Impact of ‘Femvertising’ Movement on Government

Can a theoretical movement like Femvertising have a tangible impact on government proposals?

In 2014, Always released the Like a girl commercial intending to turn a phrase that had become an insult into an empowering message. This award winning campaign served as a landmark in feminist advertising and proved that companies support for social causes was booming and that the marketing scene was changing.Although some brands continue to endorse a sex sells tactic, a revolution is occurring in which popular brands are rejecting this dated approach and adopting a fresh feminist prospective. Famous brands such as Dove, Pantene and Nike have adapted their adverts to project less dated female perspectives and more positive feminist ideologies. SheKnows iblock magazine (2014) defines Femvertising as advertising that , messages and imagery to empower women and girls.SheKnows recently surveyed that 52% of women said that the way in which an ad portrays women directly influences whether they would purchase a product. Due to this fast pace worldwide influence, Femvertising consequently creates the question of whether this trend can constitute as feminist activism. While this essay is not trying to prove anything, it will attempt to act as a plausible claim for the interaction between Femvertising and . The focus will be on whether this revolutionary advertising trend could become an and actually make a difference at an elite level.

This essay will divide itself into three sections. The first section will begin by outlining what has allowed this trend to come about and call upon third wave feminism and social constructivist theory as the main contributors. The second part will focus on the first level of change, that of a political change. The focus will be on the Tampon Tax as a case study to exemplify the existence of third wave feminism and Femvertisings potential impact in the political arena. Thirdly, it will focus on the second level of change, that of a cultural change, arguing that Femvertisings authenticity, paired with social medias power creates a unique platform that is in line with our cultures slacktivist habits and needs.. It will be concluded that Femvertisings unique ability to make people think makes it a rare and necessary catalyst for change. Both in our understandings of gender and in the decision making process in the UK.

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As commodity feminism starts to diminish, in which young generations rejected the feminist label, third wave feminism begins to make way. Unlike commodity feminism, this new wave embraces individualism and intersectionality.This brand sees women embracing the feminist label, something which has become trendy and now marks an enlightened women.Arguably, this backlash to commodity feminism has set the stage for an original sort of advertising that takes advantage of these new feminist ideals and spins them in a way that also profits their brand. Femvertising focuses on previously untapped consumer base, that of the female population, in an attempt to build a relationship with them through authentic and real images.Although some traditional gender stereotypes continue to prevail in advertising, it seems as though this revolution will allow woman to escape from being passive figures of the male gaze.Cohan appreciates this as he recognises a shift towards a more promising, as opposed to exploitative, representation of women within advertisements.Subsequently he also argues that we are experiencing a paradigm shift that introduces a much-needed realistic representation of women.

Although social constructivism has not uniquely caused the creation of Femvertising, this essay argues that it has provided a theoretical platform for it to happen. For this reason, this essay also adopts a social constructivist lens to understand how we learn about gender roles. Social constructivists believe that gender roles are social constructs within social structures made up of norms and rules.Rugge (1998) outlines the importance of ideational factors, including norms and ideas, social efficacyin shaping the way in which actors define their identity and interests in the first place.This perspective allows us to understand that people are social actors who are performing on a socially constructed stage that mediates our understanding of reality.In this sense, social constructivists emphasise the importance of both structure, our society, and agency, the individuals, in the shaping of gender norms. Accordingly, gender norms are constantly being constructed, contested and re constructed, frequently challenging societies understandings and perspectives.Femvertising can therefore build upon this on-going process of learning and take advantage of the malleability of the notion of gender norms.

Social constructivists understanding of globalisations interaction with power creates an ideal platform for Femvertising to flourish. As Sassen suggests, globalization has allowed for the detachment of sovereignty and territoriality.Devolution of power has thus transformed sovereignty and has allowed the term global governance to develop.This term explains the explosion of non-state actors and their increasing salience in various features of contemporary world affairs.Subsequently, this opening up of the political system has created the ideal access point for Femvertising to help change dated gender norms and increase womens visibility. Femvertising can therefore assume the role of a non-state actor and become an accessible avenue for empowerment that is able to re define and share gender norms in different contexts. Rosenau characterises systems of rule at all levels of human activity in which pursuit of goals through the exercise of control has transnational repercussions in structure and agency.Therefore, Femvertisings ability to exercise control on what information society receives allows it to have transnational repercussions in the way society learns about gender roles. Through social constructivists importance of culture and its appreciation of the effects that the transformation of sovereignty has on Femvertising, one can only be optimistic of this trends role our learning and understanding of gender norms.

Given what social constructivists argue about gender roles being social constructs we are optimistic that Femvertising will truly be able to affect social structures and gender stereotypes. Femvertising holds an incredible amount of control in being able to depict women in a certain way that subsequently has social implications beyond the companys bottom line. In effect, Femvertising has the ability to challenge many of the dated gendered stereotypes in the media that have altered societys thoughts and behaviours for so many years.The cultivation theory expands this perspective by stating that once people have developed their own concepts of reality from the stereotypes in the media, they are likely to modify their personal behaviour according to those stereotypes.This is important as in order for Femvertising to mobilise people to act it must first educate them to believe in the same cause and advertising has the power to do just that. By having the rare ability to change attitudes Femvertising offers brands a new way to reach female consumers while simultaneously modernising gender stereotypes and increasing womens diversity.

However, despite Femvertisings innovative efforts in using popular feminist ideals to sell, a two minute advert empowering women is not enough to end misogyny and change this gendered status quo. A study researching the effect of Femvertisings messages on attitude change supports this claim. It found that although the advertisements made them think, their overall attitude towards women and the product did not change as a result of their exposure. Such findings show that despite being a good vehicle for the promotion of simple pro social messages, it might not be for complex ones that require deep and elaborative thought processes. Attitudes are so entrenched in our culture that a much more powerful tool, other than a single exposure to one advertisement, is needed to separate the two. Kesby (2005) discusses this topic and comments that empowerment is not a linear process of enlightenment but a repetitive performance in a space.Thus if Femvertising truly wants to empower women, it must recognise that one advert will not ensure liberation. It must instead use the repetitiveness of advertisements to start the slow process of re conditioning that will eventually lead into attitude change. Nevertheless, the simple fact that Femvertising is a unique platform that makes people think and socially aware is in itself extremely powerful.

The outbreak ofhas pressured international governments to respond accordingly with feminist policies, the tampon tax being the most infamous. This policy received international attention due its framing of feminine hygiene products as luxury goods making them not exempt from tax like other necessary goods.Public discourse of policies concerning the menstrual hygiene products has been a long-term taboo, regarding it in the context of ridicule, shame and disgust.Since men predominantly run governments and laws, this helps to entrench silence surrounding this topic even more.Through third wave feminism, this younger generation have grown up in a culture that supports body-positivity, encouraging openness in discussing women bodily functions, something extremely unlikely in previous generations.This proves the extent to which our culture is changing and embracing feminism and shows that without third wave feminism it is likely that the tampon tax would have continued being unnoticed and legally misclassified.

Breaking the taboo was the main way in which the generation helped bring attention to this issue. In a research carried out by Lea Hunter, it was found that the most influential moments in the movement were direct and confrontational in the breaking of the taboo mainly in informal discourse such as Twitter and Facebook.This proves that breaking a taboo demands attention. Subsequently, Femvertising could be used in future movements as an additional tool in galvanising widespread attention while offering a unique platform for informal discourse. Although social medias role in increasing awareness and building support for reform in this campaign is indisputable, Femvertising could have certainly made it more powerful. If, for example, Always had released an advertising campaign aiming to open up the discourse and, one could optimistically suggest that the policy would have gained an unprecedented amount of power and influence. Femvertisings uniqueness in its ability to condition considerable portions of the population allows it to spread awareness on a common cause and galvanize support at a much faster pace than any other tool. Thus, although social media will always be used as an outlet to exercise public pressure, grass root movements should explore the possibility of broadcasting Femvertising adverts in line with their campaign if they want to increase extensive support and influence.

Hanson broadens the idea of political action by expanding the public sphere to include household and social relations.By doing so he suggests that activism may incorporate everyday actions by individuals that could eventually create new social networks of power dynamics.This suggests that although an action may not be directly political, certain actions can still be considered as activism. If they are able to foster informal networks or relations that may then evolve in more formalized political actions it can be considered so. Therefore, according to this definition Femvertising can be related to activism. By having serious power on the way woman are represented and perceived, Femvertising increases the publics awareness and depending on its salience can influence them to act accordingly. For example, if Always had publically backed the Tampon Tax campaign, and a consumer bought an Always product and then takes the initiative to share this actions within her social network this can be seen as a form of activism. Optimistically, this would cause a chain effect and drive up demand for advertisement promoting gender equality and even greater representation.Thus Femvertising is encouraging women to transform power dynamics by challenging old gender norms. According to Hansons broad definition of activism, Femvertising has true potential in this arena.

The tampon tax also shows that governments, including the UK, are increasingly responsive to grass-roots movements. By opening its decision-making process to informal actors, such as grass-root movements and social media, the UK can aspire to an input democracy, like Sweden. This type of democracy opens up policy making to various civil society groups allowing them to express their policy opinions.By doing so, Sweden has high levels of involvement, especially with regards to social movements.As the tampon tax has shown, the UK is certainly beginning to be receptive to its publics voice, even if articulated informally. The UK can also aspire to Sweden for its state feminism. In Sweden social equality is a core value. As such, it has adopted welfare policies such as generous parental leave schemes, public care services for children and the elderly and have a fairly high political representation of women in government.Sweden thus exemplifies the sort of government that the UK can aspire to. From the tampon tax one can see that the UK is beginning to act as an input democracy and resemble state feminism. However, it can be argued that the UK is not ready for an input democracy nor state feminism. In fact, the UK is only just beginning to experiment with online movements and women representation in parliament is still at a low 29%.Nevertheless, it is true that political change is only possible if the culture accepts it.

This essay will now continue to argue how this generations habits and Femvertising are creating a culture that is ready for this political change. Femvertisings potential lies in its ability to respond to societys apparent demand for diverse and realistic images. Lauren Greenfield, the documentarian that directed Always Like a Girl campaign says that when it comes to gender and telling real stories about girls, there is a really clear that of authenticity that needs to be respected.Femvertising is avant-garde in understanding that in order for an advert to be successful it needs to be honest and represent reality, not contradict this. Okeefe (2015) presents evidence to support this, claiming that if a product contradicts ones beliefs, it is unlikely to result in any change in attitude.Thus, Femvertising is unique in the sense that it appreciates that honestly sells and is guiding other brands to tell the truth and get behind the cause. After Doves initial real beauty campaign, its parent company Unilever reported a 3% overall growth in sales,showing the success of popularity of Femvertising. In general, Femvertisings ability to catalyse change in the publics views and attitudes as well as its conforming to societys need for authenticity highlights how much potential lies within this trend. If done correctly, Femvertising has the ability to bring us together through enlightenment and empowerment.

Nonetheless, Crouse (2002) believes that Femvertising has actually brought back commodity feminism and is conditioning us to believe that if a women wants to be powerful, a core feminist ideal, she must follow the adverts and make a purchase. Femvertising is focusing on controlling womans worth according to their consumer choices to be able to maximise their profit margins. This sort of manipulation appears to devaluate Femvertisings uniqueness and authenticity and depreciates the idea of womens equality and therefore to the feminist movement itself. Meredith Fineman writes too many attempts to market to women seem to me to turn female power into a commodity or at least, reduces female power into something mostly good for buying more commodities.Baxter defines this as faux activism, outlining that although brands seem to support gender equality and feminism through their empowering messages, the companies are actually participating in faux activism. This can be seen with Doves real beauty campaign that relied on females insecurities to reap financial gains. It is therefore necessary that if companies continue to assume the responsibility to spread feminist ideals and support this feminist movement that their messages are parallel with the companys brand and core values.

Femvertisings influence may also be controversial due to its inherent conflict as carriers of individual consumption and its feminist fundamentally political and social causes.Zeisler argues that the majority of modern Feminism is driven by capitalist views and includes financial gains in nearly every tenet. Considering that in this light Femvertising is viewed as being driven by capitalist views, Zeisler worries about the depoliticising of feminism.While Femvertising has began to spread, this has led to a vast majority of celebrities, such as Beyonce and Lena Dunham, to adopt the label. Although this does help to spread awareness of the issue, it simultaneously contradicts feminisms message and de legitimises their efforts. Thus, Femvertising has actually turned feminism into a profit turning process, destabilising feminism as a political and social movement. SheKnows medias, Samantha Skey outright says that Femvertising adverts are not NGOsthese ads are meant to drive product sales. Thus, this proves that Femvertisings contradicts pure feminist ideals that believe that women empowerment should not be a matter of profit but of existence and enforcement of social policies and practices.

Nevertheless, todays society acts as the ideal foundation for Femvertising to flourish and reach its potential. As technologys influence continues to spread, it has naturally effected the way that people participate in the political process. Recently, we have seen a rise of un conventional participating forms, such as slacktivism. Kristofferson defines slacktivism as an inclination to participate in relatively costless token displays of support for a social cause, accompanied by a lack of enthusiasm in dedicating a meaningful effort to endorse meaningful change.This nature of slacktivism suggests that people will now only participate if it their pro-social actions can be accomplished with no effort at all. Thus, Femvertising not only allows for slacktivist habits to occur, it encourages them. Therefore, according to Kristofferson, buying an Always product to support their pro feminist ideals is an act of slacktivism.By participating such a simple act consumers are still able to align themselves with improving the representation of women in advertising. Kristofferson discusses we should praise these token endorsements as positive stepping-stones towards more meaningful forms of social engagement in the future.This optimistic view towards social engagement could predict how Femvertising could catalyse future mobilization by initiating an easy form of participating.

Social medias grass-root nature helps boost Femvertisings mobilisation and allows it to embody an activist stance. Through broadening the reach of generated discussions to a world space, social media acts as an alternative space to voice your opinion and connect with those who share the same one.Milan (2015) contends that this helps to bring materiality to the production of meaning, as its a sort of platform that allows for particular dynamic among individuals.Subsequently, each viewer that takes to social media to discuss a Femvertising advert will be connected with other similar viewers, facilitating the establishment and enlargement of networks. Manuh (2006) defines empowerment as all those processes where women take control and ownership of their lives.Consequently, it can be said that social media is empowering women by creating an arena where the soft power of women is authentic and powerful. By creating #LikeAGirl, Alwayswas able unite a considerable network of like minded people and create an online space in which consumers could engage with the cause. Eventually, as this conversation continued to spread it started an online movement.This shows that cyberspace not only helps to spread awareness about a campaign, its sense of accessibility also allows for interaction and motivation within the campaign and the coordination of events.Such events around the world influenced Forbes to declare 2014 to be the breakout year for hash tag activism around women and girls.Hopefully, with the help of social media, and most specifically the hash tag, Femvertisings online movements can continue to mobilise viewers and gain momentum until elites are forced to respond.

In general, it is clear that Femvertisings potential is enormous. This essay began by showing how third wave feminism allowed Femvertising to materialise and flourish. Social constructivism, and its idea of global governance provides a theoretical platform for Femvertising. Social constructivists notion of gender norms being social constructs and its constant re-construction of the term, allows for the perfect access point for Femvertising. This essay used the tampon tax to prove the presence of third wave feminism and analysed the potential role of Femvertising in such campaigns. By doing so, the UK would become more like Sweden, as it would listen more to its grass-root movements and adhere to state feminism. The last section looked at Femvertisings unique power and authenticity. Due to our generation slacktivist habits, when paired with social media and the hash tag, one can be very optimistic about Femvertisings future potential. Nevertheless, this essay also discussed how Femvertising will forever hold inherent conflict between pure feminism and consumerism and its power in changing attitude is questionable.

In conclusion, however, Femvertising has an incredible amount of potential. It has the power to increase awareness at an unprecedented and unique pace, and by doing so catalyses change on a worldwide scale. Femvertising has come at a perfect time, when our cultures attitudes and behaviours are in line with those that Femvertising enables and encourages. For this reason one should be extremely optimistic of its potential influence. Despite Femvertisings limitations in being able to change attitudes, it is its ability to catalyse changes in thinking that gives it its power. In this sense, the mere fact that it is making consumers at the very least aware of restrictive stereotypes that tend to overpower women is extremely encouraging. It is therefore necessary for us to focus on awareness instead of change and acknowledge that change is extremely difficult and slow but that Femvertising is kick starting the process.

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