I got two words for you today: Breadou squishies.
You are now in one of two categories.
1) people saying, “omg, squeeeeeee, I gotta melon bun, and a joy roti toast that is so soft, and a jumbo hot fudge strips donut.”
2) people saying, “what the fuck is this?”
Breadou squishies have been a thing for, apparently, years. And until last week I’d never heard of them.
So, picture polyurethane stress balls, made in the shape of delicious baked goods. They can be used as cellphone charms, cellphone holders, computer wrist rests, but mostly, the point is just to own and love macarons, soft buns, croissants, sliced white bread, and donuts. Mmmmm, donuts.
The most treasured squishies are still inside their original Breadou packaging. The genuine article includes a square of greased paper under the baked good, just as the real thing would be handled when buying at a bakery. The fakes omit the paper. Squishies are rated on their compression time before the polyurethane bounces back into shape; better squishies stay compressed for longer.
Breadou squishies are adorable, but I have more than a niggle at the back of my brain. Here’s the thing: these are products teaching girls that food is a thing to be desired, but never consumed. Amanda McCoy wrote a great article for the journal Verb back in 2006, pointing out that “cosmetics are the new food . . . the kind of food that goes anywhere but in your mouth . . . food-oriented beauty regimens are offered to women as a substitute for eating.” Think Lush, or Body Shop, or handmade glycerine cupcake soaps.
McCoy notes that food-shaped products “can reinforce and aggravate our anxieties about food.” When you check out squishy hauls on YouTube (yes, the breadou squishy haul is a thing, too) the camera put us in the position of the haul owner, as she (and it’s almost always a she, and oh gosh, they’re so young!) displays each squishy in front of our eyes, holding it in two hands, and pushing her thumbs into the squishy to display it’s squishiness. Sometimes she turns it around to show us the back, and repeats the squishing. We consume it with our eyes. Breadou squishies are a socially acceptable way of way for (very) young women to safely possess and covet that most sinful of food categories: the delicious carbohydrate. And clearly much of the appeal is the deliciousness of the mimicked product. Here’s a Breadou croissant currently for sale on ebay for US$10.99.
It’s a “Large Yummy Croissant Pastry Squishy Textured Soft Original Breadou Packing NEW”
But it’s not yummy. It’s polyurethane. But we can pretend it’s yummy. We can think about its yumminess. We can touch it and squash it and imagine the buttery flaky goodness. We just can’t ever consume it. Susan Bordo notes that:
“The social control of female hunger operates as a practical discipline that trains female bodies in the knowledge of their limits and possibilities. Denying oneself food becomes the central micro-practice in the education of feminine self-restraint and containment of impulse.”
It’s so insidious, because these are just fun cell-phone charms, right? Just a novelty wrist rest. But consumer products that pretend to be food don’t exist in a vacuum, but in a society in which women already have a very complicated relationship to food, and eating, and self-care, and desire. The perfect women does not consume, rather, she presents herself for visual consumption. She does not desire, she is desirable.
So. Yeah. Breadou squishies, huh? That’s a thing. A complex thing