Part II – Patriarchy: It’s a Man’s World, and the Shoe Doesn’t Fit the Other Foot

Elusive 'Insights'

“One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius; and the feminine situation has up to the present rendered this becoming practically impossible.” – Simone de Beauvoir – The Second Sex

Simone de Beauvoir

(Sit at a desk messy enough for an ‘inspired genius’ + pretend you can’t see the camera from all the books you are engrossed in = Generic Philosopher Pose 4)


“I didn’t fight to get women out from behind vacuum cleaners to get them onto the board of Hoover.” – Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer guilt perry

(Unconventional Philosopher Pose 1)

Germaine Greer’s project has always been ‘women’s liberation.’ Greer is a fully-fledged, bra-burning, hairy, male-bashing, ’70s feminist. She’s had a lot of bad press and she’s given feminism a lot of bad press. Greer thinks women should side-step patriarchy and define their own value system. Women shouldn’t feel the need to compete on fair terms with men at men’s game. This is why she isn’t particularly impressed with women in boardrooms. Women should invent their own game, write their own rulebook, then tell men to fuck off if they want to join in. If women were really free, she argues, we might not even have hoovers.


JWT’s Rachel Pashley expressed her annoyance that women were forever characterised by their responsibilities rather than their aspirations and achievements. Updating how Adland thinks about segmenting the female market is obviously the crux of the issue being discussed. Obviously our current categorisations are somewhat limiting: All women over fifty = beige-fleece-wearing grannies. All 20-50 year old women = (desperate single working careerists) or (coupled up with sprogs). Segmenting women by what they aspire to be, is obviously a great suggestion.

Pashley was irritated that women seem forever condemned to be portrayed as a passive presence in popular culture – the one who hands the gung-ho Brit Villain wannabe his Jaguar car keys. Why are these the role models that women give themselves? These passive, submissive portrayals of femininity should be banished from films. It’s time for the Katniss Everdeens of this world to step forward. I cannot help but wonder if she had read Laura Mulvey’s argument in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.

“In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split
between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness. Woman displayed as sexual object is the leit-motif of erotic spectacle: from pin-ups to striptease, from Ziegfeld to Busby Berkeley, she holds the look, plays to and signifies male desire.” – Laura Mulvey

Greer would have had mixed feelings about Pashley’s address. On the one hand Greer might agree that we should be selfish as women, to fight the good fight to get where we want to be. On the other Greer would have read Pashley’s ‘female tribes,’ – women categorised according to their aspirations and achievements – to  inadvertently show how patriarchy is actually being upheld by women everywhere. Women are not being liberated in the sense that Greer would have wanted.

“The Dow Jane Effect” is Pashley’s term for how women have become an economic force to be reckoned with. Female consumption represents $12 trillion of the $18.4 trillion global consumer spend. The top 77 global brands all have women in the boardroom. Greater financial rewards are to be had in companies with proportionally more Women board directors – something that was particularly prevalent in Russia.

Oh, and by the way, Russian businesswomen look fantastic in boardrooms.

One cannot help but wonder whether women getting to the top of a man’s game, and, looking great as they do so, is something that all women are that interested in doing. Pashley’s female tribes did include the likes of ‘The Tiger Mother’ – a woman obsessed with obtaining the highest educational standards for her children, or, ‘The Modern Courtesan’ who is typified by the WAG and uses sexual or social engagement as a means of earning her crust. For some reason there seemed to be a male presence lurking uneasily, casting a shadow over women’s achievements.

Aren’t women putting undue pressure on each other in a competitive environment that isn’t even of our own making? Could many of these aspirations not actually be set by women at all? Are women trying to fit into a persistent and well-disguised underlying patriarchal order? Does advertising uphold that order? Does it hell. Advertising invented that order. Greer would probably love to slap all of us.


“The present enshrines the past—and in the past all history has been made by men” – Simone de Beauvoir – The Second Sex

It was the men in Gillette’s boardroom in 1915 that decided that women’s underarm hair was ‘objectionable.’ The ‘women’s problems’ (and more increasingly men’s) that surround female care brands are so numerous and complex that I have decided to give Kate Smither’s discussion of Dove its own post (coming soon.)


“Yet if a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?” – Germaine Greer


Pashley’s female tribes evoked something primordial and neanderthal about MANkind that women were trying to shoe-horn themselves into. The stilettos women are shoehorning themselves into, Greer would argue, are simultaneously symbols of female oppression and female empowerment. Pashley’s approach is the practical and feasible response to the question at hand, Greer’s is idealist and arguably unattainable.

Part I – Essentialism: Gender as a Science

For some reason the link to Part I is a little dodgy, click here instead

Part III – Relativism: “Speaking as a Woman from a Strategic Point of View”

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