All my life my Grandfather has used the phrase "cotton pickin'" as a slur, as in "wait a cotton pickin' minute!" and, if he was mad at you (or the dog), "You cotton pickin'…!"

It is debated as to whether the phrase refers to the act of cotton picking, which is tedious and painful work (because the edges of cotton bolls are prickly and sharp), or the people who picked cotton (highly disadvantaged groups, especially black slaves in the American south).

In light of this, it is fascinating that the cotton industry has decided to try and revamp its image by focusing on the act of cotton picking (as opposed to trying to make it invisible). In this recent Cotton USA ad campaign, sent in by Katrin, cotton picking is full-on romanticized: beautiful people in beautiful clothes decorated in cotton pick cotton in cottony cotton fields.


Today, of course, most cotton in the U.S. is picked by machine, not beautiful 20-somethings (or Great Grandmas). Most of us would have no knowledge with which to challenge this images so, I suppose, that's how Cotton USA gets away with such a ludicrous campaign.

This post originally appeared on the blog Sociological Images. Republished with permission.