Just as the Sony hack got people talking about the gender wage gap, the #OscarsSoWhite controversy has sparked conversation around diversity in mainstream media. Yet, while many were willing to overlook the wage gap scandal because Hollywood actors of any gender already earn outrageous paychecks regardless, no one can deny that this elite microcosm's rampant inequality underscores an unrelenting issue at the core of American society.Despite efforts to demolish the divisive walls built by centuries of bigotry, racism and sexism continue to undermine progress in this country. Leaders constantly stress how far we've come, but the repressed cannot ignore how far we have yet to go. From equal footing throughout Hollywood, to fair representation within our justice system, we truly do have a great deal of work ahead of us--as individuals and as a nation.
Luckily, we have the power to drive such change. Marketers have the opportunity to cross unspoken boundaries and make subtle, yet strong, statements against the establishment. Brands, in effect, have the ability to alter our perceptions and normalize the differences many fear. But, of course, it wouldn't be America without a few (or many) outspoken outliers who still harbor antiquated notions of how the world should be.
Remember when viewers got their knickers in a knot because this 2013 Cheerios commercial featured an interracial couple and--gasp!--their child?
Or how about when critics claimed this 'wholesome' Honey Maid commercial was anything but because it included an array of nontraditional families?
We encounter this 'new normal' every single day, but when the media forces viewers to confront the changing face of our country, people cannot contain their disbelief. Thus, these opponents speak out to assert their own agenda because they'd rather ignore what they don't want to see, often scaring brands back into hiding. Instead of risking their bottom line by defying the few, companies retreat to safer pastures to appease the many.
But that's exactly what's wrong with society! Marketers--and filmmakers--cannot allow radicals to dictate what's acceptable and what's not. We need to make people angry. We need to make people squirm. Only in this discomfort will we be able to alter perceptions and enact change that permeates every aspect of society. Hollywood insiders, thankfully, are using their widespread platform to generate discussion and propose change, but that's not enough. We need to take action and we need to do so sooner rather than later. Marketers need to do their part to embrace these groups and give them the representation they deserve. From skin color and sexual orientation, to class and gender, brands also need to use their platform to support this movement and reflect the true face of their customer base. Only then will we be able to defy stereotypes and tread one step closer to equality.