Special K

Please see our “About,” “Why Radfem?” and “The Gears” pages for additional information about this project.

Common themes represented here:

Fetishize female vulnerability.  Women’s restrictive and painful clothing and shoes; women losing weight to take up as little space as possible.  Tiny, starving women in restrictive clothing and high heels make easy targets for male violence.

Handmaidens of the patriarchy.  Women narrators and actors selling patriarchal values to other women, in this case both consumerism and woman-hating through both dieting and clothes-hoarding.

Normalize abuse/neglect.  Intentional starvation or near-starvation of “first-world” women who can afford to eat and have food available, but choose not to eat or deliberately fail to eat enough is the epitome of neglect, and self-neglect.

Pornify girl children/infantilize adult women.  Take up as little space as possible by dieting, and then act cute and coquettish for the camera.  I’m an adult but I love candy.  Yay candy, give me more candy.

Reversal.  Eating highly processed, non-nutritious food is good for you; losing is really gaining (“what will you gain when you lose?”); eating more will make you weigh less, without a satisfactory explanation/qualification of that implication or the very specific conditions under which that might be true for some people.

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26 responses to “Special K”

  1. tiamathydra says :

    These Special K commercials are so necrophilic it gives me the chills, and that’s a really good analysis on them. The infatilization/idiotization of women is also deeply infuriating, these are the kind of beings the patriarchy wants us to be, the problem is we’re not.

  2. FCM says :

    i hadnt thought of these as being necrophilic, but in advocating for the literal corporeal annihilation and erasure of women, i guess thats exactly what they are.

    another reversal of sorts: dont eat real candy because it will make you fat; eat fake crappy food and get skinny, then wear clothing that *reminds* you of candy. wtf? is that a reveral, or perhaps doublethink?

  3. ibleedpurple says :

    another reversal of sorts: dont eat real candy because it will make you fat; eat fake crappy food and get skinny, then wear clothing that *reminds* you of candy. wtf? is that a reveral, or perhaps doublethink?

    I think the clothes are supposed to be candy. The ad suggests that you gain the pleasure of wearing fashionable clothes by abstaining from the pleasure of eating sweets. The colours of the clothes (red & pink) are supposed to enhance this effect by symbolizing lifeliness, enjoyment, fulfillment and pleasure so abstaining does not become associated with abnegation. Market research techniques are a true mindfuck.

  4. FCM says :

    It’s truly ironic that all this diet food is loaded with sugar and isnt much more nourishing than candy, or taking candy with a vitamin. And the sugar substitutes some of them use are known to cause abdominal bloating and gas — which looks like weight gain — and are even thought to cause weight gain, albeit not because they have calories, through a metabolic process that happens because they taste sweet but provide no energy. This entire industry should be shut down immediately. Fucking necrophiles is right.

  5. FCM says :

    Also, perhaps “mindfuck” or “doublethink/mindfuck” should be its own category? What say you? Is it different enough from a reversal to require it? I think it might be, and the way it serves male power is that it literally makes your mind go blank. Similarly perhaps to pr firms calling sewer sludge “biosolids” because it makes the mind go blank upon hearing it, you become numb and confused, and a clean slate for whatever they are trying to sell you. Of course this is exactly what we are dealing with in all advertising images, they are all using PR/marketing firms and they all work by the same principles. Would any ad NOT be a doublethink/midfuck? If they all are, is that a useful analytic tool for this project?

    What say you? Still thinking about that one.

  6. tiamathydra says :

    I don’t know but I’ll try to process those questions in my mind FCM, even though my main thought on that is that patriarchal ideology is a sick mindfuck in itself, and that’s why it can get so difficult for women sometimes to understand it and try to clarify its principles, because it comes from some sick mindset and is inherently psychopathic.

    On the candy reversal, I think it’s possibly related to the desiring subject/desired object dynamics. Since women are to be considered always ”desired object” (submissive/feminine/victim/matter without spirit) in the patriarchal ideology, men have to be the ”desiring subjects”, so women must be totally brainwashed into thinking of themselves as objects and never identifying themselves with a subject, and food and the desire for food kind of provides that feeling of being a subject, or a person, a living being (necrophilia again, because patriarchy wants us zombified, that is physically functioning but spiritually dead), so the stereotype of the western skinny female beauty ideal forbids us to eat whatever we fancy at the moment because we could start feeling like human beings who have a right to eat a non-processed, healthy and invigorating diet… so it’s telling that we’re expected to become what we’re denied in the first place (candy in this case). Since it’s forbidden for us to desire candy because we can’t desire anything, we must become ”candy” for the consumerist delight of men (”eye-candy” we’re called), even though these candies are starved themselves. Basically, the underlying dynamics is that in everything we do, we must relate to the world, even to the food we eat, as objects. Never as subjects.

    The thought occured to me last night when I was drinking beers and eating ice cream with a female friend. Not advocating for unhealthy food but the point is that when you don’t have to worry about how the food will make you look and you simply feel relaxed and free to eat whatever you like, you end up feeling like a subject, like a human being with dignity and desires of her own. That’s what the patriarchy wants to avoid. But of course it’s a marketing technique, because even if patriarchy expects us to become objects/matter, they know that in truth we are subjects/spirit-matter, so they know how to do the reversals so that our natural desire for something ends up also turned into an object together with us.

  7. Mary Sunshine says :

    “mindfuck” – we’re telepathic with each other, FCM. I used that word in the tweet for Paraguard that I just sent out. 🙂

  8. Mary Sunshine says :

    YES to mindfuck as a Category. Women know exactly what it means on first reading. One needs to be ever-so-slightly steeped in the wisdom of Mary Daly to have an immediate sense of what the word is saying with respect to our ( your ) content.

  9. ibleedpurple says :

    Hmm, for me a mindfuck is the outcome of a manipulative technique which is supposed to create a willingness to buy or consume by linking positive values, thoughts and the like to what is supposed to be bought or consumed.

    What you said, fcm, is a perfect starting example:
    Similarly perhaps to pr firms calling sewer sludge “biosolids” because it makes the mind go blank upon hearing it, you become numb and confused, and a clean slate for whatever they are trying to sell you.

    Now if you wanted to market “biosolids” you only would have to create a positive image. (Very difficult in this case, I admit)

    I think mindfucks are different from reversals in the sense that they are more subtle in creating dependencies and consumer behaviour by exploiting values and opinions that are already found in individuals. For diet products I know that the majority of consumers do not actually eat low-fat for reasons that have to do with pleasure – much diet stuff tastes horrible and bland. Believe me when I say that I have heard that consumers will even admit to this in interviews. They do it because they experience some kind of moral boost as diet/low-fat is associated with losing weight. So the consumers already have internalized many harmful cultural messages about weight gain, it’s only up to market research to activate them. That Special K ad is completely symptomatic for the marketing of diet products.

    Mindfuck might be useful as a concept because patriarchy is also “marketed” to women. Our need for love and affection is manipulated in such a way that we channel these needs towards relationships with men.

  10. FCM says :

    the only thing is that its *not* going to be a useful category for this project if it applies to every single image equally. i can see how it would, bc these are all advertising images, and yet there is something “special” about this special K ad that seems particularly mindfucking. being that this is the case, and assuming the HOWs and WHYs whereby one image can be more obvious/worse mindfucking than another can be articulated (again, so that it is a useful tool for this project) ibleedpurple, would you be willing to provide a writeup for “mindfuck” as a category? or if not you, someone else? leave it as a comment here or on the “gears” page if so. citing to specific passages/works of daly or dworkin (if you know specifically where this concept can be found) would be helpful. thanks.

  11. ibleedpurple says :

    Hey, fcm! Let me work on it. I have a lot to do at the moment…

  12. FCM says :

    Ok thanks.

  13. witchwind says :

    My thought would be that the particular mindfuck of special K is sideration: that is, use of contradictions and linguistic reversals to deliberately confuse, numb and stun the opponent. Intimate male terrorists, pornogrophers (ect) use these strategies all the time. The dfference between the reality and what the man says to name that reality (ie sex instead of rape) is so big that it just creates a blank in the mind of the victim so that the oppressor’s words is the only thing that resonates. The aim is to further dissociate the victim from her body and reality so her feelings aren’t real any more > which puts women more in danger of violence.

    This, by way, only works with people who are generally in a dissociated state and who are generally taught to never trust their feelings, ie women and girls.

  14. witchwind says :

    On a macro level, it’s also called the shock strategy or blitz attack: numb the victims by a short and quick attack, create a void by destroying everything else around, present oneself as the only option (Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine could be applied to some of intimate male terrorist’s strategies)

  15. tiamathydra says :

    Witchwind, that’s good food for the mind, thanks! Could it also be related to the ”create the problem, offer the solution” tactic? I think so. And yes I believe it’s very true that the male elites who control the corporate media and all other institutions know perfectly well we’re already mentally vulnerable because we’re already in a dissociated state since childhood, so not much work is necessary to feed us shit as ‘liberating’ and ’empowering’, it’s not that we’re stupid, it’s that we’re lobotomized. I think many men interpret this as stupidity because they don’t know what women can do when they awaken. Also when you awaken you realize that it’s so blatantly obvious that the joke’s on women, that most women need to be in a dissociative state in order to be able to function, just like you were before.

  16. ibleedpurple says :

    Hey, fcm! I tried to post my definition but it wouldn’t show up?

  17. ibleedpurple says :

    Okay, another try:

    “Mindfucks are strategies to create dependency on the choices patriarchy considers to be the only ones viable by occlusion of the truth or shock & awe through deliberate confusion. This becomes easier the more dependent the women is on her oppressor and the more of his values she has internalized. One of the most notorious examples is probably the depiction of rape as being wanted by women and therefore equivalent to sex. The gap between what is real, that rape is an atrocious political act of violence, and what is constructed by patriarchy, rape as pleasurable to women, is so wide that the new information creates a cognitive overload by its sheer irrationality causing women to be unable to react adequately. Mindfucks can also create dependencies by exploiting the dearth of options women have in patriarchy. Manipulating women by telling them that rape is an inevitable part of life can render them apathetic and defenceless, making unwanted sex palatable by alluding to relationship improvement traps women in unwanted relationships.

    Why? Because…

    Mindfucks support male power. Keeping women confused and hopeless drains them of all energy to fight men’s attempts at colonization. It also makes women unable to locate escape routes and strategies keeping them enslaved to male approval and cutting off potential support networks with other women. This leads to alienation from each other and isolation weakening the collective power of all women everywhere. Mindfucks create situations which might become so overwhelming that dealing with the ensuing cognitive dissonance alone takes up so much time and effort that men succeed in redirecting women’s energy into their direction. Just think about all the space women have dedicated to disproving claims of man-hatred and the pages over pages written by women about sisters who are safe to hate in an effort to gain acceptance by the male establishment. This leads to an investment in individual survival strategies while the well-being of women everywhere is neglected. Basically, mindfucks can be described as energy suckers employed to entrap women in useless or even detrimental activities.”

    Thanks to witchwind and tiamat for giving me insights!

  18. FCM says :

    ok 2 things. 1) is this the same as doublethink? and 2) is this consistent across all advertising images (bc its a tool of all advertising)? if so, it will not be a useful analytic tool (category) for this project but might make a good post to describe how all advertising is meant to work WRT women generally. what do you think?

  19. FCM says :

    also, this is intriguing:

    The gap between what is real, that rape is an atrocious political act of violence, and what is constructed by patriarchy, rape as pleasurable to women, is so wide that the new information creates a cognitive overload by its sheer irrationality causing women to be unable to react adequately.

    can you write more about how that works and in what circumstances it is used? again, i am thinking this is worthy of its own post.

  20. witchwind says :

    Wow, thanks ibleedpurple for this amazing definition!!! You pretty much covered it, you did a great job!

    I agree this is worthy of its own post.

    Mindfuck is used in any patriarchal propaganda, it’s probably one of the bases of all propaganda. Incoherence, dissonance and gap between the real violence and the way it is constructed by patriarchy is a powerful form of psychological violence aimed at numbing and stunning the victims into sideration – it creates this incapacity to think, to find a way out and allows men to attack us without us being capable of reacting. It’s a trauma-inducing process. It is used in every single advertising and every single patriarchal material of expression (whether through writing, painting, photos, lyrics or film) because all patriarchal cultural works are created with this intent and aim.

    Propaganda could not work without this mechanism because the basis of propaganda is to diffuse a lie. In order for us to believe their lies, the lies have to be diffused by force. And the way to force it down into our brains is by this mindfuck strategy of psychological violence + ubiquity and organised purge of the alternative truth (the latter two which are also forms of violence).

  21. witchwind says :

    Which makes me think that all lies are mindfucks, and all mindfucks under patriarchy have this intent to harm women by destroying their mental capacities to resist to male sexual violence and male power.

  22. Mia XX says :

    this reminds me of Dworkin’s distinction between reality (constructed) and truth(absolute). And how she talked about how it was so important to victims of sexual assault to simply be believed. This discussion seems like it is about the ways that reality is constructed when it is not truth.

    Looong quote, below:

    ‘Now, I want to make a crucial distinction–the distinction between truth and reality. For humans, reality is social; reality is whatever people at a given time believe it to be. In saying this, I do not mean to suggest that reality is either whimsical or accidental. In my view, reality is always a function of politics in general and sexual politics in particular–that is, it serves the powerful by fortifying and justifying their right to domination over the powerless. Reality is whatever premises social and cultural institutions are built on. Reality is also the rape, the whip, the fuck, the hysterectomy, the clitoridectomy, the mastectomy, the bound foot, the high-heel shoe, the corset, the make-up, the veil, the assault and battery, the degradation and mutilation in their concrete manifestations. Reality is enforced by those whom it serves so that it appears to be self-evident. Reality is self-perpetuating, in that the cultural and social institutions built on its premises also embody and enforce those premises. Literature, religion, psychology, education, medicine, the science of biology as currently understood, the social sciences, the nuclear family, the nation-state, police, armies, and civil law–all embody the given reality and enforce it on us. The given reality is, of course, that there are two sexes, male and female; that these two sexes are opposite from each other, polar; that the male is inherently positive and the female inherently negative; and that the positive and negative poles of human existence unite naturally into a harmonious whole.

    Truth, on the other hand, is not nearly so accessible as reality. In my view, truth is absolute in that it does exist and it can be found. Radium, for instance, always existed; it was always true that radium existed; but radium did not figure in the human notion of reality until Marie and Pierre Curie isolated it. When they did, the human notion of reality had to change in fundamental ways to accommodate the truth of radium. Similarly, the earth was always a sphere; this was always true; but until Columbus sailed west to find the East, it was not real. We might say that truth does exist, and that it is the human project to find it so that reality can be based on it.’


  23. Mia XX says :

    tiamathydra’s comment about relating to the world as an object or a subject- about women desiring to become candy rather than desiring candy- has just been rattling round my head the whole time since I read it.

  24. ibleedpurple says :


    1) is this the same as doublethink?

    For doublethink, you have to accept that two contradictory meanings are right, but when it comes to mindfucks people under their unfluence do know that something isn’t right, that one belief isn’t acceptable, however, they have been manipulated in a way that there is either no way out or do not believe that it’s possible to think differently.

    2) is this consistent across all advertising images (bc its a tool of all advertising)?

    Well, I would say that adverstising is good at manipulating already-held perceptions to corporations’ advantage. They do mindfucks when they very obviously play on women’s insecurities like that ad some years for a make-up company which came with a slogan citing the findings of a study that women who wore make-up were more likely to be flirted with. That ad tried to create some kind of no-win situation: “See, men like women with make-up more and there is nothing you can do about it because SCIENCE!” Maybelline recently launched a campaign with slogans like “I wear make-up because it accentuates my cheekbones” or “Only because I wear lipstick doesn’t mean I’m stupid”. Well, you can say they tried to create a false reality, however, this actually reflects the way many depoliticized so-called alpha women think.

    So, I don’t know. It might be a bit too fuzzy to become a separate category. I do not know that much about advertising but I do believe I have the general mechanisms pretty much down.

    can you write more about how that works and in what circumstances it is used? again, i am thinking this is worthy of its own post.

    Oh, boy. I’m actually writing my final paper at uni right now. I’m still able to spend some free time, though. It might take a while – I am pretty perfectionist about stuff I write. So I could attempt to do something on advertising in general and the rape mindfuck. Shall I send it when it’s ready?


    Again, you make very good points! You have a lot of understanding of patriarchal mechanisms. And thanks for the compliment! 😀

    Mia XX:

    That Dworkin quote is amazing! It describes exactly what a mindfuck is built on: a socially created reality that is defended by trying to cover up the truth. Much of libfeminism is invested in getting rid of sex roles as these institutions which are supposed to have a life of their own, while the simple truth, that they are not simply roles but mechanisms to exploit and abuse women, is lost.

  25. FCM says :

    yes, send it when its ready. thanks!

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