OPINION: Women's History Month in the Media: Shining the Right Spotlight
(Photo taken from Nike)
As I scrolled through my social media last month, and even now, I became aware of the increase in female representation across the pages of well-known brands. Obviously, this was due to the fact that March was Women’s History Month, but it got me thinking about the implications that arise by limiting the celebration of women to one month out of the year.
Let me start by saying, I think Women’s History Month is incredible, as it pushes to legitimize the empowerment of women - something I am thankful for. Additionally, it drives the media to address the problem that women are continuously underrepresented in many industries. Before writing this article, I was unaware of the large discrepancy between the number of advertisements on men versus women; according to Marketing Week, men are spoken about seven times more than women in advertising. Moreover, only 4% of sports coverage is dedicated to female athletes — a prevailing statistic that speaks to the inequality of representation within the media.
Over the month of March, I saw the campaigns released by Nike, Adidas and Ulta, which I believe serve as positive examples of brands that aim to emphasize the voices of empowered women. However, it is equally as important to criticize the capitalistic gain behind these ads and their association with Women’s History Month. When considering the capital benefit that these companies receive due to these ads, their intentions become problematic – do they value the profit they make from the advertisements more than the principle of empowering women within the media?
Nike released Dream Crazier, which is the first “Just Do It” advertisement that features solely female athletes. It was released as a follow-up to Dream Crazy, which was Nike’s campaign of Fall 2018 that was voiced by former NFL quarterback, and now current activist, Colin Kaepernick. Dream Crazier, narrated by Serena Williams, includes a compilation of well-known female athletes, such as Simone Biles, Ibtihaj Muhammad, and Chloe Kim. It highlights the strength and determination behind women within the sports industry, as they battle labels such as “crazy,” “emotional,” and “dramatic.”
Similar to Nike, Adidas ran a campaign throughout March entitled She Breaks Barriers. Although their campaign is concentrated on elevating women in the athletic world, it hopes to influence companies in other industries.
So far there has been five releases of She Breaks Barriers, which have included stories on Maria Taylor, Kendra Harrison, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rahaf Khatib, and Layshia Clarendon. In addition to these ads, Adidas teamed up with the twitter account @3StripeLive to livestream women sporting events (of various professional levels) across the globe. This initiative intends to bring more visibility to female athletes to “inspire young girls to play, to learn, and to live more confident lives.”
I also watched Ulta’s campaign called “The Possibilities Are Beautiful”, which showcased a diverse group of women. Moreover, the ad relates to the larger message that there should be no restrictions placed on who a women can be - it shows a designer, a military officer, a colorful muralist, a student, a businesswoman, a singer, and many more.
It is evident that this year’s Women’s History Month was highlighted through many different and diverse brands, all banding together to recognize the inexcusable lack in the representation of women within the media. There is no doubt that this is valuable to younger generations, who are now exposed to powerful women through the media, something that wasn’t even apparent in my recent childhood. As the saying goes, empowered women empower women.
Yet, it is problematic to confine the celebration of women to one month out of twelve. Don’t get me wrong, Women’s History Month should continue to promote the acknowledgement of women, but it can’t be the only driving force; especially, when companies profit off a concept that should be integrated into our society on a daily basis. Just as Women’s History Month seeks to normalize the recognition of women’s strength, this idea should be present year-round.
As 2019 continues, it will be interesting to watch the progression of women-centered advertisements, as the celebration of women should extend into this month and beyond.