Nurture - March 8, 2019

International Women’s Day Is More Than Just A Hashtag

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8th in several countries across the world to raise discussion, demand action and create awareness for gender equality. The other main focal point of the day is to recognize the many social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women in history. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have helped popularize these once less celebrated holidays and have had a huge hand in building support for initiatives Iike IWD. However, we can not overlook the fact that honoring these growing movements has also now become a part of marketing strategies for brands.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it creates a mutually beneficial opportunity for all parties involved. For someone like me who now works as a content creator, partnering with brands is how I support and produce what you see and read on this site. But, responsibilities come with those opportunities. Responsibilities that I take very seriously.

If you caught this latest Instagram post, then you know the images in this story were created initially for a brand partnership. A brand that approached me with the opportunity to collaborate on a social media campaign promoting them, their product and their charitable program that “empowers women.” The brand is very well known and a company I have shopped with numerous times in the last fifteen years of my life.

Naturally, I was very excited to work with a brand I’ve loved for so long. I, of course, did my homework and researched the charitable program and decided that I was happy to attach my name to what (they said) they stood for. I was also stoked that this year for IWD, I could bring the opportunity to my community to raise money to “give women access to education and training.”

You can imagine my shock when the brand’s feedback (regarding my photos) was that they were “uncomfortable” sharing my exposed pregnant belly on their page. At first, I didn’t take it seriously because how could a woman’s pregnant belly (while otherwise fully clothed) make anyone uncomfortable? Especially on International Women’s Day. Especially when they previously featured women with exposed tummies on their page. So a woman’s toned midsection doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable, but my very pregnant stomach does.

Well, that made me very uncomfortable with the brand!

While I was given a chance to submit other images (with a covered up belly) for the campaign, I decided instead to withdraw from it altogether. For me, the brand’s discomfort with my images made me question how genuinely supportive of women they were. How could they claim to empower women but have a distaste for a woman in her most personal powerful moment? There’s no way I could publicly encourage my community to spend their hard earned money on a company I doubted. So I didn’t.

My intentions were never to shoot the photos this way; it just kind of happened on set. I pulled my t-shirt up, my belly was out and all of a sudden everything kind of came to life. Honestly, we thought it was epic! The images felt powerful and feminine. To me, they represented the choice women have to create life and they made a statement about body positivity. Unfortunately, the brand didn’t seem to care for those points when my team brought them up.

As I said on my Instagram post, I‘ll starve before I support anyone who is partially invested in a cause. When I partner with a brand, it’s because I genuinely love their products or because I genuinely appreciate what the brand has to offer my community. I consciously pick quality over quantity, and I will always choose respect over a check.

I’m divulging all of this because I hope brands comprehend that movements like IWD are not merely an opportunity to utilize a popular hashtag for the day. That the coupon-offering a percentage off of purchases, while appreciated, is not enough of a statement to support the cause. I hope that if brands claim to celebrate, support, empower and build inclusivity for all women, that they step up to plate.

Lastly, I hope (in a small way) I inspire women to remember their true worth, to stand up for themselves and to not allow fear to silence them.

Happy International Women’s Day! I have and always will be fully committed to the fight for equality of all women.


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Photography - Xin Wang
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