Ever suspected or been acutely aware that your behaviour or performance has been judged differently simply because you’re a woman? Whether you’re facing a battle to be heard in the boardroom, feel barred from getting there in the first place, or have been on the receiving end of discriminatory treatment when going about your day-to-day business, it’s not on, but sadly still prevalent in modern day society.
A wave of feminism has been swelling for some time against gender-based prejudice; from Vagenda Magazine to the Everyday Sexism project to articulate public figures such as Caitlin Moran and Jennifer Lawrence, many influential women and men are standing up for equal rights. If Pantene’s new advert is anything to go by, it seems that multinational companies and advertisers are finally getting, and spreading, the message too. Wash that injustice right out of your hair, because shampoo is supporting the sisterhood, or at least it is if you pay attention to Pantene’s new “Labels Against Women” campaign, currently airing in the Philippines.
We suggest that you do indeed pay heed to the advert. Yes, the female protagonist has remarkably swishy, shiny hair, but for once, that’s not the point. The key communiqué is that women do not receive the same treatment as men, and that it’s about time that this changed.
Paralleling a woman’s experience with a man’s, the discrepancy between the two is presented to us in an excruciatingly binary format. It’s almost a minute’s worth of double standards playing out before our eyes; a man in charge is a ‘BOSS’, yet a woman is ‘BOSSY’, a male public speaker is ‘PERSUASIVE’, a female ‘PUSHY’. At home, a man working into the wee hours is ‘DEDICATED’, but a woman doing the same? ‘SELFISH’. A well-groomed man is seen as ‘NEAT’, a woman is deemed ‘VAIN’, and should that woman make a little more effort, she’s clearly a ‘SHOW OFF’.
The YouTube video is accompanied by a saddening statistic (“70% of men think that women need to downplay their personality to be accepted”) and tellingly, the action unfolds to the tune of ‘Mad World’ by Tears for Fears. The “Labels Against Women” creators BBDO Guerrero have hit the nail on the head for a shocking number of women, and as far as we’re concerned it’s a shame that the campaign is not being broadcast worldwide.
Thankfully, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Lean In fame has done her bit to take the advert global (or more appropriately, viral). She posted the clip on her Facebook page recently, accompanied by an endorsement of Pantene’s feminist approach:
“This is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways. Really worth watching. Lean In prize of the day for sure!”
Rather than the usual fluffy slogans, Pantene have included the hashtags #WhipIt and #ShineStrong, encouraging women to ‘stand strong’ against sexism. The sunny final frame fades to an empowering rallying cry: “Don’t let labels hold you back.”
Lustrous locks or not, if YouTube views are anything to go by the world is certainly paying attention to Pantene’s call to action. Perhaps it’s beginning to dawn on us that labels are best applied to objects, not people. Women, men and children do not exist to be objectified or stereotyped. Let’s Whip It in the bud.