When brands tell women they empower them... Please!

When brands tell women they empower them... Please!

There are more than three million Australian women experiencing perimenopause and menopausal symptoms. There is a lot of hype at the moment on catching the trend of menopause. Mainly brands are looking at the cashed up nature of the demographic and trying to work out how to cash in on it. And you can mostly tell. It is so beyond cringe that we just had to write about it.

And maybe apologise to menopausal women about it? Or at the very least make a promise not to be like that!

But isn't it the same issue about how brands talk to all women? Telling us they empower us? Oh thank you modern knight in shining armour! You mean I just buy your product and I become empowered? Amazing!

While some brands support more discussions about menopause, there is little being done to dismantle the taboos around it. Most of the time you see brands saying we need to talk about menopause. Talk about it. We need to talk about it. Chat to your friends. Menopause exists. Women's health is more than fertility. Menopausal women are here to stay... blah blah blah. 

All extremely unhelpful slogans that take up space in our lives and give us, well, not much in return for grabbing our attention.

Brands know there is an opportunity to cash in on the problems women face in menopause. But do they care? Do they actually want to shift the narrative, or is it just that they simply want to make profit?

How we see it is that this is such an important conversation because in order to change the narrative that menopause means the end of womanhood, (yes, we need to talk about it) - we just bring that story to women.

The real stories of women from all corners of this country will help change the way that people see, understand and treat hot women, so they can reclaim this next stage of their lives.

By collecting these stories we bring real experiences of everyday women to other everyday women. These are the stories of contemporary Australia that need to be heard. And we are creating a platform to tell them.

This isn't a celebrity sharing their outlier experience or an influencer shining it up for more clicks. These are real women who think that they have nothing to share and that nothing they say is of interest to others. But as they open up their mouths and share their stories, we can feel, know and understand the power in hearing them. In coming into that woman's world, and learning from that lifetime.

This is how we evolved as beings before we were taken out of our community based, tribal based way of living. Women sat in circle and just shared their stories, their lives, their feelings and their sisterhood.

We walked together to bleed together, in a time of reflection, quietness and renewal. It was a monthly ceremony to stop, reflect and let go of more than just our menses. It was a time to reconnect, share and sit in sisterhood. Talk, listen, share.

When it was time for a woman to transition to her crone, it was a revered time and she was a respected elder, being promoted to wise woman. Today, it feels more like a demotion and it doesn't feel like anyone is listening to anything we are saying. Not our children. Not our partners. Not our bosses. Not really, anyone?

We've lost that connection to this sacred ritual of graduation into menopause. The status somehow become lower, not higher. 

It is time to restore that entire balance of the ecosystem. It is time to restore sharing, connection and telling of stories.

And brands promising you empowerment shouldn't be spearheading these most important conversations. In fact, the question is whether they should be involved at all because when we look at what they have to say about menopause, it is really unclear if they get it at all?

When we look at marketing and advertising around the world targeting women in menopause, every single brand is talking about education, breaking stigma, “starting a conversation” or telling us we need to talk about it, without actually talking about it. They are all deeply… "sincere." Brands don’t do sincerity very well and honestly, is it really the job of your shampoo to tell you how to feel about menopause? 

Don't you know how to feel about menopause? You feel however you feel and that isn't the same every day or every year and it doesn't have to be. We aren't required to each write our own almanac on menopause and stick to it. It is a journey, and one that will change as you progress through it. That's life. That's womanhood.

Another problem with so many brands is that they are conspicuously “inclusive,” to the point that it undermines the message, they are all trying to create a feeling of community and being together while completely undermining it. They got some boxes, they ticked it. And everyone was concerned on what it would look like, how the PC police would react, and no one ever thought, what are we actually here to say, to champion and to stand up for?

But, like, at the same time - who cares? It's just annoying and cringe. Like, it's your shampoo company telling you to talk about menopause? Or it is your muesli bar brand or insurance or whatever. Like not typically the kind of company you would want to engage on a conversation about menopause. So, like forget it and move on.

And we totally get that. But what happens when every company out there that hears menopause might be a market now, turns around and starts peddaling some fake BS on why it is important to talk about menopause, never saying a single thing on it?

Well, because it undermines the actual genuine work being done in the space.

When there's a trending hashtag companies feel compelled to say something that week, and pretend it is very important to them, until the next really important thing comes alone. Didn't we see the hashtag presence of companies touting #metoo, #blacklivesmatter (#blm), or on the yearly staple statements on international women's day under the #iwd hashtag, where companies give completely "sincere" care to each of these causes when it is trending online, and about zero follow up to actions that would actually see their organisations or policies align to that tweet.

What's more, is that as all these brands scamper over each other in a frenzy to be on trend, and jump on each trending bandwagon as it passes, they drown out the value of those genuine efforts being made by advocates in the space working to change the narrative for this and future generations. Their "sincere concerns" do more harm than good.

Which is why it is genuinely useless to just say we need to talk about it. In this case, menopause.

Instead, at Phenxx we hope to just reinstate the herstory of a matriarchal culture. One where we share stories, where we allow women to speak and share and be heard. No trending hastags, no faces, no names, no vanity metrics. We aren't releasing these sacred stories in long form podcast audio, you are invited to sit and read and hold a sister in her story, to see yourself in her, to release along with her.

We live in a culture where content is designed to be consumed and disregarded. But these are people's lives. These are their deepest truths and secrets. This is their power. This is our power as women sitting together in circle, connecting. It is not for consumption while you're scrolling. It is real.

We do not take lightly the opportunity to sit and talk with women who open up and share their lives with us, and as such, we ask you to hold them in reverence as well. It will not become a trending, viral video on tiktok. But these stories do promise to help and heal those who connect with them. For many women we speak to, they have no forum to have conversations like these. And if they do know people who might be open to talking, they may also be open to judging. This is a safe space, and it is one that has been designed as a container for women to be safe,and to share safely. 

And unfortunately, brands are cavelier with women's lives and stories. Clickbait and more sales. We don't hear other brands talking about safety in sharing anything?

It is time for brands to stop telling us that they empower us. Like, yuk! Why is there this insistence from brands on telling women that they will be empowered if they use that shampoo or that facewash? Like, we get it - you are selling a product to women. But you are selling. a. product. to. women.

Please, it is not our shampoo that empowers us. Do these brands think so little of women and their power that just with the change of fashion label or skin care they can be miraculously empowered all of a sudden? Show us behind the curtain of how you treat the women in your supply chains, offices, contractors, customers and more. The story is always incomplete. It is always too shiny for marketing and no substance added elsewhere to help you understand it.

Maybe there is a feeling of “empowerment,” but it’s insubstantial – it shows, but doesn’t tell, it doesn’t embody its own message. It is surface level and insincere. Often, interviews with staff members reveal that they don't all get it. It is marketing.

When brands talk to women, especially menopausal women, they use no humour, no playfulness, nothing risky, nothing interesting. As if everyone over 40 lost their sense of humour. Is empowerment about being serious? Perhaps marketers haven't spoken to menopausal women so they think they can no longer laugh and all messaging need to be serious all the time? That way they can empower them?

In our experience, the sense of humour comes in stronger after 40 and we learn to laugh at ourselves more than ever! 

Please, marketers, women over 40 are not dead! Your language is often so technical, or statistical, without talking about what those stats mean and without remembering that you are talking about real women with real names and bodies and feelings and lives. Marketers, why hide behind statistics instead of revel in the connection to real women and real stories?

In our experience, women empower themselves through their own lives and actions and choices and hard work. We simple chronicle it. 

Yeah, we are really sorry to reveal at this point that if you buy something from Phenxx it doesn't come with an empowerment pill that you take at night and wake up transformed. Actually, we kind of think that if you read our magazine, Between the Sheets every night, something could definitely change for you, but it would be your decision and your actions and nothing to do with us. Damn. Sorry!

And finally, we will just say no matter what, none of the messaging or language we ever use at Phenxx will be patronising,  condescending, or like a support group. We see brands that do that, and it feels hollow, forced and disingenuous.


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