Hypocritical Femvertising and Faux Feminism


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

If 2017 proved one thing, it’s that the narrative surrounding women in our world is changing.

This year featured some remarkable progress for feminism – that pesky notion that women should be treated equal to men in every facet of our society:

  • Sexual assault allegations within the institutions of media and government are being exposed to the sunlight, forcing real consequences.
  • The highly visible Women’s March (largest single-day protest in US history) and related protests drew millions to the streets (and to the polls) to represent women’s advocacy.
  • The challenges facing women in the workplace (such as equal pay or, low representation in computer science jobs, and you know, guys like this) has earned more consistent exposure thanks to a slew of celebrities and high-profile corporate strumbles (Uber, etc) keeping them in the public eye.
  • Women’s magazines like Teen Vogue have become an unexpected source to expose political news and world events to a younger generation – no longer contained to the matters of lip gloss and boy bands.
  • Terms like “intersectional feminism” have entered the larger discourse as many seek to understand the complicated nuances of the movement (and others retreat back to their echo chambers).
  • More women are running for public office than ever before due to grassroots organizations like EMILY's List and She Should Run (the latter setting an amazing goal to achieve gender parity among America’s elected officials by the year 2030. That’s 250,000 elected positions!)


What a year. It’s a kind of silver lining within our current, divisive climate.


The rise of femvertising.

But, in the world of marketing, there continues to be a disturbing trend related to feminism that is moving us in the wrong direction. As we (marketers) are prone to do, we’re trying to capitalize on something while, in effect, ruining it.

How unfortunate.

Earlier this year, I had the chance to discuss this topic on stage at the 2017 Women in Digital event. This fantastic organization provides support for women in business, akin to the advantages of the "boys club" in major cities around the US.

Note: For organizations who want to make this available to their employees, there are corporate group packages available.

My talk was “Calling Bulls%*t on Faux Feminism in Marketing” and it featured a number of ads that are part of the femvertising movement.



You can read a great summary in Business First.

I’ve covered this topic before in previous articles, but below, I've put together a comprehensive look at the hypocrisy of femvertising - and the danger:


TL;DR: Many companies using feminist messaging in their ads are poor examples of these ideals internally - for example, paying millions in lawsuits for pay inequality and discrimination against women, or by perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards.

This not only creates an illusion of progress, it cheapens the movement for equal rights. It's lip service. There is a real and present danger to decades of progress in the feminist movement if we accept this trend of faux-feminism without holding companies accountable.


To my business leader colleagues (especially marketers) – we can and must do better. If we can’t hold our organizations up to the scrutiny of true equality, we should never cheapen the movement by exploiting the narrative. It’s too reckless and there are real consequences.

To really support women:

  • Hire a lot of them.
  • Demand diversity in hiring.
  • Prove equal pay.
  • Support working parents.
  • Train employees about bias.
  • Support all women, not only those who fit your pattern bias.

To my fellow consumers – we must expect better from companies, especially before we laud them with praise (or industry awards) for what amounts to nothing more than lip service to the fight for women’s equality.

Please, let the end of 2017 be the end of this disturbing rise in faux feminism and hypocritical femvertising.

And please, don't be a troll in the comments.


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