Title Nine has a mission.
And a marketing strategy. They’re not the same thing. The About Us page on the women’s bra and sportswear site reads like this:
TITLE IX: WHAT’S IN A NAME? Title IX is a landmark federal civil rights law that requires gender equality in all aspects of publicly-funded education.
IN PRAISE OF DIFFICULT WOMEN As business and community leaders, we are all confronted with hard decisions, decisions that further the good of the group but will inevitably make some unhappy. While men are usually “courageous” when they make these tough decisions, women are often labeled “difficult.”
WE know that we are courageous, but if we want to succeed as leaders in our work, our families and our communities, we must also face up to the “difficult” label, re-purpose it, make it our own. *
*At our home office, our list of “difficult” women stands as a full-wall graphic to remind us all that being difficult means getting s*** done.
I live in a community of accomplished women athletes. My creative partner and homegirl is one of them. I am not one of them, although I love me a river trail walk and Powell Butte push as much as the next Bendite. There’s no logical reason why I get the Title Nine catalogue. I have never purchased a swim suit or a bra from the company, and feel a general sense of lethargy and inadequacy when I look at the “real” models with “day jobs,” aka the physicists/Olympic kayakers/silks dancers/moms who dare to bare their six packs and call them “bellies” (the copy said one of the “models” was even pregnant at the shoot!! Can you tell which one?! Here’s a hint: Fuck no, you can’t. And there will be no asterisk censoring here.)
OK, so, WTF?
So Title Nine is about superwomen and the women who aspire to be them, and have the money to pursue their aspirations. The descriptive copy for individual products, however, has me confused. Is empowerment for women a mission for Title Nine, or just a hobby? Or worse, is it merely a cynical branding technique? Here’s why I ask: the following copy describes bras, and arrived in my house uninvited, where my sixteen-year-old daughter or anybody could read it:
Big House Underwire Sports Bra When it’s time to put the girls on lockdown, this bra gives the tatas their own individual “holding cells.”
Halfway House Underwire Bra A halfway house for bra wearers who want the twins to spend some time apart but can’t kick the sports bra habit.
There’s another one that suggests the consumer “put the girls in their place.” I can’t verify which product it was, because I think I sleep-burned the catalogue, and every bra in it.
Language is Power
I won’t even elaborate. Let’s just get to it. This is old, offensive language, or it is language that is callously appropriated, or it is just plain insensitive and mean, or it is all of the above FOR THE PURPOSE OF SELLING BRAS. This is an excellent example of why advertising, and marketing, gets the scumbag rap. Only Title Nine is presumably not the product of mad men, but of empowered women.
Why, then, is the language so bloodless, flaccid, and utterly without that fresh feeling? I can hear the wee patriarchal voices in my own head now: Where’s your sense of humor? We’re just joking! Or, maybe, as Title Nine itself avers: “…we must also face up to the “difficult” label, re-purpose it, make it our own. *”
What seems to be difficult is finding original and empowering language that doesn’t belittle or outright deny the epic difficulties women in this country are facing vis-à-vis incarceration, drug addiction, and gun violence. Did I mention the bra entitled “Date Lace”? Clever, huh?
Suffering is real, need is great
From The Sentencing Project:
Women now comprise a larger proportion of the prison population than ever before; the female prison population stands nearly eight times higher than its population count in 1980. More than 60% of women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18.1. Between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700%, rising from a total of 26,378 in 1980 to 215,332 in 2014.
“Where there are more guns, more women die”: A Harvard public health expert breaks down the data on firearms and women’s safety.
From The Meth Action Coalition of Deschutes County:
10+ Clean and Sober Housing Options.
So, Title Nine, what and whom are you supporting, exactly? You got a blog: “The B-Word Blog, Where bad-ass ladies and bossy broads unite.” The Center for Reproduction Rights says more than 37 million women in 33 states are at risk of living in a state where abortion could become illegal. If Roe v Wade, another landmark moment in American women’s history, were to be overturned, at least four states would immediately make the right to choose illegal. Where’s your Hold Up Our Rights Underfire Underwire, eh Bitches?
Hold up our dignity bra, how about
It’s hard to focus here. I am an angry mother (didn’t even mention the desexualizing copy for the MF, or Mother Friendly, bra), a disappointed Gen Xer, and I harbor insecurities about my body and my financial position. As a copywriter and an artist, I am INCENSED at the loose and lazy, stale treatment of language. I include my own slips as an adult white woman who found it easy to use “homegirl” (see: above) like it was mine. Yes, language is hard. Grow a pair, and I don’t mean testicles.
Women, our power is unique, our voices uplifting. Let our language support us.