This Week in Women: Obama's Feminism vs. Sprite's Sexism
We’re three-quarters of the way into the year, and it’s safe to say that 2016 has been the Year Of The Feminist. If history has taught us anything, it’s that the women (and few men) who fought for women’s equality in the past weren’t the most popular. Take for example my high school experience (and probably yours too), where girls who were self-proclaimed feminists were largely ignored (if not downright disliked) by boys. But feminism is cool now! Welcome to this week in women: the feminist edition.
The First Feminist President
Woodrow Wilson was president in 1919, when the 19th Amendment finally granted (some) American women the right to vote—but we wouldn’t call ol’ Woody a feminist. Who is the first feminist president, you ask? None other than our current Commander-In-Chief, Barack Obama. On Thursday, Obama penned a thoughtful letter for Glamour about his family, feminism, and the future of the United States.
Obama is clearly well-read on feminist history: he cites Shirley Chisholm, the first African American to run for a major party’s nomination, as one of his personal heroines, and he writes about the major gains women as a whole have made over the course of his life.
“In my lifetime we’ve gone from a job market that basically confined women to a handful of often poorly paid positions, to a moment when women not only make up roughly half the workforce but are leading in every sector, from sports to space, from Hollywood to the Supreme Court,” Obama writes. “I’ve witnessed how women have won the freedom to make your own choices about how you’ll live your lives—about your bodies, your educations, your careers, your finances.”
But this isn’t just a celebration of how far we’ve come: it’s also a call to action. Obama implores men to identify as feminists—and more importantly, to act like feminists in their daily lives and interpersonal relationships.
This isn’t Obama’s first time at the feminist rodeo. In June, his administration held the first-ever White House Summit on the United State of Women, during which he charmingly reminded us that many workplaces’ policies are still “straight out of Mad Men.”
The letter is also an ostensible show of support for Hillary Clinton, who may become the country’s first female president.
“No matter your political views, this is a historic moment for America,” quoth Obama. “And it’s just one more example of how far women have come on the long journey toward equality.”
Sarah Jessica Parker is…Not a Feminist? Maybe?
It seems like everyone is speaking to women’s magazines about feminism this week. Is this some kind of new trend? Anyway, Sarah Jessica Parker would like to remind everyone that she is very much Not A Feminist.
“I am not a feminist,” Parker told Marie Claire. “I don’t think I qualify. I believe in women and believe in equality, but there is so much that needs to be done that I don’t even want to separate it anymore. I’m so tired of separation. I just want to be treated equally.”
When asked about the gender pay gap, however, she said: “I would like all of that nonsense to end. I would like women to get paid for the value of their contributions, not by old-fashioned ideas about gender.”
Paying women for the value of their contributions is a cornerstone feminist issue. We’re not sure what else falls into the category of “so much that needs to be done,” but there are probably some feminist issues in there, too. Has anyone talked to Sarah about intersectional feminism? We think she’d be really into it.
This isn’t meant to call out Sarah Jessica Parker: a lot of women hesitate to identify as feminists because of some antiquated social stigma of feminists as shrill, hateful, and man-hating. We just have a feeling SJP is not as non-feminist as she believes.
Sprite’s Ad People Are Definitely Not Feminists
As anyone who’s seen Mad Men probably knows, ad agencies were once run by sexist bros who barely considered women people. Unfortunately, that may still be the case. Earlier this week, a series of blatantly misogynistic ads ran on Irish men’s site JOE.ie as part of Sprite’s new #BrutallyRefreshing campaign.
— Scott Flashheart (@unlikelylad) August 3, 2016
Unsurprisingly, the internet was not pleased.
— Andy Corkhill (@andrewpcorkhill) August 3, 2016
Sprite: "We'd like to aim our product at a misogynistic audience."
— Tommy Smith (@tommyxcore) August 3, 2016
— Cristiana De Lia (@CristianaDeLia) August 3, 2016
As Jezebel helpfully points out, only one of these ads—“SHE’S SEEN MORE CEILINGS THAN MICHELANGELO”—is specifically gendered. The rest—like “YOU’RE NOT POPULAR, YOU’RE EASY” and “A 2 AT 10 IS A 10 AT 2”—could be aimed at anyone. But let’s be real, it’s unlikely that these weird, slut-shamey ads were referencing anyone besides women.
Coca-Cola wised up and pulled the ads on Thursday.
“We’re sorry for any offense caused by the #BrutallyRefreshing Sprite campaign in Ireland, which was intended to provide an edgy but humorous take on a range of situations,” the company said in a statement. “Since its introduction in Ireland, Sprite has been associated with individuality and self-expression and we have always been committed to ensuring we deliver the highest standard of advertising.”
If we were Jenny Holzer, we’d be pissed at Sprite for taking our trademark text style and using it to sell Sprite and sexism. #BoyBye
Stay tuned to Milk for more of This Week in Women and check out our previous installments here.