Picture the scene: we’re in Copenhagen, Denmark, sometime in late 2016. In a glassy office block, a group of advertising executives are spitballing ideas for a new shoe campaign.
“Come on, people,” says the head honcho, who for the purposes of this hypothetical exercise we shall call Emil. “We need a hook for this thing. What’s hot right now? What are modern women with lots of disposable income really into? How can we flog stilettos in a way that feels fresh, exciting, #relevant?”
There’s a silence. Then one man raises his hand. “Well,” he says, tentatively. “I’ve heard a lot of women talking about feminism recently.”
Everyone looks at him. He ploughs on. “I was reading the other day that women don’t get equal pay for equal work anywhere in the world, not even in supposedly egalitarian Denmark. Isn’t that crazy?”
Emil strides to the window and gazes out over the red roofs of Copenhagen, a manic glint in his eye. “You know what?” he murmurs. “I think you might be on to something.”
Names, characters, places and incidents in the above scene are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, events or locales is entirely coincidental. However, we think that something similar might – just might – have happened to lead to the latest advertising campaign from Scandinavian footwear brand Bianco.
The decidedly bizarre #WomenNeedMore campaign was launched to promote Bianco’s SS17 shoe collection. But the short film that accompanies it – in which women are shown throwing tantrums and physically abusing their male colleagues – has come under fire for trivialising, and seemingly attempting to capitalise on, the fight for gender equality.
The star of the commercial is a glamorous French woman who appears to be standing in a shadowy stairwell.
“Listen up,” she intones, smizing into the camera. “There’s still not equal pay for equal work anywhere in the world. And it seems most women are not even angry about it.”
“From now on, equal pay is no longer enough,” Shadowy French Lady continues. “Because women need more.”
Well, that’s fair enough, you might think. In the UK, the gender pay gap currently stands at 13.9%, according to figures by the Fawcett Society, while a further ethnic gender pay gap exists between white women and women of colour. If we want those structural inequalities to be eliminated, women will need to be paid more.
Shadowy French Lady, however, has a novel reason for why women deserve a pay rise.
“Our haircuts are more expensive,” she explains. “Our underwear is ridiculously more expensive. It’s simply more expensive to be a woman than to be a man!
“Should we seriously get paid less than someone who applies body lotion to his face?” this font of feminist wisdom continues, in the manner of a barrister delivering their closing statement in court.
“He doesn’t need a new outfit for every occasion. He doesn’t even know that the shoes make the outfit!”
Of course. That’s why the fight for equal pay for equal work is important. Because we’re duty-bound as women to spend vast amounts of money on shoes and knickers and blow-dries and other nice girly things. And men don’t deserve money because they’re all kind of dumb and none of them are interested in fashion, which is the only thing worth spending money on anyway. Of course.
“Fashion is expressing yourself,” concludes Shadowy French Lady. “And what every stylish woman is expressing is that equal pay is not enough.”
To buy shoes. Equal pay is not enough, because we need to buy shoes. Preferably shoes from Bianco’s SS17 campaign. Is the message sinking in yet?
A little over a week after the misguided ad was uploaded to YouTube, users’ down votes outnumbered up votes by more than 1,700 to 130. And for once, feminists and men’s rights activists were united in condemnation – albeit for different reasons.
“I KNEW IT ALL ALONG!” wrote YouTube user ‘SUPREME EMPEROR MITTENS’. “FEMINISM IS INDEED A FEMALE SUPREMACY MOVEMENT!!!”
On Facebook, Laura Line offered a more measured analysis. “A lot of women are angry about it, but funnily enough not because we want to buy more shoes,” she wrote. “Isn’t it great when capitalism attempts to cash in on feminism? What a load of bullshit.”
“I’ve never seen such a sexist, offensive ad that abuses and misinterprets feminism,” echoed Josephine Turms.
On Twitter, meanwhile, Danish user Kirsten M. Ebbesen wrote: “Bianco creates attention for itself with an attempt to debate equality… and sell a few pairs of stilettos while they’re at it.”
According to Danish newspaper The Local, Bianco are now insisting that the commercial is “satirical”.