to do her homework?

And I imagine you weren’t real happy about the fact that Abercrombie & Fitch had a campaign to sell padded swim-suit tops…to 8 year olds. Because really, let’s start training these girls early that it’s all about the boobs, girls, all about the boobs–and thus every swimsuit should, without a doubt, resemble a personal flotation device. (You’ll be happy to know that the company altered the description of the swimsuit top from “padded” to “lightly lined.” Which totally makes it okay.)

But now? Now we may have a winner in the Tastelessness Sweepstakes. I present to you the latest line of underwear being marketed by that bastion of tastelessness, Victoria’s Secret:

It’s a whole new line of undies that seem designed not so much in the “delicate unmentionable” category as they are in the what-the-fuck-were-you-thinking category.  Here’s another beauty:

Victoria's Secret: Pull "Bright Young Things" From Shelves

Couldn’t a gal just, you know, text some guy her number instead of dropping trou to present her request?

The undies are part of the new “Bright Young Things” line being launched as part of the VS PINK line; the ad campaign features scantily clad girls women frolicking in what are being billed as “Spring Break Must-Haves,” which is why I guess the collection also includes some fabulous beach towels, like this one:

At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old lady muttering into her hearing aid, I’d like to suggest that from meet to kiss there should be more than one step. It seems appropriate that a beach towel carries this message, which is about being utterly and completely passive: just recline and let things be done to you: be called, be met, be kissed, be pinked. It’s like the girl is some kind of puppy waiting to be adopted from the pound: like me like me like me, all tail-waggy and dewy-eyed. And let’s not even contemplate what “pink me”  means, shall we?

Oh I know, there we go again, we shrill humorless feminists, we mothers whose memories of youth vanished when we zipped up that first pair of comfy mom jeans. I mean, it’s just a towel, for god’s sake, it’s just a pair of underpants.  Reeeelaaaaaxxxx, right?

Or as this oh-so-clever article from E! Online (ever a reputable news source) says, “don’t get your panties in a twist.”  And here’s why we should all just chillax, according to the article:

Victoria’s Secret PINK is a brand for college-aged women,” the company said in a statement to E! News. “Despite recent rumors, we have no plans  to introduce a collection for younger women. Bright Young Things was a slogan used in conjunction with the college spring break tradition.”

So, in other words, they’re not trying to make teens too sexy before their time.

The misunderstanding originated when the company’s chief financial officer, Stuart Burgdoerfer, said at a conference, “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.”

The Bright Young Things just got caught up in the fray.

So no worries on the underpants front, folks, those sexy-pants messages are safe from your high school daughters.  Victoria’s Secret isn’t trying to turn 15 year old girls into sexy college students, absolutely not. I’m sure that store clerks will be carding their customers to ensure that no prepubescent lassie will be buying underwear that says “I Dare You.”

But hey, as “part of the magic,” I think that PINK should by all means encourage college girls women to emblazon sexual challenges on their scanties, and to splay themselves on beach towels that encourage objectification, passivity, and … pink-ing, whatever the hell that is.

Okay, sure, it’s just a stupid marketing gimmick and it’s just an overpriced pair of underpants that maybe don’t mean much. But the body that will wear those underpants? That body has meaning; that body has value.

Or at least, it should have value.  Unfortunately, the folks at Victoria’s Secret seem to have missed that point.

***

A petition to pull these pants off the shelves (as it were) is circulating the web; you can find the petition here.

Continue Reading · on March 26, 2013 in Feminism, Gender, growing up, Kids, Parenting, Politics, Products, ranting, sex, shopping, Uncategorized

a mall of contradictions

So I was at the mall.

I’m at the mall because “everything” is at the mall: grocery stores, bookstores (or at least stores that sell book-related products), the Walgreens-equivalent stores. These malls are vast echoey spaces designed to entertain: each mall has big toddler play areas; there are ice rinks, bowling alleys, fountains galore. In Dubai, there is a mall with a huge aquarium in it, and another designed around a series of canals, ala Venice.

The malls depress me, not only because I have to drive there but also because they are filled with chain stores, usually fair-conditioned to meat-locker levels, and because they celebrate consumerism as the pinnacle of civilization. (Now, granted, malls everywhere depress me, and for the same reasons; the Gulf doesn’t have the corner on garish displays of consumer culture. Mall of America anyone?)

Unlike Mall of America, though, the malls here offer a fashion parade of abaya style. I am fascinated by abayas, which is the word used here for the long black robe worn by Muslim women. The scarf covering the face is the niqab; the scarf that covers the hair and neck is the shayla, or, sometimes, the hijaab (but, confusingly, hijaab is also the word used to mean “modest,” and is thus sometimes the word used in a blanket fashion – yes, there’s a pun there somewhere – to mean “covering”).

Abayas in their plainest form are simply long black robes that sweep the floor.  Some women take hijaab to the utmost, adding black gloves and a full face veil, so that they are completely covered. I call this look the full beekeeper.  But – and this is where it gets complicated – I see women with abayas that look like a bedazzler has run amok.  Abayas with Swarovski crystals along the shoulders and down the back, like some kind of sparkly Hells’ Angels design; abayas with Louis Vuitton trim; abayas with spangled head scarves and peacock embroidery along the hemlines – abayas, in short, that are anything but “modest.”

I can imagine that for some women, a decorated abaya is a way to both follow “the rules,” and yet also assert personality – and status, because a custom abaya can cost thousands and thousands of dollars.

Abayas seem to me an embodiment of the complexity involved in being a modern woman in conservative Muslim country, and in the malls, easily half the women are wearing abayas – frequently abayas that I think of as “performance abayas:” abayas that are meant to be seen.

Here are three women wearing fairly subtle abayas:

Relatively modest.

There is another level of complexity, though, and it involves what’s under the abaya. The malls are full of shoe stores, and the shoe stores are full of women in abayas (some modest, some blazing with bling) – shoe love, it seems, is a universal female trait that crosses all national and ethnic boundaries.  I took pictures in three different stores of the shoes on display:

and these:

or perhaps these (note matching handbag):

I swear, if a hooker went to the prom, these would be her shoes.  Hijaab these definitely ain’t.

Wearing any kind of uniform forces secret, or semi-secret expressions of self to emerge. I just find it odd that hot pink, rhinestone studded platforms would be anyone’s form of expression, other than maybe Gwen Stefani or Madonna. But if we judge by good old-fashioned capitalism, these stores are stocking what their customers are buying…so someone is trip-trapping along in sparkly gold platform sling-backs under her modest black robe.

And I’m thinking that maybe I’ve already been here for too long because you know what? I think those pastel patent leather platform sandals are kind of cute, in a Japanese school-girl anime sort of way.  Just the thing for a day at the mall.

***

What’s that you say? You don’t want to go to the mall, you just want to get away from it all? Here are a few suggestions from none other than The Bloggess, Scary Mommy, The Momalog, WanderMom…and me! (And hell yes, being on a list with these writers sort of made my week…maybe my month!) Click here for the article from Travel and Leisure Online, a great source for travel ideas all over the world.

***

And if you are at the mall and you’re waiting for your kids to stop staring at the games in Electro-Land, then you should be spending your time reading yeahwrite – some of the best writing on the interwebs.  Read around, click around, then come back on Wednesday and spread some voting love. I’m using this great silver badge this week because it goes with the shoes. You know you want a pair. Just think what the other parents will think at the Saturday morning Little League games when you stroll up in your 10 inch sparkly platforms.

 

Continue Reading · on April 23, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Feminism, pop culture, shopping, UAE, What’s It Like?

walking in Jaipur

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  We’d just zipped through the City Palace in Jaipur–carvings, screens, gorgeous mosaics—and the Jantar Observatory was closed, so we thought: let’s just walk through the Johari Bazaar and then meet the taxi driver back at the City Palace parking lot (read: dusty square ringed with small food stands, flower stalls, dogs, cows, beggars).

The taxi driver (who spoke almost no English) said “sure? walking? sure? sure?” (Translation: “are you tourists out of your freaking gourds? walking through Johari Bazaar at rush hour? There are cows in the gutter smarter than you are!”) My Hindi is, um, nonexistent, so I nodded and smiled and nodded, “yes, yes, walking,” the driver and Husband exchanged cell phone numbers, and off we went, on foot, into the scrum.

Caleb’s seven-year-old eyes saw some of the poverty and dirt but mostly he saw only the adventure: look a goat! look a cow! look an elephant right there in the road!

The previous day, we’d been in Ranthambore, the tiny village outside the tiger preserve, where the poverty we’d seen had been, you know, picturesque: we’d been bumping along in an open jeep past roosters walking down dirt roads, pigs ambling along the sidewalks, half-dressed children tossing around a ball, small stone houses with tin roofs covered with ivy and bougainvillea.  Poverty…but pretty. The way tourists like their poverty.

But now we were in a city and the poverty was no longer just local color.  We used to live in New York, so homeless people on the subway or sleeping on park benches are, sadly, pretty typical sights.  My kids are aware (sort of) that not everyone has what they have.  What struck Liam was the sheer scale of what he was seeing: scores of kids begging, babies playing in the dirt, cows munching on garbage, flies everywhere. His grip on my hand got tighter and tighter—he couldn’t see the affluent residents of Jaipur whipping by on their motorbikes or in their tinted-window cars; he didn’t want to see the moon rising over the pink buildings:

he wasn’t amused by the decorations on the elephant wandering by:

or the statute of Ganesha tucked high above an arched passageway:

To get to the actual street of the bazaar you have to cross the traffic circle of death.  You think, oh, it’s just a street, I know how to cross a street. Except…there are no traffic lights, no crosswalks, and no traffic cops. There are, however, tour buses coming this way and tuk-tuks coming that way and motorbikes coming every which way and whoops there’s a taxi and shit there’s a rickshaw and whoa that’s a commuter bus and JUMP! the last two feet to the island in the middle of the circle in order to avoid a car swooping around the curve.

Caleb was scared but excited. He thought it was like a human video game.  Liam burst into tears. I THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO DIE. Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on November 23, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, expat, shopping, Travel

Ikea, i just can’t kwitya

We left New York in July with 12–TWELVE–suitcases in tow.  For a variety of reasons we decided not to ship any personal items and instead we took full advantage of our business class tickets, which allowed us each 3 checked bags, at 26 kilos each. If you’re flying business class, each suitcase can go up to 32 kilos, however, and they don’t charge you an overweight bag fee. It’s not fair but we were in no position to argue ethics with the flight crew: we needed every kilo of baggage we could get, and if that meant the people in steerage coach had to jettison their carefully considered gifts for folks back home, so be it. Dump ’em, baby, I’ve got fifteen pairs of shoes that must come to Abu Dhabi.

Of course, we got our comeuppance at the check-in desk, when two of our bags hit the “danger” weight of more than 32 kilos, and we had to scramble around to re-pack things, in front of all the real business class travelers, in their Chanel cashmere wraps and slim titanium rolling bags.  Nothing like having to re-pack, in public, on the floor of the airport, at 5 in the morning after being up most of the night to really start a trip off on the right foot.

Whatever. We got here. Bought ourselves a little suitcase-weighing gadget and before we left London for Abu Dhabi, we weighed each bag with the kind of attention drug dealers give to parceling out cocaine.

And what, you ask, was in all those bags? Well, clothes. Tablecloths. Vitamins. Shoes. Stuffed animals. Soccer cleats. Deflated soccer balls. A beautiful set of measuring spoons that someone gave us for our wedding. A blu-ray player. A wii. Books. Markers. Shampoo. Pure maple syrup (which is impossible expensive here).

And this:

Yes. That is in fact an entire duffel bag full of legos. And not a small duffel bag, I might add.

When we got to Abu Dhabi, that duffel bag translated to this:

Piles of ziploc bags, each containing fistful after fistful of lego, have been piled along the far wall in the boys’ bedroom for two months, ever since that duffel bag got upended the day after we arrived.

Last week we went to Mecca Ikea. Say what you will about that place, in Abu Dhabi, if you aren’t Emiratirich, it’s pretty much the only show in town. We visit friends in this building or elsewhere and it’s “Oh, you got the Expedit in brown. We have it in white.” Or “we looked for that table, but it was out of stock.” We’re all on a first-name basis with the innards of the Swedish flat-box store. (There’s a very funny article about Ikea in the New Yorker last week, or maybe it was two weeks ago. Or maybe last month, who can be sure).

We ordered enough stuff that we got delivery and assembly minions included (alas, you have to give the minions back). They came today and in addition to a sleeper sofa (now we can have overnight guests! If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood of Arabia, stop on by!), we got various shelves and boxes, and this:

I think it’s actually called Trofast, but I prefer “lego wrangler.” Put one of those little circles over the “o” in lego and you’re all set. See? Tidy, color-coded (because god forbid Liam’s pieces should mix with Caleb’s pieces), and not on the floor.  Anyone who has ever stepped on a lego knows that the “not on the floor” part is key.

And that is why I keep going back to Ikea. It’s not great furniture, but I need the bins.

Continue Reading · on October 8, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, legos, moving, shopping

Pork

People here speak English.They also speak Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Tagalog, Gujerati, and god knows what else.  Most of the cab drivers here speak better English than the cabbies in New York.  On the one hand, yay! Everyone should speak English, shouldn’t they? I mean, shouldn’t there be a law or something? And then, of course, on the other hand, we earnest expats wonder where we will find the “real” Abu Dhabians?

The city seems a bit like Los Angeles or NYC  in that almost everyone here is from somewhere else…and the people who are really “from” here are very hard to find.  Plus that, when you leave the downtown area, where we live, the neighborhoods look like any swanky nabe, anywhere: walled villas set back from the road, green grass (green!), expensive shops and car dealerships: BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Ferrari.

On my way to Spinneys (a British grocery store), the cab drove through one such Al Swankia neighborhood and for a moment I could have been in Beverly Hills.  When I walked into the grocery store, the illusion of Western life persisted: orderly aisles, food from Waitrose, rows of Campbell’s Soup, Betty Crocker pancake mix, frozen pizzas, organic frozen vegetables.  All very Whole Foodsy (with prices to match), all very familiar.

And then…this:

THE PORK ROOM!

Behind sliding glass doors, at the back of the store, a section of the grocery store set aside for us pork-eaters. In this room you’ll find porky happiness: babyback ribs, pork chops, and bacon, which comes with a sort of Surgeon General’s warning:

I wonder: what would constitute “pork for Muslims?”

Also in the pork room? Wee packets of pork scratchings, which I think are what George Bush the First liked to eat, yes? Pork Rinds? (Ah, the Bushies. What a classy group.)  The pork room also held shelves of Pop Tarts, that lard-based breakfast of champions. Should we call them Pork Tarts from now on?  (And yes, yes, I confess, if the box hadn’t been almost eight bucks, I would’ve brought some home. I loves me some Pop Tarts. )

Pork, it seems, resides in unexpected places. For instance, in seafood:

So yeah, everyone here seems to speak English, and yeah, there’s a Baskin-Robbins two doors down from our building, but squid balls and the pork room remind me that we’re a long, long way from home.

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Continue Reading · on August 18, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, expat, food, lost in translation, NYC, shopping, Travel, UAE

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