Shine Strong If You’re Thin, White and Pretty

By Ciara Rouege

Don’t be too pretty or people will think you’re dumb and vain. Don’t be too ugly or men won’t be attracted to you— you’ll die alone. Be professional and glamorous but not too glamours otherwise you’re co-workers won’t take you seriously or too professional otherwise you won’t make office friends.

It’s hard out there for a woman. Society always wants us to live in some strange middle ground where we have to be the appropriate amount of everything. How often is a handsome, clean-shaven man in a stylish suit told to tone it down for his job interview otherwise his skills and genius will get overlooked?

Pantene Shampoo’s “Don’t let labels hold you back” commercial from the “Shine Strong” campaign tells women to proudly tip the scale of appropriateness. The video features a woman being negatively criticized for having characteristics men are most often praised for.

The campaign, which was created by the Grey Advertising Agency in New York, has received overall approval in the advertising community for its ability to highlight a social issue that is often down played in corporate America and life. Pantene manufacturer Procter & Gamble brought the ad’s intentions full circle, when the company announced its collaboration with the American Association of University Women in June. The partnership will support college women by underwriting monetary grants and create a new program designed to encourage female student leaders to speak out against gender bias and stereotypes.

The campaign also includes a commercial titled “Sorry, not sorry”, which aims to persuade women to stop apologizing for mundane offenses or essentially being human.

Pantene’s movement would be prefect…if it wasn’t blissfully ironic.

Throughout this ad campaign the commercials have failed to represent the full-figured women or women of color who dominate the female demographic of this nation. The casting sends a subliminal message that Pantene will help you shine strong in the office, if you’re fair skinned and—should I say, living life with a high metabolism.

Surely, shampoo usage doesn’t stop after a woman reaches the double-digit pants sizes? The average women in the United States is a size 12.  And although I’m forced to leave the passively racist ethnic hair section at Walmart to buy Pantene’s products, shouldn’t I and sisters of color be represented too?

Pantene should be praised for its intentions: Unfair social labels have prevented many women from achieving their career goals. But until it diversifies the women pictured in its campaign, Pantene will continue to promote harmful definitions of beauty in America.

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