Beautiful Brains: Bootie Babe Cosmetics...WTH?

*UPDATE: When I first posted this blog entry (5/4/2011), I also emailed the company directly. In the email, which was very polite, I provided them with a link to this post. I assured them I was not attacking their company and invited them to participate in our conversation about their packaging. I thought this to be the responsible thing to do. This morning I received an email requesting I remove their trademarked images from my blog. Disregarding the content of my original email, their only response had to do with legal rights to their images. I have removed the images and asked for permission to add them back in at a later date; where images were I have now linked to their website below. It seems, however, that they would have to hunt down more bloggers than I if they are concerned about folks copy and pasting their images; besides, critical of their packaging or not, bloggers are creating buzz for their company. Anyway, I stated that the company is still welcome to this dialogue. Unsurprisingly, they do not seem to want to participate.*

*UPDATE #2: Bootie Babe granted me permission to include their images in this post, provided I link back to their site (which I was already doing...but fine). They have yet to engage in conversation regarding their product.*

As a graduate student in a gender and sexuality studies program, I see an opportunity for a feminist analysis in almost everything. In fact, this is how this blog, and the Beautiful Brains posts in particular came to be. The beauty industry and our participation in it is not divorced from the politics of gender, sexuality, race, class, capitalism, and so on. I am a beauty blogger after all so it should be fairly obvious that I do not conform to the stereotypical response people assume feminists will have to the beauty industry. I do not think that there is anything inherently wrong with women wearing makeup, and we should have the freedom to stylize our bodies in whatever way we see fit. However, I do think it is our responsibility as consumers to be more conscious of the industry we are participating in, and this requires us to be attentive to topics of race, gender, sexuality, capital and so on.

Enter Bootie Babe Cosmetics. The company's website went live a few days ago, and they are accepting pre-orders for a line of 12 nail polishes that is scheduled to launch June 1st. As far as I can tell from the site, the polish colors look pretty generic and the names are not terribly creative. So what is the selling point? The bottles are shaped like booties. Yes. Like a woman's ass.

After seeing this image floating around on  facebook, I went to Bootie Babe's website for more info. Here is a screen shot from their website that includes their mission statement (click to enlarge to read text):

*UPDATE: This image appeared on an earlier version of the site. Changes have since been made to their site.*

Let me be clear. I am pretty much the farthest thing from sexually conservative, and as a queer woman I have as much adoration for the female figure as the next person. I am a great lover of the bootie, my own and others'. But bootie shaped nail polish bottles? I have read tons of online comments from women who can't wait to get their hands on these booties (haha). But to be honest, to me they look like gag gifts you might buy for someone's bachelorette party from the neighborhood porn store. I am perplexed, and I have a lot of questions:

1- What the heck does nail polish have to do with my butt?

2- Speaking from a purely practical stand point, is this a user friendly polish bottle? Won't the brush need to be pretty stubby to fit in there? How do you reach the good amount of product trapped in the....uhh...thigh region?

3- The company's mission is to "embrace the bootie, honor the bootie and rejoice in complete and utter babe-itude." Does nail polish and a bootie shaped trinket help us love our bodies?

4- Piggybacking off of question 3, are we talking about booties of all shapes and sizes here? Because judging from the blue and pink cartoon vixens serving as the company's mascots, it looks like only the bootie of a busty cinched waist chick is being "embraced" and "honored":

*UPDATE: This image appeared on an earlier version of the site. Changes have since been made to their site.*
So what is going on here? I have more questions than answers, but I think it is fair to say that this is basically a novelty item. Who knows, the polish might be pretty rad. But the whole concept hinges on the bootie. Why? Well, plainly put, because it sells. I bet these little booties are going to sell like hot cakes. Using sexualized images of women's bodies has time and time again proven to be a sure fire way to reap profit. This is a fact that company owner Mark O'Hara, who is also the lead vocalist in San Fransisco's band SuperBooty, undoubtedly knows. He states that "I wanted to create a consumer product line with some humor and an edge, and what better way to do that than with bootie shaped bottles?” What could be more edgy and humorous than fragmenting and sexualizing women's bodies?

What gets me most is the company's mission statement to "embrace the bootie, honor the bootie and rejoice in complete and utter babe-itude." First of all, because the sexualization of women's bodies is such a successful (and at this point, unoriginal) marketing strategy, we are not exactly experiencing a void of bootie-centric images. Booties are pretty much everywhere. Moreover, the mission statement seems to imply that their polishes celebrate and empower women, helping them to love their bodies and come into their "babe-itude." I can only speak for myself, but this doesn't transform my self-image in the least bit. I feel no added swell of pride for my backside looking at these. Of course, beauty products often make women feel more confident (that's one of the reasons why we are beauty junkies, right?) but I think that we need a lot more than bootie bottles to encourage women to embrace the skin we are in. And if the mainstream media and beauty industry, which perpetuate impossible standards of feminine perfection, are often a part of women's negative body image then I think it is a stretch to say that Bootie Babe is sincerely promoting body-positivism.

The politics of gender and sexuality as related to the beauty industry are much larger than this one company; Bootie Babes is but one small manifestation of them. Let me clarify that I am not bashing or boycotting the brand.  In fact, I wouldn't say that I am totally opposed to trying or owning these polishes. My intention here is to encourage more critical and thoughtful participation in the beauty community, to raise questions, and invite a dialogue with readers and even Bootie Babe Cosmetics.

What do you think of this line of polishes? Do you think these polishes are fun and cute? Think I am making a big deal out of nothing? Think I am on to something? More importantly, what makes you feel empowered? What do you think is needed for more women to love their bodies?

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