One of the key struggles regarding gender issues has always been the pursuit of visibility. In recent years, the effects of this social battle have been noticed and are engaging a growing number of people.
With an eye on this audience, the advertising market has begun a process of causewashing. This word describes the behavior of brands that attach themselves to “fashionable” causes through marketing campaigns and initiatives. However, many of these companies do not implement any concrete actions in support of the causes they promote.
Today, brands cast empowered women as the protagonists in their advertisements, they use trans women as poster girls and include gay men among their target audience, but is their business really aligned with these causes? Is there a significant level of female representation on their boards or trans people on their staff? Do the husbands of gay employees have easy access to parental leave and health plans?
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L’Oreal Paris Brazil: Women’s Day 2016 campaign
Among the popular topics used in causewashing, the agender movement is the flavor of the month. Demonstrating a lack of awareness, the advertising market uses an outdated idea whose concept is not consistent with the terminology. Some brands in the fashion sector have vocally defended the agender movement as describing something that can be worn by all genders. In other words, a new way to describe the good old term, “unisex”.
This alleged support ignores the function of the prefix that comes before the word gender. The intention of this prefix is to imply absence. It is the classic difference between immoral and amoral. Something immoral is something that goes against morality, while amoral means that which has no morality, i.e. that which is morally neutral. Agender therefore means an absence of gender, which is not a part of this discussion.
Brands that hope to be innovative and bold by entering into discussions as relevant as gender should not be guided by avoidance. Gender issues still demand visibility, and we cannot pretend that they do not exist. Conversations on polygender, for example, are more current – and more challenging for brands. It is more convenient to discuss the idea that the notion of male and female does not exist than to assume that male, femlae, and gender x all exist, and that people can flow from one to another.
Art strikes back
Brands and institutions are still afraid of approaching this notion of fluidity, and this fear is not unfounded. The growth of conservatism has frightened many who once believed that the world had advanced in terms of human and civil rights and in the fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, body shaming, xenophobia, etc. Support for the Trumps, Bolsonaros and many other conservatives around the globe suggests that there has been a step backwards on all of these fronts.
The key questions that arise from this fear is “what can we do?”, and “is anyone fighting back?”. The answers are not simple, but it is possible to identify a number of indications that the progressive among us are taking action. To catch a glimpse of them, you have to look beyond the areas where the conservatives have gained ground – the economy, representative politics, and religious fundamentalism – and listen to the voices that are on the counter attack. Their most fertile ground is in the arts, which clearly and forcefully expresses the reality of the situation.
When analyzing contemporary artistic expression, especially Brazilian music, it is undeniable that there is a link between the artists. The Tombamento Generation, is taking the spotlight; a new wave of singers whose work is united by the representative force of society’s key issues – race, gender, and sexuality. The concept arose from the Black Movement and describes new artistic expressions that operate as a way of fighting and protesting.
Although there is debate as to whether their position is political or aesthetic - or both - this group of artists and their audience together strive to break down the standards of common sense.
— Click on the images to watch the clips.
The Tombamento Generation is the granddaughter of the Tropicalia movement – which made Caetano, Gil, Mautner and Gal famous – and younger sister to New MPB – Tulipa Ruiz, Marcelo Jeneci and Céu – and acts as an inspiration, proving that there is space and demand for a freer future.
Although none of them has yet reached the heights of Ivete Sangalo, Anitta, or Luan Santanna, the plaudits that these new artists have earned during this time of crisis still represents progress. Their presence on social networks and in mass media demonstrates the legitimacy of their struggle in the eyes of civil society.