Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Daily Grind #2: Nine West Takes a Walk of Shame

My coffee didn't look this good unfortunately via
I'm probably the last person on the internet talking about this, but over coffee this morning I came across the new Nine West campaign with mixed emotions.  They are getting blasted in the press for their tongue-in-cheek collection titles, featuring such stereotypes as "Starter Husband Hunting" shoes.  Women across the internet are protesting, but I found myself wondering, where did Nine West go wrong here?

Women don't have a problem joking among themselves about "starter" husbands, or "stripper heels".  We accept that the shoes that we buy evoke different reactions, and that is why we own so many.  We have shoes for going out and shoes for work and shoes for going shopping for new shoes.  I think if among a group of friends, a person commented on liking a friend's shoe and she replied, "thanks -- these are my walk of shame shoes!" that the group of friends would have a good laugh and enjoy the joke.  I imagine this was the concept in the board room at Nine West -- let's get in on this joke between women so we feel more like a friend and less like a store.

Where they went wrong is that what women say among friends, sometimes sounds much more offensive when said on a store window.  The truth is, we can joke about ourselves and our flaws among peers -- but we don't want major corporations joking about us.  If a friend tells us that we are wearing stripper heels, we laugh.  If a stranger tells us that we are wearing stripper heels we may slap them.  Especially if the stranger is a man.  Nine West just painted themselves into that stranger that is poking fun at us about our frivolity.  They wanted to be in on the joke, but the truth is they aren't our friend, so how could they be?

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Another issue with the campaign is the fact that while we joke among our friends about our shoes from time to time, when we purchase said shoes we aren't thinking about a joke.  The act of purchasing shoes is a lot deeper for a woman (or a man maybe even? I'm not sure if we are all that different).  Shoes and clothes and jewelry -- all of these items are really just a way of expressing ourselves to the world.  Sure there is also a practicality, but we buy items that express what we want the world to see.  When we are buying items outside of our daily "norm" we often are participating in a type of role playing event.  What would it be like to be that woman who owns a Chanel bag?  Or that woman who wears leopard print pumps?  I would like to be that woman for a day.  There is an act of exploration in this because shopping is a way of a woman exploring all of the possibilities of who she may be.  Nine West's new campaign completely puts the shopper out of this comfort zone by confronting women with what they are doing.  "Are you looking at these heels?  You must be trying to snare your starter husband!"  It's a message that makes you feel uncomfortable with the person you are trying to be if you buy these heels, unless you can take the message as a joke and find it funny.  Apparently few women are laughing.

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I'm not saying the campaign is a total failure, because on some level I can appreciate someone poking fun at the way we talk and think.  It is original and it is definitely attention catching.  But I'm afraid the reaction they are most likely to get is that it is offensive, because women want to feel safe from the name calling and labeling that has hung over them at bars, at school, and even still at the work place.  When they are shopping they want to look for themselves, and not be a butt of joke from someone who they can't joke right back with.

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