Femvertising serves as backlash against female objectification


Kylie Yamada, Feature Editor

For the Super Bowl, Audi ran an ad promising equal pay for all its workers. Dove’s Self-Esteem Project built an entire ad campaign around uplifting its customers’ body image. Both of these advertisements fall under the new trend of feminist advertising known as “femvertising,” which has drawn both critics and fans.

Femvertising is certainly a shift from the old norm of objectifying of women in advertising. Commercials and posters objectifying women has long been a target for feminist criticism — from Carl’s Jr.’s common practice of showing scantily-clad women eating burgers to American Apparel’s sexualized sock displays on their website. Feminists argue that objectification shows women as just pretty faces or objects onto which the viewer can project a fantasy.

Some see femvertising as a reaction to the backlash against objectification. Women are celebrated in this type of commercial, and often viewed more three-dimensionally. Gone are the days when models gratuitously lounged in their underwear eating fast food or drinking beer. Today, they are more likely to be depicted as scientists or athletes.

In addition, many believe that femvertising celebrates feminism in general. A movement which had previously been stigmatized has gained a new audience through nationwide commercials, some of which are even aimed at teenagers and preteens.

“I think it’s good to promote [feminism] as much as possible and normalize it, because when [some] people think of feminism they think it’s like a bad thing,” sophomore Jessie Nelson said.

However, others dislike how marketers are commercializing feminism, a movement which has a rough relationship with consumerism. Some companies capitalizing on femvertising feature products which used to follow the now-perceived-as-sexist method of marketing before feminism entered the popular culture.

Just a year before Bud Light ran an ad criticizing the wage gap, they had to pull a marketing campaign because critics argued it inadvertently supported rape culture. Other companies had little involvement with feminism before their advertisements.

“[Pantene’s “Not Sorry” video encouraging women to assert themselves] smacked of a company adopting feminism because it seemed trendy; out of self interest,” Telegraph writer Claire Cohen wrote in a 2013 article.

Exposing the companies to further criticism is the fact that these commercials are ultimately to increase profits. Few of the advertising companies donate any of their revenue to feminist organizations.

“[Femvertising] brings us together in an — often funny — moment of self-recognition, before pulling back the curtain to expose an ingrained cultural stereotype,” Cohen wrote.

A counterpoint some feminists make is that some companies have changed their practices to fit feminist ideals. The new clothing company The Outrage donates 100 percent of its profits to Planned Parenthood. Audi, as previously mentioned, has publicly pledged to equal wages for equal work and MasterCard, AT&T, and many others have followed suit.

Regardless of feminists’ personal opinion, femvertising seems to be working. A survey conducted by website SheKnows indicates that 52 percent of female respondents chose to buy a particular product because they liked how the “marketer and its ads presented women.”