Marketing Sexism Everyday
The Battersea Literature Festivalkicks off an incredible programme of events on the 1st September and the opening event is one many of my female friends will be attending, alongside the whole G&I team. The Battersea Arts Centre will host a talk and Q&A with Laura Bates – author of Everyday Sexism and founder of the well known project by the same name. The official Twitter account @EverydaySexism, encourages women and men to share their examples of sexism in everyday life, using #everydaysexism.
From a wolf whistle to a girl on the pavement by a passing van driver, to the board rooms devoid of any females in senior management positions, sexism in our modern society is present and visible every day. When I reverse park my car, I can feel the eyes of male passers-by judging my ability to complete the manoeuvre, just by the sheer fact of my sex, often compounded by my platinum blonde hair. My worst experience of sexism shockingly came from another women – so prevalent is the treatment of women as the lesser sex, some alpha females use it as a weapon against their female colleagues.
Always launched a brilliant campaign this year, led with a tv advert interviewing girls of all ages, which questioned the commonly used expression “like a girl”. So inherent is sexism in our culture, I see in my own professional circle and in this Always tv advert too, that very often women and men alike, do not know that they are engaging in sexist opinions and behaviour. It is everywhere, it is everyday and sadly it features heavily in the world of marketing and business.
I am dismayed at the recent backlash campaign against feminism, which seems to be dominating my Facebook news feed. Women are holding up pieces of paper to camera, with an explanation of why they don’t need feminism and why they are not feminists. Answers include, not being a victim, not wanting to hate men, not needing to promote their sex, not seeing themselves as suffering sexism.
To those who have expressed these opinions or agreed with them I wish to say: the reason you are now in such a privileged position, to be free to reject feminism is due to the feminist movement. Without the suffragettes heroic efforts and years of campaigning from women’s rights organisations and feminist champions, we would not be anywhere near as equal to men as we are now. But there is still work to be done.
I have previously commented on the importance of age profiling by marketers and whether ageism features in modern marketing practices. Identifying a target market using a mix of demographic profile and behavioural data, is an important and valid element of the effective marketing tool kit – the judgement being made during this process is a positive one – may it not be said that I am accusing my fellow marketers of sexism and ageism via targeting. It is in the shaping of campaigns which brings with it the propensity for sexism and other negative judgements. How brands speak to girls and how brands speak about girls, particularly the larger companies with huge reach via mass media, must be carefully considered by the humans creating these messages.
There is a very real responsibility for marketers not to be the purveyors of sexist opinions and it is my hope that my industry plays its part to outlaw such behaviour, just as we would never think to use racial slurs or homophobic jokes.
If marketers can edit the sexism from campaigns, there is a fantastic opportunity for their brands to benefit from a much larger and more positive response from the audience. We are not Mad Men, although the results from The Drum’s Women in Marketing study suggest only half of my industry have recognised this.
I haven’t lost my sense of humour Yorkie – I see you’re joking and playing up to stereotypes, even more so in your latest tv ad which makes the poor chap struggling through the door with the shopping look like a total idiot and the lady on the sofa seems mean by not graciously lending a hand (as she would wish him to do). This advert is not funny and seems dated so a gentle word of warning to the brand managers at Yorkie bar HQ and indeed any brand who accepts and promotes sexism in their campaigns: your marketing is old and alienates women – it is only a matter of time before your company will be eclipsed by brands who operate in a positive manner. Sexism does not sell.
For me its not so much “here come the girls” but “the girls have arrived”, so when I present myself at Business Awards, networking events or meetings, please do not remark on the number of girls employed at G&I with a quip about our “cycles” matching up and don’t ask me if I have a business partner – this sexism is thinly veiled, unwelcome and counter productive.
Have you seen any criminally bad sexist campaigns? Share them with me in the comments below or over on Twitter and use the hashtag #everydaysexism.