International Women’s Day 2018 and the Success of Feminism®. All rights reserved.

Published by Naya Koulocheri on

We live in exciting times everyone. We really do. And I’m so proud of us all. And exactly because we have achieved so much, we need – now more than ever – the International Women’s Day.

But if you didn’t have the time to go through the events of IWD and actively participate in strikes and marches, don’t worry! You can get your daily dose of feminism thanks to the following inspiring corporate initiatives.

If you have a daughter or you want to embrace your inner child, Barbie is here for you to celebrate together this IWD! Our old and loyal pal introduced a new line based on 17 “real life role models to remind [girls] that they can be anything”, Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and General Manager said  in the press conference. Thanks Mattel and Barbie – young women around the world desperately needed some corporate inspiration to believe in them. And, obviously, you can become anything you want, little girl –but terms and conditions apply. You need to be thin, able-bodied human with cute smile and shining hair. Who cares if Frida had been wearing these colourful, long skirts not as boho-chic fashion statement but because she wanted to hide her limping, caused by the fact that her  ight leg was growing much thinner than her left one? Who cares if, even though she spent much of her life in a wheelchair, she is depicted as able-bodied woman (and yes, this goes for the film Coco as well)? Who cares if Frida believed that “Marxism will give health to the sick” and she’d probably be disgusted by efforts of companies to capitalise on her name? Well, I know I don’t! I feel super-extra-empowered thanks to these new Barbie dolls. I mean is the Barbie Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician And Physicist similar to the real Katherine Johnson? Does the Barbie Sara Gama, Soccer Player look like the real Sara Gama?  Pull yourself together, girl! Of course Barbie versions are prettier, thinner, cuter, shinier than the real version and that’s the whole point: Barbie shows us that just because we’re smart, good at sports or talented, we don’t need to be ugly!

© 2018 Mattel

Other beloved companies celebrated IWD and I want to say God bless ethical marketing. Nike confirmed that “there’s no wrong way to be a woman”, featuring Serena Williams in their latest ad. Even though I respect Serena, I did need a final push from Nike, a company that has been accused for using children to sew shoes back in the 90s. It’s a reformed company you’ll say and we can’t judge based on past mistakes. Well, according to the Hansae factory assessment published by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), in December 2016, harmful production practices don’t belong in Nike’s past. Even though the company refused to provide access to its collegiate factories, WRC, through employees’ testimonies, showed numerous violations of University Labor Standards at Hansae, Vietnam. To name a few: excessive production quotas, with one worker mentioning that the target is 100 items per hour; instances of physical and verbal abuse by managerial staff; excessive workplace temperatures, “with one worker reporting to have personally viewed thermometer readings as high as 37 degrees Celsius, well above any of the legal maximums” (p.17 of the WRC report); punishments for yawning and bringing ice to work (p.79) and gender discrimination.

I didn’t believe either that Nike, a women’s rights promoter would do such a thing – stay with me people, take a deep breath and read on.

“Half of the women workers interviewed, testified that it has been the practice of Hansae management not to renew the contracts of pregnant workers who are on short-term labor contracts” (p.80). Even though “vietnamese law requires that once workers reach the seventh month of pregnancy, they must be afforded accommodation in the form of either shorter working hours – a maximum of seven per day – or transfer to a lighter work assignment without a loss of pay, Hansae’s compliance with this requirement has been inconsistent” (p.81).

So, yes, “there’s no wrong way to be a woman” unless you are a pregnant female worker at Hansae factories.

Besides Nike, Vodafone has celebrated IWD with the release of a short film that challenges gender stereotypes. Now, with Vodafone every time you even check the time on your phone, you will feel empowered. Uber marked International Women’s Day, with cute video featuring female drivers and the catchy hashtag #drivenwomen.  I mean Uber may have been subject to investigation into sexual harassment claims and it may fight in courts around the globe so that its drivers aren’t considered as employees but rather as contract workers. Why, you ask? Because in this way, they won’t be entitled to minimum wages, overtime, leave, termination pay and collective bargaining. So, these female drivers may not even get the minimum salary but at least they’re #drivenwomen.

Are you still eager to explore more feminist initiatives?

Did you know that if you join Marie Claire in 2018, “you’ll help empower women”? On IWD, Marie Claire UK launched a new campaign called #NotMyJob in order to call out harassment, discrimination or bullying at work. So, compañera, you don’t need to worry – a fashion magazine created in 1937 decided in 2018 to have your back. Company Diageo realised that feminist whiskey lovers had enough with Johnnie Walker, so, in order to celebrate Women’s history month, created the special edition of Jane Walker. Every time I go to the pub and I don’t have the time for my daily dose of feminism, I ain’t gonna order macho whiskeys such as my old favourite Monkey’s Shoulder or classics Lagavulin and Caol Ila, but a Jane Walker on the rocks, baby. Well, I might as well stop drinking whiskey. Apparently, the beverage industry is particularly sensitive when it comes to women’s rights. That’s the only reason I can think of why, ahead of IWD, Brew Dog would launch a Pink IPA: “A beer for women. A beer for equality.” To be fair, in reference to pay gap, 20% of the proceeds from Pink IPA will go to charities that fight gender inequality and women will have a discount of 20% when they order the Pink IPA. And last but definitely not least, Smirnoff teamed up with Spotify to introduce the ‘Equalizer’, a tool that shows how many men and women you’re listening to in order to promote female artists. A company that has been objectifying women, using promotional models or “brand ambassadors” at special events or night clubs, changed its marketing strategy into something ‘more empowering’: besides the Equalizer, it created a LGBTQ friendly ad with the moto “Labels are for bottles. Not People.

These companies have one thing in common: they care. They care about International Women’s Day, about women’s rights, about true gender inequality. They believe in intersectional feminism and body positivity. They support women around the world and their progress (aka survival) in the workplace. You no longer need to be called ‘feminazi’, ‘bossy’, ‘radical’, ‘bitch’ to promote core feminist values. These corporations willingly do it for you. You can now even drink feminism – say goodbye to patriarchy for good.

Yes, right. And I am a unicorn wearing comfortable high heels.

Feminism has become cool, recognized by mainstream media. This is great news but it also entails risks. One of these risks is what has been called marketplace feminism – big corporations trying to use a historic political movement with core values and principles as another marketing strategy.

International Women’s Day is, indeed, a big deal. It is a big deal because in Iran, strong, brave women took it to the streets, despite that doing so could result in prosecutions and detentions. As the press release of the organising committee explains[1]: “legal injustices in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance have turn women to second-class citizens. Women aren’t legally protected against domestic abuse or street harassment.” In Saudi Arabia, a group of women went for a jog because one year earlier it was illegal to do so: last year Mohamed Bin Salmán allowed women to celebrate IWD, to work, vote, open a business and to drive (from June onwards). However, due to the male guardianship system that is still in place, women are still considered as inferior human beings. International Women’s Day is a big deal because women from Spain to Argentina said out loud ENOUGH (the newspaper El Pais has a very comprehensive summary of the manifestations around the world here).

IWD is a big deal because according to World Health Organisation, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been victims of Female Genital Mutilation in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. However, as comedian Nicole Ferroni very gracefully said at Inter France, even though, excision – a form of Female Genital Mutilation – is an issue that affects many women worldwide, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, the European Parliament decided to address this at 11pm – something light to help with digestion.

As I said last year: yes, we still need International Women’s Day. What we don’t need are companies selling out a political movement, drawing our attention away from women’s real struggles, while increasing corporate profits. We can’t simply wear feminism. We need to own it.

 

 

 

[1] Translated from Spanish from the article Las feministas iraníes convocan una manifestación el 8M a pesar del veto,  published on the online version of the El Pais, on 8th March.


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