Women are hot. Whatever it is that inveigles its way into the collective creative process to spark a new cultural trend (cats in ads, beards on men) has been at it with women. From the rise of the female chief executive to the flamboyant return of the female pube, the media is obsessing about anything with a double-X chromosome.
And so are we. When we decided early last autumn to devote an issue to the changing roles and perspectives of women, the concept seemed important but fresh. Five months on and the whole world agrees with us. Even the illustration we’d originally chosen for our cover suddenly appeared on more than half a dozen other articles or magazine covers declaring a new female empowerment. I guess that suggests the image libraries aren’t bursting with suitable pictures to prove the point, which proves the point.
From the rise of the female chief executive to the flamboyant return of the female pube, the media is obsessing about anything with a double-X chromosome.
As to the theme itself, I admit to some discomfort. Does a focus on women really help, or does it underline unnecessary differences? Does debating women’s relationship with the internet imply it’s not a natural association? Does a focus on women at the top in business suggest we don’t need to worry about the glass ceiling any more? Do the men at the top in our business feel left out? What about our cover this month? Does the illustration of a woman in a swimsuit play to a dangerous cliché? The women in our office liked it a lot; so did the men. We went with it. But you might have a different view.
Sweeping generalisations are the enemy of creative marketing, yet they are a tempting shorthand when it comes to talking about half the population. Try to sidestep the stereotype and you end up with excruciating new labels like "fempreneur" or "geekette" (the only time those words will appear in this magazine, ever). The last thing we need is to create new categories that define women as different, separate from their male equivalents. Better, surely, to neutralise the words we already have and work harder to eradicate any lingering gender bias in our language.
From stereotypes to semantics, a delicacy is required that recognises every nuance and appreciates every perspective. It’s pretty impossible to achieve consistently – not just when it comes to gender, but with any important topic where differing sensitivities are involved. The main thing is to try. Brands that don’t will find themselves alienating the New Man as well as the New Woman.