Empowertising is a word coined by Andi Zeisler to refer to the coopting of political and social movements by corporations to sell products.  And is now one of my favourite words.  I have had so many rants about this and it’s great to have a word to describe what I mean.  Although it saddens me that such a word is needed…

Think Dove’s Real Beauty campaign.  Their own website says, “Our body image takes such a battering that feeling beautiful can be hard – in fact, sometimes we just can’t see beauty in ourselves at all. We think our self-esteem is in serious need of a boost.  The problem is, we’re so bombarded by unattainable standards of beauty – in magazines, TV, adverts, on social media – that we undervalue the true beauty in ourselves.”  Which sounds great.  And totally true.

It’s a shame they are the ones selling us unattainable standards of beauty.  On the same page, there are links to:

  • 6 poses you’ll need when you forget your deodorant – perish the thought that you get caught doing something as utterly unnatural as sweating…
  • 6 tactics to get underarms you love – this is something which really bugs me.  Just a few years ago, I don’t think most people even considered what their underarms looked like.  I still remember the first advert I saw which was a dove advert suggesting to viewers that they should be concerned.  This product suggested that you needed to be concerned with how dark your underarms are and use their whitening deodorant to compat this “problem”.  This is how they sell products, they create insecurities which weren’t there to start with and magically provide the solution.
  • Invisible confidence boosters: exposed  – which turns out to be a list of products because you can of course buy anything, including your very own spritz of confidence…  although if it wasn’t for companies such as dove, you might not need your confidence boosting quite so much…

We also have to remember that Dove is owned by Unilever who also sell products such as skin whitening creams in India.  They created a Facebook app to let users whiten their skin in photographs. Unilever also own Lynx which are reknowned for their stereotyping of women and turning them into sex objects.  As a major international corporation, Unilever sell many many products under many many brands, these are just a couple of examples of their hypocrisy.

Whatever they say, they do not care about supporting people to love the body they have.  They do instead care very much about making that body something which needs fixing.  This is consumerism in all it’s nasty glory.  This is not a body positive, feminist, women loving campaign.  This is coopting a movement to sell products.  This is empowertising.

And empowertising has been going on for a long time.  Zeisler provides a brief skip through the history in her article.

“The history of drawing on feminist language and theory to sell products has been driven by the idea that female consumers are empowered by their personal consumer choices—indeed, that choice, rather than being a means to an end, is the end itself.

The idea that it matters less what you choose than that you have the right to choose is the crux of “choice feminism,” whose rise coincided with the rapid, near-overwhelming expansion of consumer choice that began in the 1980s.” B*tch

And choice feminism is something I shall come back to at a later date…

This has turned into a bit of a rant about dove and unilever but they are very very much not the only company to do this, they just happen to be a very large company and the dove “campaign” got particularly under my skin…

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