Elene Kaikhosroshvili: March 8 and Advertising Campaigns

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Author of the blog: Elene Kaikhosroshvili

As an introduction to this text, I would like to write that the history of March 8, that is, as it is celebrated today, the International Women’s Day began in 1908 with the protest of working women. On March 8, 1908, 15000 women marched in New York City, demanding better working conditions, specifically, a better pay and more optimal working hours, from the employing companies, the exact ones that wished us happy March 8 this year with a photo of French fries in red, high-heeled shoes.

Advertising campaigns/banners/cards dedicated to International Women’s Day by big companies are, so to say, never align with the goals of March 8 celebration. Perhaps worse than this is that some companies know this very well, and due to their size and wealth, the sentiments about International Women’s Day are so insignificant to them that they do not spend an hour or a penny more on ensuring the campaign is ethical.

Moreover, some of these campaigns directly aim to insult women, which, in the current misogynistic “climate”, may be more “profitable” for companies. Isn’t the success of their campaign measured by how much they cause a change in attitudes towards the subordinate role of women?! The success of these campaigns is measured by their reach and engagement. This year I also helped by sharing their posts. More shares = more views = more brains imprinted with their logo = more chicken wings sold. KFC has contributed to the objectification of women with this year’s “congratulations”, which directly translates into encouraging the objectification of women and girls, resulting in sexual harassment, rape, and a generally less safe space for women. We can’t measure this as easily as reach, and even if we could, helping to change this statistic has nothing to do with selling chicken wings.

Of course, this awful post by KFC was not the only one on March 8 this year. Perhaps the biggest fast food company, McDonald’s, congratulated us on International Women’s Day with a completely incomprehensible and rather problematically interpretable poster. This poster would probably win the competition for visualizing the “there is a strong woman behind every man”. But, in this case, not behind, but under and in the shadow¹. on March 8.

It is important to mention that all these companies have the undeniable resources to ask at least one consultant if there is something problematic about the poster dedicated to the important day for women. Perhaps a little more thought and a little more resources devoted to this “campaign” would have resulted in flipping this logo, putting the big W (Women) in the “light” and moving the M (Men) into the “shadow”, but it’s a worthwhile expense for these businesses. is not. There is no intersection for them between financial gain and participation in important discussions for women.

Other companies, whose names are legion and not worth listing, traditionally and stereotypically offered discounts on homework and “beauty” products, but now they call it something else. Today, these products are called “self-care” products.

At first glance, nothing seems to be a problem, right? Most of the housework and care work are done by women (which is confirmed by all the researches). It is also a fact that many women actively use self-care products and we need access to them and discounts.

However, the International Women’s Day aims, among other things, to confront those stereotypes that unfairly distributes domestic work to women only. These companies know that it is precisely on March 3 and 8 that discounts on these products will bring good financial profits. They know the harmful attitudes of the society and they instrumentalize them in order to make a profit. There is no choice between financial gain by feeding harmful stereotypes and producing an ethical campaign that cannot be made for financial gain. It is not a choice for them. So what if we promote associating products related to domestic work with women and burden women unequally for even longer?!

There were also more “creative congratulations” — for example, they offered us sushi decorated with “precious stones” and told us that “every girl wants” such a gift. In addition to the fact that looking at these photos not only does not make us want sushi, but also brings to mind the association of shattering your teeth, such companies directly tell us that it does not matter to them whether March 8 is International Women’s Day or International Sparrow Protection Day. Without any message or positioning on equality issues, they just take what they have, even though their product has nothing to do with March 8.

Discounts on “self-care” products are also my favorite all-around campaign. So what if probably 60% of the products thought of in this beautiful name do not represent any need for women, men, and especially not for girls, who we believe should start using “anti-aging” products from their 20’s (and, by the way, do you also see “morning and evening routine” videos of teenage girls on TikTok?).

The so-called self-care products, the manufacturing companies of which are mostly owned by men, along with flowers, are exactly the products for the sale of which Capitalism quickly baptized March 8 as Women’s Day and did not allow working women to mark this day as a day of struggle for women’s labor rights.

March 8, as corporations celebrate it today, is simply the “international day” of expropriation and the enrichment of rich corporations even more. And no, this wealth does not reach women. Vacuum cleaners reach women, which could be discounted any other day of the year, flowers, business of which is harmful to the environment, and “self-care products”, a large part of which women not only do not need, but it is their consumption that makes us need them – when one cream for the skin/dries our hair, we start to use the second one (with an all-inclusive discount) to moisturize it, and so on, endlessly. And behind all this we remain aware of the oppression of women and our real needs.

Well, what should companies do on March 8? How did they act to “please the feminists”? What would a “feminist-friendly” campaign be?

The answer is simple — they should protect women’s labor rights in their own companies, set an example for other companies; “brag” about the achievements within the company in terms of gender equality/justice, eliminating the gender wage gap, maintaining gender balance at all levels, implementing a sexual harassment policy document, creating a safe space for women, creating lactation rooms, and the great contribution of female employees to the success of their company; Utter a two-sentence slogan against women and domestic violence, discrimination. There is much more to talk about. And how wrong anyone who thinks that so many burgers won’t sell is wrong.

¹In response to the criticism voiced in the comments of the post published on Facebook, McDonald’s made the following explanation: “M or two golden arches is the logo of McDonald’s, which has been shining in Georgia for 25 years. And in honor of this day, we flipped the logo, which McDonald’s has been doing globally for several years.” In another comment, McDonald’s wrote: “Inverting our logo makes a ‘W’, which is the first letter of Women.”