FEMINIST FRIDAY: Athleta’s “Power Of She” Video Series Tackles Ageism, Pregnancy & Body Image

It seems we have reached a moment in the zeitgeist where it is now commonplace to see advertising campaigns that aren’t built on the premise of enforcing and leveraging women’s low self-esteem in order to sell a product. When Dove began their “Real Beauty” Campaign many years ago it was a pivot point for the beauty and advertising industries. It took a while, but many other brands have started to follow, realizing that consumers are smart, loyal, and perceptive of how they are being marketed to, more than ever before. Always’ “Like A Girl” has become a well-known campaign around the world over the past few years.

In the age of social media and instant viral-like reactions to a scandal or controversy, when a brand dares to venture back to bygone decades’ playbook of using cheap sexism and using women’s bodies or appearances as the butt of a joke to demean them, they can count on being on the receiving end of consumer backlash.

Women’s athleisure brand Athleta released their first branded video series in 2016 called ‘The Power of She’, where the central themes are inclusion, sisterhood, and celebrating each woman no matter their age, race, weight, background etc. They have clearly been paying attention to the growing movement of female empowerment advertising, or “femvertising” as it has been called, and have recently released a series of new videos centered around three particular groups of women.

The first is 98 year-old yoga teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch, considered to be the world’s oldest yoga teacher, and Dr. Terri Kennedy, a yoga & meditation teacher who travel the world to inspire and impact the lives of women. We very rarely see women as old as Tao being given a mainstream platform like this. Many of us are familiar with the societal erasure of importance and visibility around women after they start to hit a *certain* age. We see it in films and TV, and most certainly in high fashion and advertising. Athleta is sending the message that age should not count you out from being considered a role model, an inspiration, or a vision of “mainstream beauty”. Watch Tao and Terri below:

Tao has been teaching yoga for 75 years and is well aware that her status in the world is seen as a rebellion. She first discovered yoga as an 8 year-old at a time when women weren’t doing it as much as they are today.

“I saw some boys doing what I thought was a new game and I was told by my aunts, ‘No that’s yoga’ and it’s not ladylike’. They let me play with them and eventually I started to do true yoga. Nothing’s impossible. When you wake up every morning say, ‘This is going to be the best day of my life’,” she said.

The second video is focused on a trio of runners who are bringing awareness to maternal healthcare for supermodel Christy Turlington’s organization Every Mother Counts. Clancy, Kristen, and Roma often run the same distances an expectant mother might have to walk to get medical care. They do these long runs to raise money and awareness to provide skilled healthcare to new and soon-to-be moms around the world. Through the Power of Community, they’ve been able to help support over 400,000 women.

The third video features the work of photographer Kate T. Parker, who is known for capturing women in their natural beauty, which will be featured in an upcoming book called ‘Strong is the New Pretty’. The short vignette shows 4 young girls playing sports and being active together, while simultaneously expressing empowering statements such as “girls can do anything”.

“I see these young girls who are super timid when they first step in the field. And they learn a little bit and they gain confidence and it just grows…I see them come together, I see them support each other. I see them build each other up on the field and I see it translate off the field,” said Kate about what she witnesses among the girls.

The inter-generational aspect of this video series is part of Athleta’s mission to appeal to as wide an audience of women as possible.

“Athleta stands for inclusivity. We want to break down stereotypes and help redefine perceptions of wellness and strength while celebrating the power of the female collective to make an impact,” said Athleta president Nancy Green in a statement.

The ‘Power of She’ may be a marketing slogan for this brand, but it carries weight far beyond these videos. Advertising has a powerful impact on our everyday lives, and it’s important to see empowering messages like this becoming more commonplace.

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