BETC associate creative director Lauren Haberfield calls bullshit on brands’ passive, safe feminism and calls for something more provocative
Women have been in the spotlight a lot in the last month. We’ve had International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month, the murder of Sarah Everard in the UK and the murders of eight Asian women in the US. The conversation has see-sawed from empowerment to violence towards women, from breaking glass ceilings to misogyny, from safety to sexism and ended up with a blanket message of ‘we need to support women’.
I’m going to call this like it is: bullshit. The passive behaviour of supporting half of the population is no longer groundbreaking or conversation starting. Nothing that has been said in the last month has not been said before. If more people are listening that is great, but the outcome needs to be based around action, not support - which is simply another way to keep women placated and firmly in their lane. It is talking endlessly about problems that we have the tools to solve, so that we never have to actually solve them.
The time of ‘supporting’ women is over. As is the time of ‘championing’ them, ‘encouraging’ them and ‘empowering’ them.
We need to stop telling women they should feel empowered and start treating them like they are. We need to be actively listening to them, changing systems to suit them and enough is enough - we need to be paying them.
Funnily enough none of these notions surfaced as brands showed their full feminist colours on March 8th, a day I look forward to every year. It’s the one time I know brands are forced to take a moment and consider how they can help bridge the equality gap. What problem can they help solve? What behaviour can they change? What message can they share on the one day that everyone is listening?
Can you guess what the overwhelming majority said? We support women. Look at us, we hire women. We hear women. We share stories of women. We see the inequalities that women face. We made a hashtag and a manifesto that features women. Go women!
Who are these campaigns for? If you’re a woman you already know these topics of conversation because you live them. You don’t need a florist to point out you get paid less
or a pep talk that shows your gender is worthy.
Why are we repeating the same things that have been said for the last decade of ‘femvertising’? Our industry has so much information and research around the inequalities of gender and yet we talk about the same topics in the most generic way. Just how many times do we think women need to be told they are important?
We don’t create campaigns telling men they are worth it. We treat them like they are worth it. We value them - we value their time, their decisions, their opinions and their effort. Is it really too much in 2021 to ask the same for women?
We should be using International Women’s day and any campaigns around the feminist cause to force action. We should be shattering taboo topics, making communications for men so they can educate themselves and targeting governments for fundamental systemic change.
Enough cutesy activations, enough one day logo changes, enough manifestos saying the same thing. We need to educate our clients that unless they are going to enable change, they should pull out of the conversation.
We need to take feminism off the safe-social-cause list and make it provocative again.
It’s time to stop supporting women and starting helping them.