Dear Beauty Brands: Stop Using Feminism as Your Marketing Strategy

Beauty companies like Dove and Pantene capitalize on feminist messages to hawk you products they've convinced you you need.

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Moving music swells and climaxes as a series of images championing female empowerment dance across the screen: the clips show a woman experiencing a rare moment of pure body acceptance or a scene demonstrating the sexist stereotypes of gendered language.

It’s feminism neatly packaged into an infinitely shareable two-minute clip, the friendly kind of feminism that people who don’t consider themselves the F-word feel safe posting to their Facebook walls.

Dove has built an empire on it, and Pantene is getting in on the game now too: it’s marketing masquerading as feminism, and I’m kinda getting sick of it.

One could argue that messages of gender equality are important enough that it doesn’t matter if they precede ad copy for a shampoo company. But that line of thinking conveniently misses the point, particularly when it’s beauty companies who are using feminism to sell products.

Brands like Dove and Pantene have made millions by preying on women’s insecurities and convincing them they need to buy products to meet societal standards of beauty: sure, you’re beautiful just the way you are, but use our products and you can be even more beautiful.

Ads like this also reinforce the stereotype that attractiveness is the core component to determining a woman’s worth. As Katie J.M. Baker wrote in a post on Jezebel called “Here’s Why Real Beauty Advertisements are Garbage:”

“Real Beauty” features and advertisements cleverly sell you products under the guise of body-positivity while actually reinforcing the idea that a woman’s worth is based on the way she looks to others.

While on the surface videos like Pantene’s “Labels Against Women” show beauty brands bucking traditional standards by embracing body positivity instead of ignoring it, it’s still important to recognize these videos for what they truly are: a clever way for the same old companies to make money off of women. And there’s nothing less feminist than that.

12 comments
jodidetjen
jodidetjen

I wholeheartedly disagree and here's why.  We are all very aware what advertisers want from us.  But usually we are very unaware of the impact the usual ads have.  There are numerous studies on the impact 'normal', very sexist advertising has on women's self-confidence.  If we have to have ads (which right now, we do), then at least we can have ads that support women, show alternative views and most importantly, raise awareness.  

It's this last point that I think we need to understand more than any other. If you look at the way media portrays women, it's all second class stuff (look at Geena Davis' work for very useful insight into this).  These commercials raise women's awareness. In our research, it's the lack of awareness of gender stereotypes that maintains current norms of behavior.  I applaud these companies for changing what we see.


If you want any of the research I've mentioned here.  


jodidetjen

co-author of The Orange Line:  A Woman's Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life

thebibosez
thebibosez

Curious, isn't it, that feminists hate it when corporations adopt feminism? P&G, the makers of Pantene, are one of best companies for women to work for, and feminists HATE them for it.


Perhaps we need to stop appeasing feminists - their ability to feel or express gratitude is severely limited, and if they're incapable of being satisfied, then why bother?

flintstriker
flintstriker

C'mon guys. It's freakin' SHAMPOO, not a gender-specific product. But what I'm about to say applies even if it IS a gender-specific beauty product.

Women are still encouraged to buy beauty products, yes, but more because they feel good about the positive image of their own body. The effect of these ads is to destroy the standards of the past, and create more realistic models. The Jezebel writer might have been a little too wistful in the wrong direction, and assumed that women must rebel by doing the exact opposite of the prevailing standards. But isn't a lurch in the opposite extreme direction also harmful? 

I applaud Pantene and Dove for efforts to try to create more moderate standards of beauty. Let's face it: as long as we have societies, we will have standards of beauty. We are simply evolving to create a more inclusive society, which is achievable by respect for other people's preferences. The question of whether women feel that their self-worth is related to how they look is actually a general question of self-confidence, which should be dealt with by oneself rather than society as a whole. If I endeavor to change society to fit "me", that means that I rely on society and its norms for my self-worth. I should then abandon the whole idea of "self-worth"! 

Of course, companies do this to attract people to their product, but then again, that's how ads are supposed to work. Are their ads delusional or deceptive? That is the bottom line, which this article doesn't answer. How is Dove supposed to sell soap, then? How is Pantene supposed to sell shampoo? The article should have answered this question directly. These ads give out positive messages, which should be encouraged - well, if your goal is to have a more inclusive society. 

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

hahahahahahahahahahahaha....how about we just become smarter as a society and not pretend that we need to or are going to  look like the 10 people on earth who look like they do that are in the dove commercial... Watching the Hanes commercials with the ripped men in underwear makes me feel unsexy when I look at myself in the mirror

HMThomasNguyen
HMThomasNguyen

I'm pretty sure everyone needs soaps and shampoos, and it's better if they smell good as well.

T.Murray.Harper
T.Murray.Harper

It's marketing. The singular goal of marketing is to extract profit from a desired audience. Our insecurities are their gold mine.

IliveahWaters1
IliveahWaters1

This author needs to revisit a dictionary, and read the definition of "femininism".   

PatrickSmith
PatrickSmith

@Ken-TerikaZellner @IliveahWaters1 They mean that feminism is defined as "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men." Which is not germane to these ads whatsoever.

Stellaluna1
Stellaluna1

@PatrickSmith The definition of feminism you cite is not familiar to me. Can you cite where it's from please?

HMThomasNguyen
HMThomasNguyen

They do use beauty products and they do get told that they look bad without them.

Half the truth is not the truth, just like if your rainbow is missing half the colors, is it still a rainbow?

RainbowSandvich
RainbowSandvich

Why don't men wear beauty products?

Because they haven't been told they look bad without them.