Big companies are good at looking progressive. Inclusive ad campaigns can give the impression that certain corporations can create meaningful change through the sheer power of tasteful marketing alone. Whether or not they put this call to inclusivity to practice is another thing entirely.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with ads being inclusive, or celebrating diversity, or representing minorities in a tasteful way. What we should expect, however, from the brands and companies that put up this kind of spectacle (imagine a fat suited dude in an executive board room going: Kids are just gonna eat this up) is to actually to practice what they preach. In other words, bring about concrete, meaningful change for the groups and minorities you aim to represent, instead of just profiting from the status quo of inequality.
Take for example that H&M ad released last year which aimed to celebrate diversity among women. Although the ad was initially praised for its inclusive bent, the more suspicious were quick to point out that the ad was all show, and didn’t line up with how poorly H&M treats its female workers. As if to say, this is all for show, but otherwise we couldn’t care less about the movement we try to cash in on. H&M isn’t the only company that does this. Numerous fashion brands — and the malls that hold them — commit the same sin: mistaking waves of change as conveyor belts for the assembly lines. Or take that one tweet from Uber on the transport strike that rightfully drew lots of flak as soon as it went out there — it’s a d*** move to profit from the suffering of others, without helping to alleviate that suffering.
To the large corporations who put up this kind of front: look, we get it. Being political and inclusive is hip and happening, and appealing to a broad audience is just part of the job. But it’s easy to tell, even when you’re releasing progressive-looking adverts, that you’re not actually doing anything meaningful for the marginalized, without actually looking out for your laborers, without actually speaking out against oppressive systems if it harms the brand. I understand knowing what your target audience wants, but what about your contractual workers? What about intellectual property theft? What about mercilessly taking land without regard for the people and natural resources already there, just to build more branches, even though you already have more than enough money? You can’t commit these violences and call yourself an ally to women at the same time. As an old saying goes: Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
Meanwhile, those of us who comprise your target audience are getting sharper by the day. Sharper and noisier. You shouldn’t be surprised that the demographic you’re trying to appeal to can smell bulls*** from a mile away. You can’t profit from the commodification of feminism without putting your advert-driven posturing the practice. Inclusivity is something we hold in high regard, but so is being held accountable. We will hold you accountable.