What do you call a company that advertises itself as a feminist, but internally, does not respect these values. To answer this question, working journalist Leah Legion Challenges, Bluntly created a word: “washing femininity”. He explains this idea in a book published by Editions to Seoul in early March: Washing away feminism – when companies take the cause of women.
“This is an expression derived from‘ green washing ’,” the journalist explains. “It’s similar to all the communication and marketing practices that companies use to make companies believe they are feminists, that they value gender equality, and that they do not do so domestically. When “branding feminism” shows brands ’feminist values, it becomes clear that, in fact, within the company, these values are not used.
But if feminist values are not respected then why show them? “Because today, 58% of French people appreciate feminism, they say they are feminists, whereas it was not before, they saw an opportunity,” explains Lea Legion.
Is your feminist logo tea really feminist?
The survey points to popular brands such as Dior, H&M, Amazon, Publis or McDonald’s, which can take very different forms with “laundry feminism”. For example, in Dior, for a modest sum of 620 euros you can treat yourself to a t-shirt that says “We should all be feminists”. The dress is named after a speech made in 2012 by Nigerian writer Simamanda Nkosi Adichi. “This is a great idea, except that it costs 620 euros per shirt. Can the women around you buy this t-shirt?” The journalist asks. “It’s a feminist exclusive.”
But the T-shirt is not the only T-shirt from Dior that explains this “laundry femininity”. Your favorite feminine shirt may have been purchased at a cheaper price. “Many feminist T-shirts are actually made by women of color and are exploited in poor countries,” says Leah Legion. “So these are the questions to ask: where are the T-shirts made and under what conditions are they paid for and treated?”
Another discourse example: McDonald’s. In 2018, the American fast food brand launched a communications campaign that sent McDonald’s “M” back to “W” for “women” (“women” in English) ahead of Women’s Rights Day. . “One way to say that McDonald is a feminist and that he really cares about women,” one reporter said. “Except that McDonald has been fired several times for sexual discrimination or sexual harassment, I’m revealing significant pay gaps at the company during my investigation.”
Create “feminist responsibility” for companies
Leah Legion proposes to create “feminist responsibility” for companies that already have a social and environmental responsibility. Idea: “To check whether companies have measured objectives for the fight against wage inequality, to make plans, to adjust the schedules so that women do not have to hold meetings after 6 pm so that they can go home.
Leah Legion explains that companies “get themselves stuck” by following a feminist communications in particular. “From the moment they are shown so, on social networks, activists take the risk that there is a feeling that consumers are being bullied and that they want to fight for equality of employees’ rights.” All the more reasons to start real.