25 September 2014

Thinking bit: the Empowering Advertisement, the oxymoron

Depending on where you live and what media you consume, you may have seen more or less of this rather confusing genre of advertisement. But they are all over the social media the next day causing a debate among allies over their pros and cons...

Below you can find three examples that came out quite recently and can serve as good enough illustrations to the puzzle that they are.

+ They call attention on a topic - how gendering character traits, hobbies, and professions hurt people (and knowledge driven societies) - to audiences that never venture to read the latest outrage in the feminist blogosphere. Therefore, much good may be had if viewing such an ad would lead to a reconsideration of the behavior of parents, teachers, etc.

- They serve to sell the products, obviously. And even in this very small sample the relevance of the products varies greatly. All menstrual hygiene products  - no matter the brand, the type, or even if they are industrially made (see this great practice from Nepal) - are crucial for women to be able to get out of the house and lead an active and participatory life (google "dignity packs" for this).
Still, it's mostly Always toying with what it means to be girly without ever linking it to the product. Then the shampoo and shiny hair would still actually playing into the "be (even more) perfect (with our product) (because people may discriminate you less if your hair is shiny)" dynamics. And then Verizon who tries to get you to buy their wireless because they are concerned about the proportion of women in STEM. Slightly confusing. I'm all for corporate responsibility, but I don't need corporations telling me the status quo of the structural discrimination of women.
The action - apart from better perception of the products - that they offer are "inspire more kids to get involved with STEM" and "ban bossy [from your vocabulary as an adult qualifying the behavior of girls]". Nice, but far from revolutionary. And nothing for the already grown-up shampoo users, from what I gather.

- If they invert the traditional, discriminatory narrative, telling us - once again - that all the stakes are against them, the this is a stereotype ridden world where you will be called either girly or bossy, pushy, vain, and pretty over smart or brilliant. Much more emphasis put on that instead of alternatives. Not fun. At all.

- There are accuracy gaps. The truth is not all rosy, of course, but there are ways how - without inventing stuff - all these ads could've been made using a positive narrative of different femininities, different ideas of success (including interest for science, leadership roles, and careers in STEM for those passionate in that direction) instead of clashing traditional feminine with traditional masculine, insisting that the traditional masculine is much more valuable and perceived as more valuable... and promising an eternal fight (and frustration) for equality. Thank you very much, I already get that from the news!

+ On the other hand, provided that we live bombarded by advertisments, most of them extremely toxic and sexist, I much prefer any of the below than any disgusting Snickers BS on the "natural" sexism of a well eaten builder.


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