Even liberal movies can’t avoid ticking off feminists.
In the lead-up to Christmas, Focus Features released a Facebook ad encouraging women to sign up to win a free shopping spree and a trip to Washington, D.C., to celebrate the release of “On the Basis of Sex,” a movie about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Women attacked this as “sexist,” “sexploitational,” and “deeply unsettling,” and it does seem particularly tone-deaf in context.
“Win a shopping spree and a trip to Washington, D.C. for you and a friend to celebrate the release of On the Basis of Sex based on a true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Focus Features wrote in the ad. The ad included a link to the Focus Features website and an invitation to sign up for the contest with a flashy picture of Felicity Jones in a suit in front of the Supreme Court.
Women on Facebook did not take kindly to the ad.
“Am I the only one who finds this deeply unsettling?” one woman asked. “This is supposed to be a movie about breaking female stereotypes and getting representation in government but on this free trip they will take us shopping?”
One woman expressed her excitement for the Ruth Bader Ginsburg film, while admitting that the shopping spree “is a little sexist.” Another asked if she could skip the shopping spree “and take a tour or something? It’s DC. If I wanted to shop I could do that at home.”
Others mocked the advertisement. One woman imagined the marketing plan behind the ad:
Focus Features Marketing Genius #1: “How should we sell a feminist film to women viewers without employing the very stereotypes the film’s subject seeks to break down?”
Focus Features Marketing Genius #2: “Uh…shopping?”
This comment received 118 reactions, and one commenter responded, “DAMN grrrrrrrl! burn level: HIROSHIMA.”
Another woman posted that she agreed “with all postings about the very blatant sexploitational promo and poster for this movie.” She argued that even though “On the Basis of Sex” is “supposed to be a serious biographical movie,” the ad “looks like Mrs. Mazel Goes to Washington. Not liking!” Another agreed that the ad was “so blatantly suggestive.”
Another woman suggested a meet and greet instead of a shopping spree. “I’d rather go and meet RGB [sic]… a shopping spree no thanks. I’d rather be able to spend an hour (or more) talking and listening,” she wrote.
Ironically, one commenter who complained about the ad’s sexism got in trouble for another form of discrimination.
“How to make men interested: Let’s use the word sex! How to make women interested: OMG shopping! Why do I get the feeling this marketing team is over 50?” one woman posted. Another shot back, “Ageism. No better, dear.”
The original commenter responded, “Perhaps but at some point one should admit that there is a certain age that goes along with this archaic mentality. I’m between X & Millennial and am really tired of this attempt at capturing people’s attention.”
One profane commenter simply responded, “A shopping spree? Really? Talk about f**king tone deaf.”
While feminists often go overboard and find sexism in matters of everyday life, their complaints about this ad seem fitting.
“On the Basis of Sex” focuses on the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman whose twin dedications to her family and her career were truly impressive and trailblazing. She cared for her husband (struggling with cancer) and her infant daughter, all while rising in the ranks of the legal profession.
The film also presents Ginsburg as a trailblazer who argued against laws that assume specific gender roles in society. This makes her a feminist hero. (Many conservatives rightly argue she has twisted the law toward liberal activism, and even some liberals worry that lionizing Ginsburg sends the wrong message about the legal profession.)
It does indeed seem odd for Focus Features to promote such a feminist film by offering a free shopping spree. Perhaps they need to get to know their audience a bit better.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.