GRSJ 224/ Feminism: The New Marketing Tool

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Commercialization of Feminism

Feminism is the ideology that women are equal to their male counterparts. This notion derives from traditional gender roles and norms within society. However, in recent years, many institutions are aspiring to bridge the gap between men and women[1]. This can be seen in economic institutes as well, where it can be argued that there has been an increase in commercialization of the notions of feminism. The commercialization of feminism may be done with good intentions, but unfortunately there is no doubt that there may be underlying agendas.

Using Feminist Notions as Marketing Strategies

In the presence of feminism today, there has definitely been overlap in different sectors which has accounted for significant progress. These sectors primarily enforce socio-cultural dynamics and capitalism to support commodity feminism. Commodity feminism attributes to the fact that feminist ideas and icons are appropriated for commercial purposes [2]. Thus, there are definitely advantages and disadvantages of using feminist notions as marketing tools.

Pros of these Marketing Strategies

There are several positives that arise from these notions. One of the most prevalent ones is raising awareness. Despite having a separate agenda for using feminism notions as a tactic to increase economic capital, platforms are still grounded on the basis of promoting feminism. These marketing strategies have allowed for a surplus in capturing attention of those who are less knowledgeable of the movement. Some other positives of this is that the organizations that support vulnerable girls and women are able to gain more traction. This allows them to raise more funds to give back to these communities. An example of an organization like this is Justice for Girls. Justice for Girls is a local non-profit organization in Vancouver that promotes social justice and an end to violence, poverty and racism in the lives of teenage girls who live in poverty[3]. Similarly, other non-profits reap the benefits of the promotion of feminism. Another significant aspect of this tactic is that is decreases how dependent we are on the government for change. The marketization of feminism allows for new methods of developing, supporting and promoting private sector leadership and responsibility[4]. This further supports meeting the quota for public needs, specifically of those who are women. The commercialization of feminism allows greater outreach to those in need and as a society we begin to recognize that women’s lack of institutional power and credibility is a legitimate barrier. Using feminist notions as a marketing strategy enables women to validate themselves on their own merit regardless of their skills, intelligence and credibility.

Cons of these Marketing Strategies

Unfortunately, there is also a plethora of cons that can be surfaced through the promotion of feminist notions. The concept of ‘doing it for the greater good’ is often hard to abide by and thus, there is a greater implementation of the capital gain that the notion of feminism draws in. This creates a shift in focus from growing human rights to growing personal wallets. The disadvantage of this is that it takes a step back from the authentic reason to why feminist movements commenced. This has concentrated populations to be more concerned with the social and economic benefits. The exploitation and systematic regulation of girls have been happening for decades[5]. Hence, using an ideology that fights for equality as a means of making money differs from the notion of opportunity and growth. Rather it appears as society is leveraging this to allow for the creation of more product, services and economic growth.

Feminist Consumer Goods and Services

Today, we live in a consumer society where almost all social movements can be advanced in order to create commercial goods and services. Feminism and capitalism combined have allowed for marketing around women’s empowerment to reach its peak[6]. Companies have the aspirations to aid and empower women through their products. It can be argued, that brands use feminism in hopes that consumers will associate it with their organization and thus, think highly of their products. This can be seen through various industries, such as the fashion industry, the toy industry as well as the music industry.

The new Hasbro Monopoly, Ms. Monopoly

Toys

Feminist marketing tactics have played a substantial role in the toys industry for several years. Over the years, we have seen how traditional toys have grown to be at an equal platform for both boys and girls. Mattel, the company that is infamous for the creation of Barbie and Ken is an organization that has grown with the uprising of feminism. This can be seen through its collection in 2016 showcased Barbie for everyone through a range of short, tall, curvy and petit dolls of different races. Mattel has continued to expand its range by introducing Gender-Neutral Dolls in the fall of 2019. These dolls come in kits that allow children to choose whether they want to create a doll that mimics a stereotypical boy or girl or whether they want anything in between [7].

However, Mattel is not the only company that has combined the toy industry with feminist tactics. Another company that has utilized this tactic for their benefit is Hasbro. Hasbro has launched a new version of Monopoly in September 2019, called Ms. Monopoly. Ms. Monopoly celebrates women empowerment by allowing women to make money in the game. This is showcased by women collecting $240 when they pass Go instead of the classic $200 which men still make when they pass Go. It also acknowledges women’s inventions such as Wi-Fi and chocolate chip cookies rather than the traditional investment properties [8]. Although this is an innovative idea, it draws away from fighting for equality and embellishes on the notion that feminism is about being better than men, which is false.

The HM shirt used to promote feminism

Clothing

The fashion industry is not too far behind in using feminism as a means of promoting their individual companies. Almost all high-end streetwear clothing company, such as ZARA, Forever 21 and H&M have sold graphic tees with a feminist slogan or simply the word [9]. H&M has recently caught the eye of many by their feminist collections. In particular, they have recently sold shirts and sweatshirts that say “feminism: noun, the radical notion that women are people.”

This although may be a good thought, it again draws away from feminism being a legitimate problem. It also brings up the question of who is wearing these products; are they girls who are facing inequal opportunities or individuals who just find the clothing more affordable.

Music

Beyonce performing Flawless at the VMAs

The branding of feminism continues in the music industry, specifically in recent years. The usage of feminist tactics have surfaced across several genres including pop, hip-hop and r&b. This can be seen through several songs such as If I Were A Boy by Beyoncé, God is a Women by Ariana Grande and Good as Hell by Lizzo. These songs all introduce positive connotations of the feminist theory by empowering women and showcasing why this theory is relevant. These songs address how there is an equality present between women and their male counterparts but also uplifts women, so they feel confident.

These notions are further showcased in the song Flawless by Beyoncé. When the singer went on tour she performed Flawless in front of a screen that flashed the word ‘feminist.’ Despite many thinking that she did this for her own political agenda, she did to promote the true meaning of the theory [10]. Her song, Flawless, presents women in an extraordinary light showing that they are above others, but Beyoncé wanted to embrace empowering women by showcasing that they are equal to their male counterparts.

References

  1. Khatami, Ameneh (2019). "Feminism". Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 55: 610. 
  2. Gill, Rosalind (2016). "Post - Postfeminsim? New Feminist Visibilites in Postfeminism". Feminist Media Studies. 16: 610 – 630. 
  3. "Who We Are". Justice for Girls. Retrieved November 26, 2019. 
  4. Daily, Lisa A. (2019). "We Bleed for Female Empowerment: Mediated Ethics, Commodity Feminism, and the contradictions of Feminist Politics". Communication and Critical/ Cultural Studies. 16: 140–158. 
  5. Yeran, Kim (2011). "Idol Republic: The Global Emergence of Girl Industries and the Commercialization of Girl Bodies". Journal of Gender Studies. 20: 333–345. 
  6. Ngabirano, Anne-Marcelle (March 22, 2017). "Have Companies Taken Over Feminism". USA Today. Retrieved November 28, 2019. 
  7. Salam, Maya (September 25, 2019). "Mattel, Maker of Barbie, Debuts Gender-Neutral Dolls". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2019. 
  8. Asmelash, Leah (September 10, 2019). "In the new game of Monopoly, women make more than men". CNN News. Retrieved November 29, 2019. 
  9. Bond, Casey (October 31, 2019). "Does Your Favorite Feminist Merchandise Actually Support Women's Causes?". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 29, 2019. 
  10. Blair, Olivia (April 5, 2016). "Beyoncé explains why she performed in front of the word 'feminist'". Independent. Retrieved November 29, 2019.