Today, we talked about Chapter 33 of Americanah. Ifemelu opens the chapter by talking about the success of her blog. Her readers increase and she soon starts receiving emails from people who want to “support” her blog. People start off donating money but soon start to email her about the possibility of advertising their products on her page:
A fellow blogger who made hair butters first suggested advertising and, for a token fee, Ifemelu put up the image of a bounteous-haired woman on the top right side of the blog page; clicking on it led to the hair butter website. Another reader offered more money for a blinking graphic that showed, first, a long-necked model in a tight dress, then the same model in a floppy hat. Clicking on the image led to an online boutique. Soon there were e-mails about advertising Pantene shampoos and Covergirl makeup.
though her blog is primarily about race in the US, she receives emails from people who want to post beauty advertisements. They don’t want to advertise independent books about race relations or films about the immigrant experience. They want to perpetuate the current beauty standard in America. It’s clear that these ads will target Black women (and possibly other women of color) but these ads will not necessarily promote a healthy, attainable standard for Black women. These promoters advertise hair butter that will make your hair more bountiful (because women surely do not want short hair). These promoters want to advertise Pantene shampoos and Covergirl makeup which mainly offer products that many Black women could not use. Pantene’s “Truly Natural Hair Clarifying Shampoo” would work best for women of color with straightened hair. Covergirl’s Queen collection (inspired by Queen Latifah) does not cover all of the darker skin tones. But, it would be fair to assume that a beauty product created to target an ethnic group would likely not cover all of the possibilities (different hair textures, skin tones, etc.). Ifemelu struggles with fitting into the image of beauty that is perpetuated by American mainstream culture which makes the situation even more problematic. She is helping perpetuate the same images that continue to hurt her.
We talked about whether Ifemelu was selling out by caring more about how her readers respond to her posts than how she feels about her posts and allowing advertisements to accompany her blog. Whether we can agree on that or not, we can be sure that it is normal to see advertisements accompany most blogs–especially beauty blogs.
Thinking about advertisements in blogs reminded me of a funny video my friend showed me a few months ago:
In the video, a woman makes fun of popular natural hair videos. She holds up a product in the video at one point and says, “Now I’m going to trick you into buying a product you think I haven’t been paid to promote but I totally have”. Perhaps advertisements are not so problematic if we can recognize what they perpetuate.