The Change for The Worst

10 months ago by in Columns

The Change for The Worst

How a new skincare range for menopausal women is giving Sali Hughes hot flashes

 

I’ve always made a point of not writing negative reviews. My thinking is that print-space and online resources are too precious to waste on products I don’t like, especially when they often work very well for other women. Who am I to label something bad when beauty is such a subjective and diverse idea? I was brought up to believe that ‘if you can’t say something good, say nothing”, so it’s rare that I feel strongly enough to speak out.

 

Before I go on and in the interest of full disclosure, I have not tested a single product from the upcoming skincare range for menopausal women, by Rodial, and I have declined the opportunity to be shown them. They may well be good products – I’ll just never know because I refuse to give a minute of my time to trialling a range targeted at menopausal women, that someone has seen fit to call ‘Cougar’.

 

In naming their new range for mature women after a patronising, pejorative, sexist (and needlessly sexual) cliche, Rodial (whose other products bear names like ‘Boob Job’, ‘Dragons Blood’, ‘Tummy Tuck’ and – wait for it – ‘Size Zero’, which I still can’t quite believe is allowed) is, in my opinion, belittling us all.

 

The term ‘cougar’, as everyone knows, is given to women who are engaged in sexual relations with a man younger than them. There is, rightly, no male equivalent because the age of men in relation to their female partners is simply not an issue (if my boyfriend, seven years my senior, were my age and I his, I’d be a ‘cougar’. No one has once commented on our true situation). The cougar label comes laden with negative cultural implication of a predatory, somewhat tragic middle-aged woman on the prowl for young meat  – Heaven forfend that any man should approach an older woman of his own volition, or that two people might be mutually, and equally, attracted. Actors Kim Cattrall and Demi Moore – having been routinely called cougars in the press – both described the term as negative and offensive to them and their relationships.

 

But when applied to beauty products, the term becomes pregnant with additional meaning. Is Rodial’s Cougar range ‘playfully’ implying that if you use it on your face, you’ll become attractive to younger men? Is it suggesting that pulling men their junior is something that women of a certain age aspire to, or perhaps should? Is this the most positive promise we can use to attract the mature woman customer – not that she may enjoy clearer, calmer, smoother skin, but that she might get a young person to desire her? The menopausal women I know aim a little higher, as it happens. And weirdly, they’re not looking to beauty brands for ideas on sexual identity either.

 

Maybe you think I should lighten up and stop being so touchy. Cougar is only a word, after all. It’s just a bit of fun, who cares what the bottle says? Maybe Rodial meant the American term for puma and all this is a misunderstanding. But I’m cross – mainly because I spend my life defending Beauty against claims that it causes women to judge themselves and other women negatively while simultaneously asking them to pay for the privilege. Then, just when I feel positive and inclusive brand initiatives are really advancing the cause, things like make-up marketed for bedtime, body care divided into ‘dark’ or ‘normal’ skin categories – and now, Rodial’s contribution – come along to demonstrate how far the industry still has to come. Everything I believe beauty can and should be – positive, confidence giving, life enhancing, empowering, respectful, woman-centered – appears to be absent from the branding concept of this range.

 

The whole thing, to me, reeks of cynicism. The reality is that the name ‘Cougar’ will guarantee press (I’m typing this, for a start). It comes with headlines that practically write themselves, making it perfect fodder for tabloids and the less responsible women’s magazines. As a result, it will probably sell out and if it does, I sincerely hope the women who parted with their hard earned money are happy with the results. But I cannot, in any good conscience, get behind such a reductive message that exploits lazy cultural and sexual stereotypes to shamelessly bait female consumers. To my mind, it’s rude to the women who keep the decidedly un-cheap Rodial in business, and unhelpful and offensive to those of us who don’t.

 

And yet perhaps the most disappointing thing about Cougar is that it is such a wasted opportunity. I know from speaking over the years to countless readers, forum members and clients, that the menopause can be a difficult time, where feelings of identity are sometimes thrown off kilter. Our relationships with our faces and bodies can suffer or become estranged, we occasionally seek some specialist beauty help but find our needs are ignored. There was, and is, a huge and meaningful space in the market – and in the lives of mature women – for a specific, targeted, luxurious and lovely skincare range for the unique menopausal period. And so it feels such a shame to me that when one finally came along, it risked doing way more harm than good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sali Hughes

Sali Hughes is a writer, broadcaster and Editor of salihughesbeauty.com.

  • Published: 120 posts
  • MitfordGal

    Ugh. The term ‘cougar’ makes me shudder. Such a judgement, with its implied desperation, such a sneering way to refer to women who happen to be dating a person who they find attractive. Nice way to address your customers, Rodial.

  • Fi Nightingale

    Agree with every word here. It’s so reductive. But more than anything, I just find it incredibly naff. It could be the wonder product of the century, but that one word would make me absolutely refuse to buy it. Spectacular own goal there, Rodial, well done.

  • Ruby Scarlett

    Rodial products may be amazing, but I’ll never know, the names repel me.

  • Ida

    Agreeing profusely. See also “Bliss spa” and their godawful “fatgirlslim” range. Offensive and misleading. And ever so condescending.

    • widowspider

      That gives me the fucking RAGE whenever I see it in Sephora.

  • Annelie

    GREAT article! I hate the word ‘cougar’ with a passion.

  • Get Lippie

    Fuck. That. Shit.

  • Natalie Kate M

    RODIAL CAN SMD.

  • Fi Nightingale

    Wonder when they’re bringing out Sugar Daddy products for men, then?

    • jen pobble

      I am quite enjoying imagining the products that would exist in this range.

  • Alkistis

    I didn’t think it was possible that my hatred for Rodial could grow any more. I was wrong. It just has.

  • Caroline Hirons

    Last time Rodial caused a furore with Size Zero the owner made a number of comments on twitter inferring that the products were ‘fun’ and said things like ‘Ooh look I just applied my cream and now I’m a Size Zero!’. So do the products work or not? Of course they don’t. So in making a joke she is in fact laughing at the people who pay an extortionate amount of money for what she admits doesn’t work. She seems like a lovely person.
    Oh.

    • Fi Nightingale

      God, Hirons, will you please stop sitting on the fence. Getting boring now, love.

    • Alkistis

      I moved countries to avoid people with a mentality like hers (which is very common in the country where we both originated). It looks like she is trying to break people here too…

  • emma_pad

    Oh FFS. Well put Sali.

  • Laura Ann Lawson Heron

    Stands up, claps.
    Some post menopause beauty column on good brands would be great, too Sali. My Mum has asked me for help (and I looked on the forum and your own columns to come up with some suggestions) – also a lot of older women do not have loads of spare cash to spare, so some more budgety options that are still lovely would be great. – The Heronwife

    • http://www.theorganicbeautician.com The Organic Beautician

      Speaking as a very happy post-menopausal woman, I would suggest minimising toxins, both in your diet and skin care. (I did this and didn’t have any of the usual problems like hot flushes, etc. My skin is also way better than it had been before.) So many aspects of big business are spending so much money advertising things they think we really need, which are often quite deleterious to our health, skin and sanity. I have used Dr Hauschka for 14 years, it is organic, ethical and pure and doesn’t advertise! I use it on my clients and have seen miraculous effects! (I suppose I am a cougar, too, because my husband is 8 months younger than me, but we have been married for 28 years, so maybe that doesn’t count.) Be selective about what you use and what you read, is my advice; this is a great piece, but a lot of beauty journalism appears to be thinly veiled advertising. http://www.badscience.net/2010/11/science-is-about-embracing-your-knockers/ They seem to have been making claims that may not be “accurate” and it seems quite difficult to find the ingredients in their products. It should always be easy to find the ingredients for products so the consumer knows what they are spending their hard earned money on.

  • Beanie O’D

    What a shameful load of patronising old bollocks from Rodial.

  • betsymartian

    There are some ludicrous names for products out there. I like a good pun as much as the next girl – Sexy Mother Pucker still makes me laugh – but this kind of thing, I’m not entirely sure who it’s supposed to speak to. It’s not funny, it’s not taking a semantical stand, if it’s an attempt at either it’s not a very good one.

  • Izzy Hicks

    Agree 100%. Well put, Sali.

  • pfrankie

    Well said, Sali! It makes my blood boil that you should have to write this though. What are they thinking?

    • pfrankie

      Must add that I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of you, Sali!

  • Tess McGill

    I have used Rodial Dragon’s Blood moisturiser because of recommendations (and also the child in me likes the idea of Dragon’s Blood, sounds like a witch’s moisturiser and I have always wanted to be a witch, not a princess).

    But this is full on offensive, patronising and sooooo ill judged. Fools. Well done Sali for calling them on it.

    Last paragraph about it being a missed opportunity to actually cater for a real need is spot on

    • Sali Hughes

      Yep. It’s a good product.

    • Kaya Gtl

      Why don’t they go down this line of “fun” names, dragon’s blood, Eye of Newt for eyecream etc, that would be actually funny!

      • Bianca

        I don’t think Dragon’s Blood is a fun name, though. It’s the name of one of the ingredients contained in the moisturizer, Croton Lechleri (Resin Extract), commonly known as Dragon’s Blood.

        • Alkistis

          I agree. There’s nothing ‘fun’ about them or the names. They are actually extremely po-faced as a brand, which explains why they take anyone who disagrees with their ridiculous claims to court.

  • Carolyn Carter-Cash

    It doesn’t seem like the smartest marketing approach by Rodial. As well as being offensive, is ‘cougar’ not also a bit of a dated pejorative, with the peak of cougar-frenzy being a good few years back? They’re not exactly surfing the crest of a new wave, or positioning themselves as a forward-thinking brand. I guess it must be their USP to be offensive and backward. But are there really that many women in the world that will
    self-identify as cougars? Mind-boggling.

  • helen

    Ugh, I did a bit of work about 10 years ago for Rodial on a counter when they had just launched in the UK. I spent a long day flogging cellulite potions without a break or any proper training, homing in on women’s insecurities.

    At the end of my shift they refused to pay me because I didn’t look like I had used the product myself and my thighs were ‘not a good company representation’. This would be appalling in any case but at the time I was under the care of a doctor for anorexia.

    In an environment of misogyny and dislike of women’s bodies, Rodial took the biscuit (well, not that they’d touch something so nasty as carbs) and I’m glad to hear you take them to task.

    • Fi Nightingale

      WHAT??? They refused to pay you because of how your thighs looked? Hope you took them to court.

  • Isobel Gane

    Great article Sali. I am not their target audience here but am totally put off buying *any* of their products by this patronising, sexist marketing.

  • Shel B T

    As one of the women in your last paragraph who would try something to help I totally concur with your comments.

  • lizk1216 .

    Excellent response, they will not be getting a penny of my money. I am having the worst symptoms of menopause, it is not fun by any stretch of the imagination. Rodial can stick their sexist, ageist etc comments their products

  • Kaya Gtl

    Actually, this is not a negative product review, since you haven’t tested the product. It is, however, a very justified shaming of their appalling marketing strategy, that they share with companies such as Bliss. I can’t believe that they don’t realize that this “fun” marketing is really damaging, especially among the customers above 30, who after all is the group with the most spending power. I would imagine that most menopausal women doesn’t care about being a cougar, they just want to not sweat, have moodswings etc, and just be the best version of themselves. I might be in the minority on this, but I’m also not a big fan of overly sexy blusher names etc, especially Deep throat, as for me it carries such negative associations.

    • Fi Nightingale

      I don’t mind the ‘Orgasm’ one, because women do get flushed and glowy afterwards, the name doesn’t offend me at all. But ‘Deep Throat’ makes no sense.

      • Kaya Gtl

        Orgasm is ok, but to me deep throating is not a positive sexual thing (though I’m sure some girls like it), I just associate it with a guy forcing you to go beyond your comfort zone and inducing your gag reflex. I’ve not experienced this myself, just seen too many series/movies where this is done in a context where men are using women.

        Edit: Friends have also talked about this, and it seems like a horrible experience, but again, with the right guy…

        • Snail Polish

          We all know that Deep Throat is about Watergate, and the colour is intended to reflect Nixon’s red face when he was caught out. Surprised that no-one but me has got its intended message ;)

          • Jackie Gunner

            I’m amazed that in the context of other well known Nars product names that people don’t immediately think of Richard Nixon in th context of Deep Throat. Nars Orgasm. Super Orgasm, Sex Appeal, Sin, Adult Content, Foreplay, Desire, Amour, Torrid, Seduction etc are all political references too I expect? ;)

          • Snail Polish

            Apart from New Order, which is a homage to the path-breaking 80s group. I heard that Nars intended to twin it with a Joy Division lipstick, which would have been redolent of prostitutes and lady bits… Oh wait… ;)

      • MitziDelBra

        The worst, worst, WORST make up product names are Kat Von D’s “Celebutard” (which was pulled, I believe) and Urban Decay’s “Jailbait”. WHY WOULD YOU.

        • Fi Nightingale

          God yes, I remember the hoohaa about those. Dickhead.

      • Dolly Daydreem

        The first Illamasqua product I ever bought was a nail polish, in a lovely mint green. The fact that it’s called MILF however, still makes me cringe.

    • Kishmish

      Totally agree about the blusher names. Yeah, yeah, I get it. They want to shock and seem edgy and get the press that goes along with all the sexual “taboo breaking” BS. I have avoided that blusher for just that reason. I’m so sick of the sexualization of every blasted thing.

  • Amy Page

    It makes me unbearably sad when women contribute to and perpetuate the patriarchy. Incredibly well-put Sali, and something worth giving a bad review for.

  • SJB
  • Bekahbea

    Yes! Exactly this – I was cheering as I read this piece. I’ve never bought anything by Rodial, because I hate the names they give their products. Speaking as a member of their target market for this range, I don’t find it amusing. They can consider themselves boycotted.

  • Jane Porter

    Don’t hold back! Sick of advertising that is demeaning to women and really sick of being told it’s just a joke!

  • Sinead O’Rebellion

    Fantastic article – I agree with everything here. Very ill thought out of them IMHO.

  • salihughesbeauty

    @helen sorry – had to delete comment for legal reasons x

  • Linda.Belinda

    well said. However, i like the pic and find it super funny – i am actually thinking of sending said pic to anybody who annoys me….

    • Sali Hughes

      The cougar in the pic is fully livid. She has had it with this shit.

  • Snail Polish

    On a more serious note, I agree with everything written in this post. If nothing else, such bullshit adds grist to the mill of all the irritating beauty crusaders who are determined to lift the veil of ignorance from our painted-and-curled and eyes.

  • Ms Nomer

    Absolutely. Speaking as a “cougar” too (The Gentleman Caller is eight years younger than I am), I don’t like this term at all, as it has no male equivalent. Rodial is just a brand I avoid, I hate the ethos behind all its products, they seem really women-hating, e.g. the “crash dieting sticks” and “tummy tuck sticks”.
    I even declined samples of Rodial at Space NK when they were offered with my last purchase. I can’t belive I typed that, but yes, I declined samples.

  • Kishmish

    I’ll be 51 on the 25th of this month. I was born a softy & a romantic and I’ll die one. Didn’t become predatory and most likely won’t because it’s NOT MY NATURE. I’d never be a cougar even if I did date a younger man…which I don’t. I wouldn’t buy something with this name on a bet. Tabloids start pushing a word and everyone repeats it like mindless jackasses. BAH! Cougar my aspidistra.

  • widowspider

    Just….no. Just no. As a woman with a younger boyfriend, the term ‘cougar’ boils my piss. And to use it for a range for menopausal women? Do kindly fuck off. Spot on, Hughes.

  • wiiaholic

    Well said, agree totally. Won’t be encouraging me to try any Rodial products..

  • Rooty Tooty

    I’m menopausal and for the last couple of years have been feeling good about my looks for the first time in my life. I can finally help myself look like the best version of me and enjoy experimenting and developing new looks. That is such an amazing feeling at this time in my life as I also notice (and sometimes struggle with) changes in my face, body, hair and skin. To be presented with a set of products that tell me my focus should be on attracting younger men, rather than feeling fucking amazing about who I am and how I look and where I have got to in life leaves me feeling angry and disgusted. Rodial have no place in my life and do not speak to me, or for me.

  • Jackie Gunner

    Rodial can get to fuck. I want nothing to do with them or their products. I am in the menopausal target market for this range, and most years I spend more on beauty than I do on clothes, but Rodial will never see a penny of mine. I won’t even accept Rodial samples. Dicks.

  • Janet M

    Agree, Hate this kind of patronising sexist shite.

  • Sue

    Brilliant piece, couldn’t agree more. I am 54 and the last thing I want to be referred to as is a ‘cougar’. Won’t be going near the stuff!!

  • Jan

    It is interesting how some things grate and others can pass one by – I too dislike cougar and find it offensive, but equally laughed at *sexy mother pucker*, yet cannot stand swearing written down especially the *ffs* abbreviation hate it hate it….each to their own, thank goodness we are all different.

  • Jessica Twentyman

    Appalling marketing strategy. Whoever at Rodial thinks that this kind of branding is ‘fun’ simply doesn’t understand the company’s audience. At all.

  • LaetitiaMcP

    Bravo Sali – read this on twitter earlier – it’s doing the rounds, as it should. Bravo! x

  • Kittie K

    Such a great piece. Rodial sound like a brand completely out-of-sync with their (potential) customers. Just give us some effective goo without the crap marketing.

  • Uma Contreras

    Absolutely agree

  • MitziDelBra

    Rodial, you give me the dry boak.

  • The late Fred Feast

    What a lot of silly hysterical nonsense.

  • Claire GTL

    It’s so incredibly offensive. Must admit it’s things like this and Boob Job that have totally put me off Rodial. Never tried it, and don’t want to.

  • Lara Thompson

    Excellent piece. So well put.

  • Kath GTL

    The only woman I imagine buying these would be Dorian from Birds of a Feather. Not an image I’d want to associate myself with! Surely women in this age bracket (coming up to it myself) want a sophisticated, elegant brand, not this cheap trick.

  • lovestruck

    really fed up with stuff like this, this week. this and the whole CBBC red lippie thing… head wants to explode.

  • Dolly Daydreem

    Thank you for speaking out about this Sali. It’s disgustingly misogynistic and cynical. Shame on those involved – for all those product names!

  • Elise

    Just wanted to say, as an American watching the news about light-skinned grown men killing–with impunity–African American youths, that I have always admired you for promoting only brands that cater to all skin colors, and that you almost never forget to include shades that look good on dark skins as well as light when reviewing colors or lipsticks. By insisting that dark-skinned people are indeed human beings, you are part of the push to remember that black children are equal to white children. Thank you for refusing to transform a black person to an Other, and again for refusing to cotton to a product that aims to reduce an experienced woman to a scary woman who wants nothing else but for a young man to desire her. Your voice matters, and you are the only beauty writer I read regularly.

  • hmmachin

    I am right there with everyone who hates Rodial. and went off Bliss people cos of their Fatgirlslim bs too. and also because i discovered the lovely Mama Mio products, designed for pregnant ladies but fab for everyone and minus the chemical nasties. i use their Boobtube, a lovely lemony cream which is maintaining my aging decolletage and whose name i dont feel to be demeaning in any way.