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We need to rethink marketing to women

We need to rethink marketing to women

We need to rethink marketing to women

A few weeks ago, as I was wondering around in shops looking for a gift for my three-years-old niece, I realized the majority of products I had to choose from were gender specific. I started to wonder, why would my niece need to wear a certain color based on her gender? What impact will purchasing a gender labelled product have on her future identity?

Like a lot of women, I am not comfortable buying gender labelled products. I don’t think that my tastes and preferences are determined by my gender. Yet, everyday, a myriad of marketing campaigns incentivize me to buy a ‘girly’ item. From early childhood, I was sold images of glamour and beauty, while boys were offered adventure, strength or even violence. When I did not agree to wear a dress at a school event, teachers and parents wondered what was wrong with me. When I started playing football, I was described as a tomboy.

What impact did gender labelling have on my development as a child? Most likely, a central one. In fact, research has shown that children start showing awareness of stereotypes around toys before three years old. At around five, they already associate character traits such as ‘glamorous’ or ‘adventurous’ to a specific gender. Marketing, by accentuating gender stereotypes, participates in making us believe that there are inherent differences between a women’s and a man’s capabilities. Girls’ aspirations and dreams are diminished by hundreds of daily advertisements that fail to empower them.

 

Sadly, gender labelling is so entrenched that we don’t realise its influence. In fact, when I discuss it with my friends, I realize a majority of us actually believe in gender specificities, because we were raised with them. But in 2015, as gender stereotypes are increasingly challenged, there is a dramatic need to rethink marketing along ideas of gender equality and female empowerment.


In September 2014, Sheryl Sandberg addressed this urge in an Ad Week panel. As the CEO of Facebook pointed out, marketers have the choice to ‘continue to accept images of women being sexualized and subjugated or replace them with images of agency and power’. Industry influencers have the power to instigate change, and the responsibility to do so. Moreover, the benefits of gender labelling are no longer supported by facts. Research shows that modern women prefer marketing that challenges stereotypes. So, as I wonder around in shops to find a gender-neutral gift for my niece, I hope that I will have more product choices in the future. I also hope that, in the upcoming years, we challenge the gendered assumptions we are bombarded with every day a little more.


Lucile Stengel comes from Paris and currently lives in London, where she pursues a career in cultural insight. In her spare time, she is a media officer at Lensational, a non-profit aiming to empowering women through photography. Her experience with Lensational has given her a broad understanding of women empowerment issues in the developing world, and a passion for writing about social change. In addition to writing for Her Culture, Lucile is a writer contributor at Just A Platform, a collaborative newspaper based in London.


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