Wrangler Jeans Sparks a Conversation About How Brands Use Feminism

September 26th 2016

Laura Donovan

Social media users are saying that a "feminist" Wrangler Europe ad campaign is not so empowering to women after all, adding fuel to a longstanding discussion about the way brands market feminism.


Wrangler Europe's clip for its Body Bespoke Jeans and #MoreThanABum campaign features interviews from women who say that women are overly sexualized in society. The video, which plays the word "bum" on repeat, has been accused of perpetuating this very problem by showing the back of women's jeans with their job titles written on the screen:




A lot of people have confronted Wrangler about its ad on Twitter.

Wrangler Europe defended its campaign on Facebook, saying it used the same language as most advertisers and then flipped the script:

"We are using the same language that advertisements often have, but turning it on its head: hey, here's a split second of her bum... then... here is a woman who has done all these great things," the company wrote. "Our Body Bespoke line was created around this idea: that a line of jeans engineered to look great on everyone's behind means women stop wasting time trying endless models on, so they can move on to what they really want to use their time and energy for."

Wrangler Europe's controversy highlights a much larger conversation surrounding the way businesses try to profit from feminism.

In recent years, several companies have been accused of exploiting feminism to sell products. In 2013, Dove came under fire for its controversial Real Beauty Sketches video. In the video, a forensic sketch artist was tasked with drawing the same woman twice based solely on two perspectives: a woman's individual description of herself, and a stranger's description of that woman. In the end, the composite based on the stranger's observations was viewed as much more flattering than the composite based on personal descriptions from the female subject. The video ends with Dove telling women that they are more beautiful than they think:

Forbes contributor Avi Dan wrote at the time that this campaign sends the distorted message that "beauty is still what defines women":

"Get it? How beautiful you are affects everything: your personal relationships and your career. Nothing, the woman in the video says, could be more critical to your happiness!"

Earlier this year, New York Times writer Jia Tolentino argued that the Real Beauty campaign was "cooked up by executives who noticed that few women like to call themselves beautiful and saw in that tragic modesty a great opportunity to raise the profile of the Dove brand."

While brands' attempts to capitalize on feminism have come under increasing scrutiny, Bitch Magazine blogger Natalie Baker wrote in 2014 that feminist ads, even flawed ones, are indicative of a positive overall trend.

"While we don’t need to be naively over-celebratory about billion-dollar conglomerates pandering to female consumers, I do get immense enjoyment from the fact that such companies are doing so," Baker wrote, "not because they want to, but because they have to. "

[H/T Indy100]