THE NEW FEMINISM – HOW EMPATHY AND COLLECTIVISM HAVE BECOME A CURRENCY IN THE WORLD OF BUSINESS DRIVEN BY MILLENNIALS
The year 2017 saw a major rise in feminist movements. There is no doubt that recent times have been the age of women, which was marked by this year’s TIME magazine’s cover featuring The Silence Breakers as the 2017 Person of the Year. Giving the younger generations a chance to speak and the new dawn of building communities are redefining the notion which has previously been mainly associated with a feisty attitude and waving banners at demonstrations on the one hand and a corporate image of a stony-eyed and distant woman, on the other.
In the era of chronic disinformation and a widespread value crisis, real backing can be found in a group of people who offer support. The idea of collectivism began to spring up among women as a response to a growing loss of public confidence. More organizations now center around the idea of inclusiveness and integrating those who were previously excluded. This creates a forum for discussing and facing issues that have previously been considered a taboo subject or simply dismissed. G’rls Room is Poland’s first magazine created by women for women (but not only). In each issue, its editorial team provides an insight into the female universe, including the intimate one, while building a community of loyal readers. On the other hand, HER Global Network, a female empowerment front founded in 2014 in Sweden by Aleksandra Avli and Sofia Kacim is supporting women in their daily struggles, by encouraging them to share their weaknesses, failures, and success stories, and also nurture the fact of being different from the opposite sex and to turn it into an asset.
Millennials are rewriting the definition of feminism and anchoring its visual communication in popular culture, at the same time depriving its verbal part of a corporate or revolutionary character, thereby reaching wider audiences, including people who weren’t really rooting for the once widely promoted image of the third-wave feminism. Initiatives such as Girlboss contribute toward breaking the stereotype of a successful woman that has been embedded in the pop culture over the last years. The founder of this organization and former CEO of Nasty Gal has been acknowledging more often now that she’s mirrored the standard herself, but has now given it up to support women, by providing them with opportunities for development and having their voices heard, instead of simply excluding those who don’t adapt to her business-related expectations. New businesswomen role models, among which I should definitely mention Emily Weiss, CEO of Glossier, strongly promote the image of modern-day women-entrepreneurs, who, unlike their predecessors, that is, not at all cost and at the great expense of health, are building a stronger position and establish brands that respond to the young women’s needs.
The search for life balance and finding one’s identity has translated into a new wave of start-ups dedicated to women. The newly created platform HON (Her Online Network), which is a digital expansion of the HER organization, is to focus on establishing social and business relationships. The idea behind it is based on mutual support and recommendations without the need to present a CV or a business card, as has been the case in the past. Here’s how HON’s CEO and founder, Aleksandra Avli, explains how she took upon herself not only to fill a niche in the market but also to carry out her personal mission through HON: “With our modern values of authenticity and vulnerability we want to celebrate our strong personalities and our own ambition for professional and personal change, no matter which industry we’re all in. Something our social networks are lacking today, they are either too professional or too social. With HON we aim to combine both sides of our lives, and make Hon your professional space for personal relations. Behind our paper business cards we are people who strive to be the best version of ourselves. It’s our colourful personalities and energy engagement that determines our business reach. Hon aims to highlight and connect more colourful women based on our shared values of authenticity and vulnerability.” It is a great ambition of Avli and the team behind the initiative to mobilize a fundamental change in the way of thinking: “The world is full of ambitious, successful and intelligent women with plans for their professional future. But the reality is that female potential and ownership is not reflected in the top of our societies, we aim to change this by giving an own space to women that are interested in giving one another energy and where succeeding together is the new black.”
The insight of women’s communities serves as the foundation of many product strategies, which are continued in the form of narration in advertising campaigns tailored to meet young women’s expectations, and thus driving this idea to the mainstream: “Feminism is definitely one of the major trends now and has been a buzzword for quite some time. Always with its multidimensional #likeagirl campaign, Under Armour with its “I Will What I Want” campaign starring Gisele Bündchen, or Sport England with “This Girl Can” spots—these are just a few examples that paved the way for a new narration in the context of femininity. They break away from the rigor of age, perfect physique, and sexist portrayal,” says Kaja Dobrzańska, Art Director. The apparel giant H&M has also recently reached out for the new feminism trend. “The spring/summer campaign is tackling the trend through collective action. In a choreographical and musical form with a proper dose of ease and subtle sense of humor featuring Winona Ryder,” Dobrzańska adds. One of the Polish brands which have taken steps to create a women’s world is Fiore. This Łódź-based family-run stockings manufacturer says itself it has presented the authentic woman’s angle, which is proven in their latest spring/summer’19 campaign featuring some interesting influencers representing various interpretations of femininity: Ania Rudak, Kasia Szymków, and PaniAniAni
The subject resonates most strongly among beauty brands, which have a lot work to do as regards the way women are presented: “American Glossier is making the cosmetics industry ditch the regime of photoshop and idealizing models. The entire brand’s communication is mindful, carefully planned, unique, and sensitive to the presence of its fans. The brand is additionally building its credibility by inviting “regular” women—the modern-day heroines, as they’ve been called—to star in their campaigns. The extremely sophisticated shots, striking visuals, and humorous communication insights justify the brand’s continuous direct presence in social media,” sums up Kaja Dobrzańska.
The generational revolution linked to how women and their social standing are perceived goes beyond the Generation Y’s age range. Empathy and collectivism have gotten deeply rooted in the way women think collectively, and instead of just watching the changes take place from a distance, they are now fierce participants of the movement. On the other hand, the new landscape is affecting the roles brands and organizations have. It looks like more room has been made for brands which, instead of just narrating and showing direction, are listening and providing platforms for women to express themselves, have their voices heard, and grow, and not just be passive consumers.
Cover photo: Phil Poynter / PRADA