By ALICEN HACKNEY
When a company releases products and advertisements supporting feminism and other equality based issues, it doesn’t always mean that they actually believe in the business practices that go along with it. Often we see commercials that make us feel warm, like we’ve stepped away from injustice and inequality and might actually be being sold something worthwhile that we can support.
In some cases, companies actually possess good intentions, like Nike. The multi billion-dollar company signed Colin Kaepernick following his exile from football, and in the last few years has also hired mostly minorities. However, most business’ practices don’t line up with the beliefs they claim to hold close.
Gillette released a commercial on January 13 denouncing toxic masculinity and the faculties by which such masculinity teaches future generations. As the camera pans across a slew of men standing at grills repeating “boys will be boys” over and over again, it appears that Gillette actually has listened to one or two debates in social media comments over the surface issues of toxic masculinity.
However, as a business they don’t follow through on their message of equality. At Walmart, the price for a pack of 8 Gillette Sensor3 Men’s Disposable Razors costs $8.99 while a pack of only 3 Gillette Venus Disposable Razors costs only a few cents less at $8.88. While the message of the advertisement stands for a positive ideological shift that is appreciated for the most part at face value, the company hasn’t done enough to make things right within themselves.
Warner Music Group is owned by men and has a number of other labels under it also mostly owned by men. Their top artists and most advertised artists are almost all male groups, while they produce female artists who don’t get nearly as much promotion or air time. In the UK, Warner Music Group employs men in their top earning quartile at 74 percent while employing women at only 26 percent. This gap does begin to close further down in pay ranking, though the gap never actually closes.
The female artists associated with Warner Music Group preach female empowerment often. Artists like Lizzo, a rapper who is known for celebrating body positivity in her music videos and for songs like “Juice” and “Truth Hurts” that have strong feminine themes; Madonna, the best selling female recording artist of all time according the the Guinness World Records; and Hayley Kiyoko, a force for LGBTQ+ representation in music. These women have done so much socially and musically to push women’s equality forward while the label that employs them holds on to patriarchal business practices.
Feminism has been accomplishing leaps and bounds of what its original goals stated. In the workplace women have been taking strides to approach leadership positions and workplace respect alongside numerous organizations focused on helping them get there including the National Organization for Women (NOW), Girl Up, and the American Business Women’s Association.
“The workplace is a feminist issue, you just can’t disentangle that,” said Dr. Kristin Marsh, UMW professor who teaches the Gender and Work course. “Historically that’s what it’s about as a social movement. In the 70’s that was the focus, getting your foot in the door is already better than it was, it isn’t equality but it’s better. There’s more to accomplish, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
GIRLSCHOOL is an organization centered on giving opportunities to female musicians. In the world, only 30 percent of musicians are female, and in the U.S. alone only 15 percent of record label members are female according to Women In Music, one of the music industry’s leading nonprofit organizations.
“When we exclude, we lose opportunities,” said Dr. Rosalyn Cooperman, UMW professor who teaches Women and Public Policy. “All communities work better with inclusion.”
It’s time companies back the policies they claim to support in their advertisements, equalize the cost of men’s and women’s products and close the gaps that the norms of patriarchal culture are so akin to. It doesn’t matter much what a company claims their beliefs are if they don’t uphold them, so it’s up to consumers to hold them accountable.