Just a bunch of times brands really fucked up their ‘feminist’ campaigns
Femvertising gone wrong
by Molly Long
As more and more companies try to get on board with the whole equality thing, their advertising teams are no exception. From diversity to inclusivity, ad campaigns are targeting women through #empowerment – a tactic known as ‘femvertising‘.
But appealing to the modern *woke* woman isn’t always straightforward. Some of the ads made in the name of femvertising come off as insincere or preachy, while some seem an awful lot like they’re telling you to kick mugs in men’s faces.
Not all tone deaf advertising campaigns are created equal, but here is a brief history of some of the most questionable feminist advertising campaigns that the world has given us:
Boohoo and #allgirls
Fashion giant boohoo’s latest advertising campaign has not impressed the internet. The 30-second ad released on Monday celebrates ‘girls of all ages, going through different life stages’ but for an ad that professes to be for #allgirls except disabled women, plus-sized women and trans women, all of which were absent from the campaign.
— boohoo.com (@boohoo) August 7, 2017
And people definitely noticed.
— amy eloise 🐾 (@amyeloisew) August 7, 2017
— Rochelle (@Roch1508) August 7, 2017
Hire fat people, hire disabled people, hire trans people, hire black people, HIRE DIVERSE PEOPLE and avoid this bullshit #AllGirls
— She Might Be Loved (@GeorginaGrogan_) August 7, 2017
Audi and their soap box Super Bowl ad
Earlier this year, Audi launched its #DriveProgress campaign with a 60-second ad at the Super Bowl. Following around a little girl in a soap box car, the advert preached that Audi of America was committed to equal pay for equal work.
Unfortunately for Audi, the internet is a thing. It wasn’t long before it was revealed that the new face of women’s rights has absolutely no women on their executive board, prompting many to believe they were doing this just for show.
You pay your female employees less than males? You know that's against the law, right?
— Prepper Frog (@TueborFrog) February 1, 2017
Audi, new champion of women's equity at work, has no women on their board pic.twitter.com/y32FVAr6eP
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) February 6, 2017
Shea Moisture and Hair Hate
Encouraging women to love and embrace their natural hair sounds empowering, but Shea Moisture sure did face a backlash when they started doing just that in April. The company was founded in 1991 for black women; fast forward 26 years and their Hair Hate ad features one black woman and two white women, talking about their struggle to accept their natural hair.
Critics thought the comparison between hair hate that blonde and redheaded white women get and the hair hate that black women face was pretty inexcusable.
Black women: Our hair is-
Shea Moisture: I think we ALL get hair hate pic.twitter.com/MZ5Xekr9PO
— THE TWINS ARE HERE (@ultimatenegro) May 1, 2017
lmao reminds me of the shea moisture "hair hate" commercial. bc people with red hair face difficulties in life..
— 은미 (@TheALED93) April 28, 2017
Im still upset @ the shea moisture commericial… how does you not feeling like you were supposed to have red hair relate to hair hate??
— Lethal Homo (@LordeCali) April 26, 2017
The advert ended up getting pulled. Try again.
Bianco’s ‘Equal pay is not enough’
The Danish footwear brand used its January 2017 advert to talk about how much more expensive it is to be a woman in this world than a man, touching on how things like clothes, haircuts and underwear less expensive for men. Maybe the feminism is watered down, but the advert had a point, suggesting that equal pay is not enough anymore.
That is, until the women in the advert started jumping on cars and attacking men with high heels and coffee cups.
People weren’t too happy about that.
thee bianco shoe commercial…. its sexist and ridecules feminist issues with the slogan "equal pay is not enough"
— 💕✨Noha✨💕 (@NoahEkey) January 24, 2017
What is this BULLSHIT?? Capitalism disguised as feminism. – Bianco Footwear SS17 campaign | Equal Pay Is Not Enough https://t.co/uyeC7G6ml6
— ü (@freewayflowr) January 23, 2017
Wrangler and #MoreThanABum
I’m pretty sure everyone realized more than we wanted to in 2016. Wrangler realized it was the year to tell women that they were #MoreThanABum.
The EU advert began saying: “It’s time to change the conversation about women”. And how does Wrangler want to change the dialogue surrounding female representation? By following around lots of really successful butts women while the backing music is literally a recording of lots people saying the word “bum”.
Needless to say, people weren’t all that impressed by Wrangler’s faux feminist intentions:
— Monique Ewen (@ThreadsEquality) October 1, 2016
I don't need companies that make money from body hatred telling me I'm #morethanabum or beautiful. Sod off!
— CheltFems (@Chelt_Fems) October 10, 2016
— FVG (@VeraGrayF) September 28, 2016
American Apparel’s Next BIG Thing
In 2011, American Apparel proved to anyone who was still in any doubt that just hiring plus-sized models isn’t feminism. Just a year after telling the world plus sizes were not their demographic, the brand put out a call for women “who need a little extra wiggle room” to model their new XL range (read: size 10 to 12).
People were not cool with the idea of American Apparel starting to sexualize plus-size women under the guise of edgy feminism in their pornographic ads.
American apparel has "plus" size models now. The flyer says the next big thing. With big highlighted. Victory for us? Idk……
— Sara Avila (@sara_78704) September 21, 2011
Dear American Apparel REALLY… The next "BIG" Thing… REALLY!!!???!! You could have just said "looking for the next beautiful model"
— Alissa Ramos (@AmichelleR) September 16, 2011
Cue even more controversy when the woman who received the most votes on their website, Nancy Upton, wasn’t even announced as the winner. Upton, who entered into the contest as a joke with photos of her eating a whole chicken and a bio that read “I just can’t stop eating” was denied the job.
— Social Media Club (@SMCSTL) November 13, 2013
According to American Apparel, they decided to “award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out,” and who they “would be proud to have representing [their] company.” Ouch.
Ivanka Trump and whatever it is she’s doing
Ivanka was never going to have it easy with a father like hers, sure. But her new feminist icon makeover is wearing thin. With a Twitter bio that professes her to be an “advocate for the education & empowerment of women & girls” and a book called Women Who Work that practically screams about how lucky women are to have the choice of working, I’m sure she thinks she is full of feminist credentials. I mean just look at her go:
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) July 9, 2017
You’d think then she would at least give the contracted workers who design and make the items in her clothing range paid maternity leave so that they can be, you know, women who work?
Elle India and Let her be
The Let Her Be campaign by Elle India earned a big old must try harder sticker when it’s probably well-intentioned feminist advertising campaign sparked a backlash for being classist.
The advert shows middle class women pulling up their tops and pulling down their skirts to cover more skin as people like waiters and taxi drivers come into view. While it’s pretty easy to identify with, it also manages to paint pretty much all working class men as predatory in less than three minutes, accidentally exposing deep class divides.
I guess it must just be really hard to not be at least a little offensive sometimes.
Starbucks’ Race Together campaign
Not technically feminist, but still worth a look. In 2015, Starbucks launched its ‘Race Together’ campaign in a bid to open up the national dialogue on race.
The initiative, that saw baristas writing the phrase ‘Race Together’ on coffee cups, didn’t last very long.
Starbuck's Race Together campaign was a classic example of trying so hard not to be racist that you end up being very racist.
— Campbell (@201campbell) March 31, 2015
Starbuck's Howard Schultz giving up on it's #senseless and silly 'Race Together' effort which was a dumb as their coffee is over-priced.
— Heaven Help Us (@Greermillion) March 22, 2015
More than anything, people just didn’t seem to think Starbs had the right to try to lead the conversation about race or that baristas were equipped to discuss matters of race over a cash register.
Dove and their weird body bottles
No list of feminist ads would be complete without a little nod to Dove. In the past, they’ve tackled some big topics to sell us body wash and they’ve done it pretty successfully. It was all going so well up until May of 2017 when Dove announced they would be selling different body-shaped bottles to customers in the UK.
— BBC Three (@bbcthree) May 9, 2017
People weren’t sure:
I'm not sure the issue with women's body image has ever been about a bottle of soap not representing their shape … #dove
— Abbie Worton (@AbbieWorton) May 11, 2017
wait, the Dove bottles-as-body-shapes thing is….. real?
— Nora Biette-Timmons (@biettetimmons) May 10, 2017
At this point, it's like Dove following you around the store saying "Other people call you fat. Not me! Other people call you fat. Not me…" https://t.co/tbYFzEoLjs
— Sandra Newman (@sannewman) May 8, 2017
Dove weren’t quite on the money – as it turns out women don’t really need to have their bodies reflected back to them in bottle form. Apparently that’s not how you cure insecurity, who knew.
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