Monday, March 12, 2007

Observer Woman makes me spit too

Last month I was so infuriated by something from the Observer Woman that I wrote them a letter. Well, an email. Not something I am in the habit of doing, let me assure you, but I was baying for blood.

If you’re not familiar with OW, it comes as a freebie once a month with the Observer newspaper. It fails miserably in its attempt to be an intelligent alternative to the glossies, fluctuating between the bonkers ("We know it’s common but we but love the gays") and the boring (every single article longer than 500 words ever). But usually it doesn’t bother me that much. It’s not any worse than the average monthly title, and at least you don’t have to pay three frigging quid for it.

So what roused my ire to such an extent?

This, from the beauty problem pages:

I cannot find an inexpensive body cream (under £4) that is not tested on animals. Are you aware of any? The Body Shop ones are about £8. (Luciana Brett)

Excellent question Luciana, and one I’d like to hear an answer to myself. Let’s see what ‘Beauty Queen’ Kathy Phillips has to say then, shall we?

Animal testing on finished cosmetic products has already been banned since 2004. By 2009 it will also be illegal to test any cosmetic ingredients or formulations on animals in EU member countries, or to sell cosmetics that were tested on animals. So most cosmetics are in the clear, it's just that some use it as a marketing ploy more than others. (Excellent – a straightforward answer. But hang on, she’s not finished yet.) But these are some good natural brands. Neal's Yard have a Chamomile and Aloe Vera Body Lotion 100ml, £7, and almond oil for £5; Green People have Body Comfort - 200ml for £10.99 - and Liz Earle, has Nourishing Botanical Body Cream at £5 for 50ml. (Nice bit of blatant product placement there. Well, it is a women’s glossy – they have to pay for it somehow. Now for the final message - some words of reassurance about not having to spend a lot in order to look good? Er..) However, I am upset that you not prepared to spend money either on your principles or, worse still, on yourself. You only have one body for life and you should enjoy looking after it. A good body lotion will last you longer than most cheap clothing, which looks terrible after a few washes:A £4 cream? Is that really how little you value yourself?


For a start, Kathy Phillips looks like Suzi Quatro with bad highlights after a really rough night. I would not take beauty advice from this woman.

It’s not the blatant product-placement that pissed me off either (there were links to all products mentioned, surprise, surprise). We’re not stupid – we all know that magazines are advertiser-driven and I’m neither offended nor surprised that a page of advertising is (thinly, ineffectively) disguised as editorial.

I was, however, slightly taken aback that Ms Phillips, despite having a huge plug for her cosmetics company at the bottom of the page also felt it necessary to recommend some of her own products in answer to the very first question. Some subtlety, please.

What really had me spitting feathers was her attitude to the person who took the bother to write in.

I am upset that you not prepared to spend money either on your principles or, worse still, on yourself.


A £4 cream? Is that really how little you value yourself?

I really cannot lucidly express how argry these two short sentences made me.

As I’ve said before – aren’t newspapers and magazines supposed to reflect their readership? Surely Luciana Brett and I aren’t the only Guardian/Observer readers in the country who think that £4 is quite a lot to spend of a bit of moisturiser, actually? At least the property pages don’t actually say, "You can’t afford this, can you, you fucking peasant?"

Anyhow – I can stop getting all irate about the Observer Woman because there is a whole blog about it
here. The blogger reads OW so we don’t have to, picks out the best (most infuriating) bits and rips them to shreds for our enjoyment. Yay.

(Thanks to young Billy for the directions)

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  • It's an excellent blog isn't it? I do like a nice ranty blog.

    By Blogger Billy, at 9:24 PM  

  • That article made me spit. Mind you, I'm the sort of person who feels I'm being posh if I wash my hair with actual shampooo as opposed to soap/bubble bath/shower gel/whatever comes to hand, so I doubt I have enough self worth to be qualified to have an opinion. I'm certain my moisturiser isn't up to scratch either. What a self-satisfied old cow she is!

    Grr. Off to calm down now!

    By Blogger Lorna, at 10:11 PM  

  • I thought all you birds read was the Mail?

    By Anonymous fidel, at 10:27 PM  

  • I had read that article about the body lotion and thought bloody cheek. By the way Luciana Brett, if you're reading I heartily recommend Johnsons Intensive Moisturising Cream, which is the best I've ever tried (better than the expensive Clarins one I got for a present) and it only costs £2.99 and it's Johnsons with the babies and stuff. I'm sure they wouldn't test on animals.

    That other blog's brilliant and spot on. I tried to post a comment but they don't allow mere lurkers. Geez the discrimination it's worse than being a ginger.... shit

    By Anonymous Tedward's Missing Ear, at 10:51 PM  

  • Hello everyone, aren't you lovely?

    We're so glad it's not just us.

    Tedward, many apologies. Our exclusivity is purely accidental (of course you're on the guest list darling, we asked Gervaise to do it for us mwah) Anyway it's not our fault - we're just a silly little flappery of blondes (and redheads) who don't really have a hang of these computerweb machines. We shall do our best to reset our settings forthwith, if we can keep our thoughts off Mulberry handbags and those adorable gaymosexuals for long enough.

    lots of love,

    Dolly & Ally xx

    By Blogger Spitting Mad, at 11:32 PM  

  • Please don't stop getting irate, Spin. It's bloody entertaining when you do.

    By Blogger Tim Footman, at 12:01 AM  

  • way to go girl, that is indeed outrageous, and they should know!

    By Anonymous mar, at 1:02 AM  

  • Self esteem now linked to body moisturiser spend - amazing.

    By Blogger Flirty Something, at 9:06 AM  

  • All this "you have to spend piles of money on lotions and potions because your body is worth it" stuff is bollocks. Come to think of it, the likes of the Body Shop have priced themselves out of the market. I can remember shopping there in Birmingham in the 1980's, when they used to sell affordable products, and the shop used to be crammed with people buying stuff, and I'm sure it wasn't just because of the "novelty" of the products not being tested on animals that made it a success. It was principled but popular because everything was fairly cheap. Now they've wacked the prices up. Our local branch always seems to be empty - I don't know how it stays open.

    By Blogger Betty, at 9:14 AM  

  • That's completely ridick. One day these people (and Tom Cruise, I expect) will look back at themselves and think, "Oh my god. I was such a cock."

    I hope, I hope.

    Did you get a response to your email?

    By Blogger Annie Rhiannon, at 9:43 AM  

  • Vaseline and Nivea are chips as chips too.

    Thank God someone has set up a blog to deal with Obsever Woman. It makes me tired just to think of it.

    By Blogger Bowleserised, at 10:48 AM  

  • "cheap as chips"

    Jesus. I must have been reading Observer Woman.

    By Blogger Bowleserised, at 10:48 AM  

  • "I’m neither offended nor surprised that a page of advertising is (thinly, ineffectively) disguised as editorial."

    Oh I am Spin.

    But then, you know me and the chattering classes...

    Would you like to borrow my bayonet?

    L.U.V. on ya,


    "Anger is an energy!"

    By Blogger Robert Swipe, at 10:56 AM  

  • I thought that was pretty condescending too - you want something under £4, recommend something under £4 or if the answer is that everything under £4 is tested on animals, say so.

    Slightly puzzled by your comment about her listing one of her own products though. Kathy Phillips has a brand called 'This Works' (which is nothing to do with Liz Earle) and everything in it costs considerably more than £4 - more like £40.

    Yours, a pedant.

    By Blogger GreatSheElephant, at 11:06 AM  

  • Agree with you completely, but there was one other, hugely hypocritical point in that article that I think bears mentioning:

    "it's just that some use [no animal testing] as a marketing ploy more than others... But [there] are some good natural brands..."

    The word "natural" in beauty products and dietary supps is the biggest marketing scam in history. It has absolutely no meaning whatsoever. What is "natural?" Products made exclusively from plant extracts? What about products containing extracts that ARE found in plants, but happen to have been sythesized in a lab for cost/convenience sake? And since when does "natural" = good? Belladona is natural, but I sure as shit wouldn't eat it. Poison ivy is natural but i wouldn't want to smear it on my body. The term is purely, 100% marketing, and it irritates the crap out of me that she would accuse others of that scam while employing it herself in the same fucking paragraph. Cunt.

    By Blogger Chaucer's Bitch, at 11:41 AM  

  • It's just the fucking ornamental culture we live in... This has really annoyed me - despte reading the G dailly I don't get the Observer, as the last time I did it seemed to be about Nannys and Garlic - or how your Nanny should prepare Garlic - or something else completely irrelevant to the real world.

    We should spend more on "Boswolox" or "pro-tensium" or some other concocted pseudo science designed to extort money from punters - where the fuck does this woman get off being so fucking righteous about self worth and moral integrity when she works in the pissing beauty advertising industry...

    Obviously, she is a paragon of virtue... Good on you for writing a letter.

    By Anonymous Kissing just for practice, at 12:06 PM  

  • damn straight lady.
    it is awful that women can write such idiocy that how you value yourself is based on how much you spend on cosmetics. never mind about where self worth actually comes from, she seems to think that you can buy it from the boots counter. it makes me so angry.
    i love the observer woman makes me spit blog. something had to be done!

    By Blogger sian and crooked rib, at 12:35 PM  

  • yeah.

    If an alien looked at advertising aimed at women and compared it to advertising aimed at men, it would be forced to conclude that women are a lot stupider than men, which as we know, is not true at all.

    It's all making me increasingly angry (although I still spend a freakin fortune on the rubbish they promote).

    By Blogger GreatSheElephant, at 1:33 PM  

  • Oh, this sort of magazine is so self-serving. I don't think it's meant to have actual readers. It probably only exists to pull in advertising revenue to keep the Observer going, and so that Observer hackettes can get free makeup and bags and stuff off PR people. I think I'll stick with the Economist and Elle Deco, if that's OK with everyone.

    I quite like the Music Monthly, though.

    By Blogger patroclus, at 5:23 PM  

  • GSE - sorry - that was just me not making myself very clear. She plugged her own brand in answer to a different question to the one I highlighted (on the same page though).

    I got just a standard bounceback email. I should have done what I did with our old friend Mary Dejevsky and cc'd in a load of section editors.

    I feel particularly angry on behalf of the girl who wrote in with the query in the first place. We all can take offense, but the response is actually a direct personal attack on this one woman. God!

    By Blogger Spinsterella, at 6:21 PM  

  • You never find this sort of thing in Rod and Custom.

    By Blogger First Nations, at 9:28 PM  

  • worth trying to resend then (this time with ccs).

    I've just found an article by her in another magazine and she is again plugging her own brand.

    I've actually met her in real life and she's quite scary, although, I thought, really quite lovely to look at in an age appropriate way. she doesn't photograph well.

    By Blogger GreatSheElephant, at 9:37 PM  

  • You can't go wrong with a bit of vaseline or olive oil! Although I have to admit I do like a bit of Eve Lom of an evening. Kathy Phillips should know better - she's got Gillian McKeith syndrome I reckon.

    By Blogger rockmother, at 11:39 PM  

  • What's Rod and Custom?

    By Blogger patroclus, at 5:09 PM  

  • makes me feel grateful i didn't/don't read OW that closely

    (my fave quote from the OWMMS blog, though: Women whose thighs don't meet in the middle look like nutcrackers.)

    could they be more right?

    By Blogger Urban Chick, at 10:32 PM  

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