When Daisy first showed me this ad at my school feminist society, I almost cried. I think this might be the first truly feminist advert Ive ever seen.
In case you don’t know, #ThisGirlCan is an advert by Sport England on TV as well as a poster campaign to encourage girls to do more sport. I adore it so much because it actually promotes sport for girls in a healthy way. There is no mention of weight loss, in fact there was even some diversity in size (although no one who was “too” big. Let’s not get carried away, this is the fatphobic patriarchy after all), women of different colours and ages were shown having fun exercising as a hobby instead of the usual, suffering in the pursuit of the elusive (because it doesn’t exist) perfect body shape, promoting the Pain is Beauty narrative which justifies so much social and emotional violence against women (a.k.a. diet culture) in the name of “health”. The ad shows exercise as something positive in itself, not because it makes a company money, makes you more attractive or thinner, but because it might be enjoyable and make you happy. Full stop.
“Woah” I hear you say “something encouraging women to do sport by not fat-shaming them, profiting off their insecurities, pushing unhealthy diets PLUS showing a reasonably diverse range of women? This must be a hoax”. Now normally I would agree with you, it seems after some thorough googling that this is not a drill however #ThisGirlCan is by no means perfect. Some of the camera angles were *ahem* interesting (read: weirdly sexualising) and there wasn’t brilliant representation of of women with disabilities or older women either but all in all, I’ve definitely seen worse.
As far as I can tell, what sets this #ThisGirlCan apart from the usual “eat my product or no one will love you because you will be fat and ugly” or “give me all your money to join this gym and you too will be able to miraculously run a 10k with perfect hair, no sweat and be 7 sizes thinner” kind of ads usually associated with selling women a healthy lifestyle is precisely the fact that it is not trying to sell women a healthy lifestyle. If we look at some of adverts that have been trumpeted as a revelation and totally feminist for example Dove, Special K or CoverGirl no matter what the adverts say, no matter what stereotype they subvert and no matter what kind of diversity of female images they show, they all have one thing in common; their purpose.
Their purpose is to sell, snatch your money, do anything to get you to buy their product and everything else is just marketing strategy. Empowering women is not their aim and they do not give a damn about women, it’s not what they get paid for because, have no doubt, its all about making a profit. If these feminist ads like #GirlsCan (CoverGirl), Potty-Mouth Princess’ (FKH8) #LikeAGirl (Always) didn’t make companies money then they would give up and try a new strategy. A good example of this is Dove, in the West Dove says “Love the Skin You’re In” but all over Asia they sell dangerous skin bleaching products taking advantage of endemic shadeism that they encourage.
#ThisGirlCan is not from a company seeking to make money though, Sport England is a charity and at complete odds to previously talked about ads, the main purpose of #ThisGirlCan is female empowerment and women taking on a genuinely healthy lifestyle. This is the reason Sport England has been able to create one of the first sincerely feminist ads I have ever seen.