How many times recently have you been told:
- You are beautiful just the way you are
- You can do it
- You could be an astronaut or scientist if you wanted to be
If you haven’t you are most likely a man.
For the rest of us, this is femvertising in all its pink glory. Brands being our personal cheer squad making us feel invisible in the face of centuries of discrimination.
Well done ladies, you can do it.
But amongst all this collective back slapping and whooping, I have begun to wonder whether really this is having the positive influence on women’s mental state and in fact the overall equality debate that I once thought it had.
This came crashing into my consciousness only just a couple of weeks ago.
Family debates are nothing new in my parent’s household. Since the age of dot we have learnt to carefully pick our way through a variety of tricky subjects.
With one parent an anti-Thatcherite lefty and one a wavering conservative/green party campaigner there were bound to be arguments, so as a kid knowing when to stoke the debate and when to prevent nuclear warfare was an important and character building faculty.
We recently had a family debate, which stretched our good will to maximum capacity.
You’ve guessed it. The subject was feminism.
The debate was simple in content, essentially concerned with whether the work of feminism was done.
Total recognition that it is right and good to have equality. Agreement all round.
Total recognition than specifically in certain parts of the world there are woeful crimes against women which need to be dealt with pronto. Tick, tick and tick.
Total disagreement on the fact that right here, right now, in the UK, in this very day and age that there is a considerable way to go for gender equality to be recognized.
And this is where we fell out.
A few angry sighs and huffs. Yadiya.
Luckily as with most stormy teacups we are all friends again now but it started a debate in my own head as to why it feels tricky to talk about this subject more than others.
I started wondering what effect of all of this recent brand femvertising was having on the debate and in fact how people felt and it occurred to me that maybe it makes things more challenging?
I work in research to ultimately help brands sell more stuff.
For all the dark arts of marketing, selling someone a product has a relative transparency, which to some degree is pretty straight-forward.
Causes on the other hand, that is a different matter.
A cause suggests a higher purpose, a principle.
Difficult to reconcile when you combine the two.
“Feel empowered (buy more shampoo!)”
“Be beautiful on the inside (try this new moisturizer!)”
If a product is marketed to women it is likely to be attaching empowerment messages.
But this has started to really piss me off.
All these messages of empowerment have started to feel like a massive backhanded compliment.
“Come on ladies, you aren’t that shit really!”
Some of these are handled brilliantly. But most of them are not.
(This one’s a joke…)
The recent Barbie ad “What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?” made me want to puke.
It feels like we have fallen down a gigantic vagina shaped rabbit hole and all that can be heard is an echo chamber of advertisers telling us we can do anything or be anyone (plus if you could just buy this brand that would be ace!).
Moisturisers, Barbie dolls the whole lot.
I don’t buy it.
I don’t buy it because none of it is saying anything other than it is all possible. Which of course it isn’t right now.
Added to which they seem to maintain that the only way of communicating with the female species is to make us all weep at the injustice of our situation.
“Woe is me!” “Alack, alas!”
Yes that’s right, women don’t deserve to be entertained, all we need is a tear-jerker.
As I said, not everyone is criminal of this.
The This Girl Can campaign at least attempted to entertain and amuse rather than simply lament.
And this brings me to my family debate. At one point I think the argument centred around the fact that positive discrimination is now making men the ones who really are suffering the effects of gender inequality.
Whilst I find this kind of thinking laughable, I can understand that if you are having sales messages rammed down your throat relentlessly about how sorry we should all feel for women, then I can imagine that you might start thinking “hang on a jiffy, what about me?!”
Femvertising is making women look weak and feeble.