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ARE FEMINIST ADS A FAD?

Feminism is trendy again.

There’s no better gauge of this fact than the groundswell of ‘feminist’ campaigns emanating from global brands trying to flog products to women.

Dove became a worldwide success story with its Campaign for Real Beauty: the aim of the original campaign was to widen the definition of beauty after a study found that only 2 per cent of women around the world described themselves as “beautiful”.

Dove made international headlines – and a lot of money – from this campaign, and has carried on versions of it for almost 10 years. Recently others have been following suit. In the past year, ads containing feminist or body positive messages have become almost de rigueur.

Nike ran a campaign last year aimed at female athletes that played on concepts of thunder thighs and manly shoulders – features normally considered ugly in women – but showed their benefits in sport and a healthy lifestyle.

thunder-thighs

Kellogg’s is also doing the good work of trying to change the way women think and talk about their bodies. Last year it launched a Shhhut Down the Fat Talk social media campaign for Special K, claiming that 93 per cent of women engage in some form of social media self-shaming.

The campaign included tweets around phrases women use when ‘self-shaming’, such as “Feeling so disgusted about my figure at the moment #cow”, and also opened a shop with that included phrases such as “I look fat in this” on the price tags.

Pantene is talking the feminist talk in an ad that challenges the labels applied to men and women. A woman taking charge in a board room is labelled “bossy”, a man doing the same is simply the “boss”.

And now marie claire Australia has joined the party with its #whywait campaign.

marie claire‘s campaign stems from research by Flinders University that found the average Australian woman learns to like her body at age 45. marie claire editors want to do something about it. Not by altering the images of women on its pages that reinforce false ideals or featuring more pictures of ordinary women, or committing to stop airbrushing photographs. It is changing the way women feel about their bodies with a social media campaign called #whywait? that asks women why they are waiting to like their bodies.

why-wait

To kickstart the campaign, marie claire employed six of Australia’s top advertising agencies to come up with ads that will convince women to love their bodies now, not later.

The idea is similar to Elle UK’s attempt to “rebrand” feminism last year. Elle paired three advertising agencies with three feminist groups and tasked them each to come up with a campaign that would change the perception of feminism and what it means to be a feminist.

Should we be happy about all this positive messaging in advertising or is it just a cynical attempt by marketers to sell more products? And are the positive messages contained in these campaigns meaningless unless they contain real commitments on behalf of magazines such as Elle and marie claire to change the way they represent and talk about women within the covers of their magazines?

Writing in Fit and Feminist, author Caitlin says: “The reality is that the things these advertising campaigns want us to experience – physical power, self-esteem, accomplishment, self-love, a sense of self-worth – these are things that cannot be purchased.”

As one (male) commenter on media and advertising news website mUmBRELLA pointed out:

If Marie Claire is, as a brand and a business and a magazine, actually committed to this philosophy, that’s brilliant and I stand and applaud them.

But if all they’re doing is getting agencies to make a few pro bono ads for them, and a little hashtagging exercise, then they can GAGF.

Why create a #whywait initiative, when with their very own product they already possess the means to actively influence how women perceive themselves?

Women’s mags want to promote realistic body image? Start showing realistic body images. Food companies want people to eat less fat and salt? Put less fat and salt in your foods.

Anything else is just empty marketing.

If marie claire is serious about changing the way women feel about their bodies, here are some contributions to their campaign:

#whywait to stop airbrushing?
#whywait to start using plus-size models?
#whywait to become a real role model for the fashion industry?

Is the new trend towards feminist advertising a cynical attempt by advertisers to flog products to women, or is it a genuine step forward?

What are your #whywait questions to global brands?

 

Watch The Hoopla’s Gabrielle Jackson discuss the issue with the Studio 10 panel:

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me*Gabrielle Jackson has been a writer for more than 15 years. Her work has appeared in the Village Voice, CNN, the Sydney Morning Herald and New Matilda. She has lived in Sydney, New York, London and Barcelona. Apart from reading and writing, her passions include politics, travel, cooking and eating. She also has a penchant for kebabs, but that’s another story. You can follow her on Twitter: @gabriellecj.

 

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9 Comments

  • Reply January 15, 2014

    lizzie

    Does the idea of cynicism even apply in advertising? It is just the latest promotional/advertising idea. They will talk about it, but not actually live it or demonstrate it. There will be a flurry of interest (like this article) and in due course the next attention-getting marketing idea will come along.

    I agree with the commentator, great if they mean it, not if they don’t.

    And thanks for the new acronym, which I was unaware of, I think I can make use of GAGF!

  • Reply January 15, 2014

    ShirleyInOz

    Advertisers don’t care about you. They are doing a job, selling a product, they will do anything it takes.

    However.

    If we talk endlessly about how young girls and boys are affected by negative sexist advertising, then we can only hope positive, self love, athletic, accepting of self advertising will affect them in a similar way. I think the new wave of advertising is a positive thing.

  • Reply January 15, 2014

    evie

    Overall, for whatever reasons it’s being done, I think it’s better than before, when we only had one negative message. Now we also have something positive and more healthy at least. Yes there will be mixed messages in the mags. Magazines, many of which are only just surviving, have to be very careful not to upset the usually male-dominated advertisers, their main source of revenue. I can remember a few years back when a magazine had a plus size model on their cover. Many of their regular advertisers withdrew after that. I can’t remember whether that mag survived. Baby steps – at least this development is a baby step forward. We wouldn’t want to rock the boat now, would we?

  • Reply January 15, 2014

    liz

    Pretty sure marie claire has always run feminist stories and campaigns. Of all the magazines, this is probably the only one that can get away with stories and features on feminism.

  • Reply January 15, 2014

    karen

    Its just an empty marketing gimmick. They are trying to please everyone so they can draw in more advertisers, sell more mags, up adverting rates through increased circulation and then just keep perpetuating more fantastical garbage.These holidays, I was stuck for reading and bought a bundle of glossy mags to take down to the beach. It was such a shocking waste of money. NEVER AGAIN!!!!! Can you believe that in the good old Women’s Weekly there were at least 4 – 5 “articles” that seemed to decimate one’s self worth such as :
    The benefits of plastic surgery abroad
    A diet on how to Eat More and Weigh Less
    Some Hollywood Actresses Plastic Surgery Journeys….
    There was a ridiculous dozen pages devoted to “shapewear” and the woman who was modelling garments meant for chubby and or voluptuous ladies was a beanpole!!!!!
    Hilariously, there was an article on how to make your kids happy!!!!! Probably not so funny actually.
    I seriously want to see and BUY a women’s glossy that has real fashion that I can actually afford (not a Prada silk chiffon blouse for $1,400!!) with real women wearing the stuff. Chicks over 40, some skinny, some fat, some Asians, Aboriginals modelling…. writing about interesting, relevant things such as those on The Hoopla. I thought that women (40+) had a lot of buying power these days so I don’t understand why magazines and advertisers aren’t broader in representing us. Is there really NO money in it? Women’s magazines all seem to deal with fantasy and although they might have tokenistic “overcoming adversity” and “empowerment” pieces, their real stock in trade is perpetuating as much desire for stuff, for a better body, for a nicer, younger face, for a more nicely decorated home… (choose a page from a glossy mag and insert adjective noun) as possible.

  • Reply January 15, 2014

    Jo @Countrylifeexperiment

    The Dove real beauty campaign is such a load of crap. Dove is owned by the same company that sells skin whitening cream in SE asia, and the Lynx brand deodorants (which have some of the most sexist, misogynistic ads out there!).
    If they were serious about real beauty, and supporting women they wouldn’t be selling these products!

  • Reply January 15, 2014

    ro.watson

    I have to wash my hands a lot with um, soap and water(opportunistic germs combined with chronic lung ill-health). I had a curious conversation a few months ago with a Dove customer representative. About whether the Dove beauty bar was, or was not a soap? I leave this question in your hands. Meanwhile, as advised by local pharmacists, for repairs~..Sorbolene is good for dry vulnerable skin.

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