The Cultural Politics of Femvertising

Ed. collection, 30. June 2020.

Commensurate with the rise of postfeminism as a cultural discourse, international brands in recent years have employed the marketing strategy of “femvertising” or “female empowerment advertising”  (Akestam et al., 2017) to generate sales. Campaigns such as Dove’s Evolution, P&G/Always’ Like a Girl and Pantene’s Labels Against Women have addressed foundational feminist issues such as body image, eating disorders and the marginalization of ethnic minorities to gain leverage as brands which embrace inclusivity and diversity while centralising the female gaze. While such advertising campaigns have been criticized as invoking the hollow politics of postfeminism, largely motivated by profits rather than any sincere desire to promote female empowerment, others have more successfully mobilized the political ethos of third-wave feminism. In 2017, Rihanna’s cosmetic line Fenty was celebrated for its inclusive range of products which enabled minorities to find a foundation shade that suited them, challenging traditional female advertising stereotypes by appealing to marginalised women who are sidelined by a consumerist majority. This was showcased most clearly in the 2019 Savage x Fenty fashion show, where Rihanna’s lingerie line displayed its collection of bras that range from sizes from 32A to 44DD and underwear ranging from XS to XXXL, with 90 different kinds of styles. Yet, while this attempt at inclusivity has been heralded by some as admirable, others remain concerned that the selling of feminist ideas through style reduce oppositional consciousness to symbolism so that feminism “becomes something one can take on and off like a fashionable coat rather than a political movement or system of values” (Zaslow 2009), questioning whether femvertising can ever be truly empowering. This edited collection seeks to explore the merits and limitations of femvertising, and seeks contributions in the following areas:

-  Femvertising and audience reception
-  Femvertising and diversity (ethnicity, body image, LGBT representation)
-  Femvertising and girlhood
-  Femvertising and masculinity (e.g. Gillette’s toxic masculinity campaign)
-  Femvertising and the female gaze
-  Femvertising on social media platforms (e.g. YouTube, Instagram)
-  Femvertising and print press
-  Femvertising in non Anglo-American contexts

Please send abstracts of 300 words for June 30th to joel.gwynne@nie.edu.sg. Chapters for the book will need to be around 6000 words, submitted in Feb 2021.

Many thanks
Joel Gwynne
Associate Professor of Cultural Studies
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore