Why Big Business is Good for Feminism

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Photo courtesy of libertyviral.com 

I’m usually of the opinion that when something becomes mainstream, it’s no longer cool, relevant or worth my time.  Whether it’s fashion, music, raving, hipsters or tattoos, when everyone’s doing it, it loses a lot of its appeal.

“Feminism” has definitely become mainstream – showing up in advertising for all manners of products, as one of the main themes in pop music, and it has even become a big sell in left-wing politics here and in the US.

But feminism is one of those things that mustn’t lose its appeal.  It’s essentially about equality between men and women after all.  And the fact that it has become mainstream is actually a good thing.  Most women continue to distance themselves from the term because they don’t want to be perceived as man-hating, bra-shunning and angry with the world.  Now at least the image it conveys is becoming increasingly positive and has has the potential to become something that is cool for both men and women to be.

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Photo courtesy of lifesitenews.com

The fact that it has become commercialized also has its benefits. Big brands have tons of money to spend on their advertising, which has led to some pretty cool commercials.  Take the one by Always #LikeAGirl that asks older girls and boys and then younger girls to run like a girl, fight like a girl, throw like a girl, etc.  The younger girls do their best with strength and power, but the older girls and boys mimic the stereotypical ways that girls run, fight, throw, etc.  It’s a powerful visual of how females are portrayed as weak and silly in popular culture and how this can affect girls’ confidence and how they themselves as they grow up.  It has a great empowerment message.

Another good one is the Special K commercial that shows different women of all shapes and sizes analyzing themselves in the mirror while quoting the statistic that 97% of women have an “I hate my body moment” every day.  The voiceover asks why we don’t change our perspectives instead of wanting to change our body and asks why we can’t just tell the voice in our heads that says we aren’t good enough to “shut up”.  Meanwhile, the mirrors that the women are looking at themselves in explode and images of strong women cascade across the screen.  The voiceover tells us to stop focusing on the things that we can’t change and focus on the things we can, like what we put in our body.  And proudly #OwnIt all.

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Photo courtesy of visiblemeasures.com

Then there’s the Dove’s Campaign about “Real Beauty” with different models posing while “baring it all” (no not nudity, more like faces without makeup and showing their different body types) and Barbie’s “Imagine the Possibilities” advertisements that show young girls acting as a professor, veterinarian, professional soccer coach, and CEO (all of which is really in their imagination while playing with different career Barbies).

This commercialization has been widely criticized – big business using a noble cause to hawk products, some of which are “anti-feminist” like skinny, white Barbie dolls (although they have recently come out with their new diverse line), or photoshopped Dove models selling beauty products.

Whether they are being genuine in their intent or simply work with excellent ad agencies, the fact that this powerful message is reaching a broad audience, and with Dove going so far as leading charitable work to help girls with their self-esteem, I don’t think it matters that they are trying to make a profit at the same time.  And despite some of their flaws, I think it is a huge step in the right direction and some of these ads are so good they are converting men too.  No longer is feminism portrayed as women vilifying men, it is simply about raising women’s self-esteem and self-acceptance, and levelling the playing field.  More importantly, none of these brands are trying to trick us, like saying the only way you can be beautiful is to use Dove, or the only way to be confident is to use Always maxi pads or eat Special K.  It’s not like the drug companies who show ads of happy smiling people enjoying their lives while plugging a drug whose efficacy is questionable and whose side effect can be irreversible liver damage or death.

At the end of the day, I think most of us are discerning consumers who won’t confuse the product with the message, so if big business wants to use their big bucks to propagate a much-needed positive message and even teach us a thing or two, I say more power to them.

 

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