I Dreamed I Was In A Bra Ad in My Maidenform Bra


Lydia Sargent

 

Gals, there is a controversy
raging here at Hotel Satire. It’s terrible. Mom gals
aren’t speaking to daughter gals and vice verse. Gals
who have been friends for years now won’t visit or even
phone.

What, you ask, has caused such
dissension? I’m so upset over the whole thing that
I’m hesitant to talk about it in this column. I can say
that it’s not about that much-talked about second
lieutenant (the nation’s first gal B-2 bomber pilot) gal
who’s trying to get an honorable discharge, instead of
being court-martialed, after committing (a) adultery—she
has sex with a civilian who told her he was separated; (b)
fraternizing—she had sex with an enlisted man. It’s
true this is disgusting and she should be shot, frankly. She
should be shot for having premarital sex and for being a B-2
bomber pilot.

But the gals here all agree on
this issue: gals can be in the military as long as they are
there to service guys (preferably for free, or very low pay).
Otherwise, gals should not be in the service, but should be
servicing (in any way they can, if you catch my drift).
That’s it, case closed.

We are also not arguing over a
recent newspaper report about a raging debate over a Peruvian
law that exonerates a rapist if he offers to marry the gal
victim, and she accepts. The case in question involved a
group of drunken men in their 20s who raped a 17 year old
girl who was on her way home from work in Lima. Her father
and brothers tracked down the three men. The father wanted to
kill them. Her brother wanted to beat them. She wanted to
press charges. But when one of the rapists offered to marry
her, her family pressure her to accept and she finally
yielded after being threatened by the men who had raped her.
(NYT, March 7) It’s an incredible story. But we are not
fighting over that one. We all agree that the gal should not
have been walking home from work; hence she deserved what she
got. In fact, we feel it worked out so well for the gal, that
we suspect she planned the whole thing in order to catch a
husband. End of discussion; case dismissed.

We are also not fighting about
the news that a Baptist church in Little Rock, Arkansas
closed its day care center, saying that working mothers
neglect their children, damage their marriages, and set a bad
example. In a letter to the parents, the First Baptist Church
said that families could get by on one salary if they went
without such luxuries as "big TVs, a microwave, new
clothes, eating out, and nice vacations." (Boston Globe)
Is there really any need for discussion here? Gals can be
part of the church and the working world as long as they are
their to service guys for little or no pay. That’s in
the Bible somewhere, so let’s put this argument to rest,
once and for all.

We are also not in dispute
over the controversial new magazine for gals from the
publishers of Sports Illustrated. The magazine,
womensport, has a pregnant basketball player on the
cover of the premiere issue, and such feature articles as
"Are Young Girls Safe: The Coach as Sexual
Predator," and "Why I Fell For Grant Hill,"
plus "Tonya and Nancy." The Hotel gals agree that
gals can play a sport as long as they look pretty doing it,
don’t interfere with guys needs in the process, and as
long as no contact is involved (as this can cause lesbianism
to occur).

No, the thing that has us
fussing and fighting here at the Hotel, is over
whether—dare I say it out loud?—the new Maidenform
Bra ads are: (a) better than the old ones from the 50s, or
(b) a feminist lesbian plot. As many of you older gals may
recall, the most famous Maidenform campaign, that ran from
1949 to 1969, depicted gals enacting fantasies of
accomplishment and purpose, i.e., gals who stopped traffic,
or starred on television, while proudly showing off their
Maidenform bras. These ads, say our Hotel gals who favor
them, are excellent because they show gals doing important
things—in their dreams, and in their underwear. Another
group argues the superiority of the earlier ads because the
Maidenform bras were pointed, hence gals’ Maidenform
breasts bore no resemblance whatsoever to reality, but rather
served to please men, which, as we’ve stated above,
should be what gals are all about.

The new Maidenform ad
campaign, "Maidenform Unhooked," with a budget of
$5 million, will be part of an elaborate effort to create a
less formal, more contemporary image for Maidenform. The
goals are twofold: infusing the brand identity with a persona
that will be perceived as "liberating but not
lubricious, and reflecting the significant changes in
consumer life styles without being prurient or prudish. And
those attempts at change must be achieved without alienating
current customers." (NYT, March 12) Says, Susan
Malinowski, vice president of marketing at Maidenform,
"Our research found that women have changed a great deal
in terms of how they feel about themselves… They said
they’re expressing themselves in a freer, sexier, more
fashionable way that needs to be in a way they feel
comfortable and safe." Rosemarie Ryan, president at
Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners ad agency, said that research
also disclosed that "because women now play a lot of
very different roles—mother, wife, soccer mom, lover,
employer—sometimes they want to take time out to be a
woman and have some fun." So the unhooked ads feature a
rainbow coalition of gals posing in their bras, unhooking
their bras, and out of their bras (and wearing only sarongs
with their bras) next to statements like "Most men
don’t notice my eyes are hazel" and "No one
lays a hand on them without loving me first" and
"they crave passion" and "They changed before
the baby, and after. I wonder what they’ll do for an
encore" and "The way my husband looks at me,
you’d think I was twenty."

Naturally, the younger gals at
Hotel Satire love these ads because they reduce gals to their
essence, which is the bra. Second, they really agree that
"they want to take time out to be a woman and have some
fun" And what, they claim, could be more fun than to
constantly try on their many bras, hooking and unhooking them
at will, taking different poses and so forth, in hopes that
some guy will fall in love and lay a hand on
"them." They also point out that the ads don’t
really violate the Hotel Satire gal proviso that gals’
purpose is to service guys for little or no pay. The gals who
hate these new ads point out that although these unhooked
gals do seem ready to service guys, they are looking too damn
liberated about it (i.e., too aggressively sexual, as if they
might actually enjoy having their breasts fondled, etc.) They
also say that the slogan "unhooked" is a good one,
that it doesn’t mean gals are liberated, radical
lesbians. Rather , it suggests that gals must spend most of
their waking moments checking to see if their bras are
fastened or unfastened or just what is going on back there
(or down there, for those with the front hooking bra).

I have stayed out of this
controversy. Not that I don’t agree it is the most
important question of the day. I do. But I have become
obsessed with another ad campaign. Perhaps you’ve seen
it. A woman is shown, smoking a cigar, with a bottle of Jim
Beam on the page opposite. The caption reads "Get in
touch with your masculine side." Can anything be more
terrible, more destructive to Hotel Satire agenda? Soon the
ads will be depicting gals flying B-2 bombers in their new
1990s style bras, or demanding day care centers in Baptist
churches in their Maidenforms, or even prosecuting their
well-meaning rapists, while posing in a lacy bra, to suggest
"they crave passion."

They may start protesting the
wearing of bras altogether. I can see the ads now: gals in
protesting the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, proudly
showing off their Maidenform bras, with the caption: "I
dreamed I burned my bra at the Miss America pageant, in my
Maidenform bra."