Barthes Mythologies Discussion

We were having some difficulties figuring out the meanings behind Barthes articles.

Soap-Powders and Detergents:

Barthes presents the question of which is better: soap-powders or detergents. We were all thinking along the same lines that this was a metaphor for people and society. We had two thoughts on this metaphor. The first is that it is referring to racism and segregation. The whiter something is the better- not just with clothes, but with people. We didn’t think that these were his personal opinions, rather an observation of what this company is trying to say without those word exactly. Barthes also makes a statement that “what matters is the art of having disguised the abrasive function of the detergent under the delicious image of a substance at once deep and airy which can govern the molecular order of the material without damaging it” (Barthes, 37-38). We understood this to mean that detergent is a metaphor for how people disguise themselves behind good things so that they can get away with less social acceptable things.

In trying to understand and analyze this piece, we also thought that maybe we might have been over-thinking things. Interestingly, Barthes likes foam to a symbol of spirituality. In doing this, he exposes the absurdity of marketing campaigns and how they can cause consumers to think just about anything. Foam is nothing but soap and water mixed to make thousands of tiny bubbles- certainly this is not a symbol of spirituality.

Novels and Children:

This article was pretty straightforward. Barthes clearly recognizes that Elle magazine had set a double standard for women. The magazine states that women are worth just as much as men; however, they will always be women and should stick to what women do best: making babies and keeping house. Barthes points out that Elle magazine has brought together seventy women writers, all of whom happen to be mothers. We didn’t believe that Barthes thought this was a coincidence, but rather a statement that proclaims that a woman is and can be nothing without having children. Yes, there is time to be frivolous and be “free,” but for a woman to have true success, she must also be a mother.

We realized that this article made it apparent that we are living in a different time; however, the issues are still the same. While women have come a long way from being unable to vote and stuck at home raising children, there is still a mindset that women are and always will be less than men. It is We compared it to modern women’s magazines, such as Cosmo, Glamour, and even Elle included. The women on the covers of these magazines are usually outwardly described as fierce, independent individuals with a lot going for them. Yet, the articles always seem to stray to their love lives, or point out their feminine characteristics. Even the articles not about specific women are things like “101 Ways to Please Your Man.” The double standard still exists, even in the midst of modern times, and Barthes article, as old as it may be, holds true today.


For this article, we agreed that it is not the woman is not the object, but rather the things and props they use are the objects. The contradiction that Barthes presents at the very beginning of the article, “woman is desexualized at the very moment when she is stripped naked,” supports the idea that it is not always the actual ‘thing’ that one is fascinated by, but rather the other objects that surround it. If woman is no longer covered by clothing does that make her less interesting? In a way it does because it takes away what makes her mysterious and alluring. Yet taking a woman’s clothes, her protection, away also exposes the naturalness and inner beauty that is not always able to be seen.

There is also a difference between the amateur and the experienced performer. Those with less experience are are focused on their embarrassment and shyness, makes them hyperaware of their bodies, as well as the subject of scrutiny. In this way, they become the very objects they have shed, judged based on appearance and in this case erotic appeal. With more experienced women, they make the objects they use the subjects of the show. This way, the focus is more on the beauty of the objects in a more abstract manner, and the erotic value is decreased significantly. Again, it is not the actual ‘thing’ that is the focus, but the objects that surround it and give it appeal.

All members of the group were present at the meeting. Post written and edited by JaQuess Wynn.

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