Interesting neologism [creating a new term] - the idea that feminism is being packaged and exploited by the very ad industry that has for so long (and continues to) inculcated sexism and negative gender stereotypes. This is actually part of a much older trait: powerful, challenging (counter-hegemonic) ideologies get undermined by being brought into advertising, losing their radical edge. Go back 40 years and look at how punk, an anarchic explosion of working-class discontent and challenge to corporate control through self-distribution, notably with ties to reggae and Afro-Caribbean culture, gave way to race riots as advertisers made the radical punks a colourful selling tool.
The article sampled below looks at other, older, examples, such as the Virginia Slim campaign to flog cancer sticks to women. Can these commercial ad campaigns be a force for positive change?
You can further examples in: Eight ads that shatter tired gender stereotypes.
This neologism notably came about through a hashtag...
It started, as these things now do, with a hashtag. Earlier this month, utility company EDF launched a campaign to encourage young girls to explore Stem-based careers (that’s jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths), reminding everyone that “only one in every seven” of these roles in the UK are held by women.
The way the UK’s second-biggest energy provider chose to help was to launch #prettycurious. The sell? “Sparking the imagination of young girls [and] inspiring them to stay curious about the world.” When the marketing team paid for by your electricity bill is selling female empowerment, “femvertising” is no longer a niche internet neologism, but a genuinely queasy chapter in feminism’s fourth wave.
Behold! The advertising industry, once bent on selling us sex is now selling us its disgust with sexism. Experts in the field might point to Virginia Slims, the godmother of allegedly feminist brands, selling female empowerment as far back as 1968. These were the ads that showed women sashaying, strutting and smoking with the tagline: “You’ve come a long way, baby”, making lung cancer an equal-opportunity disease.