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Our Most Restless Award

Awards and Events 562 Add to collection

Multiple themes emerge as Stephanie Feeney, Director of Strategy, 72andSunny Amsterdam, grapples with the Glass Lion’s potential

Our Most Restless Award

The ‘festival position’ for the Glass Lion proclaims: “Institutional change and policy reform alone won’t solve gender inequalities; the solution is cultural change.” Hear, hear. It’s exciting to see the advertising industry step up to its role as an agent of cultural change, and focus on gender stereotypes as the subject for the inaugural award. But whom will we award? And what will it matter? As I grapple with the Glass Lion’s potential, I find myself looking outside the industry, to people whose lifework is the business of social progress. A few themes emerge.

ETHICAL = PRACTICAL

“Progress comes from showing that a certain idea is not only right and good, but also practical.” Advice from Bill Shipsey, a lifetime human rights activist and founder of Art for Amnesty. A friend (we’ll call her Anya) who works as an advocate for survivors of sexual violence echoes this tactic. “How do I convince law enforcement officers to treat female victims as empathetically as they do male offenders? By showing them that it is in their personal best interest to do so.”

Pragmatic persuasion. The Lion for Change (as it’s also been dubbed) applies a similar logic. If creatives covet a Glass Lion, then work that challenges gender stereotypes is as good for the career as it is for the conscience. Jury President Cindy Gallop enthuses, “I absolutely want to see everybody go, ‘This is the award we really want to win’, because when we win it, it says we are the future.” Equally, if we can persuade marketers that, for example, non-stereotypical messaging tends to earn brands a larger share of voice, then the business case and the moral case are happily one.

MAKING TROUBLE

But pragmatism only gets you so far. People outside advertising see the creative industries as having a uniquely deviant role to play.  

“There are NGOs and government bodies and community movements –  necessarily – having the politically correct conversations,” Bill at Art for Amnesty cautions us. “You guys have the opportunity to subvert, to equivocate, to incite.” 

Sociologist Simon Blyth sees the award as a beginning, not an end. “The fact of the award allows you to have these difficult, even political, conversations. And that is very exciting. The creative industries making gender trouble is super exciting.”

Anya agrees. “Being sexy is at the forefront of my four-year-old daughter’s mind. Only six black males are on track to graduate of the 1,000 students at our local high school. We can be lazy, or we can talk about it.”

Let’s award work that is disagreeable, that pisses some people off, that says the unsayable. Let’s agitate.

PLURALITIES > BINARIES

I’m struck by how vague the Glass Lion is about its gender agenda. Cindy Gallop tells us it aims to celebrate “creativity that is female-informed, that acknowledges the importance of women as the majority consumer market for every single product sector everywhere in the world.” By contrast, in answer to the question “Is the Glass Lion just about the representation of women?”, the official FAQs proclaim, “Not at all.” Well, which is it?

I’d argue, neither. Shattering gender stereotypes means leaving behind the binary ideas of male and female, hetero and homo. It’s happening in entertainment already, as Simon reminds me: lesbian-laced Pretty Little Liars is a prime-time US network television show for teens; David Walliams hosts Britain’s Got Talent with sexually subversive aplomb (while also being a successful children’s book author). Why is marketing so woefully behind? 

If the Glass Lion gets it right, it won’t only award the work that makes the obvious leap. (Girls can be strong! Men can show emotion!) It will also, or rather, award work that plays with ideas of changeability and plurality; that deals not in oppositions but also in unknowns. If the Glass Lion has potential, it is as our most restless award.


Stephanie Feeney is Director of Strategy at 72andSunny Amsterdam

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72andSunny Amsterdam, Fri, 19 Jun 2015 15:42:39 GMT