Powerful Pantene commercial sheds light on sexist labels

By, Allie Semperger
Published January 2014: About-Face

“Don’t let labels hold you back.” This is the slogan of a new Pantene campaign that
encourages women to disregard negative sexist stereotypes and live their lives with
confidence — and, if you’d prefer, awesome hair. However, “Be Strong and Shine” is no longer just an ode to Pantene hair products.

The message is powerfully captured in a commercial from Pantene Philippines. The
advertisement successfully highlights some major double standards between the ways men and women are viewed in the workplace and society, including:

  • Boss vs. Bossy
  • Persuasive vs. Pushy
  • Dedicated vs. Selfish (working dads vs. working moms)
  • Neat vs. Vain
  • Smooth vs. Show-off

At the time that this article is being written, the video has over 20.5 million views on YouTube and more than 26,000 likes. If you take a look, it’s easy to see why.


The video is so compelling because it communicates, with simple terms and visuals, just how inherently wrong it is that women are harshly judged for doing the same things as men or just doing simple tasks like washing up in the bathroom.

It sheds a very clear light on the subject, breaking through all the absurd arguments about women’s supposed inferiority that are often reinforced in dangerously subtle ways in our society.

The Pantene commercial itself has an interesting back story. According to The Seattle Times, the ad was released online in the Philippines by its regional office without any objective to connect with American audiences.

However, the message resonated with online viewers worldwide, and it wasn’t long
before the commercial caught fire, racking up millions of hits on YouTube and forming a
community that clamored for the commercial to be shown on American television.

After a wildly condensed media purchasing process to meet consumer demand, the
commercial was broadcast on the ABC network during its classic annual news program, “The Year.”

persuasive vs. pushyThe Pantene ad has attracted influential fans like Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.

Ms. Sandberg brought recognition to the commercial on her Facebook page, stating that it was “one of the most powerful videos [she has] ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways.”

Some may question whether it’s hypocritical for a beauty company to promote this message.

Personally, I wouldn’t devote much energy to analyzing that idea – using beauty products alone doesn’t make someone any less of a feminist, and I’m on board with supporting
companies that raise awareness like this.

The commercial itself definitely prioritizes the message over the product and, at the very least, it’s inspiring necessary conversations about double standards and gender inequality.

What are some other double standards that could be featured in a commercial like this? Are there any other reasons you see for the success of this video?


Model with Down Syndrome Takes Fashion World by Storm

By, Allie Semperger
Published October 2013: About-Face

Popular fashion retailer Wet Seal has a new model who is turning heads and making headlines. She describes her style as “biker chick,” prefers Justin Bieber music on the set of her photo shoots, and has gained the admiration of thousands of fans and counting.

karrie_otherpicHer name is Karrie Brown, she’s a 17-year-old high school junior from Illinois, and she has Down syndrome.

Karrie is a natural in front of the camera and to support her dreams of being a model, her mother Sue started a Facebook page called, “Karrie Brown — Modeling the Future.” People immediately took notice and worked hard to bring Karrie to Wet Seal’s attention.

When the fashion company saw that her page had over 10,000 likes, they flew Karrie and Sue out to their headquarters in California for a photo shoot and accompanying ad campaign. Like most companies, Wet Seal expresses a commitment to diversity on its website; unlike most companies, they really act on their words.

“When it gets right down to the wire [a lot of companies] don’t really practice what they preach,” Sue said in an interview with TODAY.com. “Wet Seal has been phenomenal. There was no hesitation for Karrie to come out there.”

Karrie’s story is yet another example of the awesome power of technology to unite people and create significant and positive change by fighting for a common goal. A simple Facebook page gave Karrie the presence and power to directly impact a huge number of people.

If you want to promote more inclusive depictions of women and girls in the media (or, by the same token, if you want to hold companies accountable for sexist and harmful images), start a blog, a Facebook page, create a petition on Change.org and spread the word. There is a community of people out there who share your opinions and can help you change the world.

Take advantage of this lightning-quick communication — at the very least, you’ll be raising awareness for your cause and inspire people to reconsider conventional ideas of “beauty.”

karrie_smallpicIt’s worth noting that Karrie’s ability to dress comfortably and fashionably in Wet Seal clothing started when the company began carrying plus-size clothing. At the time of this writing, Karrie’s Facebook page has over 26,000 likes.

This is a clear demonstration of a world craving exciting, diverse, and, most importantly, realistic depictions of women (remember this
Glamour model?).

Props to Wet Seal for supporting diversity and choosing models that are beautiful inside and out — and a standing ovation for Karrie for redefining stereotypical perceptions of people with Down syndrome (and looking fashionable and awesome while doing so).

If you could promote a certain depiction of women that is underrepresented in the media, what would it be? What are other ways to encourage clothing companies to be mindful of diversity in their ads?