#sorrynotsorry: Is the beauty industry empowering women?

#sorrynotsorry: Is the beauty industry empowering women?

The announcement that Dove is encouraging women to love their hair just as it is with a new social media campaign this week gave me pause for thought. And I’m not alone, Hadley Freeman wrote about this new wave of ‘empowerment marketing’ for The Guardian last week, while Jezebel Deputy Editor Jia Tolentino penned an essay on the topic for The New York Times earlier this month.

I touched upon the changing face of marketing out there on this very platform two weeks ago, and Dove’s latest effort does little to disabuse me of the suspicion that all these caring, sharing messages are little more than a cynical marketing ploy. For hands up those that believe that Dove’s mission is to ‘empower’ us women, and not at all to sell more hair products ‘cos your hair is fine how it is sista?

Tolentino certainly agrees, “The new empowerment doesn’t increase potential so much as it assures you that your potential is just fine. What’s being marketed is a certain identity. And no matter what, the intent of this new empowerment is always to sell,” she says.

And what exactly, I ask you, is wrong with selling a shampoo or lipstick as *insert gasp* a shampoo or lipstick (although if Colin Firth wants to step in as ambassador, who are we to say no?)? If the latest wave of feminisim is to be believed – and you don’t have to take my word for it, Bridget Minamore says so – we’ve all moved on from sniping at those that choose to wear make-up. Or if we haven’t, we should; there are larger issues at stake.

Issues that could surely include the dearth of women in the top jobs at our biggest cosmetics companies…

Yes, you heard me. For the global beauty behemoths are all, almost without exception, run entirely by men. Who’s in the running to succeed Agon at L’Oréal? Two men. Revlon’s new CFO? A man. CEO at New Avon? Not so new. Yes, some of the big guns may have made it into NAFE’s top 60 this year, but the people at the very top remain depressingly uniform.

If the cosmetics companies want to get all cosy with us women, perhaps they could do more than tell us our hair is OK just as it is. Perhaps it’s time to take a long, hard look at the face they are presenting to the world. Maybe they could use a makeover?

I’ll leave you with Tolentino, “This consumption-and-conference empowerment dilutes the word to pitch-speak, and the concept to something that imitates rather than alters the structures of the world. It’s a series of objects and experiences you can purchase while the conditions determining who can access and accumulate power stay the same.”