In a recent New York Times Magazine article, Peggy Orenstein discusses advertisers’ discovery of “the sales potential in female pride.”She describes recent ads by Target and Verizon, among others, that seem to imply that buying certain merchandise will confer “empowerment” on girls. She points out what she refers to as “cause-related marketing without the cause. Merely buying its service is how you’re supposed to strike the blow against inequality.”
Lisa Belkin discusses Orenstein’s article on her New York Times blog and asks, “Are marketers right? Is there a change, of late, in the way we look at our daughters? Does their new approach work? Are you more moved to buy when an ad shows girls who are powerful, rather than girls who are pouty and pink?”
Comments on Belkin’s post range from delineation of the demographics of shoppers to the ongoing debates about whether girls are favored in the classroom and the politics of “pretty.”
All of these points are important and worthy of discussion. And if you read this blog at all, you know that I’m always ready to jump into the fray when a discussion of the differential treatment of males and females erupts.
But as Orenstein suggests, gender-based disparities (in either direction) are only part of the problem. The message of these ads and so many others is that we become important not through brilliant discoveries, conscientious work or charitable acts, but through the stuff we buy. And is that really what we want our kids to hear?