Elle UK recently made the decision to fuse feminism and advertising in an attempt to “update” the image of women’s rights, treating it as if it were an outdated product in need of a new look. Three feminist organizations were given the resources of three award-winning ad agencies to try and help them improve their image.
The three agencies rallying behind feminism were Brave, Mother, and Wieden+Kennedy. Their job was to try and steer public opinion away from the hairy, man-hating, bra-burning image that is conjured when uttering the word feminism. As Charlotte Raven, founding editor of the Feminist Times puts it:
The puritanical, anti-fun feminist looms large in the media’s consciousness, but not in mine. I’ve never met her, even in the women’s groups I attended in the ’80s.
Mother London and the Feminist Times showcase a single shocking fact: “On average, British women make up to 15% less than their male colleagues. That pay gap is unlikely to close until 2057.” The design was inspired by a protest board and the album cover of “Never Mind the Bollocks” from the Sex Pistols. Their campaign includes an interactive element as well, directing viewrs to MakeThemPay.co.uk, a site where you can estimate how much more or less you make per year than your colleagues of the opposite gender. There is also no reference to the word “feminism” throughout, focusing on the message and not the label.
Image by Phoenix Dark-Knight
Another example of the “rebranding” is a flowchart by Brave and Jinan Younis, in which all roads lead to the realization that you are, in fact, a feminist, even if you answer “no” to the question “Are you a feminist?”
Wieden+Kennedy London collaborated with satirical website Vagenda to create the#ImAWomanAnd campaign. A list of sexist slurs and nicknames are littered across the poster – including “bimbo,” “slut,” and “thinking man’s crumpet.” The headline “Sod the Stereotypes” tries to drive home the point that even though these terms may be in common use, they are still a sweeping generalization that does more harm than good.
There were some organizations such as UK Feminista who opted out of the “feminist rebranding,” motivated by the belief that feminism has no need for an image update, not to mention the consumerist nature and excessive use of airbrushing in Elle UK that makes their feminist intentions questionable. Proof of this lies in the fact Elle UK rejected a few earlier ideas from Mother and Feminist Times, included a photomontage of different vaginas, aimed at making the reader think twice about getting a Brazilian wax.
This doesn’t take away from the intention of the magazine when compared to others that are much less willing to tackle controversial issues. So while it’s unlikely feminism actually needs to be rebranded, it’s nice to see that it is getting some well-deserved attention in a channel that attracts a lot of eyeballs.