Navigating feminism in 2018

January 10, 2018
4 min read

Feminism has been named as the word of the year for 2017 as the media, politics and celebrity culture continue to drive a boom in feminist debate. However, with many women feeling unable to identify with the movement, it is clear that brands can take a more direct role in helping women to define feminism for themselves.

Feminism is the word of 2017…

The Merriam Webster dictionary has named ‘feminism’ as its word of the year, after witnessing a 70% rise in searches for the term in 2017 compared to 2016. Popular culture has played a role, with a growing number of popular television shows and films, such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Wonder Woman, fuelling interest in feminism. Celebrity culture has also been a huge driver behind the booming feminist trend. Indeed, in recent years the media landscape has been awash with celebrities – both male and female – declaring their own feminist ideologies, as well as highlighting their own efforts to make a change. And the message of female empowerment at the recent Golden Globes has set the tone for this year. However, while celebrities may feel confident in their own feminist beliefs, this is not the case amongst the general public. Indeed, according to Mintel’s 2017 research on marketing to UK women, just 29% of women describe themselves as feminists. This sentiment does rise amongst younger women, who are typically more engaged with online channels and the brands which have focussed on messages of female empowerment in their campaigns.

Our research suggests that at least some of the reason so few women identify as feminists could be due to difficulties with the term’s definition. Almost half of all women agree that it’s too difficult to understand what being a feminist means, with older women particularly unsure. The difficulty in establishing a definition of modern feminism is hardly surprising, as an increasing number of opinions feed into the debate, creating ideological discrepancies.


Brands embrace empowerment messages

A growing number of brands are tapping into the feminist wave by creating campaigns centred on female empowerment. However, brands can look to be more overtly feminist in their identity, for instance by explaining modern feminism, making it more approachable for women who may not understand how it fits with their own lives. This could include drawing attention to women who have been particularly successful in business, academia and other traditionally male-dominated fields.

It is also important that brands emphasise how feminism does not have a set course, nor can it be fully exemplified by just one type of woman. Montage-type campaigns can therefore help to show the range of women who consider themselves feminists, with the core message being that whether a businesswoman or a stay-at-home housewife, the most important thing is that women continue to make these choices for themselves.

The role of men in feminism

Undoubtedly, feminism is a relatively tricky theme when it comes to engaging with men. However, when it comes to gender equality, men have as important a role to play as their female counterparts. And Mintel’s research on marketing to men shows that many men are keenly aware of the importance of improved equality. Nearly three quarters of men agree that more should be done to ensure that women are treated equally in the workplace, while two in 10 men considering themselves to be a feminist.

Campaigns that explore what feminism means for men and how they can help to change society could therefore help brands to engage with men by aligning with their beliefs. There is even scope for brands to consider using a different type of role model in their initiatives, with campaigns centred on men who have campaigned for change and gender equality, rather than the two-dimensional use of sportsmen and celebrities.

Jack Duckett, Senior Lifestyle Analyst at Mintel, joined the company as a Research Executive in August 2012. He specialises in working on reports for the household and food & drink sectors. Jack also has a keen interest in social media and cultural trends.

Jack Duckett
Jack Duckett

Jack Duckett is an Associate Director for Consumer Lifestyles Research. He specialises in reports exploring the attitudes and behaviours of different demographic groups.

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