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Powerful Pantene commercial sheds light on sexist labels

“Don’t let labels hold you back.” This is the slogan of a new Pantene campaign that encourages women to disregard negative sexist stereotypes and live their lives with confidence — and, if you’d prefer, awesome hair. However, “Be Strong and Shine” is no longer just an ode to Pantene hair products.

The message is powerfully captured in a commercial from Pantene Philippines. The advertisement successfully highlights some major double standards between the ways men and women are viewed in the workplace and society, including:

  • Boss vs. Bossy
  • Persuasive vs. Pushy
  • Dedicated vs. Selfish (working dads vs. working moms)
  • Neat vs. Vain
  • Smooth vs. Show-off

At the time that this article is being written, the video has over 20.5 million views on YouTube and more than 26,000 likes. If you take a look, it’s easy to see why.

[media url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOjNcZvwjxI”]

The video is so compelling because it communicates, with simple terms and visuals, just how inherently wrong it is that women are harshly judged for doing the same things as men or just doing simple tasks like washing up in the bathroom.

It sheds a very clear light on the subject, breaking through all the absurd arguments about women’s supposed inferiority that are often reinforced in dangerously subtle ways in our society.

The Pantene commercial itself has an interesting back story. According to The Seattle Times, the ad was released online in the Philippines by its regional office without any objective to connect with American audiences.

However, the message resonated with online viewers worldwide, and it wasn’t long before the commercial caught fire, racking up millions of hits on YouTube and forming a community that clamored for the commercial to be shown on American television.

After a wildly condensed media purchasing process to meet consumer demand, the commercial was broadcast on the ABC network during its classic annual news program, “The Year.”

The Pantene ad has attracted influential fans like Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.

Ms. Sandberg brought recognition to the commercial on her Facebook page, stating that it was “one of the most powerful videos [she has] ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways.”

Some may question whether it’s hypocritical for a beauty company to promote this message.

Personally, I wouldn’t devote much energy to analyzing that idea – using beauty products alone doesn’t make someone any less of a feminist, and I’m on board with supporting companies that raise awareness like this.

The commercial itself definitely prioritizes the message over the product and, at the very least, it’s inspiring necessary conversations about double standards and gender inequality.

What are some other double standards that could be featured in a commercial like this? Are there any other reasons you see for the success of this video?

Allie Semperger studied English at Kalamazoo College and screenwriting at UCLA. After studying abroad in London and traveling around Europe, she became a travel lover for life, and is always making plans for her next adventure. She recommends Marina and the Diamonds. She created the feminist Tumblr blog, Women’s Issues Are Society’s Issues, and aspires to make the world a better place for women and girls.

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