Capitalizing on Feminism
Women are essential to advertisers.
Women drive the economy (according to Harvard Business Review), and make 83% of household consumer decisions. Companies rely on female consumers and tailor their marketing messages towards that audience. Recently, as feminism gains more popularity, ad agencies are using the feminist message to their advantage.
In the past year I have noticed a drastic increase in feminist-based advertising. Initially I was very excited to see this, ‘finally our message is being incorporated into popular culture,’ I thought. But as they continued to gain popularity I felt that our advertising culture was becoming oversaturated with these messages. For example, the Version commercial “Inspire Her Mind” has a great message but it has absolutely nothing to do phone service. I do appreciate the positive messages that are playing across networks everywhere, but it has to be with purpose. These positive ideals that big companies are pushing about feminism become second to the sale of their product. But there is hope! GoldieBlox, a toy company who makes toys for girls that promote the STEM field, is a pioneer in this feminist based advertising. Their company and its message strictly provide young girls a positive reinforcement of strong women in the STEM realm. Their commercials also don’t bombard you with outright feminist dialogue, rather they use parody and upbeat messages to break the stereotype of what young girls want. While both of these adverts have positive feminist messages, it’s GoldieBlox that seems sincere.
Meredith Fineman’s recent post (on blogs.hbr.org) only cemented my feelings around this increase feminist marketing culture. After reading her blog I felt even more strongly that there has been an overuse of feminism in an attempt to sell products. While at first glance a commercial about makeup or a haircare product with a feminist message seems great, the underlying exploitation of advertisement agencies leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What does equality have to do with hairspray? It doesn’t, and that’s the issue. Corporations and companies who use feminism within their advertising strictly to promote their product show little regard for the empowerment and social justice women are advocating for. I am not dismissing all feminist advertisements; there are some that truly use feminism as a support for their product or message. But those advertisers are outnumbered by companies who are jumping on the feminist band wagon. The main issue that these advertisements bring into popular culture is the idea that feminism is another fad. Like previous advertising periods within the last couple of decades, marketing will capitalize on any trend of the moment to sell their product. And this recent spike in feminist-based advertising feels just like that.
Feminism and gender equality is here for the long haul and it shouldn’t be viewed as a trend or fad. Inclusion of these ideals should only be placed in advertising when it is true and genuine.
I hope that companies will heighten their sensitivity to this issue and tailor their messages. My biggest hope going forward is to see marketing from a feminist perspective make sense for a product. As long as a company exemplifies authenticity, advertising for women can continue to support such a wonderful cause.
Written by Becca Anderson, Women’s Fund Intern