Pantene Tackles the Labels Women Face

2013-12-11 Unfair Expectations

 A lot of research has shown that men and women are judged by different standards. One example is that behavior seen as “assertive” in men is seen as “hostile” in women. Recently, this phenomena has been extended from the world of business (where it was first identified) to the academic sciences.

So, with that in mind, I found this ad to be provocative in the best way possible.

One of the things I like about it is that it explains the problem clearly without making political assumptions about blame or solutions. That’s important, because I think some of the standard assumptions (e.g. “the patriarchy did it!”) might be wrong:

Females tend to threaten each other with social isolation rather than violence. Among social animals, being cast out of the group can mean death, or very few chances to mate. Among humans, perhaps the most social animals we know, the “mean girls” phenomenon is a perfect example of low energy competition. Nobody is beaten, but we know for sure who has lost the battle.

It’s possible that it’s maladaptive female behavior as opposed to misogynistic male behavior that creates these and impossible painful social expectations. After all, it isn’t as though the male/female double standards are held and enforced by men: they are held and enforced by women too. (Perhaps more?)

The important thing is that we don’t really know. And if we can get more people talking about the problem in apolitical ways, perhaps we can make progress towards finding new solutions. (It is a bit weird, though, to have a corporation leading the charge, but on the other hand their motives are easy to identify and account for.)

2 thoughts on “Pantene Tackles the Labels Women Face”

  1. Interesting contrarian take here:

    “Let’s think about this ad, though. It’s filled with skinny, hot, gorgeous women with perfect hair. It suggests that success and happiness are wrapped up in high heels, thin waists and sleek hair. This is all fine and good. I expect beauty products to put out ads that make women feel really lousy unless they spend cash money. I expect this even more from the company that put out Kelly LeBrock’s “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” ads in the 1980s. But don’t micturate on me and tell me it’s raining. Pantene doesn’t get to make money off of negative stereotypes — using stereotypical models — and then tell us they’re feminist “lean-in” heroes.”

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