Feminism found its origins in a late stages of the 19th century. Ever since the movement found success in commencing more equal rights between genders, providing women the right to vote, receive education and earn better salaries. Although times have changed in a positive way, women still experience problems in masculine work environments which still contain sexual devisions. Because of that, the third wave of feminism nowadays continues to fight for equivalent beliefs, using ideologies, political- and social movements to pursuit them. Their execution of these strategies have however gone through changes.
In ‘The romance of work: Gender and aspirational labour in the digital culture industries by Brooke Erin Duffy’ a reflection is given about current overlooks of gender positioning within cultural production. Women are still more likely to be used as aspirational labourers; pursued in order to produce activities that hold the promise of social and economic capital. Yet the rewards of this hierarchy is often highly uneven. Combine this with a diverse spectrum of other gender based difficulties and the outcome is that women on average still earn €300.000,- less than men during a lifetime.
What we can conclude out of this, is that feminisation has generated more equal policies and structures over the past century, but the problems women face nowadays don’t simply vanish due to laws. There are deeper problems that lie within nature, causing difficulties when women adapt to masculine work cultures; aspects such as (sexual) harassment, yet also uncertainty and less pursuit of higher wages. As a reaction to this, communicational forms of branded feminism nowadays often focus on the empowerment of women in order to strengthen their positions through diverse forms of positive self-evaluation.
Yet brands aren’t the only ones adapted to these valued forms of relatable content; we also experience an arising amount of aspirational labourers, sharing a similar ‘authenticity and celebration of realness’. Feminisation has turned into emotional labor, creating a devotional strategy for both bloggers and brands; thus it has become a powerful weapon to earn both social recognition and wealth. And even though this might sound like an opportunity for aspirational labourers, giving them the chance to finally make a profit out of their work, we mostly see how this associative emotion creates value for marketing purposes.
Therefore, it might be good to sceptically reflect on advertisements like ‘Dove Beauty Sketches’. Can we honestly consider a brand which is part of Unilever; the exact same company that produced quite anti-feminist advertisements for Lynx, something willing to empower women or should we rather consider it to be another form of strategic marketing; making capital out of fragility and credulousness?