Female "empowerment" through purchasesMy Instagram feed is little more than puppy photos, Ryan Reynolds pictures, and — most recently — ads that the app’s algorithm decides I’d be interested in. They are usually at least in the right ballpark, but I found myself irritated at a recent one for the monthly box subscription “Singles Swag.” Their tagline is “Don’t be afraid to give yourself everything you’ve ever wanted,” and they describe their product as “A fun, stylish monthly surprise for single women.”

Sounds a little too close to a missed period to me, but I clicked on the ad anyway and signed up for a month ($25 for four “gifts”) out of curiosity of what it was they decided single women needed and wanted. Two weeks later, I received a package with two face masks, a headband, a small box of key lime cookies, and nail wraps (whatever those are).

So, I have several questions. First, how exactly are they defining “single?” Unmarried? Or just women who have no partner in their life? Does it include women who are more masculine and have no idea what the hell nail wraps are? What about lesbians? Trans women? Is “single women” all encompassing? Who exactly is this box for?

Also, regardless of who “single” includes, is there some reason married women would not want these things? The mission on their website is “We love making single women look and feel beautiful while empowering and inspiring them.” Ok. So, is the assumption that they don’t need to worry about their appearance anymore since they found a person to swear to love them in spite of not getting drab headbands every month?

My issue isn’t if women want to get this of the many monthly box subscription options out there, or even the company itself. They donate part of their proceeds to breast cancer research, so super for them.

My problem is with how things like this are marketed. It sure seems like they are really feeding off of and reinforcing the stereotype of single women being depressed if they don’t have a partner, so they must never get gifts or do anything for themselves. So, here this company is to help us. What a crock.

One of the things communication scholars write about is “commodifying agency,” which means when we are told that we do not truly have control over ourselves or our identities until we purchase something to prove our independence. So, we’re not proud, empowered single women until we pay $25 a month for … nail wraps? Seriously, how am I meant to use those?

Why do I have to spend money to be a strong, single woman who is ok with not being married?

The same attempt was tried years ago with the Right Hand Ring. This was something marketed to single women, once again to show they were strong and comfortable, if not proud, of being unmarried and “doing them.” Their ads focused on putting down married life in order to make single life sound carefree and preferable. For instance, one said:

“Your left hand says ‘we.’ Your right hand says ‘me.’ Your left hand loves candlelight. Your right hand loves the spotlight. Your left hand rocks the cradle. Your right hand rules the world. Women of the world, raise your right hand.”

I don’t want to feel good about being unmarried because these ads paint marriage as lame. I want to be able to make whatever life choice I want without discrimination because I’m an adult and deserve to live my life as I want to. But according to these ads, that cannot happen without spending at least a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on what’s essentially an engagement ring for myself.

It’s likely that advertisers have noticed the trend of young women waiting to get married, and many deciding against it completely. Perhaps though, they should get to know what these populations are like before making major marketing decisions on what we want and need and certainly give the “empowerment” line a break. We don’t need your help. Thanks.

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