Advertisers must convince young women that they are in need of constant improvement largely to get and keep boys’ attention without threatening young women’s views of themselves as intelligent, self directed, and equal. Buzzwords like “empowerment,” “self-determination,” and “independence” are sprinkled liberally across their pages. But this seemingly progressive rhetoric is used to sell products and ideas that keep girls doing gender in appropriately feminine ways, leading them to reproduce, rather than challenge, gender hierarchies. An ad for a depilatory cream, for instance, tells girls that they are “unique, determined, and unstoppable,” so they should not “settle… for sandpaper skin.” Feminist demands for political and economic equality - and the refusal to settle for low-wages, violence, and second-class citizenship - morph into a refusal to settle for less than silky skin. Pseudo-feminist language allows young women to believe that they can “empower” themselves at the checkout counter by buying the accoutrements of traditional femininity. Girls’ potential choice to shun make-up or hair-removal disappears, replaced by their choice of an array of beauty products promising to moisturize, soften, and smooth their troubles away.
— Amanda M. Gengler, “Selling Feminism, Consuming Femininity” (2011)