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Adebusola Abujade / Her Campus Media

All for one, one for self

Updated Published
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ashoka chapter.

Edited by Dia Daryanani

Overrun with advertisements, from billboards to Instagram to front pages of newspapers and magazines, our world today stands enshrined within an iridescent landscape of excess. The flashing images and bold colors beacon its audiences into a world of consumerist pleasure, constantly pleading for a glance that affords them a morsel of attention. Their loud boisterousness promises its enraptured viewers a reality that boasts perfection while epitomizing insatiability. 

These advertisements create a mirage of perceived flawlessness, a place of crystalline teeth adorning the untarnished paper faces of the models, one where clothes spin to fit effortlessly sculpted bodies like gloves on a hand. The faces headlining them all lost in a vision of thoughts that only exist in the phantasmagoria of perfume ads, where they seemingly ponder about scents that could even make fields of roses wilt with their alleged potency.

But there is more to this dreamscape, of course. More than the shallow baubles of vanity, women of the past have been fawning over. No longer the doe-eyed housewife of the 50s donning plastic smiles while holding a broom in one hand and a spatula in the other, longing for her husband. No more the visage of Bollywood dream girls touting the benefits of skin-lightening soap. Today’s products represent a new dawn. An era that empowers, that preaches care for the self for its own sake rather than the visage for the sake of a suitor.

In this new world, one can and should always put oneself first. From a glass of discolored juice that will hurt your tongue as much as your wallet to the workout routine that should teach you a magic act of disappearance that Houdini himself couldn’t master, technology lets you finally attain your true, ideal, authentic self. This version of the self, no longer forced to carry the burden of the restrictions that gender roles posed in the past. Now, with the finest anti-aging cream paired with just the correct shade of lipstick obtained from the most expensive store, you can finally free yourself from the shackles of the patriarchy as you stand tall as an individual.

For those who feel they cannot fit into this brand of feminism yet, there is undoubtedly an offering of acceptance. Ad campaigns now starring the ‘non-normative:’ from those with curves too big to those with complexions too dark, these ads will filter in with the pendulum shifts to ‘self-love’ and conveniently exit when the internet decides to bring the weighing scale back inside. Dove and ‘glow’ and lovely come to mind, which with the changing times have re-branded to be more inclusive. Now, featuring the ‘every woman’ these brands wish to walk away from the historic suppression of women who do not fit into the normative. But how far will these brands go to support these women? Will they still display them on their screens when the masses no longer wish to see such ‘inclusivity’? When the narrative shifts back to thin and fair, what new strategy will grace our screen convincing us that we too can be beautiful?  Certainly, one should never worry, as there is always a trick hidden with cups of herbal tea or gummy nutrients, holding the solutions to all your ills, ready to mold you right back into the acceptable. 

But, of course,  one’s self-expression is preeminent during this time of exuberance. You can now adorn yourself with the finest fabrics, sold at half the cost of the production process and delivered right to your doorstep. Every new aesthetic shepherds in a new wardrobe to fit the cycle, with the long-shunned skinny jeans to the 90s grunge to YTK’s low-rise everything, there is always a new mask to display. Naturally, one can choose to shape and dress with whatever they please for their fulfillment, but under the careful guidance of the male gaze, empowered by the conglomerates that wish to feed off of mass insecurity, where does one find the line between expression and subjugation. Between one’s own free will and the deterministic forces of the market that watch over our every decision.

One may ask here about the women and people who cannot even dream of attaining the internet, much less a measly serving of dry fruits meant to detox and rejuvenate, as they look upon billboards in shining cities that offer lives so distant from theirs. To them, we proudly say, ‘work harder.’ That is the beauty of this charmed society, after all. The beanstalk ushering to the room of treasures in the sky remains eternally waiting for those willing to climb it. But the onus of the struggle of the climb falls on the individual and not the collective. 

Because in this brave new world, the self always comes first.

Ojaswita is a member of the content team at Her Campus Ashoka. She is a first year student at Ashoka University and plans on pursuing Psychology and English in the future. She is an avid reader with a deep love for literary fiction and the gothic genre. In her free time, she enjoys sketching or binge watching any niche comedy show she can find on the internet.