Look Like A Girl, Think Like A Man

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

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.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, The Lilly Prospero Series

Photo Credit Rottonara

“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.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero, Rose And Mum And More

Photo credit Mint Chip Designs

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.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!


One response to “Look Like A Girl, Think Like A Man

  1. The advert is cringeworthy and tacky and deserves to be pulled for that reason alone. But the sentiment it is CLUMSILY trying to get across are not offensive, and are a (yes clumsy) attempt to promote feminism’s ‘have it all’ culture of ‘personal empowerment’.

    Every one of these sentiments have been championed by feminists, and dare I say, even by the majority of women.

    “Look like a girl”

    Most women prefer to look as young as possible. This is perfectly natural. Millions of grown women refer to themselves a ‘girls’ and celebrate their desire for all things ‘girly’. It is hypocritical to criticise Bic for echoing this preference.

    “Act like a lady”

    While looking like a girl (looking youthful) might be preferable, acting like one is often considered inappropriate in adult women. A ‘lady’ is a woman who is mature, responsible, dignified and even moral. In an age when the Kardashians rule the media, it’s hardly a crime to aspire to being a lady… it it?

    “Think like a man”

    I’m willing to bet the intended meaning behind this sentiment was that the empowered and successful Bic owning business woman is as rational as any man, and doesn’t (need to) resort to using her womanly wiles (and youthful girly appearance) to get ahead in her career.

    Men do not have the luxury (the ‘privilege’) of being able to get ahead based on their looks, their fertility or their (perceived) status as victims. It is feminists themselves who has created this culture of female quotas/ fast tracking which is LITERALLY a culture of sexual discrimination in favour of women and against men which ensures un(der)qualified women can get into positions at the expense of more qualified men. This culture DEVALUES women in the workplace.

    There was a time when feminists said that women could compete with men on men’s terms (intellectual, rational, practical) and did not need to be treated as special, weak, precious, like oversized children. Whoever made this advert still probably assumes feminists still think that way. They don’t realise that 3rd wave feminism demands women NOT have to compete with men on a level playing field… hence all those female quotas, female only scholarships, safe spaces, trigger warnings, ‘ban bossy’, and female only science classes in schools (because ordinary science is not girly enough apparently).

    Yes it is an incredibly clumsy statement, and incredibly ill advised in the current climate of 3rd wave problem-glasses-feminism… but it is nothing a feminist wouldn’t have said 20+ years ago, to great applause.

    “Work like a boss”

    Just a standard issue motivational slogan. Not gendered. Not offensive. Any woman finding this statement ‘problematic’ and demanding softer more fluffy language be used should not be working in a highly competitive business environment…. which to be fair is not suited to everyone (male or female).

    > 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.

    In a sense yes. Being a boss is a bit like being a parent. The job involves making decisions which are inevitably going to make you unpopular (and even a resented figure) among the people who work under you – just as many parental decisions make you unpopular with your children.

    The fact is a lot of women struggle to cope with this because – in general – women tend to be less willing to lose popularity and will often seek to please all sides, in order to remain in everyone’s good books. This can make for a terrible boss, especially in high pressure environments were employees actually respond far better to a stern and authoritative boss (a bastard basically!).

    When a job is like running through an assault course everyday (think high pressure sales) it sometimes helps to have a boss motivating you by being a bastard who won’t put up with your complaints or excuses for underachieving, rather than having a nice approachable boss always asking if you are OK and trying to be your friend.

    Studies have shown that, in certain fields, more women in boardrooms or acting as bosses or team leaders can have a negative effect on productivity and profits. It’s just a fact of life. To be a boss, in certain fields, requires a woman to assume character traits and responsibilities that are more commonly associated with men.

    We still very much live in a culture where “men propose and women dispose”. Meaning women are used to men playing the active role, and having the luxury of simply saying yes or no to the advances and the offers of men. An attractive young women is especially used to living this way and may never have had to approach a man (or anyone) and made her ‘sales pitch’. She may be completely unused to experiencing rejection, and only used to rejecting others.

    This can be a problem in the workplace. It is not an insurmountable problem, but it still can be a very real challenge. A lot of women link their self worth to how others perceive them (whether they are liked or not). Part f the job description of a boss in many high pressure jobs is to BE the person in the office that everyone ‘hates’. Your job is to soak up all of that negative energy, and resentment, so that your the employees under your care can perform to the best of their abilities. Again, this is not for everyone.

    Feminists who seek these kinds of careers (because they like the image of the high powered professional woman) often cause havoc by getting into jobs that aren’t suited to them, and then demanding everyone accommodate their inability to do what the job requires of them. Normal women (and men) who aren’t brainwashed by feminism just stay away from those sorts of careers if they feel they are not compatible with them.

    However clunky and out of date the language of this advert is, I see no deliberate attempt to offend or promote any kind of misogyny. Yet the internet is ablaze with feminists claiming just that intent as if Bic is run entirely by misogynist men and Bic HQ is in some Dr Evil volcano lair and they decided to use this campaign to launch an attack on women.

    The truth is they decided to jump on the feminist bandwagon, but they got it wrong. It’s embarrassing, and worthy of ridicule, for sure, but not the charge of misogyny.

    The fact that feminists have jumped on this and used it to tell everyone how oppressed and victimised women are does not reflect well on feminists. It just reveals the true agenda which is to play the victim at all times, in order to garner sympathy, resources and special treatment. Precisely the qualities that make one unsuitable for the workplace environment – and a potential trouble maker – and which give ALL women a bad name.

    > 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 soceity a step closer to the equality we all deserve.

    FWIW men actually have less rights in society than women do. To achieve gender equality we need to give men the rights that women have, but they do not yet have (If you want a list of those rights I can provide).

    There are no right that men have that women do not already have too. This is WHY feminism today is focused almost exclusively on trivial issues (compared to legal rights) such as ‘ban bossy’, ‘like a girl’, ‘micro aggressions’, ‘manspreading’ and now ‘bic pens’.



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