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Woke-washing: “intersectional” femvertising and branding “woke” bravery

Francesca Sobande (School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 11 December 2019

Issue publication date: 2 December 2020

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore how and why ideas regarding “intersectional” approaches to feminism and Black activism are drawn on in marketing content related to the concept of being “woke” (invested in addressing social injustices). It considers which subject positions are represented as part of this and what they reveal about contemporary issues concerning advertising, gender, race and activism.

Design/methodology/approach

This study involves an interpretive and critical discursive analysis of so-called feminist advertising (“femvertising”) and marketing examples that make use of Black social justice activist ideas.

Findings

Findings illuminate how marketing simultaneously enables the visibility and erasure of “intersectional”, feminist and Black social justice activist issues, with the use of key racialised and gendered subject positions: White Saviour, Black Excellence, Strong Black Woman (and Mother) and “Woke” Change Agent.

Research limitations/implications

This research signals how brands (mis)use issues concerning commercialised notions of feminism, equality and Black social justice activism as part of marketing that flattens and reframes liberationist politics while upholding the neoliberal idea that achievement and social change requires individual ambition and consumption rather than structural shifts and resistance.

Practical implications

This work can aid the development of advertising standards regulatory approaches which account for nuances of stereotypical representations and marketing’s connection to intersecting issues regarding racism and sexism.

Originality/value

This research outlines a conceptualisation of the branding of “woke” bravery, which expands our understanding of the interdependency of issues related to race, gender, feminism, activism and marketing. It highlights marketing responses to recent socio-political times, which are influenced by public discourse concerning movements, including Black Lives Matter and Me Too.

Keywords

Citation

Sobande, F. (2020), "Woke-washing: “intersectional” femvertising and branding “woke” bravery", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54 No. 11, pp. 2723-2745. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-02-2019-0134

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited