Recently the pen company BIC came under fire for their International Woman’s Day advert. The advert featured a poster with the words:
Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss.
Since the backlash was immediate, they have since pulled the advert and apologised for the offence caused.
That’s great and all, but this sort of advert is a perfectly clear example of why women are still facing the kind of ridiculous everyday sexism that prevents us from achieving the equality we want and deserve. Because that advert not only was designed, but it was run past advertising execs, put to BIC, accepted by BIC, published and tweeted. And not once did someone say “Uh… no.”
First I want to talk about why this advert is so very wrong, just in case you’re not seeing it.
“Look like a girl”
Girl implies young, it implies innocence. Women are constantly bombarded with images of youth in the media. Mature actresses start losing roles, elderly male newsreaders are consistently sat beside female broadcasters in their early twenties. Male jobs that are in the limelight are significantly more representative. This advert is just feeding that, no matter what you do ladies, don’t look old.
“Act like a lady”
This goes back to the old adage that the perfect woman is “a lady in the kitchen, a whore in the bedroom”. It implies that “unladylike” behaviour (traditionally considered more masculine behaviour) is unacceptable for women, and demeans them. If men are sexually promiscuous, sexually confident, assertive, and confident, then they’re respected for it. If a woman is… she’s a whore.
“Think like a man”
Explaining this physically hurts, but here we go. Think like a man because men use their brains, men are smarter, men are more confident and men’s brains are superior. If you little women think like a woman you’ll be too busy painting your toenails and watching America’s Next Top Model to achieve anything in business. You wouldn’t need a fancy shmancy Bic pen to write your fancy shmancy business letters, you’ll need a cheap and grotty pen to fill in the soap opera crossword on the back of Take A Break magazine. The level of offensiveness of this statement, this idea that a woman’s brain is inferior, is just so infuriating I could scream.
“Work like a boss”
On it’s own this statement is fine, because a boss isn’t gender specific. But when combined with the previous statements it suggests that to be a boss you need to be a man, but because Bic are so inclusive an accepting, they’re willing to extend a helping hand to the vagina havers and allow them the chance a bossdom. So long as they’re young, ladylike, and think like men.
I mean honestly. It’s just so ridiculous.
But it is so representative of society that it’s actually quite useful, and it’s a definite relief that the backlash was so strong and determined.
According to the Fawcett Society, the average pay gap for men and women doing the same job is 15.7%. This means that effectively, after November 4th every year, women are working for free.
Women are under-represented in politics, out of 650 seats only 148 are held by women. Women are under represented in business, out of 500 CEOs only 23 are women. Yet according to the the last census there are 31.029m men and 32.153m women in the country. Women outnumber men in the country, yet men outnumber is by significantly more in positions of authority and power.
People shout that women have babies, yes we do give birth to them but men have babies too. Society is structured around women either stopping work altogether, or staying out of work for a long time, in order to raise the children she bares. Paternity leave is rare and unpopular with employers, yet if it was more readily available men and women would be able to share childcare responsibilities thus allowing more women the opportunity to get back to work and achieve. If creches were made available in businesses then both parents could work. If it was acknowledged by society that, other than growing and breastfeeding the baby, men are just as capable of looking after it during the day, and women who want to get back to work were able, then this gap would not exist to the same extent.
Obviously many women want to stay at home with their children, and believe me I respect that, but for so many it’s either a necessity, or something they’ve been programmed from a young age to believe is a woman’s job, whilst a man is designed to be the breadwinner.
Sex inequality has been beautifully summed up by Bic. If all it achieves is save me money, because trust me I won’t be buying their products again, then fine. But hopefully this ridiculous advert will have connected with people on a level that makes them see just how wrong this kind of attitude is, and maybe pushes society a step closer to the equality we all deserve.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!