We do a lot of work with them – through lots of different lenses
Barometer of social change – at sharp end – see response to change in appearance, lifestyles, attitudes to work, religion,
We work globally and we look at femininity and women across the world, but we want to get you a rich story about a self-contained part of that
China is extreme and India again, a topic all of it’s own. Certainly shades of this seen across Asia but SEA has a rich story to tell
We’re going to talk about the inevitable growth of the economies across SEA, how opportunity has exploded for women, how they’re more connected than ever before
Often comes down to a talk about to what extent they are embracing modernity, what makes them modern – is it behaviour/things they do/is it what they own – we feel very strongly that it’s a mindset
We’re interested in understanding how women affect change and embrace opportunity and especially in this part of the world, we believe it’s more about a gentler soft power, than a feminist agenda
There’s been a lot written on the subject of feminine values and how they’re more suited to the modern world; values of collaboration, flexibility and nurturing
Athena Doctrine talks about the strength that comes from this mode of leadership
New wave of opinion leaders thinking about femininity as a strength, where previously it’s been seen as a weakness; this is all very interesting but we want to understand how this manifests itself specifically in SEA and in the everyday lives of real women
Feminism has almost become trendy, a sexy topic, that celebrities love to be involved in and brands love to support. No one can criticise you for it (as long as you’re sincere) it’s a no-brainer
We don’t really like to make the East vs. West comparison, largely because even that as a way to categorise the world is a gross over-simplification, but to make the point, it’s our belief that ‘female empowerment’ works in a very different way in this part of the world
It’s obvious that the cultural context is a different one; more traditions and religious beliefs to navigate through; but beyond that the collective female psyche is different and actually their endgame is also very different, which is something that brands must understand
At Flamingo we spend a lot of time getting to know people, but speaking to them only gets you so far.
We obsess over establishing a rich picture of the cultural context, so that we understand WHY they’re really doing the things they’re doing, what are the big cultural shifts that are and will affect their behaviours in the future. This often means looking back at HISTORY, as well as understanding wider SOCIO-ECONOMIC trends and also the CULTURAL NORMS – it’s the inter-relationship of this areas that’s fascinating and where we can start to build up a rich picture of what’s going on
In pre-modern SEA women held a very favourable position and were genuinely equal to men
So this is not the feminist fight for getting out of the domestic drudgery; in SEA they never had that luxury. Although it very rarely bought them influence within the family or independence – they rarely earned their own money.
But these women were multi-tasking and busy working mums before we even knew about the concept in the West
It was the imported religions and philosophies (Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam) that started to give men privilege over women; then during the years of colonization and then independence this divide grew further
Brought with them a sense of male privilege, which led to the development of traditional norms and expectations for women:
Role they played
Their perceptual status vs. men
Very much about separating the sexes and ensuring there were a clear set of attributes and ideals that differentiated them
All encompassing definition of beauty & their value to men
Appearance and behaviours
A set of beliefs that kept women in their place across the region
Darker side is sexual exploitation – especially for countries occupied in WW2 - sex became currency for women trying to get out of poverty
Pragmatic women of the region have always used their femininity as currency
Today – still cultural expectations to fulfill + explosion of opportunity work in offices for MNCs, to become educated, to make life choices
From WE ME, is about internal motivation for doing it – things I want, as well as things I need to do
Women want to progress, it’s clear they feel on cusp of something & believe in their ambition/potential, but in context of a collective environment they are not ready to forgo societal norms & expectations ambitions need to fit within the collective norms
They have enormous respect for gender lines and cultural expectations and so their drive for their own ambition often isn’t a battle, they aren’t raging against the machine or fighting.
Why beauty is so fascinating – we see these women trying to balance tradition & modernity, playing different roles
Beauty brings to life the different nuances of what she’s trying to represent
Manipulative? Forced in to it due to male privilege? Unable to follow her own path?
No, rather… pragmatic, turning what she is in to a useful currency that provides her with options and that she also enjoys!
Very consciously constructed roles that give her power
Women talk to us about these roles and how they’ll “play” with their looks to facilitate the things they want or need to do. Fulfilling their own desires and satisfying expectation
Doting wife, loving mother, pious daughter, sexy femme fatale…
Also an audience, always judgment in SEA – need collective approval, self-consciously create different ‘looks’ to help
Using beauty as a soft-power; something to manipulate and wield with absolute purpose
In many instances female progression has overtaken men – ultimate respect for traditional gender roles and need to maintain balance. For women that might work and even have a senior role at work; they’re very often aware of the impact this might have on their husbands.
In the West women would almost dare a husband to have a problem with it, but in SEA women are more aware of the importance of traditional expectation and gender balance, therefore they might adopt ‘hyper-feminine’ looks & behaviours at home in order to compensate.
Again, this isn’t about male dominance, this is about a woman understanding what she wants and adopting behaviours that facilitate it.
For Muslim women, they artfully meld both parts of their life; their faith and their desire to progress and be modern
Again using their beauty/look as a tool, we hear many instances of women adopting more traditional looks; wearing the hijab, or dressing modestly, in order to gain the freedom to stretch their behaviours further – to travel, to move away from home
This shows the world that she’s not completely stepping away from her more traditional belief systems. It allays fears
Seeing these woman playing so many different roles; they’ll talk about their beauty ideals and the ideals they admire in others as the ability to be ‘chameleon-like’
Maybe it’s a look that can span from simple and traditional, to hyper feminine, to sexy femme fatale – Anne Curtis
It’s also celebrities who are known for the different facets of their life/personality – success in their home-life, as well as professionally often in different ways e.g. Angelina Jolie, Victoria Beckham
We’ve looked at a few different ways that brands are approaching the opportunity; both international and local
Some more overtly tackling empowerment, some taking a more subtle approach
SK2, Pan Asian, ‘Little Dictator’
Part of a global campaign, uses a Japanese ballet star but it’s not necessarily made for Asia or tapping in to a specific Asian-inspired insight around empowerment
Launch TVC behind SK-II’s Change Destiny platform, ties in to the product story and part of a global campaign for female empowerment
Oriental Princess, Thailand
More focused on the need for women to resist the pressure to beautify and to be more than the way they look
There’s no denying this is an issue, especially in Thailand, but it’s a tough one to crack due to the amount of engagement there is with beauty
Also suggestive that women are something forced in to it, when it’s actually more nuanced than that
Body Shop, Malaysia, ‘More than Beauty’
Feels much more rooted in the specifics of the Asian context, focusing on the traditional image of how a women/girl should behave
Clever use of a child makes it obviously more emotive, elevates it to speak about the next generation AND cleverly avoids talking ‘beauty’ – something that as we know, women in the region love – this is not the enemy
Plays with expectations
Showing her playing different roles
Nuanced and presented within an aspirational world of beauty and modernity