With Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg calling for more ads that celebrate women, half of the office reading Lean In (you can guess which half), and a recent glut (or perhaps a more feminine 'flurry') of content targeting women, we thought it was apposite to draw attention to the growing body of content for women, about women, starring women and directed by women.
But what might have brought about this shift? Is it reflective of marketers realisation that as traditional gender roles have started to erode (Man = breadwinner. Woman = housewife and mother) that they need to address women as thinking individuals? Individuals with interests, anxieties and ambitions beyond their previously anticipated and demographically defined role as decision-maker for the groceries and coordinators of family happiness: individuals who need to be treated as the autonomous and selective audiences that they are.
The inspiration for this piece actually came a little while ago when we saw the fantastic 'Throw like a girl' film from Always. It played to some themes around gender stereotyping with which I strongly identify, but also felt like it broke new ground as a piece of marketing. Instead of using the psychology of behavioural economics in a covert manner to persuade you to buy, Always actually taught us something about ourselves and our world.
I've always been a keen sportswoman, but to be honest throwing has never been my strong point. Who knew that it was not malcoordination and a weak right arm, but society's ingrained gender prejudice that taught me I couldn't throw? Or specifically that to 'throw like a girl' was synonymous with weakness and inaccuracy. Very interesting stuff and a genuine perception shifter for Always.
Striking a similarly challenging and empowering note was the ‘not sorry’ film from Pantene. According to Pantene, it is typically the half of humanity with the glossiest locks who tend to apologise more than their balding or beardy counterparts. This piece does still have a whiff of the flicky haired shampoo commercial about it, and, unfortunately, the underlying thought about women being over apologetic feels grounded in stereotype rather than fact, but it may at least provide some of its audience with a boost to their social confidence. A stronger piece of work on the same theme and hashtag (#shinestrong) was Pantene’s earlier ‘Labels against women’ film which echoes a section in Sheryl Sandberg’s book around how men and women are labelled very differently for doing or saying the same thing. While an assertive man might be labelled a ‘boss’, an equally assertive woman might be labelled ‘bossy’ for example. Lighthearted and a little illuminating, however on second viewing, the bouncy hair stood out for me a touch too prominently once again.
Agent Provocateur operate in another tricky category when it comes to respecting and not objectifying women as their product clearly serves the shallow aim of making females look as gorgeous and sexy as possible.
However, they have always been clear that this sexy gorgeousness is all for the benefit of the wearer, not the poor weak male observer, driven blindly by his passions. As such their underwear, and in this case the film that promotes it, is intended to be empowering rather than objectifying. Penelope Cruz, an ex Bond girl herself, delivers a witty and entertaining film from behind and in front of the camera. The piece sees its female protagonists celebrate their own bodies and gorgeousness without inhibition, and with each other, rather than the hapless and desperate man on the scene.
Rather more quirky, and therefore perhaps commanding a more niche audience, is 'Women's Tales'. This is an intriguing series of short films commissioned by Miu Miu, and directed by an array of up and coming female talent to 'critically celebrate femininity in the 21st century'. This is a bold mission and the answering films are at times awkward and surreal as well as beautifully shot and thoughtfully directed. Like an acclaimed piece of abstract art though, I think it best to let individuals decide if Miu Miu has delivered on its promise.
So we’ve strutted from hair products to women’s underwear and high fashion; areas where you’d traditionally expect to find women at large. But if society teaches girls that they can’t throw, does it also teach them that they can’t make films (or maybe just films about ‘girls stuff’)? When Kathryn Bigelow collected her Oscar for Hurt Locker in 2010, she was only the fourth woman ever nominated in the director category and the first female director to win a BAFTA. But what a subject to win it in, for in war, with its AK47s, armour piercing bullets, first aid kits and fear, a female voice is seldom heard.
So what a triumph then is the amazingly powerful 6th film in The Times Unquiet series, ‘Bringing the World to Britain’. The director, Liz Unna, previously from the Discovery Channel and Film4, has pulled together an incredibly subtle but powerful film, arguably the best in this excellent series, and Christina Lamb’s performance is spellbinding. Women, war and directing, not a venn diagram with much cross over, but explosive when it does happen. I look forward to seeing some more.
Kath Hipwell, Head of Content Strategy