March was International Women’s History month, and we want to keep the spirit of badass women alive with this month’s Difference Dialogues. At Ad 2 Austin, we crave honesty and accurate representation in the media. We want to see ourselves in the characters we see and read because we want to feel connected—we want to feel part of something. But we want to feel a part of something honest.
Women are amazing, and they kick serious ass on a daily basis. However, when it comes to media and its different platforms, women are often cast as the sexy, alluring damsel. They are strategically positioned in their narratives to discover their self-worth as it relates to the male protagonist, which in turn discredits their value and strength as individuals. Different movements have helped expose the inequalities (and subsequent harm) brought on by undervaluing and misrepresenting women—#womensmarch, #metoo, #timesup, and #equalpayday have all helped give faces and voices to women who feel underrepresented and unheard. That said, there is still a lot to be done as our culture transitions from awareness to action and implementation. For example, 73% of Super Bowl 2018 ads featured women, but only 34% featured women in a leading role—almost 10% less than 2017.
Even though the damsel narrative is a tired one, women are often still seen as objects in modern day media. This objectified depiction of women is in no way representative of the kind of roles women manage, nor is it indicative of the amount of responsibility placed upon the modern, everyday woman. Rather, it’s a depiction still highly skewed in favor of male fantasies—female characters still revolve around their male counterparts, and they are still waiting to be rescued and uplifted by a hero. Not only do women want to shed this stale, dependent depiction, they want to see truer versions of themselves in the media.
Reese Witherspoon created her own production company, Hello Sunshine, so she could change the narrative for women. Women are strong, resilient, comprehensive creatures, and she wanted the opportunity to depict them as such. So rather than cast women solely as counterparts to men, she sought to cast women as their own leads, as their own heroes. This is not to say women never need or desire the help of men, because men come with their own unique set of skills and strengths. However both deserve the opportunity to evolve separately, just as they might together.
We've selected a few ads that highlight women’s strengths, and we'd love for you to add your own in the comments below!