Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Semiotic Analysis of Things My Boyfriend Doesn’t Have on His Bureau

Today I’m going to examine a slightly non-traditional text. Rather than analyzing words, I am going to do a semiotic analysis of a collection of distinctly feminine physical products (pictured below) found on my bureau. Susan Bell and Lynne Freeman write in “Decoding the Meaning of a Perfect Christmas Meal” that semiotics is particularly valuable in its ability to help readers distance themselves from the culture the are part of, especially when analyzing concepts with symbolic meaning. They define a semiotic analysis as something which “looks at how words and images combine to create meaning together.” I will focus my semiotic analysis primarily on the image and physical attributes of the objects at hand in attempt to understand the message(s) they might be portraying.
Purple! Pink! These two colors are explicitly feminine and have an overwhelming presence in this collection. White also has a significant presence in the current color scheme. Is there a color more angelic than white? But where are the golden halos that truly seal the deal on my innocence and saintly-ness? Look to the caps of almost half of the bottles. The little blue lip balm appears an outlier, being the most masculine color here yet. While the color is hopeful, shape cannot be neglected. It stands out against the many phallic bottles, resembling most closely an egg. A morbid message becomes clear: the woman shall produce masculinity only in the form of her egg.

When my body does not produce the desired masculine egg, my pink shiny box of tampons promises the protection I need to help my radiant body survive the bloody attack. My assortment of healing lotions, moisturizers, and penetrating oils reminds me of two things: 1. I am inherently broken and I must make sure to tend to my most important and exterior organ, and 2. penetration and moisturization are key. With this in mind, it might be beneficial to notice the average 1.5 to 2 inch girth of the many bottles that are my “solution.” 

My lipsticks loudly preach passivity with names like “just bitten kissable” and “color whisper.” It is implied that to be bitten, or in other words physically harmed, is kissable (sexually acceptable). The color on my lips should whisper, rather than speak loudly and clearly about my sexual readiness (it might be worth noting that the color itself is named “berry ready”). 

When semiotically analyzed together, these products imply far more than the utility women might believe themselves to purchase them for. Even so, I must remember that I display them on my bureau not for accessibility (do I really need 4 different lotions and 4 perfumes out at the same time for utility?), but as trophies of my womanhood. This analysis makes clear that my material “pride” embodies and provokes more shame, self-correction, and oppression than self-love. Thus womanly pride is shown to be acceptable so long as it takes the form of self-hate and correction by phallus.


  1. Holy crap. This is probably the most analytical, witty and fun piece of writing I have ever read. It was mind blowing reading this post. I think about all the stuff I have on my bureau-make up, make up remover wipes, perfumes, lotions, hair accessories-it all symbolizes that I transform myself daily. I think you did an amazing job with this post Jess!!!

  2. I laughed out loud so many times...and then I was appropriately horrified by how unfunny this all turns out to be. What a great analysis, but beyond that, a really intriguing voice here, which is satirical, scathing-- a true feminist wit. Curious also to think about Showalter's reaction to your semiotic reading...and will also ask you later in the semester how Showalter and Butler might read your bureau display differently...

  3. This is so awesome. I love your object choice and your cleverness. This is seriously too funny, but true as well. I see a relation here with my post on lipstick and makeup, too. "trophies of my womanhood"- I love that.