Our president, Donald Trump, is doing a great job of alienating most of the world. Certainly, he earned us no goodwill when he refused to shake hands with Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and, arguably, the real leader of the free world. Beyond insulting an ally, he projected a chauvinist message at a time when feminism is on the rise. In the west, women still have a long road to equality ahead of them, but in many places, misogyny has become so institutionalized, people hardly recognize it as such. China provides a good example.
For decades, China’s one-child policy forced many couples to make child-bearing decisions based on economics. Boys were the traditional breadwinners for a family and so they were preferred before girls. Eventually, this preference created a gender imbalance. Today, more males exist than females. As a result, a Chinese woman is pressured to marry before the age of twenty-five for the purpose of satisfying their parent’s desire for grandchildren and to reinvigorate the country’s aging population. Countering these forces are a growing number of career opportunities for women as the country continues to industrialize.
Unfortunately, this new-found freedom clashes with older traditions and women find themselves being torn between domesticity and independence. Those who delay or refuse to marry early are stigmatized and referred to as Left Over Women. (“A Skin-Care Ad Tackles Social Taboos in China,” Bloomberg Businessnews, Feb 6-12, 2017, pg. 19.)
Not surprisingly, Madison Avenue has identified the dilemma and come up with a commercial solution. The problem isn’t about getting older, says Procter and Gamble, but about looking older. Their 4 minute commercial for SK-11, an expensive skincare line, challenges marriage as an endgame and comes down on the side of a woman’s right to choose. True, the ad focuses on a female’s outer appearance rather than her accomplishments or inner beauty. True, marketers aim to profit from the insecurity of Chinese women. And it is also true that no single commercial can change the attitudes of a society. Nonetheless, I’m guessing SK-11 makes a good start and compares favorably as a game-changer to Apple’s 1984 promotion for Macintosh. (Click)
When a commercial takes us to a place we want to go, it’s more than a sales pitch. It’s a manifesto. Procter and Gamble has found a sweet spot. If you have 4 minutes, judge for yourself. (Click)
(First published 3/31/17)