Once upon a time …
a deodorant for men sponsored a Global Space Camp for winners of a contest. Really.
Axe is a commercial deodorant from Unilever that, in its copywriters’ own words, “helps guys smell good, feel great and look their best!” To say that their presentation and advertisements are sexist is to, well, reflect their image.
In keeping with what they would like to think is their hyper-masculine image, and to promote their new “Apollo” deodorant, AXE sponsored sixty Facebook contests, where voters pick their favorite candidate and the winners get an expense-paid trip to the Space Camp in Orlando, Florida, where participants go through training exercises. Of the 60 campers, 22 will actually participate in a space flight. Of course, the genius promoters at AXE/Unilever could be confident that their contest could only appeal to men. Slogan: “Leave a man. Come back a hero.”
After all, Sally Ride never went into space. Or Valentina Tereshkova. Christa McAuliffe didn’t die there. And there’s never been an all-woman space crew. Go AXE!
Among the countries AXE chose for its testosterone contest was Malaysia. And in Malaysia, Roshini Mumiam entered the contest … and won. Although she garnered a huge plurality of the votes (thanks in large part to Jaymee Goh and the #Rose4Space hashtag), victory didn’t come easy.
(Jaymee Goh is an acquaintance of mine, and a valiant activist for people of color in the science-fiction community; it’s great to see what other good work she does!)
Initial comments on Muniam’s entry in the contest included the argument that women should not be allowed to go into space, because we menstruate. To AXE’s credit, they pulled the offensive comments and refused to be sucked into the morass. To the voters’ credit, the backlash against Muniam, plus the social media campaign, seem to have been the reasons she won.
To recap: Corporate masculine product unwittingly orchestrates feminist/people of color social media victory and sends Malaysian woman to space camp, where she may very well get a chance to go into outer space.
The ending may not be quite “and they all lived happily ever after.” Still, the vicious sexist commenters got silenced and caused exactly what they hoped to prevent, the heroine goes to space camp, and her supporters chalk up an unqualified victory for the best of social media.