Connecting with women means reflecting their lives – not a feminist stance

Last week Marketing Week published an article suggesting that “Marketing should take a stance on feminism” following a survey of young adults by Youthsight. As connecting with women is one of our specialisms we felt that we should post a response.

Feminism is a politically loaded word suggesting a world of suffragettes and politicians looking awkward in “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirts. Our Female Trends work this year has shown how marketing can reflect female values in a far more nuanced and interesting way than the “F” word could ever capture on its own.

The article shows that feminism remains an important and empowering idea but that it is not seen as cool. We agree, feminism at its core is still seen as a positive stance but is perhaps in need of a re-brand. One of the female values we have looked at recently – “Thrive” – is not about overt empowerment but an expression of personal strength and ambition. Thrive is beautifully summed up by the poise and character portrayed by Tilda Swinton in this film by Mercedes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNIBqCtBZW4) or the strength and stance shown by a photographer’s daughters in this project (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-alice-stephenson/pretty-is-out-fierce-is-i_b_5051819.html). It isn’t about achieving empowerment through demanding equality but a confidence and ambition which is much more creatively powerful than feminism on its own.

This however doesn’t tackle the perception that the way women are portrayed is too sexualised. Controversial though it may be we believe that sexualisation and glamour are here to stay. This doesn’t mean we should ignore the 78% of females found by Youthsight that feel it is a problem. Rather than fight glamourous or sexualised imagery we feel that what the tone and image are portraying is much more important. Showing women being glamourous for themselves (Think Kolinda from TV showThe Good Wife) rather than accepting their own objectification (American Apparel) can be a much more motivating position. There is a sometimes subtle distinction between sexualisation and sensuality which can have a distinctly different sense of female power.

From what we have witnessed, in many conversations with women, hoping for a more realistic portrayal of women today does not equate to feminism. Exactly what a realistic depiction of women means is a debate that we cannot resolve in a single article. However the tone and the image of women’s depiction is important to get right, and can be very different across markets.

One final thought to leave you with for now. Just how important is gender to today’s younger consumers anyway? A more fluid sense of identity, sexuality and gender has become the norm for younger people. A need to step away from traditional gender stereotypes and roles is ever more important – as the number of men agreeing with female perceptions in this article amply demonstrates. Rather than focusing on feminism as the sole, principle method of connecting with women we should instead look at how society is developing more broadly to understand what brands should really do.

Neil and Amanda

Source article in Marketing Week: https://www.marketingweek.com/2015/09/11/why-marketing-should-take-a-stance-on-feminism/