No One Loves International Women's Day More Than Brands
No One Loves International Women's Day More Than Brands
Early reports show growing self awareness—we're no longer in the days of Burger King tweeting "women belong in the kitchen"—but the day is still young.
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Screenshot: @westham/Instagram, Hersheys, Twitter, Miller Lite/YouTube
In the early 20th century, a coalition of socialist feminists called for a global labor strike to demand women’s equality in the workplace and to gain fundamental workplace protections. This eventually became International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8 ever year. But the idea of a general strike eventually turned into an often-milquetoast day of recognition, which has since been bastardized by capitalist enterprises and used as a branding opportunity to get a couple thousand likes on Elon Musk’s Twitter.
In 2018, McDonald’s—which was recently hit with a sexual harassment class action lawsuit by its perennially underpaid workers— symbolically flipped its golden “M” to a “W” for women (get it!?). That same year, beer company Brew Dog gave women a pretty, pink IPA for our troubles. Apple marked last year’s IWD by reminding women via Apple watch notification to “celebrate women around the world” by burning some calories. iHeartRadio devoted one (1) single hour to women artists. You get the gist.
But it seems this year we’re finally witnessing an ounce of self-awareness, at least from some brands, who realize meaningful political messages or some tangible benefit for women today might go further than a cutesy post. They’re trying their damndest to compensate for past wrongs and show that, even through the cynical eyes of corporate America, women are valued. #Blessed.
Those glimmers of progress are, however, still the exception and, for the most part, we find ourselves in the throes of another round of IWD pink-washing. Happy International Brands Pandering To Women Day, all! Let’s see what we’re working with this year.
West Ham United rolls out “mum” jerseys
What better way could there possibly be to recognize the most important women in your life than by proclaiming their relationship to you on your jersey?? English soccer club West Ham United rolled out a collection of jerseys “bearing the names of the special women” in players’ lives and, quite unsurprisingly, many were identical: There were a whole lot of mums, nans, mamas, and even one jersey that read “MUM NAN WIFE,” for inclusivity’s sake. Cringe, yes, especially as Parliament investigates sexism and gender inequality in football—but also a little sweet??
The men’s only Ford Explorer
Introducing the Ford Explorer® Men’s Only Edition | Ford
Don’t let the 4Chan levels of misogyny in this ad’s title scare you—Ford’s contribution to International Women’s Day is actually a fairly complex concept. This (fake) Explorer is “for men” specifically because it’s missing all of the features and amenities that were invented by women: windshield wipers, turn signals, a rearview mirror, a navigation system, etc. This commercial is certainly one response to generations of misogynist jokes about women’s supposed inability to drive. And you know what?? I like it!
Edible Arrangements’ “Sweetest Woman Alive”
Edible Arrangements, the company behind gift baskets that send the message “I Don’t Really Know You That Well, but I Can Tell You’re Going Through It,” have created a new honorarium for IWD: “Sweetest Woman Alive.” Apologies to Mrs. Fields and the hot, hot green M&M but a woman named Adriana Carrig, founder of the Little Words Project, is taking the title and presenting two new baskets: “Unapologetically Me” and “Little Miss Save The World” (woof).
“How do we uplift and celebrate our brave women warriors?” Edible Arrangements asks on its website . The answer? “Sweet treats and sweet words of affirmation” (along with donating an unspecified portion of sales to nonprofits benefitting women and girls.) I mean, no, but I won’t turn down a chocolate dipped strawberry no matter how long it’s been sitting in a box on my stoop.
Photo: Miller Lite
The idea here is that Miller Lite is making fertilizer from broken-down, old, sexist beer ads and then gifting it to women brewers to help them grow hops. That’s a long game for sure, but it’s an attempt to rectify an even longer history of sexist beer ads the company has put out.
I’ll take it! I mean, it sort of feels like when a dad in a TV show makes mom breakfast in bed for Mothers’ Day; it doesn’t make up for everything actively harmful they’ve done in the past, but it’s a (very small) start.
Bad $#!T to Good $#!T | Miller Lite
Marvel Studios marked this International Women’s Day with its new, four-part series MPower, a collection of interviews and inside looks at the franchise’s burgeoning roster of she-roes—from Captain Marvel and the Scarlet Witch, to Shuri’s new Black Panther and Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan. The embarrassing Marvel fan in me is excited, but my more cynical self is cringing, A) at the name MPower, and B) at the studio’s dubious claim to feminism. Marvel very casually discarded its first female Avenger, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), at the end of Endgame—and the studio allegedly withheld significant pay from Johansson.
Photo: Bryan Bedder (Getty Images)
How does the company led by a man who paid out $12 million in hush money to his alleged victims last summer and started the year with more sexual assault allegations celebrate International Women’s Day? By posting a slideshow sans captions of all the women on the WWE roster. “Celebrate International Women’s Day with every female WWE Superstar on the Raw and SmackDown roster right now,” it reads . But maybe Vince McMahon’s lawyers wouldn’t allow him any more interaction with the women on his team, just to be safe.
From the archives: Burger King UK
Because, yes, apparently brands can get more out of touch. In 2021, Burger King UK (what is it with the British brands??) served up a whopper, tweeting that “women belong in the kitchen.” Ha ha! Later in the day, the account deleted clarified (or attempted to): “We got our initial tweet wrong and we’re sorry. Our aim was to draw attention to the fact that only 20% of professional chefs in UK kitchens are women and to help change that by awarding culinary scholarships.”
But, as many pointed out, the damage was already done, especially as all of that could have fit in one tweet: