For its November Issue, Elle UK paired three award-winning ad agencies--Brave, Mother, and Wieden + Kennedy—with three feminist organizations and had them create a series of advertisements aimed at "rebranding feminism." Here, Mother London and the Feminist Times' collaboration.

Wieden + Kennedy London collaborated with satirical website Vagenda and created the #ImAWomanAnd campaign. A laundry list of sexist slurs and nicknames graces their poster, from “bimbo” to “slut” to "thinking man's crumpet.”

On the back of the ad, women are invited to fill in the blanks after the phrase "I'm a woman and...," and submit photos of themselves holding their message to be featured on Elle UK's website. Submissions include, "I'm a woman and I don't want children," "I'm a woman and I watch my daughters play football every week," "I'm a woman and yes, I want to put dinner on my card."

In a flowchart by Brave and Jinan Younis, all roads lead to the realization that you are, in fact, a feminist, even if you answer “no” to the question “Are you a feminist?” It's a clever rhetorical move that likely leaves those reluctant to accept the F word feeling a bit cornered.

Co.Design

Three Ad Agencies Try To Rebrand Feminism

Keyword: try

For its November Issue, Elle UK decided to “Rebrand Feminism,” treating the advancement of women’s rights like a dated product that needs to be dusted off and made cool again. The magazine paired three award-winning ad agencies—Brave, Mother, and Wieden+Kennedy—with three feminist organizations and had them create a series of advertisements aimed at fixing feminism’s supposed image problem.

“Too many women who believe in equality and choice wouldn't be proud to say 'I'm a feminist,’” Alex Holder, creative director of Mother, tells Co.Design. In the popular imagination, a kind of mythical beast dominates feminism’s image—a hairy, man-hating, bra-burning shrew—which scares people away from the F-word. Charlotte Raven, founding editor of the Feminist Times, wrote, “The puritanical, anti-fun feminist looms large in the media’s consciousness, but not in mine. I’ve never met her, even in the women’s groups I attended in the '80s.”



In their mod-ish neon poster, Mother London and the Feminist Times showcase a single shocking fact: “On average, British women make up to 15% less than their male colleagues. That pay gap is unlikely to close until 2057.” Holder tells Co.Design of the design process, “We wanted to create an ad that made you feel empowered to do something about the pay gap. Thinking about asking someone what they earned made me physically wince. I liked that. It wasn't another statistic to gloss over; I had to think about whether my male colleagues earned more than me. It also gave people a simple action to do.” A protest board inspired the art direction, and the colors are a nod to the spirit of punk rebellion—they exactly mimic those of the Sex Pistols’ "Never Mind the Bollocks" album cover. The message goes interactive in MakeThemPay.co.uk, which estimates how much more or less you make per year than your colleagues of the opposite gender. By leaving out the word “feminist,” the poster is a reminder that whether or not the cause has a fashionable label, its message is still critical.

In a flowchart by Brave and Jinan Younis, all roads lead to the realization that you are, in fact, a feminist, even if you answer “no” to the question “Are you a feminist?” It's a clever rhetorical move that likely leaves those reluctant to accept the F word feeling a bit cornered. Wieden+Kennedy London collaborated with satirical website Vagenda and created the #ImAWomanAnd campaign. A laundry list of sexist slurs and nicknames graces their poster, from “bimbo” to “slut” to "thinking man's crumpet,” headed with a demand to "Sod the Stereotypes" and printed in stereotypically girly pink ink.

The organization UK Feminista was tapped for Elle’s project, but opted out because they didn’t think Feminism needed “rebranding.” Participating organizations, too, were still wary of working with a women’s magazine that tends to airbrush with abandon—would they defang and dilute their cause? Sure enough, Elle vetoed Mother and Feminist Times’ original idea because of its anti-consumerist message, and their second concept, “Proper Cunts”—a photomontage ad featuring a variety of different vaginas, aimed at making the Elle reader think twice before getting a Brazilian wax—was also, unsurprisingly, nixed.

Elle deserves points for effort when compared to many women's magazines, which, in their exclusive focus on beauty and recycled dating tips, are often part of the problem, not the solution. But, as Raven says, “The problem with ‘rebranding feminism’ is that feminism isn’t a brand to begin with. It’s a process rather than an idée fixe. There’s no easy way of capturing that process in an A4 visual advert—believe me, we tried—so any ‘rebrand’ would inevitably have been a compromise.” If feminism were as simple as an old-school sneaker, maybe these flashy ad campaigns could help bring it back into style.

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5 Comments

  • JBranch

    All of this raises questions in my mind. For instance, I wondered why only 1 in 7 women identify themselves as feminists. That made me wonder what it means to be a feminist, and also what most women think it means, if that's different. A pity that Ms. Dunne doesn't have the space here to go into the story more deeply, though I understand this isn't a social-issues website.

    Also, I'm going to have to ponder what I mean when I think of myself as (more or less) a feminist.

    Sorry for disconnected response, and thanks for the post!

  • Tracheal

    I wonder why feminist gender bigots tell us that 7 in 5 women suffer rape in their lifetimes...and that 4 in 1 women are raped in college. Could it be that false rape statistics are powerful weapons with which to scapegoat all men as rapists? I'll be happy when 0 in 7 women and 0 in 10 men buy the Big Lie.

  • Guest

    Can someone please tell me what does feminism have to do with sexual assault crime rates? What, if you're a feminist then you won't be raped? And if you're a feminist then you magically receive more money in your paycheck? I sure hope that these ad agencies donated their time and efforts to UK Feminista versus UK F paying for this crap. But if UK F really thinks feminism has to do with not wearing make-up or being in prison or loving their body or ... then they are ridiculously ignorant.

  • megan

    You are totally missing the point. Feminism is all about promoting equality for women and being aware of social injustices in our society for women of any age, race, or cultural background. Anyone who believes that women (or a person of any gender/orientation) should be treated equally and receive equal representation of the law IS a feminist. Feminists come in all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities, etc.

    Feminists also want to bring attention to the "rape culture" - or the idea that women have to change themselves to be less appealing so that men are not tempted to rape them. It is very much a feminist issue because it essentially society telling women how they should dress/not dress, when really MEN should be the ones being told not to sexually assault women!

  • Tracheal

    What a steaming load of 'cow'. Feminism is a bigoted, reverse-sexist, female supremacist hate movement which demeans men as men, destroys boys as boys, and promotes ever more infantile entitlement for the already utterly Coddled 'Gender'. "Rape Culture' is simply one more big lie from the Big Lie. Women do need to manage their sexual aggression (deviant everyday exhibitionism) to that men aren't tempted to rape them...particularly in high risk situations where SOME men may choose to rob the goods rather than paying through the teeth for them. Since rape is a crime of sex, not power, women do need to be aware that their biologically inherited sexual superiority is something that cannot be managed like baboons in heat do without instinctually engendering dangerous risks That said, the rapist (female or male) is ALWAYS 100% responsible robbing sex from an unwilling mark.