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“Girls can’t…sometimes you hear it. But more often, you feel it.”

A new ad from Covergirl is jumping on the feminist bandwagon of “girl power” in order to sell their products. Feminism seems to have made the leap to mainstream these days. From the #WarOnWomen to more realistic Barbie dolls and Beyonce standing in front of the word “FEMINIST” in a skin-tight unitard, feminism has gone from the angry, braless hippies to dolled up celebrity-types who seem to want to stretch the term as far as it will allow.

Here is the ad:

Gloria Steinem must be turning over in her grave right now. Oh, she’s still alive? Well, still…

I get that Covergirl has no other objective than to sell products and they probably pay quite well to do so. However, these celebrities they’ve enlisted to hawk their wares under the feminist banner regularly speak to the public about empowering women and smashing stereotypes. That’s why this new ad invokes all sorts things in my “feels” area. Is my daughter really supposed to feel empowered by Ellen DeGeneres talking about girl power…in a makeup commercial? Do these women have any sense of irony? I have some problems with this commercial’s stab at feminism. I’ll list them in order:

1. Who are these mysterious people telling girls they “can’t” and where do they live? Is that even legal anymore? I mean, we’re not even allowed to call girls and boys girls and boys anymore in some parts of this country! We’ve forced the military to allow women on the battlefield, we tailor education to girls, and despite the devastating effect it’s had on the funding for school sports we’ve hailed Title IX as the pinnacle of equal rights in sports for decades now. The Covergirl ad writers seem to acknowledge this. As Ellen says in the opening sequence, “But more often you feel it.” Covergirl doesn’t just cover blemishes, it also covers their own asses apparently. So where exactly are these people telling us “girls can’t” and how is it that they have so much power they can make us feel inferior without saying a word?

2. The original feminist movement in this country began with Susan B. Anthony and suffrage. It then morphed into the feminism of the ’60’s, which is what we still hold as the standard of feminism in modern America. The Baby Boomer feminists burned their bras because they were seen as a symbol of a patriarchal society that requires women to look and act a certain way in order to be acceptable. Now here we are, in 2014 with a Covergirl ad that purports to be in the feminist vein while simultaneously telling women they need makeup to look a certain way and that will make them happy. Who is the makeup for, exactly? I’ll tell you who…MEN. Like high heels and Spanx.  Makeup’s only job is to make your face look acceptable to other people.

3. As a continuation of my second point, what would have really made these women appear brave and strong is if they’d agreed to do a television commercial with no makeup. Instead, they’re happy to get that money in exchange for selling the lie to young women that all their imperfections should be covered up as much as possible. Remember that the next time you hear Katy Perry talk about the War on Women.

4. Covergirl missed a great opportunity to talk about the different aspects of beauty instead of beating us over the head with a victimhood that in this case exists solely to sell makeup. Look at Ellen – masculine-ish, lesbian, comedian. Compare her to Pink, Katy Perry, Queen Latifah and the token hockey player chick whose name doesn’t matter because she doesn’t walk on any red carpets with her cause-du-jour ribbon pinned to her couture gown. These are all different types of women with different standards of beauty. Celebrate that. Highlight that. Don’t lie to my daughter about all the people who will tell her she can’t do something because she’s a girl. Let her celebrate her desire to be pretty. Let her see that “pretty” comes in all shades, shapes and sizes. Now that would be a powerful message in the age of perfection.

5. I don’t begrudge any woman in this commercial for participating. The money is good, the exposure is better and I’m all about the ladies bringing home the bacon. What does bother me is that each and every one of them will at some point in the future berate anyone who doesn’t get down with the whole “War on Women” drivel during each election cycle.

Make that money, ladies. Just don’t turn around and tell me you’re a feminist when you want me to sign on to whatever political agenda you’re pushing, down the road.


5 Responses

  1. Rachael

    I don’t like anything you said. I do not believe that these women who have constantly been told all their lives that they may not be good enough to pursue their careers (such as music, which is always put down when people start out, hockey, predominantly a men’s sport, or comedy where people think no woman will make it into the field.) All of these women have been criticized for having these aspirations and told that they “can’t” do what they truly want to do, but they went out and they did it. This is an ad to empower women and not solely to sell their products. They do not even mention any covergirl products in this commercial, they all talk about their individual lives and struggles. The ad then says “come on covergirls” and “make the world a little more easy, breezy and beautiful.” If this is not an ad to empower women, then I don’t know what is. Covergirl simply uses famous people to reach to an audience because they are looked up to and people will listen to them. But they always express themselves in their own way and do what they please. They are feminists and just because they are famous or “dolled up” does not mean they cannot be feminists. Yes, they may be rich and yes, they were paid to do this commercial, but what proof do you have that they are against the words that they say in this ad? What proof do you have that these women have never been challenged and overcome obstacles in their lives all from being told “girl’s can’t.”

  2. Amy

    Hello Ms. Davis and thank you for your thoughtful blog post. While I agree with you on all your points, I would like to address your question “Where exactly are these people telling us “girls can’t” and how is it they have so much power they can make us feel inferior without saying a word?”

    They are everywhere…at least in my neck of the woods. My last two jobs had male-dominated management (one was a Japanese company and the other a “good ole southern boy” managed small business. From my experience in working for these kinds of men, they are very skilled at devaluing women, their accomplishments, and their personal lives without saying anything at all. The culture of these places is defined by misogyny. Men in these companies, particularly those in management, depend solely on the women they manage for their successes whilst they happily go play golf during working hours. I promise you that never once were these women allowed to pursue hobbies during working hours at the expense of the company without having to burn vacation time. And trust me when I say the women do not make nearly as much as men in these places…even men who are in a similar or linear position within the company. Wage gap is alive, well, and prospering in Georgia.


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