LIP GLOSS…AND OTHER GENDER FAILURES IN ADVERTISING
I have a Facebook friend who, well, makes it worth being on Facebook. While I haven’t seen this friend face-to-face in years, she never ceases to post thought-provoking content…something tells me she must have a history in the advertising industry.
Recently she posted the “Verizon: Inspire Her Mind” ad with the simple comment “hmm.” How nice, I thought, that this friend is inviting me to formulate my own opinion rather than to simply adopt hers. So, here’s my opinion (or rant, as the case may be).
My dislike of so-called “Girl Power” ads has been bubbling in my skull for some time now, so it may just be that this one is getting the brunt of my frustration because it’s the most recent. For me, this video missed the boat in a few ways:
1. Right off the bat: Who doesn’t call their daughter pretty? Or their son handsome? These types of compliments don’t deter kids from pursuing dreams. There’s nothing wrong with telling your child you think they’re adorable, as long as that’s not the only thing you tell them.
2. The comments made by these phantom parents are comments that could be made to ANY child – girl or boy. Boys are told not to get dirty or make messes as much as girls are (probably even more so if you’ve ever witnessed the mess one little boy is capable of making), and the elder of any sibling would probably be any parents’ choice for the wielding of power tools. While the parents do come across as sticks in the mud, their comments are not gender-specific.
3. While I get the payoff, at what point did applying lipgloss in a reflective surface become a tragic event? For all we know, afterwards this little girl could have trotted off to her advanced chemistry class and entered an award-winning project into that science fair after all. The message of her losing confidence or giving up is just not there for me – even brilliant physicists apply lip gloss occasionally.
Which brings me to the biggest issue: the message that femininity and intelligence are mutually exclusive. I suppose that if you’re going to be smart, you better toss all your makeup and stock up on elastic-waisted khakis. At what point did it become failure to be “girly”? This video might give props to all the girls out there who want to be engineers, but does it also frown upon those who’d rather be something less left-brained?
To look at a personal case study, I was fortunate enough to grow up in an extremely supportive household where my parents never treated me any particular way just because I happened to be female. I learned to cook, but I also learned how to drive a stick shift (both at the age of 11). I learned to sew a and I learned to fish. I had all kinds of opportunities – and I ended up as an art major. GASP! I must have failed. My PARENTS must have failed! I am not an engineer. Or an astronomer. Or a physicist. But yet…I’m happy. Because I was allowed to choose a path that was right for me.
The focus of these collective ads needs to shift. Rather than being gender-specific or career-sector-specific, a better use of energy would be to simply acknowledge the fact that all kids, male or female, have different interests and strengths that need to be fostered. As a society, we give the traditional female roles of motherhood and being a homemaker practically no credit, though there are few jobs as important as raising the next generation. We steer boys away from classes like Home Ec in favor of more “manly” pursuits, regardless of where their interests really lie. We shove ALL kids onto the path of technology, whether it meshes with their young brains or not. We need to take a step back and look at the child herself, not the trends. Whatever her interests are, they should be respected, fostered and allowed to flourish because a society can’t grow if it’s made up of only one type of person anyway.
I don’t know what my son will grow up to be. I do know that I will be supportive of whatever path he chooses. And I will always tell him how handsome I think he is.
-Trish Salge, Opinionated Sr. Art Director, The S3 Agency