Thursday, July 06, 2006

Look Who's Promoting 'Knuckle-Dragging Radical-Feminist Agitprop'

And Hear This: Avon's Calling!

Salma Hayek attended the 2003 Oscars as a best-actress nominee for her career-turning role in Frida, a film about Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist with a mustache. Shortly after, cosmetics giant Avon signed Hayek as its new global face of the company (no doubt leaving Nair and Zip Wax pouting). One of the key components of Hayek's relationship with Avon has been her work with the related Avon Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity, to develop and promote a new domestic violence program to which Avon has committed to donating $1 million over three years.

In 2005 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Hayek told senators in part:

Domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking shatters our society. Instead of having a relationship of love and respect, the victims of these crimes are betrayed by jealous and controlling violence of their intimate partners. These are stories that should not happen in the United States or anywhere else in the world. The United States has been -- and should continue to be -- a leader in reducing these crimes.

This is not a subject I had much personal experience with -- until I learned that a friend of mine was being beaten by her husband. Though I tried, I was not able to convince her to leave her husband -- even though I knew, and she knew, what kind of damage domestic violence was causing her. At the time, I considered that a personal failure.

I was completely outraged that women could endure such pain. I could not help my friend, but I decided I could help others. I visited domestic violence shelters and listened to the stories of other battered women. I saw the impact that domestic violence had on their children. I began to see why it was so hard for them to leave.

So, Hayek told the senators, she joined the Avon Foundation in its Speak Out Against Domestic Violence campaign in 2004. "I began speaking in public about this crime because I believe that we all have an obligation to help save our friends' lives," she said. (The full text of Hayek's testimony is available at

Earlier this year, in addition to her work with the foundation, Hayek personally donated $25,000 to a domestic violence shelter in her hometown of Coatzacoalcos, Mexico and another $50,000 to a shelter in her homeland's northern city of Monterrey.

Skin-So-Soft, Yet Subversive

"Avon Products, Inc. is a grassroots, woman-to-woman network that reaches the homes and hearts of women around the world," says Avon Foundation president Kathleen Walas. Founded more than 50 years ago, the Avon Foundation's mission is to improve the lives of women globally. Its current two key areas of focus are the fight against breast cancer -- the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, launched in 1992, has raised and awarded more than $450 million worldwide for access to care and finding a cure -- and support for woman’s empowerment programs, including women's economic advancement and working against domestic violence.

The Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program focuses on education, awareness and prevention programs, and provides support to victims. Aside from donating money directly to shelters, probably the biggest part of the program involves grassroots education and awareness through Avon's sales representative network. In the United States, for example, Avon's 650,000 U.S. sales representatives have distributed a free domestic violence brochure -- available in English and Spanish, and online as well -- to their customers. (Avon has more than 5 million sales representatives worldwide -- it is the world's largest direct seller -- who call on customers in more than 100 countries.) The foundation also is developing model domestic violence education and support programs at Avon's regional facilities across the United States and in partnership with Avon facilities worldwide, and is producing public service announcements about the issue.(More inforation is available at

Avon Lady: Man-Hater?

Interestingly -- and probably tellingly -- men, if not feminists, have taken notice already. To read a piece in last month by David R. Usher, cofounder of the National Coalition for Fathers and Children, you'd think that all Avon Ladies had stopped waxing their mustaches. "Avon is spending millions perpetrating misandry in American culture," Usher wrote, taking these women quite seriously and calling for a boycott of Avon products. "The Avon Foundation strongly supports [the Violence Against Women Act], and has a number of pamphlets and programs promoting knuckle-dragging radical-feminist agitprop."

How many feminists are interested in the ways common women -- apolitical women, or maybe women with "false consciousnesses" -- are linked to other women in large networks? Especially when the common linkage is via an "evil" Fortune 500 "capitalist" cosmetics giant (promoting woman-hating and self-loathing) like Avon? The joke of it is that the Avon Foundation had been doing such charity work to better women's lives for some two decades before the Second Wave discovered Sisterhood. What's more, Avon has a corps of more than 5 million active sales reps worldwide, going to women door-to-door! If the feminist movement ever aspired to such numbers it certainly doesn't now. Frankly, this is a situation ripe with radical potential; there are several aspects of this story that are worthy of further feminist exploration (not the least of which is Salma Hayek, more power to her). And let's face it: Avon has long been ready for its closeup.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How many feminists are interested in the ways common women -- apolitical women, or maybe women with "false consciousnesses" -- are linked to other women in large networks?"

Actually, just about every feminist I've ever met is interested in just that. Except you, who likes to yammer on about it but never actually makes any mention of how you came to be so superior to the rest of us lowly peons around here.

And while you don't seem to be capable of dealing with any complexity at all, most of the rest of us have long since come to terms with the fact that sometimes cultural phenomena can be good things and not-so-good things all at once: eg. Avon supporting DV victims = good; Avon perpetuating the myth that women need to spend gobs of money on cosmetic products to feel acceptable = not so good. I would daresay that most of us dumb, ignorant feminists that you so loving ranting against have long since figured out how to fit both of those realities in our collective heads - despite your inability to look beyond your own anti-feminist prejudices and see that not all of us feminists are the women-hating bogeymen that you and Rush Limbaugh make us out to be.

2:43 PM  
Blogger skylanda said...

Here's a very different take on using feminist causes as marketing and branding tools, including a little commentary on Avon:

2:47 PM  
Blogger Laylalola said...

Well nothing is good enough for holier-than-thou feminists when it comes to women networking, does it? Nevermind that 5 million female sales reps handing out domestic violence material to their female customers is classic grassroots consciousness-raising of the 1970s -- albeit with lipstick thrown in. (Anyone care about the average woman most at risk for domestic violence rather than the intellectuals who already know all there is to know?).

Avon has more female managers and board directors than any other Fortune 500 company. It's made millions and millions of women more independent economically for half a century. It's products are superior if you're going to buy shampoo, lotion, makeup, and bags to carry your junk in. (And please don't tell me no feminist buys any of these things.) And the price is much lower than just about anyone's -- including Wal*mart.

$450 million to breast cancer over a decade is nothing to sneeze at. $1 million to domestic violence shelters and direct contact education in two years is nothing to poo-poo. And that's just the start of it.

And Salma Hayek speaking out about domestic violence, and Avon taking on domestic violence as a cause, is hardly, shall we say, GLAMOROUS. It's not the easy baby cause that no one raises eyebrows about. And especially for a cosmetics giant to take it on, and a glamorous superstar celebrity, I mean, look at it this way: To the extent the feminist movement help make it natural that such a phenomenon would happen could be considered one of the movement's legacies. What I hate is such crappolla from feminists that there is nothing good about anything anyone other than they do, and such casual tossing aside of the typical woman. It's so elitist and always has been.

And I thought you might enjoy a more positive spin on pop culture/celebrities -- a news item basically no one else on the planet is covering, precisely because it's not glamorous, folks, and does have the whiff of something radical to it. It would be different if you didn't yourself buy lipstick, much more expensive, from a giant corporation that isn't helping homemakers and low-income women gain more economic independence. Or if the feminist movement had done anything remotely as far reaching and grassroots in the past decade or hell in the past three decades.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Laylalola said...

Sometimes you have to go back to basics. The feminist movement is so out of touch with the typical woman these days that it's irrelevant, and it has become the norm to absolutely scorn at the very women who do still need certain aspects of the feminist movement to be alive. They don't need all this internal crap about transsexuals and how they are the end of the world for women; they don't want to join antiporn crusades when there is so much more in their lives on a day-to-day basis. And they don't want to hear how there is nothing out there remotely good or fun or empowering about being a woman. I don't know when the feminist movement became so sour, maybe it always was, every other civil rights movement has a Pride aspect or Power aspect as in gay pride or black power but the feminist movement? I mean come on. Women will always buy lotion for their skin and shampoo and makeup. They will not necessarily think a baby boy is a threat to their women's space. They might well need help when it comes to domestic violence. And who is less threatening and mnore discreet to pass on that information than their Avon Lady?

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And who is less threatening and mnore discreet to pass on that information than their Avon Lady?"

Um, Layla, what sort of weird pseudo-June Cleaver-esque planet do you live on where the Avon Lady comes regularly to the door to bestow fabulous make up and domestic violence tips?

I mean, I'm all for supporting DV interventions in all forms, but do you really think that the vast majority of "real women" out there (as opposed, of course, to feminists, who are obviously just fake women in disguise) have touchingly intimate friendships with their local door-to-door lipstick retailer? I gotta say, I don't know any woman who is regularly visited by an Avon Lady. Not the blue-collar end of the family, not the white collar end of the family, not anyone in between. I'm not against Avon passing out DV resources for certain, but for all your claims to represent "real women" (again, as opposed to us feminists), you seem peculiarly taken with romantic ideas of female domesticity that don't ring true either historically or currently.

But whatever. Your whole point of posting around here is to bag on feminists anyhow, so what else is new.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Laylalola said...

? We have several Avon sales reps who work at the Wal*Mart I do who all leave tons of brochures/catalogs in the break rooms and do quite a business, we all know who they are, I'm not sure I'm understanding your complaint here?? Maybe not every single one of the 650,000 in the United States goes door to door anymore but to their full-time job like these women do, or like white-collar women take their kid's Girl Scout cookie orders to their place of work, I don't know, but shit, I mean, what are you saying/complaining about here? Surely no small number of the women do still go door to door when you're talking half a million. And when you're talking worldwide, Latin American countries etc., I'm sure as shit more than not go door to door as the Avon Ladies of yore did. But whatever. Fuck it. I'm over it. I mean, WTF? Seriously.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Laylalola said...

No, wait, I still don't get your complaint, I said Who's less threatening and more discreet than your Avon Lady (okay, Avon sales rep if that helps you think about the modern reality). And here's how it works: the women who work at my Wal*Mart who are also Avon sales reps don't take your order like the hypotehtical white-collar worker who brings in her kid's Girl Scout Cookie order and everyone fills in lines, you can see what everyone's ordered and how much it costs. No. No one can go directly to a potential Avon customer and hardball pitch; the catalogs are there, you look at it, everyone looks at them, there's a dire need to mindlessly flip through material sometimes, and you see something you want to buy, you write it down -- the woman has the instructions for writing page number, item, etc, post-noted to the catalogs -- and you take your pick, maybe you pick the rep you like best, maybe the one who works the midnight shift with you, whatever. And you take your order to her. Discreet. You don't know what your coworker has ordered or how much she's forking over unless you two talk about it. Your order comes in, it's a transaction between you and the chosen rep. That's how it works. And materials are always included with your orders here. We have more than 300 workers and we're open full time with three fulltime shifts each day and low-income workers buying not just for them but their daughters mothers everyone in their household, the place can and does support several Avon reps who also are coworkers.

The romanticizing going on here is this notion that the only "good" feminist work is done utterly perfectly -- no evil capitalism involved, no evil cosmetics involved, that it is tainted if it comes through such things. That Avon doesn't really count because you haven't seen it since you were a child, nevermind that the company has 5 million sales reps getting paid for their work, is the largest direct seller on the planet, is a Fortune 500 company. Someone's buying it.

What is romanticized is this notion that "real" work against domestic violence is done only by women who call themselves feminist who post shitty responses online to actual activism but preface by saying of course they're for anything working against domestic violence -- but these women don't exist out there, this company is tainted, whatever whatever, it's a fantasy to think people live this way where Avon is still a player in their world in this day and age.

I checked out Ms.'s search of Ms. magazine content and found no mention whatsoever of anything Avon in regard to this activism or the breast cancer activism. Last month -- on Father's Day -- the Avon work against domestic violence feature event included speakers Rosie O'Donnell, Jane Fonda, Eve Ensler, and Marlo Thomas and even Ms. didn't see fit and has never seen fit to mention this Avon activism. I mean COME ON. I am not wrong. "Genuine" feminists are not interested in this because it's Avon and it's thus low-class on the one hand and evil capitalism combined with woman-hating cosmetics on the other. "Real" feminists of the "movement" want no part of it. Even if it does include the hollywood stars that Ms. is now enamoured with, this doesn't qualify as real feminism to Ms. or to most self-proclaimed feminists and I am not wrong about this and I am not wrong in being entirely pissed off and pointing it out. What is romanticized is this notion that the feminist nmovement has anything at all to do with or any real interest in whatsoever the typical woman.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Third Waver said...

I am rarely surprised and Layla's ability to take any issue and turn it into an opportunity to bash Second Wave feminists. It's almost become a game for me. It's like, wait for it... wait for it... THERE! Layla brings it 'round to why everything is the fault of dumbshit Second Wavers.

Can just anyone blog at Avast? You gotta love feminist blogs where the bloggers ridicule feminism.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You gotta love feminist blogs where the bloggers ridicule feminism."

Ahem. That's "blogger" - singular. I do believe that Layla is the only one around here who snarks at feminists in every single post, even when google-able facts contradict her assertions about how evil we are. Who needs enemies and all that jazz, eh?

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Third Waver said...

Yeah anonymous, I was talking more generally which is why "blogs" was plural too. Because while you're correct, Layla seems to be the only anti-feminist on Avast!, there are other so-called feminist blogs where post after post falls under the category of "This is why feminists suck."

6:58 AM  
Blogger blue said...

I don't recall if it was Ms. or Bitch, but some feminist magazine did a brief article towards the beginning of their issue several years ago about Avon. It was when Whoopi Goldberg was the celebrity endorser, IIRC.

I don't recall the particulars, but there was an article and it was not negative toward Avon.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The romanticizing going on here is this notion that the only "good" feminist work is done utterly perfectly -- no evil capitalism involved, no evil cosmetics involved, that it is tainted if it comes through such things."

I love it - just love it! - when people assign me random opinions and then rant at me about why I'm so wrong, even though I never expressed such an opinion in the first place. I'm sure every other feminist on the planet (who Layla seems to see as one big monolithic entity) appreciates it too.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Sarahlynn said...

I couldn't comment when I first read this piece, but I wanted to chime in that I agree with Laylalola on this issue.

Around here, Mary Kay is bigger than Avon, but it's much the same principle. Both companies are supportive of women's issues (and their female employees).

As far as intimate relationships with "The Avon Lady," well, that's not rare around here either, though times have changed slightly from door-to-door sales to intimate "parties" where there's wine and conversation with "The Avon Lady" (or Mary Kay Lady) and a few of the host's friends.

12:57 PM  
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