bonus mini-mission: on the theme of happiness

In addition to the regular scheduled missions, the five Women of Wonder were all assigned a theme to reflect on. I had opted for “community,” but since it was a popular choice among the wonderful women, I got stuck with “happiness.”

As I said in the video, I wasn’t particularly happy about having to talk about happiness, since it’s not something I’m really interested in. I thought about how happiness fits in the yoga system and realized that it’s not a big topic. Yoga is concerned with the cessation of suffering and the idea of bliss, but happiness is seen as impermanent, an emotion, and something that we are futilely chasing after.

While I was sitting in the park on a sunny Sunday morning in Montreal, yakking about bliss, an amazing and beautiful thing happened (you’ll have to watch the video to see). It was a perfect combination of timing and serendipity.

I posted this little video on my Facebook profile page, and it struck up an interesting conversation among my friends. They liked the video but were dismayed that I concluded by saying I was speaking “for WonderBra.” Some of them observed strong reactions in themselves, and while they’re supportive of my work, they’re still baffled (even, perhaps, “repulsed”) by the sponsorship thing.

My wish is to use this opportunity as a way to get my voice out, to inspire women and to have some fun. So far I feel that I’ve been doing that. But I’m also aware that I’m doing this “for WonderBra,” even though I (and hopefully, my readers) am benefiting. As much as I love the idea of riding in a helicopter for fun, I wouldn’t have done it unless something like WonderBra was footing the bill. I didn’t want to sit in a park and talk about happiness ~ that was WonderBra’s idea (well, the happiness part at least ~ the park was my brilliant idea).

But my content is still my content, and I am still me. I don’t feel that has been compromised or co-opted. But I’m wondering: Does corporate sponsorship undermine the content of this blog? Does this Women of Wonder campaign resonate with you, engage you, or repel you? How does it compare to other high-profile “empowering” campaigns, such as Dove’s campaign for “Real Beauty”?

 

  1. Well I guess I just can’t help myself again but the essence of what I conveyed on facebook, very briefly, is that I think you are WONDERful (hehe!) by choosing to do this project and doing it your own way. I know that I would have absolutely said ‘no’ just on principle of not wanting to be associated with advertising for a big company. I really admire folks that can do it and do it while staying true to their grassroots beliefs (even if they might get in trouble!). I also think it’s okay for those of us who are repulsed by this type of campaign to be repulsed, just as it’s okay for folks like you to able to say “why not?’ and do it anyway. So i think they definitely asked the right woman and yay for you! I don’t think in general that these types of high profile campaigns like dove’s are the thing to support even though the message may be progressive or good, there are lots of other amazing ways to go, and I’ll always ‘like’ or support the grassroots-local-activist campaigns first because they speak to me more directly and i think encourage the kind of revolutionary cultural shift that my aquarian blood can not resist and totally believes is the way things will shift.

  2. I thought it was a treat to get to actually hear your voice!

  3. Sponsorship is an attractive option for many people who are devoted to some calling but don’t get paid much, if at all for it. Personally, I feel that as long as the person accepting the sponsorship is thoughtful, reflective, and open about the implications – and willing to say “no” if something really crosses the line for them – then it’s setting a good standard for others and doesn’t bother me at all.

    That said, in truth, Roseanne, I just find you a whole lot more interesting when you’re not doing Wonderbra missions! They are fun; they are OK; and I’m happy that you get to do them – I’d take advantage of the opportunity too. But ultimately I have to admit that I find them innocuous. Maybe even – boring. So for me problem is not so much selling out as toning the content way, way down – it’s just too nice and bland for my tastes.

  4. HI Roseanne,
    I don’t think that working for Wonderbra necessarily ‘undermines the content’ of your blog, but I do think that it undermines your image. It makes you look cheap.
    I really don’t mean to sound mean here…! But I do want to honestly convey what I feel is the truth behind your questions at the end of this piece.
    “Does corporate sponsorship undermine the content of this blog?” No. the content is the content. Adding the words ‘for Wonderbra’ on to the end of your work isn’t really changing that in any significant way, except to give the reader a feeling that you’re not really as sincere and genuine as you may have seemed. I know it’s a tough one. I’m not saying that I would turn down corporate sponsorship necessarily if I was in your shoes – I don’t know until that happens what I’d do. But I honestly do feel that it kind of ‘cheapens’ your image.
    “Does this Women of Wonder campaign resonate with you, engage you, or repel you?” and “How does it compare to other high-profile “empowering” campaigns, such as Dove’s campaign for “Real Beauty” ?”
    I’m more towards the ‘repel’ end of the spectrum. It feels like another marketing for the sake of marketing campaign, rather than a campaign that genuinely wants to change anything.
    Let’s face it: the product is about women having fake looking breasts! What else is there to push up bras? They continue to give both men and women a false idea about what is natural and what isn’t.
    At least Dove products *are* (relatively) natural.
    And the Dove campaigns do something genuinely different: portray real women, with real bodies, using natural products.
    So I’d say that actually the two campaigns seem pretty much diametrically opposed: one genuinely takes a risk in order to portray women as naturally beautiful; the other seems to cynically use the word ‘wonder’ simply in order to give credos to it’s product (which does no more than push up breasts, thus perpetuating the objectification of women).
    I also get the feeling from watching the video that you yourself are slightly embarrassed (maybe even repulsed?) by the fact that you’re doing it ‘for Wonderbra’.
    With love,
    Ben

  5. Whoever stole Rosanne, please return her asap…no questions asked 🙂

  6. Hi again Roseanne – I find myself reflecting on your post – as well as Ben’s comment – this morning. Hope you are OK with another 2 cents.

    Funny, until I read Ben’s comment above, I never thought to check out: what is this company? Because you were involved, I just assumed that they sold something along the lines of wholesome, organic cotton, yoga-and-sports friendly bras. So I was surprised to go to the website and find all these “Viral Vixens” pushing (up – ha ha) “Hot Little Numbers”!

    Such is the power of association . . . which I assume is why the company wanted a broad range of “Women of Wonder” – to make their very particular image more approachable to a wider range of women. I’m not in advertising, so I can only guess.

    At any rate: re my previous comment about sponsorship – I realize now that it’s different when an athlete wears a logo-ed jersey, versus when a writer takes on a company endorsement. The athlete’s (or for that matter, yoga teacher’s) craft and performance are less likely to be affected – they will continue to shoot baskets and teach asanas the same way (I would think) regardless of the logo on their clothing.

    For a writer whose currency is ideas and their expression, a lot of more subtle issues come up. My first post got at my feeling that your WB posts felt bland compared to your non-sponsored writing. This I think is the slippery slope – what if you suddenly raked in ads and endorsements and perks or whatever from a whole range of companies – Edensoy, Manduka, Lulelemon, Target?!

    Pretty soon, I would not be surprised if the overall editorial tone became the same sort of bland, nice, non-offensive writing we find in Yoga Journal. Even if the article is not directly about a company that’s advertising, the sense of being responsible for maintaining someone else’s image – and of course after you’re reliant on the revenues, just the imperative of keeping the money coming in – affects the writing.

    It is a real problem as I think that asking you (and others) to write great stuff indefinitely for free – without even some fun helicopter rides and spa perks throw in for some fun! – is not a model that’s feasible in the long run. Yet readers are more and more used to getting more and more content for free. How to bring in some revenue without getting into the strings attached that ads and sponsorship may inevitably bring? This is a huge and difficult question.

    At any rate, I applaud your interest in thinking into these issues and working them through for yourself. To press for critical comments from others as you have repeatedly takes a lot of commitment and bravery.

    • hi carol ~ i’m glad you checked out the product, and i find your original assumption interesting. yes, this is straight up regular old lingerie. nothing organic or eco about it. this is the wonderbra of the infamous “wonderful wonderful wonderbra” commercials of the 70s. one thing i do like about the brand is that it’s lingerie for the people. sensible bras that you can buy at department stores. my mom used to wear wonderbra.

      i just want to point out something about the company and the “women of wonder” campaign, which is created by wonderbra company. their branding and image is much different than american wonderbra, which i assume would have been the website that you looked at. i was really surprised at how different they were. the canadian wonderbra branding is much more wholesome and conservative, so the “women of wonder” project is in line their image.

      i had asked to do a burlesque class as one of my missions, but it was turned down b/c it wasn’t inline with wonderbra canada branding. i was surprised, b/c i know that burlesque superstar dita von teese is a spokesmodel for the company. but she represents american wonderbra, which has an overall sexier and splashier brand.

      as for your “slippery slope” comment ~ yes, i’m very aware of that. i’m keeping my eyes open…

  7. In my case, being a believer in capitalism, consumerism and all those other sins that modern civilization graces us with (and I’m not even being ironic, here), I’m certainly not in agreement with your critics. I see no objective reason to distinguish between what is natural or not (are distinctions natural, by the way?), authentic or not, or even moral or not. In my view, it’s all a matter of preference (and/or branding). An anti-capitalist on a corporation payroll, why not? It’s like pickles and strawberries. Who am I to judge. My true hope is that this illusory paradox provides you with more joy than anguish. Like St-Augustine used to say: love, and do what you want.
    Cheers!

  8. Hmmm Interesting questions and comments. Firstly, I’m not against bras or bra companies. I think the idea of these campaigns is to make women feel that these companies are working FOR women in creating their products. So, maybe the campaigns should really try to establish that by linking it with product lines that they feel really are healthy and best possible product of that type for women, and exploring why (such as the Dove campaign mentioned above).

    I feel that bras can be useful, and comfortable, not only uncomfortable, and creating a false image of beauty. Also, most bra companies make a variety of different models, not just pushup silky, but all cotton basics and jog bras. At the moment I’m wearing a crossover hemp Elita jog bra mostly to help absorb the overflow of milk, as I’m a nursing mom. Obvious utility there.

    Maybe going the corporate sponsorship route would be interesting if you could help the company to promote some of their products that are particularly suited to your agenda – like perhaps any hemp products, light and comfortable bras for yoga that don’t squeeze the ribcage and inhibit breath etc. This way it would be more effective, and make sense to the blog readers. If Wonder Bra is not open to that, or doesn’t have products that really fit what you would like to promote, then maybe the alliance does not make sense for you and your blog. That said, I remember you mentioning burlesque as well as yoga in your blog description. Burlesque and bras – that could be an interesting post.
    Om!

    • good point, chetana, re: help the company promote an eco or alternative line (they don’t have one, as far as i know). although, to be honest, i don’t have any organic or hemp bras. but i’d be open to exploring those options and i feel like i could actively promote those kinds of products. and for the record, i love lingerie and i own quite a bit of it, classic bras, corsets, garter belts. and i love burlesque, for the lingerie (as well as the self-expression, the exploration of femininity and the celebration of women’s bodies of all shapes and sizes).

  9. I LOVED the little moment in the video and am amazed that you were only mildly disrupted- i would have stopped and ended my speech right there lol. It was also fab hearing your voice. you are a fantastic and engaging speaker! (which shouldn’t surprise me cuz i adore your writing).

    About the sponsorship, honestly this is the first wonderbra post i’ve read since you started. And it was because you had a ‘vlog’ and it was because it didn’t really appear to be something random.

    Honest feelings? I don’t really think wonderbra is a fab company. I wear bras… and buy them. but I don’t like the idea that as a society women usually don’t feel comfortable without them (in public). I seriously despise the ridiculous ‘push up’ bra thingys that were being sold at lululemon to enhance the breastal area UNDER your regular workout, yoga clothing.

    In any case- I agree with Carol that it is your choice and that you seem to be managing alright. But I also agree that it can be tricky- the ‘for wonderbra’ does take away that sense of awesome, Independant Roseanne (just the sense, cuz I do think you are amazing in reality, but we’re talking about *perception* here, not reality).

    • thanks for your honesty, eco. i get the feeling from you and some of the other commentors in this thread that the wonderbra sponsorship feels a little incongruent with me and my voice on this blog. that’s interesting. i need to think about that a little more…

  10. Hi Roseanne,

    I think I used the word ‘baffled’ (at FB) — but I referred primarily to my surprise at my reaction on hearing those words at the end. I LOVED it — until that moment. Then I was creeped out! Then suddenly I *didn’t* want to share it with lots of people (and it’s so cool! until then!). I agree totally with Ben. If you had said (perhaps) at the beginning — “Wonderbra gives me the opportunity to share my thoughts which are….” maybe then I wouldn’t have felt “tricked”, at the end. Cheated.

    I felt baffled, a little, since I don’t totally hate marketing and corporations and stuff, at least, not virulently ;/ — but I don’t associate you with them. I consider corps/marketing as part of our world, and it’s an uneasy alliance with artists wherein they are offering creativity etc. for $$ dough. I think of our very creative Los Angeleno friends (the ones who got us to Burning Man), who were excited about their filmmaking work but cringed at their employers (corps, they made ads). (Disturbing — but this is why we live in the woods and worry about our mortgage payments? Lack of corporate sponsorship?)

    Okay I’m not baffled anymore; I’m in complete agreement with Ben, but I will go look at Women of Wonder to see if there’s anything more (or less) to it….

    People should be aware of ‘viral marketing’ (probably your commenters are) as noted and named by William Gibson in his 2003 novel, Pattern Recognition. So… we are “talking about Wonderbra”, it certainly served that purpose. 😉

    Thanks also to Carol Horton for her comments. Interesting stuff, true enough.

    Like the poem/performance, “How to be alone”, that was so popular (“viral”!), I think yours *could have* been that. (sigh)

    Linda

    • hi linda ~ that’s a really good point, about the product placement at the end. i understand why you’d feel cheated, since you saw the post on my FB wall and didn’t get the whole context.

  11. Other thing — our friend has a really great blog. He lives in Toronto and he’s part of Tikkun, the Jews for peace (in the middle east). At his blog he has a “tip jar” (that’s it, nothing else) — and he’s made a little money with it. http://tikkunista.com. I’m just saying, it is an alternative…. (I recommend his blog!) L.

  12. Sodium Lauroyl, ISethionate, Sodium Tallowate, Lauric Acid, Sodium Isethionate, Water, Cocamidopropyl, Betaine, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Fragrance (Parfum), Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), Sodium Chlorate, Etidronate, Titanium Dioxide, Yellow 5 & 6

    …Ingredients in Dove’s Beauty Bar Soap.

  13. Bystepping the sponsorship issue, for the moment, it’s cool seeing and hearing video of you (much more expressive than my blender-bike video…)

  14. Hi Roseanne!

    I think you’re ‘cooking’, which is a rich place to be. We can’t judge whether it’s ultimately good or bad, but you, and the rest of us can learn something in the process. I used to have a dance teacher who would say, “you have to be in the fire if you want to cook!” Press on…

    Also, Swami Vishnu-devananda talked a lot about happiness. He would say that happiness is your birthright. Also, “Health is wealth, peace of mind is happiness, yoga shows the way.”

    om,
    janaki

  15. Hey Roseanne,
    I am really enjoying the Women of Wonder campaign, I don’t think the corporate sponsorship undermines the content on your blog at all. It definitely seems like you are sticking to who you are and what you believe in. But if you had any doubts about being a “Woman of Wonder”, why did you agree to it?

    • hi lauren ~ thanks for your sweet comment, i’m glad you’re enjoying the campaign. why did i agree to becoming a “woman of wonder”? for the sheer adventure of it. for the new experiences. to say no felt limited and self-righteous, to say felt exciting and open. and, admittedly, for the bras. i love lingerie.

  16. Hmmm. Not sure we can have it both ways. We say that “normal women” aren’t represented in advertising and mainstream media. Then when it happens, we say they’re selling out.

    On the other hand, I would have, perhaps, stated in the beginning what the “Wonder of Women” or “Women of Wonder” project was and who it was sponsored by. But that’s just me.

    Another thought: Almost all of us are on Facebook. We advertise our services and make our thoughts known on the service. Facebook is a business, a corporation. Therefore, our services and thoughts, when we present them on the platform, are “brought to you by Facebook” anyway.

  17. I really like campaigns with real women. It is not like you are selling fire arms or something. While I can understand the resistance, I think that you are presenting yourself and your blog well.