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TOPIC: H&M ad

H&M ad 22 Sep 2016 18:45 #10295

  • rebecca.w
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I recently came across several articles celebrating a new H&M ad that challenges negative stereotypes about femininity, gender norms, gender roles, and gender expectations. The ad appears to be a catalog of every trendy feminist cause united, of course, by H&M clothing. I immediately scanned the ad for problematic language, dialogue, or messaging, but was surprised to find the women drowned out by a soundtrack of "She's a Lady" sung by a female cover band, naturally. Aside from the obvious history of silencing and censoring women who dared to challenge convention, I was unsure how to react to the slew of women pantomiming across my computer screen. Were stand-alone images saying more by saying nothing at all? Or was H&M brand playing it safe by refusing to comment on the images being shown? I watched the ad several times through and noted each of the social movements: transgendered woman, woman with unshaved armpits, woman with shaved head, overweight woman in lingerie, corporate executive woman, woman with muscles, woman man-spreading on a metro, thin woman eating junk food, woman performing karaoke, and two women kissing fully clothed in a pool. While much of the public's reaction has been positive, I can't help but wonder if these movements/issues are all worthy of the same amount of screen-time and celebration, or if, in fact, some of them belong there at all.

The ad begins with a diverse group of well-dressed women dining in a fancy restaurant all while eating with their hands, picking their teeth, and talking loud enough to garner looks from the surrounding diners. The women shown engaging in this behavior are African-American which raises several negative-stereotype red flags. Black people (especially women) are often stereotyped as loud, ill-mannered patrons (re: talking in movie theaters). Aside from the harmful stereotype, I can't see how this image promotes feminism or womanhood by showcasing grown women conducting themselves poorly in a high-end establishment. Are bad manners feminist?

The woman "man-spreading" on a metro (spreading her legs out to take up more space than necessary) has been widely criticized as behavior that is selfish and rude when exhibited by men. The gendered nature of the behavior relates to traditional masculinity where men are taught they are entitled to more public space than women who are socialized to make themselves as small as possible. Mirroring behavior that is problematic does not make the problem go away. In fact, it makes women man-spreaders "no better than men."

The extremely thin woman who unbuttons her already baggy jeans to enjoy a bowl of french fries on her bed is problematic from several angles. While women eating or refusing to diet has certainly been a political act and a social movement, why choose an underweight model? Fatphobia and weight discrimination is very real for many women. While skinny women are encouraged to eat, overweight and even average weight women are often shamed for eating, especially junk food. The act of unbuttoning her baggy pants registers as an alarming signal of an impending binge, perhaps even an eating disorder. While the enjoyment of food and body positivity are undoubtedly feminist, one has to wonder why such an extremely thin woman was chosen for this scene and what message it could send to young viewers.

At the surface, the ad is celebration of women who are choosing to make bold statements and challenge convention. Upon deeper analysis, almost all of these images are problematic in one way or another. While I'd like to believe the concept was meant to promote female expression and challenge gender norms, I wish the ad team had consulted with qualified or credentialed resources. Certainly not all of these images show women modeling feminist behavior. While I hate to disparage any ad or company that attempts to further the progress of women, I have to keep in mind that media is created with a purpose. The purpose of H&M is to sell apparel and accessories to its target demographic. While the women come in a diverse variety of races, they all happen to fall in the 18-30 year old range, with only one (white) exception. The lack of true diversity is not something to be dismissed in an age where women that qualify as seniors fight to be recognized as both consumers and women of sexual/political/economical value in society. To the advertising team at H&M, feminism is not a trend. A transgender woman existing is not a statement, or even a fashion statement. She is a woman. A thin woman eating is not revolutionary without context. Lesbianism should not be appropriated to sell clothes. And if you want to show women kissing, be assured that they don't need to be sneaking around at night and locking lips underwater where no one will see them. It's 2016. It's time to get it right. thetab.com/uk/2016/09/19/hms-new-campaig...eans-lady-2016-20126
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H&M ad 22 Sep 2016 19:29 #10297

  • erin.o
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I love this.
I'll just go down the list with you. I completely agree with the ill-mannered comments. Why are poor manners something to be celebrated? I understand that they are trying to say that it is okay for men and women alike to act in this way, however, in my opinion, it shouldn't be okay for EITHER gender to act with poor manners .
I hate when anyone takes up more space than necessary on public transportation. It is completely unnecessary and everyone should work to avoid making others feel uncomfortable by proximity.
Maybe they could have showed a larger and thinner woman eating on the bed, showing that it's okay for thin and larger women to eat whenever they want.
I actually really appreciate H&M working to try to show that they aren't just marketing to the same stereotypical woman, but I agree in that they missed the mark.
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H&M ad 18 Oct 2016 10:11 #10627

  • erica.p
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Rebecca, I found this post so interesting. I completely agree with where you're coming from and the problems you see with these ads. First of all, like you mentioned, two wrongs definitely don't make a right. I understand that H&M is trying to show women that are not the "norm", but I agree with the flaws that you mention. "To the advertising team at H&M, feminism is not a trend. A transgender woman existing is not a statement, or even a fashion statement. She is a woman. A thin woman eating is not revolutionary without context. Lesbianism should not be appropriated to sell clothes. And if you want to show women kissing, be assured that they don't need to be sneaking around at night and locking lips underwater where no one will see them." This was a really bold statement that I couldn't agree with more either. The issues, and the things that depict in their advertisement (feminism as you mentioned) is not a trend is not something that should be appropriated and taken advantage of to try to make a bold statement, just to promote and sell their clothes.
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