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#SorryNotSorry: How ads empower women

Published: Friday, June 27 2014 9:55 p.m. MDT

This Pantene ad seems to be a part of the feminist movement as it encourages women to "stop being sorry."

via YouTube

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Can a shampoo ad help women show more confidence at work? Can a cellphone company change the way parents and teachers think about girls and career goals?

Those are questions circulating around the Internet in light of ads from Pantene and Verizon calling attention to gender issues in childhood and the professional world.

"Why are women always apologizing?" Pantene asks in the opening to its ad that features women saying "sorry" in a variety of situations.

"Isn't it time we told her she's pretty brilliant, too?" is the question the Verizon ad ends on, after a parade of off-camera parents telling a girl not to get her dress dirty or to put down a drill.

But while the ads may call attention to a problem, not all are convinced they could be called "empowering."

Time's Charlotte Alter said the timing of the Verizon ad was a little questionable.

"While I admire the sentiment behind trying to encourage more girls to code, it’s a little suspicious that Verizon is getting on this bandwagon right after feminism is becoming a valuable brand," Alter wrote.

Writing about Pantene's ad, The Baltimore Sun's Susan Reimer said the message was well-intentioned, but ultimately fell flat.

“Pantene is trying to get you to buy its product by reminding you of all these negative stereotypes and then telling you to buck up and be strong. And the company gets bonus points by saying it is against these stereotypes," Reimer wrote. “It is a noble message, but the other message is that your hair needs to shine if you want to be successful.”

But some were more amiable to Pantene's efforts. Time's Jessica Bennett took the ad to heart and counted her daily apologies, which added up to quite a few before her deadline, before concluding that the Pantene ad was onto something.

"Sorry is a crutch — a tyrannical lady-crutch. It’s a space-filler, a hedge, a way to politely ask for something without offending, to appear 'soft' while making a demand," Bennett wrote. "As far as ads go, this one is good — and yet when a shampoo brand is telling us to stop apologizing, it’s fair to say we’ve reached a 'sorry' tipping point."

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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