Saturday, November 9, 2013

Marketing Feminism: I'm not buying it

So I'm wildly excited about this.

I support this project 100%. I think it is a vitally important development in safety and transportation. The critique this project has inspired has nothing to do with this product or its development (both of which I applaud). It has to do with marketing.

If you watch the promotional video, which is masterfully cut and filmed you'll notice that it and the article I cite lean primarily on the novelty of "women doing science" to sell their product.

I am wildly excited about this helmet as cyclist, science enthusiast, and feminist.

In that order exactly.

I am excited that women in technology are making fantastic products, but honestly I feel pandered to by their marketing strategy. I gives me big sads to realize that the idea of women doing good science is so alien to most people that it's actually considered an unexpected marketing idea. Women have been doing science all over the world for a long timeIt's not a novel thing folks.

I appreciate the fact that Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin highlight the ways in which they faced sexist discrimination and I think their stories around it are important. But right now what's important to me for their product launch is their product information.

You know what would excite me more than the 'shocker' that women are doing hard and concretely useful science? Actual specs on how this helmet works. I want to know if and how this helmet protects against neck injury and whiplash (something traditional helmet are notoriously bad at protecting from, but that this inflatable model looks like it might reduce). I'm curious about the tests run on it.

In this case my practical concerns for safety as a cyclist trump my concerns as a feminist. Not everyone viewing this product will share my priorities, but putting the rocket of girl power behind this product's ad campaign implicitly sends the message that it's more important that women like this product than it is that it will save lives. Impracticality is not feminist.

In general and in this case I am opposed to gendered/sexist marketing strategies. If this helmet's primary features are life saving ones (that make it safer/more practical than traditional products on the market) then all cyclists should be marketed to.

Looking cute and girly is a wonderful thing but I'm sure it's not the top concern for all the cyclists who're interested in this helmet.

As I mentioned before I am excited about this product. My irritation at its gendered marketing is only emblematic of my constant irritation with gendered marketing strategies in general.

Since their advent of public relations marketers have been looking to get consumers to buy things through the use of psychology and manipulation. I think there can be ethical marketing strategies, but marketing in the US comes from a long history of such manipulation.

The Hövding helmet's marketing strategy is to stimulate solidarity and support for the women who made it. They are selling the false feminist novelty of women doing science.

I think solidarity & support for women scientists and entrepreneurs is excellent. I think giving women in science and tech fields more visibility is excellent. But neither of these things should be a marketing strategy. The use of feminism as a marketing device is unappealing to me. It limits feminism to those privileged by a capitalist society.

As much of an anti-capitalist as I am, I delight in products that're both useful and considerate of their users in design. The Hövding helmet appears to be exactly that. But no matter how much girl power is pumped into its marketing campaign, buying one will not make me a better feminist. I want the marketing to stop telling me that it will.

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