Can Brands Trump Sexism?

My sincere thanks to Donald Trump. Please don’t read that first sentence and think I’m a Trump supporter. I’m not.

But in this despicable political race to the bottom, we have hit a nerve as a country – and a global human race – that we can no longer deny or downplay. Sexism not only exists but is as prevalent as any other form of discrimination out there. And Trump’s “locker room talk” may just be the tipping point we need to get off the sidelines and do something about it.

Of course, our own industry is as guilty as any industry of sexism and we’ve had our share of high-profile sexism fall-outs this year.

I’ve been in this business for 20 years and I have experienced blatant sexism within the agencies I’ve worked for and among the corporations I’ve been hired to work with. I suspect every woman working in our field has experienced this at some time in her career.

But dare I say that it’s within our industry where I believe we can finally do something about this that can impact real change everywhere.

The hope I have for the fix lies with brands.

Yep, brands. Government leaders continue to disappoint. Corporate leaders have broken our trust.  But where people fail, brands can thrive. And brands have a proven track record of changing people’s behavior.

I’ve been inspired by brands; sometimes by campaigns I’ve worked on; sometimes by campaigns that have worked on me.

Brands like Brita or GE have taken on conservationism and combined with their consumer audiences, have created real change in behavior.

Brands like Dove or Always have taken on self esteem in women and girls and together with their audiences have charted a change in behavior.

Brands like REI and American Express have taken on our obsession with consumerism and it’s ugly side in timely ways and again have changed behavior.

Brands like Humana have very recently taken on ageism with the goal to change that behavior.

Which leads me back to what needs to be addressed by brands, and fast: sexism.

If “Like A Girl” can be wiped out of the lexicon, it’s time “Boys Will be Boys” follows suit. It’s currently being used as an excuse for rape culture and crime (thanks to Brock Turner and Ryan Lotche respectively) and god knows what else.  In the case of Turner and Lotche, locker rooms had nothing to do with it, but the locker room is certainly a place where certain brands thrive and could have a credible voice in making an actual dent in sexism.

I know that Trump has forced me and my husband to have a conversation with my three sons about what “locker room talk” currently means and the reasons it needs to end with their generation. By the way, if I had daughters (I don’t), I would be having the same conversation.

But you know who would make an even bigger impact on my boys if they took on “locker room talk” or redefined  “boys will be boys”? Brands like Underarmour, Nike, Axe, Speedo and Gatorade, just to name a few.

It’s time for a brave brand to once again step up to the plate and take on this highly relevant purpose.   I’m ready.  Are you?

 

Caroline Dettman

Chief Creative and Community Officer

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