The NFL’s Play For Women


I’m not a huge fan of (American) football, but it’s been hard to ignore how aggressively the NFL and its partners have been courting women and girls. Many of the ads are smart and refreshing – it’s a pleasant change from this sort of sentiment.

This NFL store ad for women’s apparel featuring a John Harbaugh speech is a great example: it portrays a fairly diverse set of women who have full agency and appear to love the sport for their own reasons. And while they all look great, none are overly objectified. Verizon FiOS’ “Football Girl” campaign strikes the right note as well – I genuinely enjoyed watching the story progress and come to its pre-Super Bowl conclusion. Had they cast a girl of color, it would have been next-level awesome.

Though less directly a football ad, this David Beckham for H&M Super Bowl campaign is more problematic. I love Becks just as much as the next lady, but come on, this #covered versus #uncovered concept is creepy. Can you imagine the backlash if the featured celebrity were female? But of course, males are almost never socially conditioned to view sexual interest as threatening – that would make one less of a man. This is a far more cynical ploy for women’s attention, and I can’t say I’m a fan.

Still, the overall trends seem positive, and I’m reasonably confident that more NFL advertising is really taking note of 1) the substantial female NFL fandom and 2) how to speak to audiences in a non-alienating manner.

And for those who still refuse to adapt, there’s always the #notbuyingit campaign!

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About that Bing ad…

As someone who consistently points out the dearth of women in pretty much every form of media, I want to love this ad. But I think it falls flat. Here are a few reasons why:

1) Lack of focus. Women, and people overall, can certainly manifest bravery in a multitude of ways. Still, the theme of bravery alone isn’t enough to cut from Malala to Margaret Thatcher without raising an eyebrow. Each of the stories mentioned here could make an incredibly poignant ad, but when all thrown together, the effect is disjointed and thus diluted.

2) Terrible music choice. Setting the spot to Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” makes it seem almost whimsical, and the lyrics interfere with the words spoken by our cast of brave women. Contrast this with the latest Apple ad, where soaring instrumentals really evoke some gravitas.

3) Non-inclusive. “Celebrating the women of 2013” leaves out half of the population and their relationship to the message. At Miss Representation we like to say “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Simply leading with images of these inspirational women would have been incredibly powerful without hitting the audience over the head: “Hey, LOOK! They’re all FEMALE!”

4) Cynical. This is the kicker. Tina Fey said last night “We’re hosting the Golden Globes for the second time, because this is Hollywood and if something kind of works they’ll just keep doing it until everybody hates it.” This ad seems to want to latch onto feminism as a fad rather than connect back to the simple desire for progress. I’m almost surprised there was no #girlpower tag flashed at the end of it.

I wish the campaign had made one really high-production TV spot focused on one story (I’d vote Malala, but that’s just me), then pointed to the URL housing exclusive webisodes featuring the others. What are your thoughts?

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Real-Time Social Media Marketing

Close shaves with real-time social media marketing are all too common nowadays. I have some personal experience frantically pulling down scheduled posts that ended up being sensitive in the wake of the Aurora and Newtown tragedies. It’s become best practice to cancel any scheduled content in the wake of tragedy: even if it’s not directly related, you’ll appear callous by continuing to promote on platforms where many people are actively seeking news. Here are some brands that got the message right yesterday:


Virgin America

And Airbnb waived fees on its Boston-area properties.

On the other hand, here’s Intel:


Media buying agencies need to get smarter about pausing these campaigns real-time. I still remember LG for running a Twitter promotion as devastated Hoboken residents searched for “Hoboken power” in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. When disaster hits, brands need to either step in and lend a hand, or accept that their voice is irrelevant in the current conversation.

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Shiny New Site!


I spent some time updating the personal site today. Check it out!


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What’s in a name?


I mentioned on Twitter how impressed I am with Quvenzhané Wallis’ response to an AP reporter who struggled to pronounce her name, and I’ve been thinking about the significance of her statement ever since.

I have a “weird” name, and man, did I hate it growing up. Every first day of school, I knew when the teacher was coming up on my name for roll call, because there would inevitably be some wide eyes accompanied by “oh boy, I am not going to get this name right!” After some back-and-forth, sometimes there would be a cutesy “what a mouthful!” As a shy kid, I’d often laugh along. In the two decades since, my name has gotten butchered all over the place – including at my college graduation, despite the readers asking for phonetic pronunciations beforehand. Maybe if I had seen Quvenzhané pwning with that response long ago, I might’ve learned to assert the importance of my own name at an earlier age.

It’s something that’s taken me an embarrassingly long time, and now I’m just really tired of the whole ritual. Nowadays, I usually introduce myself as Shohini, and if I’m met with a blank stare, I follow up with “Sho, if that’s easier.” Which do people usually prefer? Well, I think my handle says it all.

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A little levity

Here are two things that made my day today.

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Catching Up

I recently got a new job and am still adjusting to my new schedule –  apologies for the prolonged silence! I plan to keep up posts here and work with Miss Representation (here’s the Hoboken area Google Plus page). In the meantime, here’s another Quora response:

Why do feminists attack men for being the way that they are but at the same time become outraged if anyone points out that there are actual differences between men and women?

It’s very difficult to speak for the entire movement and everyone in it, but as someone who does consider herself a feminist, I disagree with the premise of this question. I know many feminists who have influenced me would do the same.

To me, feminism is not about female superiority, nor is it about claiming the genders are “exactly the same.” Rather, it is about breaking down gender essentialism, i.e., the belief that people are to act in a predetermined way based on their sex, and the oppressions that result. There are unequal values assigned to gendered behaviors and preferences, meaning that what is “feminine” is generally seen as “less than.” For example, “You’re a real man” is favorable, “You’re such a woman” is not.

Consequently, feminism leads me to question the phrase “men for being the way that they are.” What does that even mean? Most feminists I know challenge gender-based oppression, not men for simply being men. Given the phrasing of the question, it’s also important to note that feminists and other gender justice activists often challenge the gender binary, that is, “the classification of sex and gender into two distinct and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. It is one general type of a gender system. It can describe a social boundary that discourages people from crossing or mixing gender roles, or from creating other third (or more) forms of gender expression altogether.”(…)

Regarding the stigma that all feminists are out to attack men, here’s a favorite quote from activist Melissa McEwan:

Implicit in feminism is not only the belief, but the expectation, that men are not animals—nor infantile, stupid, useless, inept, emotionally stunted, or any other negative stereotype feminists have been accused of promoting—but instead our equals just as much as we are theirs, capable not only of understanding feminism (and feminists), but of actively and rigorously engaging challenges to their socialization, too. Feminists, of course, have the terrible reputation, but it isn’t we who consider all men babies, dopes, dogs, and rapists. The holders of those views, inevitably, are aggressive purveyors and defenders of the patriarchy—which itself, after all, takes a rather unpleasantly dim view of most people.


All that said, I’m sure there are women out there who call themselves feminists, and simply take that to mean that men are the enemy. That doesn’t really get us anywhere useful – we coexist on the same planet, after all. Personally, I’d like to get to a place where we can agree that distinct genders are complementary, rather than competing in a zero-sum game.

Full link.

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Sorry, Katie

I’ve been doing some local work with the Miss Representation campaign, and in  conversations with like-minded activists, we always come away with some interesting commonalities. Girls and women internalize no shortage of sexism, and it manifests itself in subtle ways. While talking to a couple other local representatives, we recalled how we’d all gone through tomboy phases, where we actively distanced ourselves from everything girly (including other females), subconsciously seeking approval for being unlike “most girls.” It wasn’t until I discovered feminist literature that I realized I was falling into the profile of “I’m The  Only Smart Girl In The Room Non-Feminist.

That particular phase came flooding back to me while watching interviews with Katie Couric in Miss Representation. I was 18 when Couric came to the CBS Evening News Program as anchor and managing editor, and I didn’t know much about her aside from her work at Today. Without ever watching her broadcast, I felt quite confident in my assessment of her as a “Barbie”, pointing to her attire and highlights as proof positive that she must be a bimbo. I shudder to think of it. Never mind her considerable tenure (fifteen years) as a national political correspondent, I was content to let my own internalized sexism – helped along, surely, by terrible media coverage of Couric – shape my opinion of her.

I’m sure there’s a lucky bunch of women and girls for whom this sort of thing was never an issue, because they learned to recognize blatant and coded misogyny from an early age. I wish I could’ve been part of that club. Most women I know, though, have to repair a lot of the damage retroactively. So, here’s my public apology to Katie Couric. It takes constant self-evaluation to remind ourselves to treat each other with more compassion and understanding than kyriarchal media narratives believe us capable of.


Posted in the feminist lens | 3 Comments

Simon Doonan’s Red Herring

This is a monumentally silly article from Simon Doonan over at Slate. The fact that he repeatedly uses the phrase “audacious women with impressive racks” (oh, and then likens them to cupcakes) says it all.

Ta-Nehisi Coates had a pretty accurate reaction to the piece on Twitter, and as such, this whiny column doesn’t deserve a line-by-line takedown. Suffice it to say that Mr. Doonan has focused on exceptions to the rule and turned them into a wistful account of the way things never were.

Like I’ve said before, Kim Kardashian isn’t being worshiped. Yes, she’s getting paid handsomely, but she’s part of an insidious media narrative that paints an ugly picture of women – one that Doonan himself advances by focusing solely on the “superficial vamps and tramps and bimbos.” I can’t say I’m thrilled with the Kardashians’ complicity in this narrative, but I’m sure as hell not going to pile on with the name-calling. I’ll simply make different choices in my media consumption. If enough of us do so, maybe industry gatekeepers will take the hint and start offering better fare.

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#BlogforIWD: A Collection of Infographics

In case anyone is wondering why we have International Women’s Day, here are a few infographics that help drive the point home.

The Economist: Where to be female

The Economist: Hitting women

USAID: Why Invest In Women?

GOOD: Women of War

ActionAid: Sexual Violence Against Women

Armchair Advocates: State of Women in the World

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