22 Apr Literal McFeminism: Clickbait Corporatism in a Consumer Culture
Literal McFeminism: Clickbait Corporatism in a Consumer Culture
The McDonalds Corporation did something bold for International Women Day, folks. You’d think a multi-billion-dollar industry would celebrate such an occasion by eliminating the wage gap between workers within their company, or better yet pay their workers an actual living wage. But no, McDonalds did something that is just about as real and sustaining as their product.
Rather than opening the dialogue further on the topics of inequality and social normality within the world, the giant mega-corporation decided to really think outside the box on this one. McDonalds decided to flip their infamous Golden Arch iconography from an ‘M’ to a ‘W’. This, of course, represents the word “Women”. However, this is nothing more than a shockingly out-of-touch breach into the cringeworthy politics that the western world has found itself in.
This attempt at what one corporatized administration would conceive as recognition will not add anything to the highly complicated socioeconomic and political topics at hand. It doesn’t inspire any concepts worth talking about and it certainly isn’t a full-hearted attempt at anything, especially if one would incorrectly assume that it would inspire change of any kind. This is what I like to call McFeminism. Many companies are at the producing end of McFeminism as of late, and this article serves as a chastising of the Hail Corporate mentality that has slowly been infiltrating the advertising meta within our growing consumer culture.
McDonald’s attempt at making themselves appear progressive while literally serving as the antithesis of what a corporation should do for its workers is nothing more than a fake collaborative effort to gain some good, cheap public relations. Rather than attempting to highlight issues of gender, recognition, and rights at hand, corporations oftentimes do the bare minimum in a clickbait culture-esque stylization that doesn’t have any substantial meaning or merit. It is as if a group of highly out-of-touch public relation so-called specialists believe that doing something so tacky and minimal is what would portray a more optimistic and progressive mindset.
Our consumer culture has rapidly devolved over time. Commercial consumption, most oftentimes in the form of food production, has drifted from being a product for the consumer’s wants and desires into being specifically for the beneficial values of profit in a large-scale economy. Some experts would refer to this as a monoculture—a society focused and based on a single aspect—that has seen severe Walmartization or, in this case, McDonaldization. Our society has adopted the salty, firmly chopped characteristics of a fast-food restaurant, which is dangerous for both the innovation and progression of the industry.
Although out-of-touch, the fast food giant is not oblivious to the concept at hand. In recent years, McDonalds has been attempting to regain a more positive image among Americans. According to Forbes and Food Business , between 2012 and 2017 the fast-food kingpin lost well over 500 million transactions to growing competitors, and it is now currently attempting to innovate in any way possible. In March 2017, McDonald’s Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development Lucy Brady announced that McDonald’s was “making meaningful improvements in our food […] to rekindle growth and recapture lost share.” This essentially brought this revitalization to consumer attention simply through announcing that the corporation was looking into ways to improve the quality of their menu. With that being said, the easiest way to regain consumer attraction isn’t through executive investor meetings. The most effective way to regain a diving customer base is through advertising.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper titled “A Theory of Human Motivation”, is oftentimes used as the methodology for successful advertising strategies. The theory, relying heavily on the foundations of developmental psychology and the importance of human emotion, essentially describes the stages of human growth and development. The easiest way of portraying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is through a pyramid, with the physical needs of humanity serving as a foundation for more advanced needs such as safety, social belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. A recreation of the pyramid can be seen here:
In a sense, many fast food advertisement campaigns tend to hijack the most important need for mankind: physiological. Mankind needs quite a few important factors before being able to ‘climb’ the pyramid to other more advanced desires. Mankind needs air to breath, water to drink, and food to eat. One advertising campaign worth examining would be the “You Gotta Eat” commercial released by Checkers back in 2004. The slogan focuses on the fact that, well, you gotta eat—so you might as well eat there.
I make the argument that McDonald’s recent asinine attempt to gain cheap public recognition would fall under the ‘social belonging’ category, although it most certainly attempts to portray itself as a boost to self-esteem. Maslow’s theory portrays the higher version of self-esteem as “the need for self-respect”, as people have a need for strength, self-confidence, and independence. Perhaps the corporate side of American capitalism believed that such a bold action to acknowledge the independence and strength of women through… a golden logo being flipped upside down.
However, this purely reads as nothing more than a cheap marketing tactic. As stated by the official McDonald’s Facebook account, “[The ‘M’ is upside down] to celebrate and commemorate the women that have made our brand what it is today”. So, in short, it truly is a symbolic gesture that relates back to… vague thoughts at best. The corporation then published a blog that focused on eight women that “made McDonald’s possible”. When asked how this exactly helps women by a Facebook commenter, they replied that they were “recognizing and celebrating all the women of McDonald’s, present and past, who have made great contribution to us and their local communities”. If that was truly the case, maybe McDonald’s should have supported International Women’s Day by paying a living wage and giving their employees enough hours and materials to support their families. To my knowledge, McDonald’s did not donate to a battered woman’s shelter or sign a check over to Planned Parenthood. Actions speak louder than empty words, but expanding the borders for overall profit rules all in this consumer culture.
Many companies chose to take the easy route this International Women’s Day. Freeform, a television broadcasting network, “celebrated” the occasion by censoring every female character as they said the word “sorry” in their programs. This was immediately hailed as a fantastic achievement and progressive in nature, as the concept of female apologizing was treated as an ‘epidemic’ by the corporation behind the stunt. This is the truest definition of McFeminism: an unnecessary and rather backwards attempt to vitalize a movement and day of recognition just to gain good faith and favor in a consumer base.
Bleeping out apologies for a full day doesn’t have any meaning or merit despite what their advertising may have suggested. As a television network, Freeform had the ability to spend the day broadcasting fantastic films directed, produced, and inspired by women of all paths. Instead, they chose to bleep out the word “sorry” without context. Swapping an iconic logo upside down for a few clicks on a blog doesn’t empower or encourage anything beyond the Hail Corporate mentality that is already hijacking the increasingly powerful women’s rights movements.
And although I may be neutering these companies for their lack of effort, I must admit that their advertising concepts mostly worked among the masses. In our consumer culture, many people have embraced the out-of-touch “maybe this will work” attempts of relevance that the big players in the economy have instilled into their corporatized entities. As long as the typical buyer chooses McFeminism over Feminism, then establishments will continue to shy away from actually attempting to put recognition onto the real matters. When the general public finally decides to see through the generic, bland attempts to gain PR, then maybe we’ll actually see the progressive nature expand through our currently corporatized culture.
Until then, mock McDonald’s for what the ‘W’ in their one-day stunt really stands for: Wage theft.
Disclaimer: all referenced name brands and logos belong to their respective copyright owners.
Joseph Kaminski is a social historian with interests in political revolutions, economic recessions, and individualism. He collects old books and is a freelance editor working on several external projects. He publishes articles focused on history, sociology, and politics on his website JosephKaminski.org, and you can follow him on Twitter @publishingminds.