I used to love watching companies come out with new products that claim to help fight for gender equality or women’s rights. I used to think WOW!! I’m so glad that companies are showing strong female athletes, women of color, and women with more than one body size.
Being naïve, I immediately assumed that all of the companies who show strong women in advertisements do so because they truly want to promote gender equality. Unfortunately, thousands of companies now use something called femvertising, which is a combination of feminism and capitalism. Companies try to attract female customers to purchase their products by marketing around women’s empowerment.
While some companies do advocate to build strong women and fight for equality, the commercialization of feminism could ruin their hard work. For example, do you remember Audi’s Superbowl ad that was supposedly a feminist push for gender equality and equal pay? Well, a man narrated the entire ad, which comes across like “mansplaining,” where a man tells women how to act. Their “unique” advertisement tried to connect Audi with feminism, but in reality, Audi does not have a single female board member. How can a company try to challenge gender stereotypes if their own company does not embrace those ideals?
Another example is the recent Dior “We Should All Be Feminists” $710 t-shirt, worn by countless celebrities like Rihanna, Natalie Portman, and Jennifer Lawrence. You may immediately think, wow, with a t-shirt that expensive, how many charities and which ones are they benefiting? The answer is only one and only a small portion of the profits go to charity. Instead of buying a shirt, people should donate that $710 to help women find jobs or to educate more girls. By purchasing that t-shirt, those women are helping to support a patriarchal system that wants them to believe in their lies.
Another company who claimed to be feminist was Thinx period underwear. Founder Miki Agrawal was named a “badass” and a “visionary” because she made period-proof underwear and branded her company as a feminist organization fighting for gender equality. Months later, employees shared that the company had inadequate maternity leave and the poor salary negotiation policies. With only two weeks of paid maternity leave and one week at half pay for a birthing parent, this does not seem inclusive to me. Even companies built by women who claim to be feminists need to be evaluated.
It really pisses me off that feminism has become a marketing trend. We need to make sure that before we buy a product from a company claiming to support women, we check where the proceeds are going and if they have female board leaders. We should also make sure that the employee policies are fair. According to Forbes writer Bridget Brennan, women drive 70-80% of consumer spending. Women have the power to end fake marketplace feminism and this starts with us not being naïve about our spending and doing our research! Feminism is not for sale!
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