Updated: Aug 14
To all those advertisers who bombard us with these messages on and around 8 March, here’s what I have to say to them
I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to look forward to International Women’s Day or dread it. It’s a powerful, historic occasion, dating back to the social and labour movements of the early 20th century. There exists every reason to celebrate it, and everyone, including brands, has all the right to do so.
Unfortunately, for many brands, 8 March has become just another Valentine’s Day-style commercial festival. The significance of this day has been crushed under the weight of tone-deaf marketing and virtue signalling that does little for women’s movements. It’s appalling to see many of the companies that offer us discounts and freebies treat their women workers with disrespect, apathy, and disdain.
So, how should brands responsibly observe International Women’s Day? Let me start with a list of things I don’t want to hear from them. Later, I spell out what they need to do first before embarking on Women’s Day campaigns.
Because Women’s Day isn’t just a celebration. It’s work that needs to be done all year round, not only on and around a single day. There’s still a long way to go, so it’s important for brands to ensure they do their homework first, without saying these things and making a prick out of themselves:
Hell, I know that.
Umm, everyone is beautiful and nobody needs your validation or stamp of approval, TYVM.
“You need to pamper yourself.”
Why would I do that with your effin’ product when I can get the same feeling by reading or writing a book?
“We have a limited, once-in-a-lifetime offer for you this Women’s Day.”
That’s awesome, but are you also deploying your billion-dollar revenues and cash reserves to a worthy long-term cause?
“We believe in women’s safety and welfare.”
Great. Pay all your coworkers fairly first, hear them out, listen to them, and treat them with respect. Wait, you don’t have a woman coworker? Not even one?
“We’re turning our product pink for this day.”
“We care about you.”
Let’s be honest, you only care about my money, dammit.
“Follow us and post your selfies with our ‘carefully created’ hashtag.”
Only to have you hound me with your irrelevant messages all year? Absolutely NO.
“We’re launching a limited-edition ‘feminine’ version of our otherwise man-only product.”
Oh, how thoughtful. #SarcasmAlert
(To the men) “Treat the women in your house with our product on this day.”
(Also to the men) “Take some load off her plate and help her out this Women’s Day.”
In our family at least, we’ve been dividing our tasks between ourselves and working as a team well before you dropped this BS on the world.
“You don’t need a man; you only need our product.”
I have no words for this.
“Our product/brand will empower you on this day.”
You need to fire all those who came up with and approved this s**t.
“Our product will solve all your problems and make your life easier.”
I give up.
“You’re a superhero.”
No, I’m neither a superhero nor do I want to be one. I’m happy being normal and human and want to be treated fairly and portrayed realistically. Is that too much to ask for? Definitely not.
What brands can and should do for us
Give more than take
Invest in long-term causes
Work with grassroots organisations
Practise equality at the workplace, respect everyone, treat everyone with dignity, ensure a fair representation and participation of women workers
Donate a good percentage of their overall revenues and reserves—not just proceeds from Women’s Day campaigns—to causes
Invite us to share our voices and provide an accessible platform for it
Educate themselves first, especially about the origins and meaning of International Women’s Day, before spreading social awareness
Take a stand for us without worrying about sales figures
Go beyond discounts and freebies—for instance, without an ergonomic design, welcoming and inclusive environment, and safe location, a coffee chain brand’s free-beverage announcement for Women’s Day can fall flat on its face, so it needs to work hard on these basics first
Do all this work all year round, not just on International Women’s Day, and definitely not part of some lip-service CSR
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