Megacorps Engender A Debate On Gender

Adwoa Aboah
Photo by Ben Hassett

I hate to wade into the gender wars pool, but I’m about to test the waters – I’ll just dip in a toe, if not an entire foot. Let’s just say that there are two major American brands putting out products that can’t and won’t go unnoticed in our highly charged social media culture.

The foot reference is an apt one since Nike has once again stepped in it with their Air Max FF720 women’s sneaker/sandal (dropping today 6/20). What did Nike do this week that had the Twitterverse holding their corporate feet to the fire?

Nike vs Black & Decker

The introduction of a woman’s open sided, open back shoe has left the company accused — not only does the shoe bear an uncanny resemblance to an iron – perhaps they are implying that gender roles still exist? Due to past practices, I feel absolutely no need to defend Nike but seriously ladies – as the new song title of the recently “woke” Taylor Swift (who I also won’t defend) goes, “You Need to Calm Down.”

Taylor Swift “You Need To Calm Down” video

Even if some corporate design genius did see the resemblance between this “ugly ass shoe” and an appliance meant to take wrinkles out of clothing, it’s doubtful that they intended to make a sexist statement about the traditional domestic role of women.

Point of fact: last time I visited my dry cleaners, a man was the one doing the ironing (ok, he was operating a steam press). Still, just to be on the safe side, maybe these shoes are not the best gift for your GF — especially if she’s triggered by the suggestion that she become a better homemaker?

Revlon So Fierce Display

Next on my hit list is cosmetics giant Revlon who’s jumped on the bandwagon of employing ubiquitous British Supermodel/Activist/Athlete (former Boxer) Adwoa Aboah as the face of their new advertising campaign.

Interestingly, the multiracial Aboah (her mother is descended from English nobility, her father is Ghanaian) is also collaborating with Nike on her Gurls Talk x Made to Play project.

Adwoa Aboah Makeup Tutorial

The project promotes women’s empowerment by awarding scholarships and mentorships to female athletes from all over the globe. What I find tone deaf is a commercial running on Facebook (and I assume other places) for Revlon’s “So Fierce!” line of eyeliner and mascara.

A Revlon video commercial which opens with a shot of Aboah waiting in a long line of women to use the public restroom. The voiceover advises us to “Break the Rules.” Cut to the next shot –the freckle-faced model applies an expert cat-eye with burgundy “Righteous Rum” liner in the restroom mirror.

I will admit her outfit qualifies as covetable. I’ll even give the black Balmain or YSL-style extended shoulder blazer, sheer turtleneck, and red flare leg trousers a “So Fierce!” As she exits we get a look at the door – whaddya know? It’s the Men’s Room. To further amplify this fact, a guy is brushing past her who’s on his way in.

Ok, let’s unpack what all of this means in the current climate of gender-bending/gender fluidity. First, let me cop to this plea. Yes, that was me at a long ago Justin Timberlake concert at MSG, ducking into a completely empty Men’s Room after spying the ridiculously long line for the Ladies.

You’re probably safe when there are so few men in attendance that they get heckled with: “What are YOU doing at a Justin Timberlake concert? Did your girlfriend drag you here?” You need only substitute “Justin Timberlake concert” for “truck and tractor pull” and girlfriend for boyfriend if you want this situation’s converse.

That said, is using the Men’s Room to avoid a long wait behavior that qualifies as “so fierce”? Determining which bathroom to use is a particularly bad example considering that this issue has become a hot button topic with political intent.

It was one of the early warning signs of our fraying societal norms which are under siege as crusaders for Social Justice have made it a cause célèbre. Add Aboah’s aforementioned androgyny to the mix, and the promotion of the transgender agenda is complete.

Jeffree Star and James Charles

It’s also worth noting that males have appropriated and adopted the cosmetics industry for themselves — many of the most extreme YouTube makeup tutorials are presented by and demonstrated on popular and influential male vloggers such as Jeffree Star and James Charles.

While quibbles over sneakers or eye makeup marketing hardly rank on the list of worldly concerns, they are indicative of our changing social norms. In trying to keep a step ahead of an increasingly genderless society, corporate America is running faster than any jogging shoes or cheap drugstore mascara ever could.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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