Say “Real Women” One More Time

More doing, less talking: How to do “women’s empowerment” in advertising.

Hili Minirav

About 6 years ago, I suggested the “I Love Me” concept to Castro. Real women, in different sizes, in different colors standing in front of mirrors and just loving what they see. We finished with the phrase “I Love Me” and I felt it was a campaign empowering the female gender. It was not an innovative idea. To be honest, the trend was already starting to fade. Lest you misunderstand, it’s not that the trend has not caught on. It has caught on so strongly that today, it is obvious. Today, you no longer need to say “real women”, you just need to act. Because if you write it – you will destroy it. “Love yourself as you are”, “You are a strong woman” – of course I am, what is your point?!

And this doesn’t apply only when it comes to body image, it applies to the status and role of women at home and at work just as well. She is not a career woman in spite of being a mother, and she is not a CEO in spite of being a woman. And you might be surprised but a large portion of men already know how to do laundry, clean the house, and even enjoy hanging out with their children. Men are equal parents and not just “helping” a woman. And the woman is a career woman and she is amazing, and if that’s the (blessed) message you want to say to her – you better not say anything. Simply reflect on her being just that in your commercials and on TV. Without explanations, without excuses.

The advertisement with Ayelet Zorer for BMW is an example to look at closely. For the first time in Israel, they took a woman, a strong career woman, to promote a car (and not a family car or a mini) and you know what they said about it? Nothing. They just did it. This may sound trivial but the echoes it created in women’s groups were insane. Which is crazy because it only shows that this kind of advertisement is a unicorn in a world of worn-out horses. While this is precisely what representation of women in advertisement should look like. And it’s a shame I do not have, at least not off the top of my head, 10 – 20 such examples.

In fashion, because it is a “feminine” field, it is more common but still often spoiled with an addition of one “empowering” sentence or another, or alternatively with using “semi-real” women – one loon placed alongside 5 perfect skinny girls. Of course, I’m not saying that models should not be used anymore, but if empowerment is the message and the goal – then, so to speak, go big or go home.

So maybe you won’t do the next women’s empowerment campaign, but the truth is that you shouldn’t either. Because long before women are empowered, we need to start addressing equality in advertising elements.

So, before you think about (or approve) the next creative, note a few important rules:

1- Is your ad addressing both genders? For example, opening with: “Businessman?” – where is the businesswoman?
Not only does this eliminate half of the population, but it also gives the impression that as you perceive it, businesspeople are mostly men.

2- Is the creative based on stereotypes? – For example: “Looking for a handyman/ a masseuse?” – Because handyman can only be a man and a masseuse a woman, naturally.

3- Give up stigmas – “Julia” is not necessarily a beautician and “Chaim” is not necessarily a garage owner.
By the way, if you flip the names, you will create an ad that will be both standing out + popular!

4- Jokes are good – but make sure they are not based on a gender stereotype – how do you do that? Try to swap the man and the woman in the story. If it still works – the joke is probably good enough.

5- Replace plural with non-gendered singular – previously, using the plural was considered inclusive of both genders. Today, it doesn’t quite work like that anymore. Is it required you write in plural? Say “male and female doctors”. Is it not? Try using words that look identical for both genders. And in forms, use passive language such as “for details” / “to send”.

* The article was originally written in Hebrew where some of my final rules gain much more gravity 🙂

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