Gore Vidal once remarked that advertising was the only art form that America ever created. Beyond this, America’s ideological debates are both a product of and a symptom of a culture where everything is commodified and when there is nothing left to commodify, one needs only to invent a new concept around which to sell a plethora of accessories.
The most strident example of this in the 21st century is the phenomenon of selling lifestyles. From men that call themselves women, women who call themselves men and every permutation of such notions, the entire situation which is disguised as a philosophical debate on so-called ‘sexuality’ is merely a distraction to hide the larger truth that the ‘trans’ industry is just that, a business and a very big business at that.
Not content to simply sell bigger breasts, smaller noses and hair to the bald, the American pharmaceutical and medical industry is strongly invested in surgical operations and the accompanying medicines, education, training, medical equipment and technology, ‘therapy’ and literature which is a multi-million dollar industry.
Awkward and controversial plastic surgeries are nothing new, but selling such things and the preparatory stages as something that is not only mainstream but fashionable, is the latest trend in an American advertising industry that has gone from selling obscene images to selling the modification of sex organs.
The roots of this concept are not new. In 1915, US companies began marketing shaving products to women in a move to sell a group of people something they did not need and previously did not particularly want. There is no hygiene based reason for the average woman to remove her leg or under-arm hair, but there is a very good reason for a salesman or product manufacturer to want them to.
Prior to the early 20th century, shaving products were sold and marketed to men. By selling similar products to women, almost zero research and development is required and almost at once you’ve doubled your market from just under half of the adult population to almost all of the adult population. For big business, it was a mission accomplished moment.
In the 1920s, the same thing happened with cigarettes. The nature of cigarette production particularly different in 1926 that it was in 1896, but by marketing cigarettes for women as something fashionable, big tobacco was able to sell a considerably higher amount of cigarettes to the population at large.
After the Second World War, even American political movements became dominated by the marketing of fashion products. The so-called anti-war movement and the related ‘hippy’ movement saw generally inexpensive peasant style garments marketed to young Americans at vastly inflated prices vis-à-vis the cost of production. Why sell someone a dress which requires some craftsmanship to design and produce when instead, one can simply sell dyed rags with a peace sign painted on it for competitive prices? The answer was, ‘yes we can’ and so they did.
While the American wars in South East Asia raged until 1975, the anti-war movement died much earlier than that. The anti-war movement died when the fashion industry realised that it had reached the limits of marketing ‘peace and love’ and instead designed more complex fashions so as to sell the accoutrements which accompany a lifestyle of decadence. Those who were selling cannabis pipes began selling engraved devices to make the process of taking cocaine more fashionable along with a wardrobe to match.
In the 1980s, it was all about selling clothes with slogans, irrespective of their meaning. “Choose life”, “Frankie says relax”, “Say no to drugs”, “Live Aid”, “We Are The World”, were all officially licensed items for the generation that thought they were turning activism into T-shirts, but in reality inexpensive T-shirts simply became more easily marketable if they carried an exclusive and therefore expensively sold, trademarked slogan.
In the 1990s, just as many American factories were closing, enter the age of ‘grunge rock’. Not only was the US public sold records of generally very easily and inexpensively produced music, but to go along with it, children of wealthy middle class professionals can dress up like the factory workers who increasingly no longer needed their ‘uniforms’. Never mind putting a hole in your ‘designer’ jeans, someone will sell you jeans with a pre-made hole and charge you for the privilege.
The 2000s saw the increasing normalisation of tattoos for women. It was cigarettes all over again. Why limit tattoos to a traditionally male dominated market when the other half (technically slightly more than half) of the population is a potential consumer base? The answer as always, was, ‘why not’!
And now as we approach 2020, the new fashion is the ‘trans’ fashion. It comes in the form of expensive cosmetic surgery and all that goes with it and for those that don’t want to take the plunge and surgically remove or altar ones genitals, there are plenty of T-shirts, hats, books, music downloads and other media products that are there waiting for you to consume. There are also plenty of public events celebrating the ‘trans’ lifestyle that one can pay for the privilege of entering.
If you oppose such things, don’t worry, the marketing department has something else for you, it’s a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, or shirt, or novelty pen or gun holster. This indeed was one of the genius moves of Donald Trump. In true American style, he realised that in order to get his message across, he needed to associate his message with an easily commodified fashion statement. Perhaps if Ross Perot had hats for sale in 1992, he would have won the US Presidential election, after all, his policies were highly similar to those of Trump who ran decades later.
If ever one felt that it was odd for people who had been previously more conservatively minded on the issue of altering one’s sex, to come out robustly in favour of such things, one only needs to remember that in the United States and all other societies with copy-cat economies, the sales pitch and potential for profit always trumps any moral or ethical matters.
The fact that the severing of a human penis by a surgeon is objectively less benign than selling a shaver to a woman so she can sever the hair under her arms, is merely symptomatic of the fact that as the most obvious ideas become taken and consequently exhausted, the marketing experts will simply push the envelope further, chasing a profit at all times.
This is indeed one of the reasons that the United States is, along with South Korea (which was sold on the idea after US occupation), the only nation in the world to perform routine circumcisions on the very young outside of any religious context. Someone is getting paid to perform the operation and someone is getting paid to make the necessary medical equipment. While the WTO has found that the operation can reduce the rate of AIDS in populations where the disease is widespread, no child could contract AIDS through a sex act that one is medically too young to engage in, in the first place. However, fewer adults opt for the operation in spite of their lifestyle and therefore it is more profitable to sell it to concerned and often frightened parents, in spite of not having any medical benefits prior to one’s early adult years.
America therefore is only having as much of a moral crisis as the marketing industry allows. It’s no wonder that people in countries with vastly different economic systems don’t feel the need to have sex change operations or involve themselves with making videos, selling books, medicines and other clinical products. This is because those with psychological deviancies which make them unhappy with the sex of their birth is an extremely rare condition, that is, unless one turns such a rare condition into a fashion statement for the mases. The leap from wearing an AC/DC T-shirt in spite of never having heard a single AC/DC piece of music, to promoting products on the virtues of embracing sex change politics without having any previous desire to engage in such things, is not a big leap after all.
Smoking a single pack of cigarettes is generally not a life changing experience, especially if one refrains from smoking thereafter. In spite of this, many people have affirmed the correlation between social smoking and advertisements which glamourize the activity.
If one can glamourize the medically unnecessary act of smoking, why do so many find it hard to believe that the same marketing strategies can glamourize the act of surgically altering one’s genitals? The answer is in fact the same as the question: marketing!