Women have a lot of woo aimed their way. Men aren’t exempt, not by any means, but there’s some woo targeted almost exclusively at women. Our Skepticism 101 panel explored some of the varieties on offer. Some of the woo might not even appear to be woo, on the surface.
Take makeup, for instance.
Makeup isn’t the first thing that popped into my head. Tarot’s what I thought. Love potions and spells. But when you think about it, yes, makeup’s obvious, innit? Some of the claims verge on the miraculous. Defy age! Grow your lashes with our super-sekrit technology! And, I’m sure, a zillion other claims. I pay very little attention to makeup. But I catch the ads on my teevee sometimes, on those rare occasions I’m watching something live, and they’re ridiculous.
Let’s just take one product in particular: Revlon’s special new foundation:
NEW Revlon Age Defying with DNA Advantage Cream Makeup combines makeup + powerful anti-aging skincare to help protect skin’s DNA to fight the signs of aging. 96% of women saw flawless, younger-looking skin in two weeks. Lines and wrinkles are visibly diminished while skin is refreshed, hydrated, revitalized. SPF 20
My, that sounds space-age, doesn’t it just? Protect your DNA! Get flawless skin! Whatevs. It’s fucking tinted moisturizer with sunscreen, people. That’s all it is. It’s not a magic DNA repair tool that will give you the skin of a 20-something supermodel (they’re airbrushed on those magazine covers, anyway).
And women are bombarded with these things. We’re told we have to achieve an impossible standard of beauty and then sold things with complicated names that are supposed to give us that beauty. It doesn’t stop at makeup. Think of all the dietary supplements aimed mostly at women, those things that promise to melt the pounds away with zero effort. The shoes that will shape our bums… I could go on, but you’ve got the point by now.
We haven’t even got started on the stuff that’s supposed to “naturally” keep your family healthy. There’s all sorts of woo out there surrounding conception, pregnancy and childbirth. Sometimes, it’s even marketed as a feminist thing. There’s the anti-vax moment, aimed at parents in general but certainly preying heavily on maternal fears. As our panelists pointed out, sticking needles in your kids is a terrifying thing. Easy to believe you’re hurting your kids when you’re actually saving them from horrible diseases.
What about women’s intuition? How many times have you heard people say that women just intuitively know things? How many women have swallowed that idiocy? We’re told pretty much from birth that men are the analytical ones and that we’re the ones who run on instinct. I’m sorry, but that’s so much bullshit. Women are just as capable of methodical reasoning as men, intuition is a shitty way to figure out the world, and you’re not empowering women by telling them they have a special ladysense. You’re just making them vulnerable to dangerous ideas.
Everyone needs their skeptical toolkit. We’re all targets. Snake-oil salesmen don’t care if it’s a male, female, or other gendered person handing them the cash. But women, who so often haven’t been trained they should think critically, who are held to impossible standards of beauty, who are so often the primary caregivers, need to be especially on guard.