Female empowerment is a key hot button issue during Cannes Lions 2016, yet there was only one session exploring male identity. 72andSunny's Stephanie Feeney hosted a panel that explored the evolving concept of male identity with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, documentary filmmaker, The Representation Project; Dr. Michael Kimmel, professor, gender studies and sociology, Stony Brook University; and model/personality Shaun Ross.
Advertisers have placed boys in a "male box" that speaks to what it means to be a man. They are protectors, responsible, providers. And it is within advertisers’ scope to expand these identities and make them more realistic, the panelists said.
"The old model has collapsed," says Kimmel. "They want to have great careers and be awesome parents."
There's a clear reason why the industry has been delayed in addressing male stereotypes. Advertising has typically been male-dominated and at very early ages, men are taught to repress their emotions and disconnect the head from the heart. When you aren't in touch with your emotions, how can you be conscious you are advancing a toxic message,” asked Siebel Newsom.
It is important to note that female and male empowerment aren't mutually exclusive. "It's human potential, not gender potential," says Siebel Newsom.
The solution requires a multi-faceted approach. Boys need to be taught that it is okay to step away from traditional masculine concepts. "Children aren't allowed to have imaginations anymore, they spend all of their time on their iPhones," says Ross. Parents need to tell both boys and girls they are beautiful.
If you want to meet an instant feminist, talk to a man whose daughter just hit puberty, says Kimmel, illustrating his point with the Onion headline, "Eminem is furious his daughter is dating someone raised by listening to Eminem's music."
Brands need to open up their minds. Ross asks why so many brands showcase models that aren't representative of the buyer. Brands should take people with different looks to show how an outfit looks. "We can recreate culture," he says. "There's tremendous opportunity to right this wrong."
Advertisers hold the power to show the world what they see, says Ross. "You are the person that says yes or no."