I don’t watch television on a television (that is so 2008), and as a result I am never bombarded by commercials. But often my friends will pass along a commercial they like. It’s usually ‘feminist’, and it usually leaves a funny taste in my mouth. Sure, in theory feminist ads rock. Who doesn’t want to be reminded that women are just as capable as men? Why wouldn’t you want to see girls kick ass?
I can’t help but feel as though feminism today is a commodity. A term bought, sold, and traded, all in order to help companies increase their profits.
Take the recent CoverGirl commercial featuring a handful of female celebrities (Ellen DeGeneres, Queen Latifah, etc.) telling viewers what girls can are capable of, from owning a business to playing a professional sport. Or recall the ad put out this past autumn by the shampoo company Pantene, illustrating some of the double standards women must face in the workplace.
These ads are well intentioned and do a have a good message, but I can’t help feel a little unnerved when I watch them. It is uncomfortable that while we are being fed powerful prose we are also being sold products. Beauty products. Can we only be influential with a face full of make up or luscious hair? That doesn’t feel very feminist to me.
It seems that more and more people today are using feminism as a marketing tool, whether it be business or celebrities. They have found this prized buzzword and are using the heck out of it. All is well and dandy, except for the part where they fail to truly support and further the movement.
I can accept feminism being used in marketing, there are much worse ways companies can sell consumers a product. But I remind myself (and urge others) to take it with a grain of salt: this is advertising. Smart business, but business nonetheless. Feel free to support companies and products that support feminist principles, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re progressing the movement or starting a revolution. You’re still just buying overpriced shampoo.
Feminism in advertising is a tricky thing. On one hand it is great to see some feminist principles being brought into mainstream media where exposure is greater and more diverse than any other form of communication today. On the other hand, I fear that today’s feminism is draped high in the sky on a billboard rather than on the end of a picket sign. I understand that movements progress and adapt, but we have to remember that even in this age of technology and consumerism feminism is a movement, not a marketing tool.
If we look back at advertising from twenty or even ten years ago we can see that there has been some improvement. We can safely say that our mothers did not grow up watching ads promoting the idea that girls can be engineers too.
Though I may have some hesitations about corporations using feminism as a tagline to push products, we all know things could be much, much worse.
I don’t know about you, but I will take an empowered tween embracing womanhood over a bikini model making out with a burger any day. (Watch these videos and I think you'll agree.)
One of the best feminist ads this year:
One of the least feminist ads this year: