Over time, stereotypes concerning women were re-defined thanks to several women holding positions of authority over men. However, it wasn’t always like this as women were disrespected, undervalued, and unappreciated. Throughout history, men dominated professional and most of personal roles in society. Women were expected to play their part as “housewives” and provide nourishment to the household. But, that had all changed over the last century. The century of the 1900s experienced a massive revolution and change for defining “sex-role stereotypes”. It witnessed a huge transformation of roles and expectations, specifically for women. This was all thanks to Amelia Earhart, Vera Atkins, and Mother Teresa just to name a few. Amelia Earhart, born 1897, broke the record for reaching 14,000 feet above ground in 1921. Mother Teresa, born 1910, initiated the Missionaries of Charities which caught the attention of several nuns for the right reasons. The institution provided service for free for the less fortunate in over 130 countries. These services were concerned with the management of residential homes of the deceased, constructing homes for children without parents, and developing of educational buildings. Vera Atkins, born 1908, was presented with the Croix de Guerre (War Cross), French military decoration awarded to those showing heroism, in 1948. The award was first presented in 1915 during World War I, then again in the second World War. Atkins was presented with this great honour for her dedication to locate the 118 Special Operation Executives (SOE) who hadn’t returned home after World War II had ended. These women etched their names in history as some of the influential women of the century. Not only that, they were recognized and appreciated for their accomplishments as well as holding positions of power over men. It was in this decade in which expectations were exceeded and glass ceilings were “destroyed”. Women obtained the right to vote as individuals, the right to work and fend for themselves, and to hold an authoritative position in either their personal or professional lives. By the year 1970, a third of the women with children 3-5 years of age were incorporated into the labour force. Fundamentally speaking, women were placed in positions to stand equally with their male counterparts. Despite the progress, women confronted countless obstacles to how they were presented to the world. As a result, several public service announcements (PSA) were produced to battle the challenges women faced. One specific PSA involved the all too familiar organization built to preserve peace amongst nations, the United Nations. More specifically, the UN Women, created by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in July of 2010. UN Women was created as a result of UN confronted with obstacles in the effort of the organization to positively endorse equality between men and women across the globe. As such, a public service advertisement was produced for the sole purpose of assisting UN Women in their outlined objective. Using this idea, UN Women successfully promoted their intended message and empowered women as the ad utilized real opinions concerning women searched on Google to reinforce the message of “gender equality” to produce the “Most Shared Ad of 2013” as referred to by AdWeek (McGourty, 2017).
As previously mentioned, UN Women utilized the theme of “gender equality” and produced a public service advertisement referred to as, “The Autocomplete Truth”. When initiating a public service announcement in any form, it’s required to study the problems which arose in the countries intended to promote the message. Interestingly, the study conducted for the development of the public service announcement wasn’t so difficult. To gather data and research, a straightforward search was performed on Google by employees around the globe working for Memac Ogily & Mather. It was determined this method was quick, straightforward, and efficient in terms of finances. This allowed for separating a larger budget for various other features of the advertisement. The purpose of the ad was to advertise the message “women need to be seen as equal”. The advertisement featured a woman of colour, appearing to be in her thirties, wearing a hijab. A google search bar was placed over the woman’s mouth which simply had entered the search, “women need to”. However, what occurred as a result of the search was what had the public was concerned. After keying in “women need to” in the search bar, many negative sentiments regarding women were revealed. This was searched globally across 10 countries, which included America. These sentiments ranged from stereotypes to a sentiment that blatantly denied the fundamental rights of women. Specifically speaking, the results revealed that “women need to be put in their place”, “women need to know their place”, “women need to be controlled”, and “women need to be disciplined”. The answers presented were real-life “autocomplete” results, and they were displayed in countries from the west. Results from the Google search which appeared to be upsetting the most, for instance “women need to be put in their place”, were selected by UN Women to positively promote the fundamental message of the public service advertisement across. The strategy proved to be quite effective as the hashtag “#womenshould” went viral and was expressed by UN Women more than 50 countries tweeted using the hashtag. Not only that, but 755 million people also witnessed the message across the globe (McGourty, 2017).
Another theme that needed to be addressed that assisted with the success of the public service announcement was control. As briefly expressed, women had not been recognized or respected for their accomplishments or beliefs prior to the 1920s. They were not even considered “persons” and were disrespected to the extent that, “No one considered the way women experienced the world” (Tuchman, 42). Women’s opinions and values were disregarded by men and as a result were viewed as, “men’s silent or unopinionated consort” (Tuchman, 42). Essentially, it was presumed women followed the lead of “strong” and “dominant” males without a free will of their own. This idea of silencing women from expressing themselves and their beliefs was explicitly represented in the UN Women PSA. The ad was developed in such a manner as to plaster the Google search bar across the woman’s mouth. The search bar represented the metaphorical “chain” that bound the women and provided the power and influence the male counterparts held over women to “control” them. This technique was utilized as if to indicate that women did in fact needed to be silenced. The way the advertisement was creatively designed was a factor that majorly contributed to the popularity it received. UN Women determined this to be a major concern regarding the fundamental rights of women. As such, it was expressed that the ad be developed in such a way that isn’t focused on any other matter. The advertisement hadn’t mentioned the term “men” which as a result had not “blamed” nor “bashed” them. It’s argued, many problems of feminism are caused as a result of men being provoked either explicitly or implicitly. However, the public service announcement was designed and developed in a manner to target the fundamental rights of women which contained no implication to the views of “anti-male”. The ad was designed with the preconceived assumption to be frank without the direct expression of “in your face” (McGourty, 2017). The woman in the ad represents a group of people that currently exist in the world. As a result, individuals who felt connected to the women visualized themselves in her shoes. This technique, along with the mouth-covered bar, as well as the searches conducted on Google instilled hostility and misunderstanding amongst the mass. This was the precise response UN Women wanted to achieve which resulted in the ad being talked about across various newscast channels including CNN, Time, Al Jazeera more than 600 times (McGourty, 2017).
UN Women released yet another public service advertisement which contributed to the successful promotion of the intended message. This public service announcement was presented in the form of a video that expressed the message, “women should be seen equal by now”. The video ad shared examples throughout history when women made significant contributions to be viewed and recognized on equal grounds as men. The advertisement commenced from the year 1869 when women protested for equal rights. Next, the video presented the year 1893, when women were finally permitted to cast their votes and ballots. After that, it presented a small clip of the first female pilot, Amelia Earhart, who made groundbreaking strides for women’s revolution in the flight industry, as previously described. The video continued and presented great females who made significant contributions throughout history and ended with Sarah Attar, one of the first Saudi-American female athletes who competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Sarah had become an inspiration for many women across the world who shared her beliefs. The conclusion of the video presented a clip of the Google search, “women should” along with the negative results for which the PSA ad was popularized. After the clip, the video closed with it’s intended message to promote, “women should be seen equal by now”. The audience intended for the advertisement is comprised of women. Specifically speaking, women active on social media channels as the ‘#womenshould’ hashtag went viral on Twitter. The intended target audience for the public service advertisement consisted of women of 17-25 years. This range was the average age of women who utilized Twitter in the year 2013. To market to a greater audience of women, UN Women decided to advertise on Facebook. On this platform, the average age of female users was 35 years in 2013. Later, it was decided the video be aired during the Super Bowl and World Cup, the two televised events watched most by viewers. Along with this marketing strategy was the widespread coverage by media the advertisement obtained which allowed UN Women to reach a greater audience of women globally than what was initially planned. UN Women received extensive support from the media coverage which resulted for an effective public service announcement. The success received allowed the for the ad to be recognized as the “Social Campaign of the Year” for Ad Council.
Many individuals were confronted with stereotypes and barriers that restricted any chance for progress over the past few years. However, this certain case concerned women and their significant potential to produce great contributions to society. The year 1900s witnessed an incredible women’s revolution that provided women with rights equal to men. However, women continuously faced challenges on a regular basis. An exclusive component for “The Autocomplete Truth” was it held ethical influence over the general mass rather than an organization or firm. It held moral power over those who performed the google searches detailed on the advertisement as well as several individuals from cultures of the West. The common phrase “women should be slaves” is searched to this day, despite people being aware of its immoral implications. An individual’s reputation would be damaged if the saying was expressed openly to the public. The advertisement fundamentally revealed the sexist remarks supressed across the globe and confronted the general public to transform their ideologies. The public service announcement was quite effective to say that least. It surpassed the initial anticipated expectations made by the team which produced the content. The advertisement had not only established new records for future social ads but was recognized as one the best ads produced. It’s a well-known fact amongst the general population that gender inequality existed throughout history and is present to this day. Women had been disrespected, unappreciated, and more importantly viewed as inferior to men. In other words, their only significant function in society was to perform the duties of a “housewife” as media had perfectly presented “contradictory representations of female gender identity” (Crymble, 64). However, the advertisement outlined the common gender-role stereotype in subtle yet impactful manner. As previously stated, individuals had searched those precise phrases into Google. Not only that, it was determined the searches were performed in countries recognized as “socially progressive” in modern times. The fact is, “women should” be respected in society and presented in a manner that allows them to break ceilings and overcome stereotypes. Advertising the women are to be “slaves” will only become detrimental for the next generation of women. The Google searches presented in the face of society are nothing more than “wake up calls” (Shuhaibar, 2013) and a major representation of “how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality (Shuhaibar, 2013).
- Crymble, Sarah B. “Contradiction Sells Feminine Complexity and Gender Identity Dissonance in Magazine Advertising.” Journal of Communication Inquiry, vol. 36, no. 1, 2011, pp. 62–84., doi:10.1177/0196859911429195.
- McGourty, C. “UN Women and the #WomenShould Campaign.” 4 Nov. 2017.
- Tuchman, Gaye, et al. “The Symbolic Annihilation of Women by the Mass Media.” Hearth and Home: Images of Women in the Mass Media, Oxford University Press, 1978, pp. 41–58.
- “About UN Women.” UN Women, www.unwomen.org/en/about-us/about-un-women.
- “UN Women Ad Series Reveals Widespread Sexism.” UN Women, 21 Oct. 2013, www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2013/10/women-should-ads.
- “UN Women – The Autocomplete Truth.” YouTube, 18 Nov. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkNlGuW-0g8.
- “100 Women Who Changed the World: the Results.” History Extra, 9 Aug. 2018, www.historyextra.com/100-women/100-women-results/.