Something I feel Strongly About: Why Pantene’s Choice to Take on Gender Inequality Is an Utter Joke

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Grooming tips are nothing new in my world. I’ve modeled. I experiment with makeup when I’m bored. I stage and style photo shoots. It’s my art, a form of escapism. Grooming tips coming from an employer? Awkward. Especially when a dress code had not been violated, nor was my hair a mess… it was (and is) however, naturally curly.

This incident took place approximately a year and a half ago. As any girl with naturally curly hair is likely painfully aware, unless you’ve recently had it chemically straightened, a drop of water, sweat, or a bit of humidity and you’re likely to see some frizz. Despite being pulled back in a chignon, the employer whom I long to (but will not) name here proceeded to explain that he expected me to be the ‘face’ of the company. Summer heat + naturally curly hair didn’t quite fit his vision. He hated my Alexander Wang skirts. The Karl Lagerfeld blazers. Denim from Rag & Bone. Nothing was over the top or inappropriate… I simply didn’t fit the part. In Utah this translates to: you don’t look Mormon.

Nothing was said to the male team members, all of whom had wardrobes ranging from jeans and a polo shirt to faded shorts and gamer/logo tees. I was expected to stand up as the face, the one to prove this employer wasn’t some a misogynistic chauvinist —he had hired a woman after all. (It is also worth mentioning that at that time, I was the only one.)

Fast forward to the present day. I take a peek Pantene’s little foray in to attacking gender inequality in the work place in their ‘Labels Against Women’ aka #whipit campaign.

The second a beauty company does this (I won’t even get started on Dove; I have to get up in the morning…) it’s almost always time to cringe. Pantene’s take not only made me cringe, it made me wonder about the sanity of their marketing team.

70% of men think that women need to downplay their personality to be accepted. Pantene asks everyone to whip away the double standards that hold women back. Because when you stand strong, you shine.

Okay. Not so bad, right? Or rather, it wouldn’t be were they not attempting to sell you a beauty product in the same sentence. While there’s no question that double standards exist in life or in the workplace, beauty ads are not promoting women to have self-esteem or promoting (genuine) self-acceptance. Why? Because to receive said self-acceptance, I’m being told I need yet another product to fix something that is apparently wrong.

As my friend Kelly said so well, ‘It’s the faux self-acceptance that burns me up, wrapped as it is in fake feminism. Celebrating (them) as though this were a breakthrough, not a cheap ploy.’

I make no claim to be anti-beauty products. I embrace my love of red lipstick and dramatic eyelashes… but that’s me. I’m not turning that in to a cause, nor do I need the endorsement to be myself courtesy of freaking Pantene of all entities. Beauty comes from being yourself and owning it. Women do not need their ego stroked. If they do, if this ad campaign increases sales and offers a hefty ROI, it’s not because the strong, self-assured women of the world have finally found a corporation that understands them.

Introspection and knowing one’s self is where you gain confidence and self-acceptance… if you think you’ve found it thanks to an ad campaign or in a bottle of shampoo, that’s the problem that needs solving.

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