Last week was somber, heart-wrenching and anxiety-inducing for so many reasons. It started with International Women’s Day to celebrate being bold with Choose to Challenge; by Tuesday we had a woman being called out for being brave enough to speak about her mental health and by Friday we had the horrific news and confirmation about Sarah Everard. All of these events have been followed by some incredible sisterhood, solidarity and support but also backlash because of women speaking out, such as #NotAllMen trending on Twitter and opinions such as ‘women shouldn’t walk home alone at night’. We got thinking about what we can challenge in our industry, on a micro level – where we can take a stand and call out small things that are contributing to the bigger picture of misogyny.
A few weeks ago, I spotted a logo that portrayed a women in a 1950’s style stance (think Marlin Monroe), in a dress for a cleaning company. It reminded me of the Covid advert the government put out recently with illustrations showing only women doing household chores. Amazon has also been called out for this, using only pictures of women modelling items such as hoovers, mops and dusters.
People may call this out for ‘just being an advert’; but what about the bigger picture – what does using stereotypes in advertising contribute to? It contributes to the bigger picture of society, where we are and the inequalities that still exist. Ask yourself – what do stereotypical adverts say to the next generation? What does it say to the aspirations of young girls, and what does it teach young boys? This narrative has to change.
I am writing this blog for my nieces, my nephews, my sisters. Advertisers and designers, please stop and think. I wrote a blog two years ago on using gender stereotypical colours in advertising. Pink and blue was created by capitalism. Pink or blue isn’t the choice of young children, before a certain age they have no concept of gender roles.
Gender roles are changing, times have changed and gender does not define a person. Why are archaic designs still being created today, in the public realm? Because it is easy, cheap, takes no thought; or do they live in a cave? Using cliches particularly of gender stereotypes is an approach that treats women as an ‘afterthought’.