Future femmes

#MEETOO has hit the mainstream

While there’s no doubt gender equality is a journey not a destination, the speed with which the #MeToo movement has been able to redefine large swathes of our lived culture has been nothing short of breath-taking.

From the music industry to brand marketing, women are uniting to ensure that a movement, whose genesis was in Hollywood, has turned into a positive and in many ways relentless force.

In music, #SheSaidSo are a global network of women who work in the industry whose vision is ‘to create an environment that supports collaboration, creativity and positive values’ and counts organisations including Boiler Room, Live Nation, Spotify and Soho House amongst its supporters and collaborators.

From a marketing perspective, brands have recognised the benefit of ensuring their communications campaigns become more attuned to a post #MeToo world. Take North Face for example, who launched its first global initiative focused on women to celebrate and share the stories of adventurous and courageous female explorers.

Dubbed ‘Move Mountains’, the campaign is rooted in empowering the next generation of explorers and includes a multi-year outdoor adventure collaboration with Girls Scouts of the USA, which at its heart is a platform for sharing more stories of women in exploration coupled with a wider business commitment that impacts everything from representation in advertising campaigns to investment in product design.

Even at a marketing industry level, The Advertising Association, NABS and WACL joined forces in early 2018 to launch a new initiative called timeTo to address the problems of sexual harassment in the advertising industry.

But perhaps the most positive outcome has been the impetus it has provided for men to re-evaluate their own notions of masculinity as many of the issues that prompted the emergence of #MeToo cascaded from very traditional, outdated and downright regressive attitudes of manliness that often manifest themselves in, to be blunt about it, very bad outcomes for women.

Of course, in an age where every positive, progressive action elicits an inevitable reactionary response, there is no doubt that a vocal minority of men – caricatured by GQ as the “my life has been ruined guy” – are resistant to the principles of the #MeToo movement, seeing it as a threat to their status.

And this is a watch-out for companies seeking to evolve their positioning to reflect the dynamics of #MeToo in order to appeal more explicitly to a female audience.

So, while embracing the values of #MeToo seems logical to a progressive, perhaps more liberal audience, there is clear potential for mainstream brands to alienate chunks of their customer base.

Rightly or wrongly, the culture war simmering between conservative and progressive voices across a whole range of cultural issues is far from straightforward for brands to navigate.

In fact, for many, it may be impossible for them to remain neutral for much longer.

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