We need to reconstruct the gender narrative in ads: Madonna Badger

Chief Creative Officer & Founder of Badger and Winters, Madonna Badger, talks about the need for a collective movement to look at women not just as objects of desire

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Apr 22, 2019 8:34 AM

Chief Creative Officer & Founder of Badger and Winters Madonna Badger is fighting the case for reconstructing the gender narrative in advertising. According to Badger, there needs to be a collective movement to look at women not just as “objects of desire” but as “strong, human and whole”.

In an interview, Badger spoke about the fault lines of this gender debate and how it could be addressed


Where does gender conversation in the ad space stand today and how can the narrative of objectification of women in ads get addressed?

If we look at the US advertising, it has changed over the years.  I think the idea of objectification is –props, parts and plastic.  What we are trying to say is that as a woman, we are whole, human and strong.

As far as addressing the objectification of women in ads is concerned, I strongly believe empathy is the way to deal with it. When you have a woman in a bikini standing next to a car, it is pretty obvious what you are trying to get across.

My argument is: why isn’t she shown as the super cool driver or as the engineer who helped marvel it and make it. We need to think how could we look past the stereotypes and objectifying visions of women, and that is why empathy and using your heart becomes of utmost importance.

With the coming of social media platforms like Instagram etc, there are rising instances of self-objectification. In your view, does this underline the strong influence that advertising has on our collective psyche?

There is no doubt that women self-objectify a lot on social media and other places because they believe it is the norm. One of the reasons for this is when you are bombarded with such images where women are shown as mere objects of desire; women are filled with anxiety and pain. And since they can’t measure up to what is being portrayed because that is not humanely possible, they become victims of self-objectification.

What is your advice to advertisers to avoid falling in the trap of gender stereotyping?

Right now, influencers across social media are ruling the world. Influencers are capable of reconstructing the narrative of looking at women as whole, human and strong.

Also, if you are going to use a model or an actress, use her as a whole human and strong woman, nor as a prop. Don’t just use her body parts and don’t portray her beyond human perfection.

Creative agencies are highly evolved places that attract top talent and yet we see them propagating gender stereotypes, where does the fault lie?

I have clients that are still hell bent on that construct of how the world looks at women. But when the paradigm shifts and the change occurs, and success happens, that is when the world says ‘oh I want that’.

Just like anything else in life, there are going to be leaders and followers. I really caution people to live in black and white because it doesn’t leave room for trial and error. I think we are trying to challenge this issue and that is where we are today and I believe the change will happen in this way alone.

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