USA Today asks, “Are women being played by ‘feminist’ ads?” The obvious answer is yes, though the effect, I think, is no more insidious than those silly advertisements for vodka that usually feature a bunch of well-dressed men chuckling around a poker table and drinking overpriced liquor under the impression that they’re doing something sophisticated. The point is, mad men play to a type, and right now one of the hottest types going is “feminism” (in the industry they call it a “buzz word”).
Anne-Marcelle Ngabirano writes:
While some companies are engaged in efforts to aid and empower women, activists fear the commercialization of feminism could water down their efforts. Brands, they argue, use feminism in hopes that consumers will associate it with them and consumers will think well of their products…
“Right now, especially in the wake of the election, there are many more brands that are really grabbing onto feminism and being like, OK, this is a good way to sell products that have nothing to do with feminism or progress,” says Andi Ziegler founder of bitchmedia, a feminist media organization. “Marketplace feminism comes to steal the show from more explicit active feminism.”
As an aside: there are a great many reasons why “explicit active feminism” is held in such radically low regard, and one of those reasons is that self-professed feminists often think that, say, naming your company “bitchmedia” is a good idea. (Spoiler: it’s not a good idea.)
Anyway, there is merit to this concern: feminism is indeed becoming “commercialized,” inasmuch as a group of opportunistic ad execs and corporate media departments are seizing on the current feminist moment to try and make some money. But it is worth noting that, for some time now, feminism has already been “commercialized,” at least in all the ways that really matter: it is a ruthlessly competitive and relentless industry in which there is a great deal of money to be made. True, capitalist enterprise makes money by manufacturing products that improve peoples’ lives—air conditioners, cars, computers, power tools—while the feminist industry makes money by coming up with terms like “mansplaining” and getting angry over silly t-shirts. But so what? Any functioning industrial machine will do what it has to do to keep the lights on.
Worrying about a commercial co-opting of the “feminist” message is thus kind of silly. Corporate feminist culture is mostly concerned with anodyne, inoffensive, inarguable stuff: yes, women should feel confident in the office; yes, they should get equal pay for equal work; no, they shouldn’t feel ashamed if they’re fat or skinny or anywhere in between. That stuff isn’t really what modern feminism is all about: the feminist movement currently construed is religiously fanatical about abortion, manically devoted to things like “free birth control,” ever-more obsessed with the transgender delusion, and absolutely, relentlessly, monomaniacally determined to inject the word “feminism” into every facet of every day of your life. Companies want to use a soft-focus “feminist” message to hock deodorant; they’re not going to take their cues from actual feminism, which is a nasty and unpleasant and combative ideology—hardly suitable for selling stuff on television.