by Jenna McDaniel
From its earliest origins, media advertising has portrayed women in terms of their sex appeal to society. The more nudity or sexual references illustrated in ads, the greater the sales in this often amoral and profit-driven industry. Over the years, companies and businesses have struggled to find a balance between what will sell their product, and what’s socially acceptable. The recent phenomenon of Femvertising is a pro-female advertising movement that is geared by marketers toward better engaging and inspiring women consumers. According to Samantha Key, Chief Revenue Officer of SheKnows, women are part of a $7 trillion market, and they make up to 85 percent of household purchasing decisions. Forbes has reported that women are on a trajectory to control more than two-thirds of the nation’s wealth by 2030. With marketing techniques such as femvertising, brands are building deeper, stronger, and overall more powerful relations with women, the growing power among consumer groups.
Advertising experts have a strong influence on girls’ attitudes. In contemporary media, ads often send the message that being a girl is inferior, implying undesirable characteristics such as laziness and overall weakness. Jessica Samakow of the Huffington Post asks, “When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?” Advertising and marketing have a direct impact on girls’ self-esteem, and portraying them as sex symbols is harmful. The advertising industry has definitely crossed the line in some arenas: for example, the first images that come to mind for high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, are women with their legs spread, wearing minimal clothing, photographed on their hands and knees or lying on their backs, often in poses of submission in the presence of men. Included in Samakow’s article, the viral #LikeAGirl ad for Always by photographer and documentarian Lauren Greenfield, as well as a compelling statement by an interviewee, proves the beautiful and positive impacts of femvertising:
“If somebody else says that running like a girl or kicking like a girl or shooting like a girl is something that you shouldn’t be doing, that’s their problem. Because if you’re still scoring and you’re still getting to the ball on time… you’re doing it right. It doesn’t matter what they say. Yes, I kick like a girl and I swim like a girl and I walk like a girl and I wake up in the morning like a girl — because I am a girl. And that is not something I should be ashamed of.”
Ads that promote women and girls’ strength and abilities, rather than objectifying them, are rapidly increasing in popularity. With campaigns such as Love Your Body Day, developed by the Now Foundation and recently observed on October 14th, representation of women in the media is being heavily challenged. In the appearance-obsessed culture we live in today, femvertising marks the beginning of a strong transition away from portraying and displaying women as objects to be consumed. As a woman, we respond significantly more to advertising that builds us up because we applaud the breaking down of stereotypical gender barriers. A working mother from the Baby Boomer generation with a child over the age of 18 recently stated in an article from AdWeek:
“Truly think about the message of the commercial – so many commercials today have the message ‘our customers are idiots.’ Why would I go out of my way to buy from a company that doesn’t respect me? Don’t take cheap shots at anyone – men, women or children.”
In the same article by Michelle Castillo, 52 percent of 628 women polled claimed that they have purchased a product because they like how the brand and its advertising portray women. A piece of advice from an anonymous source noted at the end of Castillo’s article emphasizes, “Don’t be diverse for brownie points– do it because all women deserve respect.” This goes hand-in-hand with the transition that many brands are undergoing in advertising and marketing. Brownie points would be the obvious and the easiest way out, but integrity is what ultimately stands out. As Henry Giles, a writer from the 1800s, once said:
“Great names stand not alone for great deeds; they stand also for great virtues.”