A Unique Moment in History – By @marleygam
By Marley Muirhead
A Unique Moment in History
Friday was the first talk we had that spoke to me as a person, not as a creative. That sounds really dramatic but bear with. Ahead of our third strategy talk our mentor, Uri, gave us feedback on a brief we fulfilled last week. His feedback widened to how we speak about gender as creatives. What he said is that it is unnecessary and outdated to target branding to specifically men or specifically women. He explained that we are in a unique moment in history where perceptions of gender are being questioned, challenged and explored more than any other point in Western civilisation. Advertising is accountable for decades of endorsement of gender stereotypes and gender oppression. We, as a new generation of creatives have the power to go the other way.
Uri also explained the differences between gender and gender performativity. That there is a difference between identifying as a man and being someone who exhibits characteristics ascribed to the masculine. Someone can do both, of course, and many do. To my understanding, Uri was stressing the difference that very much exists between these two concepts. What I felt that Uri was teaching us was that gender is a construct. Gender theory was something I was able to study at university so I felt quite familiar with the terminology and concepts Uri was describing. However it did make me wonder about those who hadn’t learned about this, either through education or through personal experience.
Uri’s words empowered me unlike anything had in that studio. What he was talking about is the exact reason I want to enter this industry. I want my career to extort commercialism for every drop of activism it is capable of. Even calling it activism doesn’t feel quite appropriate – I just want to do bloody right by people. I want to see a black man like my brother cry on TV because he’s upset and that’s fine. I want to see a group of women like the ones opposite me at Nando’s all be the “attractive one” because no woman’s beauty negates the other. To me “activism” doesn’t always have to be a loud, booming statement. It’s in all the small decisions. That’s my North Star for my career. And Uri was the first mentor who made me feel like I had a place here industry, that I could achieve this.
What I’m also grateful to have gained from this talk was the reminder to keep learning about the experiences of others. Uri reminded all of us that advertising is not separate from the world. We have often been reminded to collect dots, go to art galleries, concerts, book readings, any experience. But in the same way should we not as regularly be connecting ourselves to the communities around us (and not around us)? In keeping with the discussion about gender performativity, there is the statement often made that most people do not feel like this. Most people in the country might not feel like gender is performance, that you should market things specifically to a woman and specifically to a man. Perhaps that’s true. But that doesn’t change the fact that gender roles and gender stereotypes are oppressive. That shouldn’t stop us from joining the plight to make the world a less ignorant place. And ignorance, what a charged word! I actually don’t ignorance is the worst thing in the world. Can I sit here and say I would’ve understood Uri’s talk as much if I hadn’t had the privilege of educational resources? No I cannot. Culture don’t have no tuition fees. What I think is sinful beyond belief is a refusal to listen. To be offered new information and a new perspective and not be open to understanding it. Even if you still end up disagreeing. We as creatives facilitate that toxic process if we choose to project the same timeworn norms as our advertising forefathers. We, as creatives, have the power to reach more people than a university lecture ever could. It would be careless not to use it.