My favorite commercial right now is an ad from Under Armour featuring the USA women’s gymnastics team. I am partial to this ad considering I was a gymnast for 15 years, but there is much more to it than that (and 2.8 million YouTube views seem to agree with me). This video shows incredibly strong, extremely determined, & exquisitely poised women training for the Olympics. The slogan is, “It’s what you do in the dark, that puts you in the light.” Obviously this slogan could take on a more risqué tone, but the ad does an amazing job of throwing that line of thought out the window.
On the other hand, there is a Victoria’s Secret Sport ad right now that throws hypersexualization in your face throughout the entire video. Oh, the woman is going to climb a rock wall? Let’s zoom in on her boob as it grazes the handhold. Oh, this woman is going to box? Let’s make sure we catch the way her butt bounces. Oh, you’re going for a run? Don’t forget to look seductively at the camera first. I get that that is the Victoria’s Secret brand – they sell sex.
But the impact of this becomes increasingly concerning the moment you become a parent.
Brand messaging matters to young girls, and there are many people who have made this point clearly and are inspiring the changes that we are beginning to see in marketing. However, my point of view is slightly different as a mother of two boys. Oversexualized marketing is not something that I want them exposed to – even at an early age.
I am working hard to raise my boys to be kind and respectful of everyone around them. I am working hard to teach them that every person has unique traits and strengths. I am working hard to help them understand that their world will be a much happier place if they cooperate with those around them.
I want my boys to see women as strong, intelligent, motivated peers rather than eye candy. This doesn’t mean that women aren’t beautiful or sexy or desirable. This means that the girls who are putting hours of work into their sports deserve to be recognized for that effort & the achievements that are way more meaningful than having a perfectly toned butt.
It is reassuring to see more and more companies getting on board with this empowering version of messaging. An infographic created by online MBA program, MBA@UNC – Ads & The Female Fan Base – does a great job of highlighting a few companies and campaigns that have had a meaningful impact and are taking the industry in the right direction. Athletic-wear brands are displaying women in a very positive light, and the market is responding very well to these changes. It makes business sense, but it is also just the right thing to do.
As a final point, I want to share one more YouTube video with you – “If Women’s Roles in Ads Were Played by Men.” It perfectly emphasizes how ridiculously women are often portrayed in the media, and it is a good reminder for us to take that step back and look at things more objectively from time to time. Let’s do better – for ourselves and for our children.
This article also appeared on The Huffington Post.