What is femvertising?
The term femvertising consists of two words: fem (inism) + (ad) verising, meaning “feminism” and “advertising”. And although this word itself is not so often encountered in life, this concept is familiar to everyone.
Influencers and pop celebrities – from Beyoncé and Taylor Swift to Emma Watson – have brought feminism to the fore in recent years and has become an integral part of marketing. Brands are seizing the moment and using this agenda in their campaigns to inspire and support women. This marketing fem movement is called femvertising.
Femvertising – for cover?
Femwashing is not at all the same as femwashing, an activity that companies purportedly advocate for women’s rights, but really just for show, to improve their public image and raise profits.
Femwashing practice is easy to calculate: it is enough to look closely at the internal processes in the company and assess how it treats employees, what working conditions it creates and whether it really provides equal rights. Very often it turns out that reality runs counter to the claims.
Take Audi, for example. The concern stands for gender equality, but there are only men on the board of directors: Rupert, Berndt, Thomas, Axel, Dietmar and Hubert. Another example is the fashion industry. On the catwalks, there are mostly only women (at the same time, incredibly beautiful), on the covers too. But behind the scenes in this industry, men reign, most of the decisions are made by them. When companies defend the ideas of feminism in advertising, and in business they adhere to other positions, their whole fem concept slides into complete absurdity.
Femvertising has its critics as well. They say that this is the same femwashing, but deployed by the other side. The logic is simple: if companies use a feminist agenda to make money, chances are that their statements are dishonest.
Is Barbie a symbol of feminism or not?
More and more products appear on the market, one way or another related to the topic of feminism. It would seem that Barbie dolls (thin blondes with voluminous bust) – definitely cannot be a symbol of feminism. But it’s not quite there.
For International Women’s Day 2019, manufacturer Mattel has released a series of dolls in honor of famous women. This collection of Inspirational Women includes 17 dolls, including small copies of the artist Frida Kahlo and one of the first female aviators, Amelia Earhart.
As a follow-up to the campaign, Mattel invited women (and others) to share their inspirations and post the story online with the hashtag #MoreRoleModels. And advertising that uses the image of strong women is also part of femvertising.
Congratulations @Miss_LIRA receiving the honor of being Barbie’s first African role model. # Barbie60 #MoreRoleModels # WomensMonth2019 #WCW pic.twitter.com/cg9BEEaeOZ
– Inecto South Africa (@Inecto_SA)
For Mattel, the Barbie doll is almost the key to expressing support for diversity. In recent years, the brand has released a Muslim headscarf Barbie, a Chinese Barbie, a black Barbie and a Barbie with Hispanic roots. Recently, Barbie appeared in the lineup in a T-shirt with the inscription “Love Wins” (and she does not meet with Ken, but with other Barbies). But the classic doll format still hasn’t changed: long legs, makeup, stylish clothes.
Feminism for Profit?
Telling Barbie fans about inspiring women is a good idea. But in a sense, this practice turns into making money on the topic of feminism. Brands make money by exploiting the very fact that the feminist agenda has become part of the culture.
Someone will say: feminism is in trend, what’s wrong with that. But it’s not that simple. In fact, feminism was conceived as a key to another society, and not as a stage in which one should linger. Feminism doesn’t have to be fashionable, it doesn’t have to be liked. But this is exactly what is happening now: this movement is monetizing and becomes like a Palestinian scarf or a pink leather jacket.
Sweaters and scarves for men and women with the “Radical Feminist” print began to appear more and more often – for example, in the line of the Swedish fashion brand Acne in 2015 there were such. “The first feminist perfume”, Damn Rebel Bitches, was released in Edinburgh. You buy a 50 ml bottle for £ 75 and you smell like feminism (or rather, a mixture of aromas of blood orange, hazelnut, pink pepper and malt).
Stella McCartney also released “a scent of feminine power”, Pop – “a bright, modern and daring perfume, which combines notes of tuberose and sandalwood.” On the bottle there is a stereotypically pink element, only a fluffy tulle skirt is missing.
How daring femvertising really is?
Founder of advertising agency Mad & Women Christelle Delarue gave a lecture at UNESCO headquarters in 2018, in which she spoke about combating gender stereotypes through fem advertising. Delaru opened Mad & Women in Paris back in 2012 to fight against gender clichés in advertising content.
For Delaroo, femvertising is a tool that helps to turn the vector of public attention to women and speak out loudly in defense of gender equality. All of this helps women and girls feel more confident and helps transform society. “I am a woman in the advertising industry and sometimes I get the feeling that things are really changing for the better. But in fact, in my 30s, I can say that the level of sexism, patriarchy and the influence that is based on them is shocking. ” (Puretrend)
Delaru argues that brands that dare to talk about true gender equality are true daredevils – because it really takes courage to do so.
Fashion brand Wrangler’s #MoreThanABum campaign is a great example of how femvertising can go wrong.
To show that women are more than just jeans in the ass, Wrangler did an ad campaign with zoomed-in shots of female pops.
Almost the entire video of women in the camera say the word “boom” (one of the synonyms for the word “priest” in English). The response from women on Twitter was overwhelming: Refusing to buy jeans from a brand that tells us, “You are more than just an ass.”
@Wrangler_Europe You tell me I’m #MoreThanABum, but all I see & hear is bum. My poor lady mind is so confused, I just can’t cope.
– EarthToLaura (@CallerLaura)
In general, it would be strange to think that women would like such a visit. Feminism is not a perfume that lasts a couple of hours and evaporates. Instagram T-shirt prints look cute, but have nothing to do with feminism. When brands do femvertising, they essentially slide into “Market feminism” – that’s what Andi Zeisler, journalist and co-founder of Bitch Media calls it. Maybe feminism and part of pop culture, but more important is the social position, the idea. The monetization of feminism only belittles it, deprives it of its semantic power.
Monetized feminism is not about the community, not about the benefits for women in general. Of course, those who buy these goods may have their own views on the structure of society and they may know who Simone de Beauvoir is – but usually they do not have a personal position and they do not know about de Beauvoir. Such feminism is like summer fashion, for the season.
What kind of marketing really supports?
One thing is for sure: femvertising is a complex topic with many facets. One can argue for a long time about whether brands really support feminism by launching such ads, or simply want to make even more money.
For femvertising to be the way Christelle Delaru understands it, you need to worry not so much about what’s on the screen as about what’s behind the scenes. Therefore, real feminism in advertising is not about actresses, but about who makes this ad. It is important whether there are women in this team of scriptwriters, cameramen, casting directors and producers. Because only they can decide what inspires and supports them and what doesn’t.