Femvertising: a step in the right direction or just ‘faux feminism’?

Taking a closer look at pro-feminist marketing campaigns
Taking a closer look at pro-feminist marketing campaigns

‘Femvertising’- a term short for ‘Female Empowerment Advertising’ or ‘Feminist Advertising’, something you’ve most likely encountered before whether you realised it or not.

It’s essentially a form of advertising that targets women and represents them in a positive and more socially conscious manner. The term was coined by Samantha Skey of SheKnows Media. 

We’re starting to see it all around us, with a good and relatively recent example of femvertising being Nike’s ‘Show them what crazy can do’ campaign, where the ‘women are crazy for showing emotion’ trope is dispelled. Brands like Dove with their renowned ‘Real Beauty’ and Always with their ‘#LikeAGirl’ campaigns have also been frontrunners in playing their part to positively and accurately represent women over the past couple of years. 

READ MORE: We love how Nike is using their platform to address social issues - this time unapologetic about women's underarm hair 

Another recent example of some powerful femvertising is Project Body Hair by a razor brand called Billie, the first of its kind to show women proudly flaunting their body hair in their witty and empowering ad. Their aim to normalise women’s body hair and remind everyone that shaving is a choice shows just how far advertising has come. 

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Why isn’t pubic hair public hair? ??‍??

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It’s no surprise that women have been represented in extremely sexist ways in advertisements from the past (shout-out basically any ad from the ‘50s) and sadly every now and then companies still slip up. Brands use ‘Femvertising’ to show consumers that they are more socially aware and aim to be synonymous with equality and respecting women’s rights. 

READ MORE: This women network launched a campaign to challenge "marketing gimmick" of Women’s Month 

It’s a breath of fresh air, showing us content that does not aim to objectify women and in most cases, builds a foundation of inclusivity or intersectional feminism while rejecting sexism in mainstream media. Sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it? 

While many may sing the praises of brands who redefine mainstream media’s representation of women, it sparks the debate of whether ‘Femvertising’ is a genuine reflection of brands’ visions and missions or just an inauthentic marketing tactic and industry trend used to capitalise on women consumers. 

Fighting the good fight? 

Those who are pro femvertising see it as a way of allowing the world to rethink some of their own beliefs based on what they have previously been exposed to. It is a step in the right direction and means that women are finally getting the representation they deserve. 

Its impact is not only affecting brands marketed at women, but men as well. If we’re looking at something like the controversial Gillette ad for example, a brand typically marketed at men, is now also seemingly playing their part in fighting the patriarchy. 

READ MORE: Heterosexual men in red lipstick will not put an end to violence against women and children 

Femvertising can also be seen as a positive thing as it creates necessary conversations and encourages other brands to follow suit. 

Just an “illusion of progress”?

While many feel that femvertising has positive impacts on mainstream advertising, others may not see it as all sunshine and roses but rather, question the authenticity of brands. 

Marketing consultant, Katie Martell, has been quite critical of femvertising, calling it “faux feminism” during her talk at the 2017 Women in Digital Annual Conference. She believes that brands “use feminism as a narrative on our fight for women’s equality” which “creates an illusion of progress.” 

At the end of the day, big companies have the means to engage in real activism which makes us wonder, what are these companies who are seemingly so pro-women really doing for women? 

Another valid point she makes is that some of the companies who are using femvertising are the very ones who do not have equal rights in the workplace and boast executive teams that are a vast majority of men. Is it feminism, or “feminism when convenient”? 

While the topic continues to be one that sparks conversation about the nature of certain brands and how we as consumers perceive them, femvertising shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. 

So, which side are you on? 

Share your thoughts with us here.

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