Once upon a time, in an era I’m thankful I wasn’t born into, a mixed race couple would have been considered the height of controversy. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve still got a long way to go when eliminating racism from our society, but in 21st century Britain, racist views are most certainly considered extreme and are challenged when raised.
There was also a time when women couldn’t vote, when marital rape was legal and when a woman wasn’t allowed to own property. While there’s still a lot of casual sexism abound and a gaping pay gap, we’ve also come a long way. This social change didn’t come about on its own. The history behind it is complex and involves the sacrifices, protests, intelligent arguments and, in some cases, lives, of many incredible people. But it also involved a change in cultural discourse, which is something that the majority of people need to be a part of.
I believe we’re at a similar turning point in history when it comes to equal rights for everyone. While some brands have embraced this (mainly in the US) and firmly voiced their support for gay marriage, for promoting a healthy body image and so on, many others have held back. Perhaps they are fearful of offending some of their audience, or maybe it’s just never occurred to them that some of the language they use is harmful. Maybe they subscribe to the view that political correctness, rather than being a way of using inclusive and thoughtful language, is a bad thing. Whatever the reason, you can be brave with your brand, you can be on the right side of history without having to make any real changes at all. Here are three small ways you can change the world by changing the way you do business:
How many wedding magazines do you read that STILL assume that only heterosexual couples get married. Yes, gay marriage has only just been legalised, but before that there were couples planning civil partnerships to consider. Whenever you put out a piece of copy, an advertising campaign or any kind of branded material, ask yourself if you’ve unintentionally used language that excludes a portion of society. No, you can’t be perfect all the time, and no, you don’t have to yell about how inclusive you are, but you can think about what you say and how you say it. In recent years, we’ve only used words like “partner”, “other half” and “spouse” when referring to relationships and marriage as to use gender-specific terms would be making a mighty big assumption.
Like, oh my God, what is she wearing?
Don’t pressurise or be bitchy
We live in a world where celebrity magazines draw big nasty rings around people’s perceived body flaws for everybody to laugh at. Is it any wonder, then, that in this sweltering heat, people feel pressure from all angles to make every part of their body look perfect before they can dress appropriately for the weather? You don’t have to be a part of that. I never arbitrarily tell people to lose weight or get their “bikini body” ready. I couldn’t care less if the person next to me has shaved their legs or armpits, or if they’ve perfectly polished every part of themselves before making it visual. Lots of people innocently prescribe to these ideas because it’s just the way it is, but it doesn’t have to be – and the way it is will change, and soon – so be on the right side of history.
Be the change you want to see in the world
Like I said, you don’t need a big flashing badge that says you’re not a homophobe. You don’t need to go around shouting about how your brand is different – it’s not about creating hype, it’s about creating the new normal. Like Honeymaid’s wholesome family advert (well worth a watch). Or TV shows like Buffy or Once Upon a Time that don’t treat their kick-ass female leads like anomalies. Being forward-thinking doesn’t mean you need to make a big deal of it, it just means you need to behave in a way that leads others to understand that equality should just be the status quo.
Do you actively try to make your brand inclusive? Are you taking any steps to promote equality? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box.*
*While I’m happy to foster debate, this isn’t a democracy, it’s a blog. If you can express your thoughts politely then we’re happy to have you, but any hateful, offensive, insulting or threatening posts will not make it to publication!