“Virago: a strong, brave or warlike woman; a woman who demonstrates exemplary and heroic qualities.”
A change is underway, but there’s still work to do.
With all the hype of men like Harvey Weinstein taking advantage of women in the movie industry, as a college fashionista I became worried about the fashion industry, specifically fashion advertising, and whether these advertisements were promoting the virago or powerful woman that young women like me strive to be.
As I searched, it blew my mind how most of the models, even in today’s age with all the women movements happening, were still in appalling, and distasteful positions that made my stomach turn.
As I continued to search, I found that even luxury brands, such as Calvin Klein and Dolce and Gabbana, were positioning their models in compromising positions that promoted violence and rape. Why would a great luxury brand think it’s okay to promote rape in a day and age where the beautiful female nation is taking leads that men once controlled?
I became curious, so I did some digging and found an interesting study by the Badgers and Winters Company, the Girls Lounge, and the Advertising Benchmark Index (ABX). The research looked for an understanding of what the effect would be if a brand had female objectification in its advertising.
The study included 3,000 consumers, with ages ranging from 13-74, and these consumers were shown a total of 15,000 ads. The overall conclusion came to be that if a brand were to advertise these objectifying ads their profits would decrease by 82%.
As a young feminist, that number sounded perfect to me! Like the consumers in the study, I concluded that in order for me to promote a brand, its advertising had to be appropriate for all ages, not focus on one body part, and had to give me a feeling of comfort. In addition, I prefer brands that make women in general look happy and confident, but most of all show these women as they would look like in real life.
When reading this study, I was so proud and happy that were other people out there who were not happy about the demeaning advertisements. One quote that stood out to me the most from the study was: “Listening to women is what led us to the decision to never objectify a man or woman again and furthermore, to get this message to everyone, creative and consumers. Because the harm objectification does is based on very real information. The harm is no longer theoretical.”
This is where the biggest question hits: “How do I stop this disgusting treatment of women in the advertising world?” Well after researching I found the answer! There are many organizations that you can join that promote the pro-feminist message and hold agencies accountable for the reckless and demeaning advertising.
Here are just a few: #WomenNotObjects campaign, NOW (National Organization of Women), and Beyonce’s new #FreedomofGirls campaign. There are brands you can shop from, such as Rebellelion, Ready to Stare, and Birdsong, that promote their use of only female designers, use of feminist advertisements, and contribute to multiple feminist movements.
It is time to fight against these misogynistic ideals and portrayals in fashion advertising. So in response, I decided to be the Virago and join the campaigns mentioned above and have been shopping at the brands that support feminism.
To all my fashionistas out in the world I send out this plea to join me and turn feminism into the next fashion trend!