Monday, 13 February 2017

Stop talking about it?

The actor Morgan Freeman, when asked once about Black History Month, said that it was 'ridiculous', and maintained the way to get rid of racism is to 'stop talking about it.'

I'm getting a bit like that about sexism - at least as far as Western markets go. I don't deny that there is serious work to be done (and probably not by brands) to achieve gender equality in some parts of the world. But I wonder whether some of the recent (Dove/Always- esque) campaigns on this theme that I've seen create problems where maybe there aren't any.

Practically every female-orientated product that I buy these days seems to be promising to empower me in some way or another, whether I like it or not. And these are inevitably accompanied by campaigns of the sort above. Cue that melancholic keyboard, cue the cute little girls.

I'm beginning to wonder if it's a US issue. Somehow, growing up in the UK, where our best kings were queens, and living in Europe where female leaders are everyday, it just doesn't seem to be an acute problem. The campaign above, from BBDO and called Put Her on the Map is a public service campaign to get more US city streets and public landmarks named after women. The idea is: Let's inspire girls by celebrating inspiring women.'

Can't girls just get inspired by inspiring people? I know I was.

Maybe I am cynical, but I wonder if all this 'female empowerment' marketing is simply lazy. And, more worrying, whether it's the same old marketing trick: creating needs and problems in people's minds (in this case young girls') that aren't really there.

Yesterday it was stubborn stains, today it's gender equality.

(Written from Käthe-Kollwitz-Ring)


Barbara said...

I love the little girl saying she wants to be a Bloody Mary – now that would make a good street name!
Some bright spark on breakfast TV the other day was suggesting children’s toys should all be made in yellow (or it might have been grey?) I stopped listening at that point. Anyway, his argument was children’s toys should all be made in a non gender-specific colour! In my experience, children are really not interested in the colour of a toy they just know they want it, or they don’t, and it could be sky blue pink for all they care. Honestly, the world has gone utterly mad! Don’t we have enough things to worry about without making more up?

Sue Imgrund said...

Yes, indeed.

I think the marketing people (self not included, of course!) have been to blame for creating some of these 'issues' - I am sure you have seen all the hoo-hah about girls' books and boys' books. It is all getting ridiculous.

Amy Anaya said...

Hi Susan, I am enjoying your blogs. So much food for thought--
Should a psychiatrist ever study the U.S., I’m sure there would be a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. America exhbits all the symptoms—our excessive desire for admiration, exaggerated sense of self-importance, concern about appearances, need to be unique, etc. We even experience the conditions that accompany NPD: depression, paranoia, eating disorders (i.e. over-consumption, as in too much is just enough for us) That is why putting AMERICA on a can of beer is something we cannot easily laugh at, because, you know, with our narcissistic national personality, we really are the best and AMERICA should be on a label to help sell products. A part of our country has tried therapy, to get over our NPD, and I wonder if that therapy over the past 50 years has woken up all the isms, sexism, racism, etc. that you mention in another blog post. Morgan Freeman’s point is good, that words breathe life into things and ideas. I think, however, that we’ve been aiming a super strong beam of light on all our hidden social problems and our sordid, sleezy history by calling them out with isms. The idea is to reveal these narcissistic tendencies with accusations of sexism and racism, to cause shame, to put a lid on some of the pomposity and arrogance. Political Correctness is the antidote to our narcissism. Make America Great Again may really mean Keep America Narcissistic and steeped in its myths. I agree, it's super annoying to be worried all the time about being racist or sexist or homophobic, but if it makes a dent in our severe mental illness it might be worth taking the meds.

Sue Imgrund said...

Hello Amy - very happy that you dropped by and commented. Interesting diagnosis of the USA's illness. I think the UK has got an illness of its own - a kind of deluded, Walter Mitty-ish illness, but that's the topic of another conversation!

I take your point about the meds, but I wonder all the time whether we're treating the right part/organ. My fear is that some of these medicines actually exacerbate existing conditions (as in red rag to a bull) rather than curing them. or is it a case that you have to get worse before you get better? Who knows!

Amy Anaya said...

I agree. I think the problem with a narcissist is that they will not admit they have the problem, so the best way to fix things--admit the problem and make amends, which it seems Germany did so well--can't happen? I don't know if throwing isms around will help anything. In fact, being accused of all the isms is irritating, makes us defensive, causes eye rolling and even makes us angry at the "victims."
BTW, I should have mentioned that "too much of anything is just enough" is another Grateful Dead line...