In response to Elle magazine’s partnership with three London-based creative agencies for its November issue, editorial assistant Maisie Skidmore questions whether feminism actually needs rebranding and whether the campaign succeeds. As ever, you can join the discussion below.
As we discovered this week, Elle magazine’s November issue includes an eight-page feature entitled Feminism for Everyone, which looks to reconsider feminism and its role in society.
So how do you go about “rebranding” feminism? In a seemingly straightforward approach Elle has recruited three London-based advertising agencies, Mother London, Brave and Wieden & Kennedy to create clear, visually stimulating campaigns which call the general public to rethink the way they consider the “F” word.
Their ideas are a step in the right direction. Brave, for example, have worked with brilliant young feminist campaigner Jinan Younis to create a flowchart which dispels myths about what feminism means, while Mother London are working with The Feminist Times, and sending out an open call for women to have their lady gardens anonymously photographed in an effort to change attitudes towards waxing. Wieden & Kennedy, on the other hand, are working with Vagenda to bring startlingly prevalent stereotypes to their knees by encouraging women talk about the attributes which do, and do not, define them.
The question is, though, does feminism need rebranding? I don’t want to get bogged down in semantics here, but the notion of creating a brand for any movement for equality leaves me feeling distinctly ill-at-ease. “Rebranding” suggests this is a product which needs a whole new marketing strategy if it’s ever to be sold to the dubious masses.
What’s more, if the brand we’re trying to discard is a stereotype of feminists as aggressive, masculine and hairy, that opens a whole new can of worms. Sure, such an image might well be archaic, but for any women’s magazine to reject such an appearance is frightening because to do so perpetuates exactly the oppressive patriarchal stereotype which feminism looks to dismantle in the first place.
There’s no question that the actual ideas behind the movement have been lost by the wayside, though. Somewhere along the way, men and women alike seem to have forgotten that feminism is about social, economic and political equality, and repositioning it means making sure (as Creative Review pointed out) that our Prime Minister feels happy to call himself a feminist.
Mother, W&K and Brave seem to have the right intentions in trying to get people talking about gender equality, but the conversations they are generating fall short. First and foremost because all three of the campaigns are aimed at women, which arguably discourages men’s right to believe in equality too. Generating anger in one sex which is directed at another does far more to sustain prejudice than to dispel it.
What’s more, women’s media is a tricky territory. Admirable though its aims are, the majority of the women featured in magazines like Elle are slim, white and airbrushed, and the publications champion beauty, fashion and celebrity culture above all else.
Baby steps, though, right? The November issue of Elle might not go as far as it could do to dispel stereotypes, but it has got people talking. In a country which views itself as modern and yet still has a long way to go, that can only be a good thing.