French fight against sexist ads comes to Germany

"I studied marketing. We were immediately told that there were separate ads for men and women. And even if it was the same product, some advertisers don't hesitate to charge more for a women's product [...]," said Marion Vaquero, founder of Pépite Sexiste. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON [EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON]

For two years now, French association Pépite Sexiste has been fighting against gender stereotypes in advertising. It has now decided to go international and has even launched one of its subsidiaries in Germany called Servus Sexismus. EURACTIV France reports.

Advertising can be as shocking as it is retrograde.

For example, to attract volunteers, the German Red Cross decided in the ad pictured below to have a blonde first aid worker in a short dress – whose outfit is better suited for a trip to Saint-Tropez than for a humanitarian intervention – accompanied by the slogan “help is for everyone” and a bag bearing the words “naturally also for shoes” on it.

The ad’s message? Although women can be first-aid workers, they are above all ‘fashionistas’.

This ad was shared on social media by Pépite Sexiste’s German subsidiary, Servus Sexismus, three weeks ago when it launched its new Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

On these pages, ads by brands, companies and organisations are piling up and Servus Sexismus, just like French association Pépite Sexiste, is calling out the gender stereotypes and ordinary sexism spread in the advertisement industry by questioning those concerned and confronting them with the clichés they convey.

“Sometimes they respond to us and with a bit of luck, they withdraw the ad that causes the problem. If not, our questions will have had the merit of making the public aware of these clichés,” said Marion Vaquero, founder of Pépite Sexiste.

Pink and thus more expensive?

At first, Pépite Sexiste was just a Twitter page where the young auto-entrepreneur posted examples of gendered ads.

“I studied marketing. We were immediately told that there were separate ads for men and women. And even if it was the same product, some advertisers don’t hesitate to charge more for women’s products, which are often in pink, than for the men’s version. This is known as the pink tax,” said Vaquero.

Danke @dm-drogerie markt Deutschland für das gute Pink Tax Beispiel. 2€ mehr für die weibliche Version? 🤔

Geplaatst door Servus Sexismus op Donderdag 27 augustus 2020

Always made with humour, Pépite Sexiste posts quickly went viral. From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, an association was finally set up a year later, run by motivated volunteers. Elise and Mathilde are part of it and manage the German pages of Servus Sexismus from Munich and Strasbourg.

“Finding the first ads took us a bit of time”, said Elise. “In Germany, it seems that the big brands are more careful not to spread gender stereotypes and are already aware of these issues,” she added.

Does that mean that German marketing could be less macho?

Not really, according to Elise and Mathilde, who highlighted the large number of advertisements in Germany featuring women in light clothing, if not totally naked.

Now an international concept

By hunting down sexist discourse – which can also be found in job offers, as well as on packaging and user instructions – Pépite Sexiste founder Marion Vaquero found a few recurring examples.

“We constantly find notices indicating ‘recommended by mothers’ which are always in reference to nappies, baby pots and bibs. As if they were the only ones who knew how to look after a child,” she said.

In the spring of 2020, the association expanded internationally and currently has eight branches – in Mexico, the US, Quebec, Morocco, Mauritius, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Germany.

Although the operating principles are the same, the work can be more intense in some branches. “In Morocco, for example, or in Mauritius, we have noticed that there is more work. There are more brands to call out, but also more work to raise awareness,” observed Vaquero.

This mammoth task, however, is not discouraging the volunteers as the association intends to expand to six new countries in the coming months, including Spain, the Netherlands, Tunisia and Algeria.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

Subscribe to our newsletters