Feminism is no longer a dirty word

There is still a long way to go before women can achieve real equality. For now, ads such as Always' '#LikeAGirl' must be applauded, Laura Jordan Bambach writes.

The "#LikeAGirl" film, created by Leo Burnett for the Procter & Gamble brand Always, has caused a stir.

There has been a range of opinions online. Both The Vagenda (which I love) and Ben Kay (who I think is ace) have questioned the work, dismissing it as a cynical marketing ploy from a corporation. I respect their view. But I have had a different experience of the film.

Sanitary products can change girls’ lives. They can keep girls in school in the developing world. Yes, P&G and Unilever are big corporates, but they provide a vital set of research and products for women around the world.

I would like to think that 50 per cent of you have gone though the difficult thing that is puberty for a girl. Periods suck even more than growing boobs. As a young girl in Australia, where advertising was gender-stereotype central, my experience was pretty dire. Advertising for sanitary products was all of the same "blue liquid" ilk, and it hasn’t changed much.

But there was one ad that has stuck with me. It featured a celebrity talking about having to "leave a party with her jacket tied around her waist" because of the inevitable teenage-period accident. It was uncomfortable but recognisable. At puberty, girls easily feel out of control of, and disgusted by, their bodies. The ad really connected, and a straw poll on Facebook with my Aussie mates shows it has remained memorable to this day for that reason.  

"#LikeAGirl" has done the same for many women. It doesn’t provide answers, but does ask a big question: if nobody believes that girls are inferior, where does this cultural trope come from and why does it persist? And how is it affecting young women? Yes, P&G is trying to sell a product, but I would rather "#LikeAGirl" than more blue liquid and trampolines.

I have spoken to many parents over the past few weeks who have pledged to stop saying "like a girl" to their children since watching the film. What an incredible change that will make. People have been making great use of the hashtag to share stories. This ad is powerful and touches on an incredibly important issue, which is now being spoken about around the world.

And what of the bigger question of using feminism in advertising? Pleasingly, after the feminist wasteland of the 90s, there is a dialogue now. It is no longer a dirty word. Our Cannes and SheSays joint project, See It Be It, was a great success – our panel on women in marketing had queues out the door. Projects such as #EverydaySexism and #YesAllWomen are bringing visibility to the issues women face. #MissRepresentation has done a great job at flagging up sexism and gender-stereotyping in our industry.

Women are speaking up about what matters to them. We are not all pink. We are not all worried about clothes

We have Dove, of course, which has been advertising in this way for some time, but there are both advertising and products popping up now that are from a female perspective. As there should be – women make around 80 per cent of purchase decisions across every vertical.

Check out Bowndling. It was founded by Collyn Ahart (amazing planner, amazing cyclist), who was disappointed by the way adventuring and sportswear were marketed to women. We’re not all 20 years old with a six-pack. So she has set up her own business for women who like to explore but aren’t in the  conventional "outdoors" box. Sadly, she has been the target of violent and misogynistic online abuse purely for creating a product for the broader women’s audience.

After many years of being marketed to as stereotypes, women are speaking up about what matters to them. We are not all pink. We are not all worried about cakes and clothes. Not all mothers are the same.

We are pushing against a culture where there is still a long way to go for real equality.

For those cynics who ask, here are a few examples from the past few weeks of how far that is: Glastonbury. The biggest, most diverse music festival in the world. But if you spent time looking at the press, you would think that only 21-year-old blonde women attended. Mmm. Ladies in mud. Does it matter? Yes. The fact it makes the newspaper "more attractive to buy" is a symptom of this problem.

The recent story about Carnage tours and how a young lady "performed a sex act on 24 guys" on holiday. Both the newspaper and the owner of Carnage blamed the behaviour on the woman and the way she was brought up. Not the 24 young men. Just the girl. Did you notice?

Wicked Campers is an Aussie company that writes "playful" messages on the back of its rental vans.

Playful messages such as "In every princess there is a little slut who wants to try it just once…" and "I take my women like I take my bars – liquor in the front, poker in the rear". A woman who raised these messages with the Advertising Standards Board when her daughter saw them has faced vile online trolling.

So, is "#LikeAGirl" a great piece of work? In my opinion, yes. Am I cynical about the fact it comes from P&G? You know, I just don’t give a shit. During World Cup fever, when everything seems marketed at young men, telling them how they are going to?be superstars, girls can at?least own their own point of view when it comes to their personals.

Laura Jordan Bambach is a co-founder of SheSays, the president of D&AD and a creative partner at Mr President


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