Top image: Zachary Tang / RICE file photo
International Women’s Day first started as a socialist campaign to advocate for better conditions for women. 15,000 women marched through New York City streets demanding shorter work hours, better pay, and voting rights.
Ironically, what started off as a socialist campaign has been devoured and incorporated into the corporate machinery. Some social media campaigns celebrating International Women’s Day come off as disingenuous—simply another PR stunt to rile up public support and perhaps to translate that support into sweet clout and, subsequently, profits.
Once again, our corporate overlords have proved that as long as you’re ballsy enough, even a cause as well-intentioned as fighting for womens’ rights can be appropriated for profit. In other words, being performative gets you sweet moolah if you play your cards right.
In any case, this year’s focus is on bridging the digital gender gap. According to the International Monetary Fund, women’s digital and technology-related literacy remains low as measured by the global share of women in STEM fields—it’s 15 percent.
Of course, it’s important to celebrate women—not just today, but every day. But, a dedicated day such as today is a corporate get-out-of-jail-free card. In an era of constant branding, it’s much too easy for insincere corporate accounts to go faux-feminism. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Promises and posturing can only do so much.
A deeper look at these corporate campaigns perhaps reveals more business-minded intentions behind embarking on an International Women’s Day campaign—whether it’s something they genuinely wanted to do or simply a box ticked off on a checklist. Or both.
So let’s have a report card for these campaigns.
“Over 99.99 percent of Grab rides are boringly uneventful,” the tagline of Grab’s celebration of International Women’s Day reads. With a slew of extra safety features rolled out by Grab, women in Singapore are almost guaranteed to have a boring, uneventful ride.
Of course, the ideal scenario should be that all rides for everyone are uneventful and boring, regardless of gender. And also uneventful for our wallets, but one can only dream.
Sure, it’s cute marketing. But when this year’s theme is specifically concerned with the share of women in STEM jobs, Grab has the chance to showcase some of its initiatives to ensure a diverse boardroom and workforce in a tech company.
Celebrating the safety women enjoy in their rides does seem more like an advertisement for the safety of their services though. Instead of celebrating women themselves.
Love, Bonito is a favourite among a certain demographic of Singaporean women. They celebrated International Women’s Day with a tapestry of stories exploring what it means to be feminine. The brand played to its strengths—its distinct colour palette and aesthetics featuring photogenic ladies.
Not sure if the company managed to convince people about having size inclusivity though.
It’s great that the tech company (which happens to sell coffee) is celebrating female customers with profiles about their lives. They’re intimate, empowering and resonate with an audience that looks up to these entrepreneurs.
We’re deducting points for their tagline though: Not all superheroes wear capes, some wear “heels” or “activewear”. Not to mention there’s not very little connection to Flash Coffee, except a small mention at the end that they drink it.
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong
Judging from his track record, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong should be excellent at TikTok. Have you seen the one where he’s crossing the road to Parliament House to deliver the Budget speech? It’s badass in its own way.
However, Lawrence Wong’s latest TikTok video on International Women’s Day seems off-brand. It’s not about the women in the video or the delivery. It’s just surprising to see him standing so far away from the camera. Literally and metaphorically, he feels distant.
I understand that he’s valuable cargo as our next Prime Minister, but surely his minders can permit his social media person to get a little bit up close and personal. Especially when he’s espousing a “more inclusive Singapore”.
Grade: B+ (For a Harvard Graduate, this might be the first B he’s ever received in his life.)
‘Follow Me to Work on Sentosa on International Women’s Day’? Cool! We’ve always wanted to find out what happened behind the scenes at Sentosa. But how is the day different from any other day? If this was posted outside of International Women’s Day, it would just be another employee day-in-the-life video.
Brownie points for cute animals, though.
Singapore Police Force
Everyone’s a sucker for nostalgia. The Singapore Police Force picked out some of the women serving in the force and tugged on the heartstrings of Singaporeans with baby photos. Who could resist? It would benefit from the officers being a bit more badass instead of just sitting down, though.
There’s also the question of following the ‘attractive female in uniform‘ marketing playbook too.
There’s a promo deal for menstrual cramp relief pads. Enough said.