How much subversion, intersectional feminism and shifts from the male gaze to the female gaze can you pack into a one-minute and 12 second ad? The answer, if H&M’s recent ad starring Power Women Adwoa Aboah, Hari Nef, Pum Lefebure and Jillian Hervey is any indication, is a hell of a lot.
Set ironically against the sexist Tom Jones anthem “She’s a Lady,” which defines a lady as an unobtrusive, beautiful, submissive trophy, the H&M ad posits a spectrum of what a “lady” can be, from plus size, to transgender, older, nonwhite, to hairy, queer, to unapologetically eating.
When a pink-haired woman sprouting underarm hair unzips her jeans, it’s not to be sexy, rather it’s so she can tuck into a pile of french fries. As the lyric “she’s never in the way” comes on, a woman on the subway is shown “manspreading.” And “always something nice to say” is accompanied by 72-year-old former supermodel Lauren Hutton, wearing a suit, side-eyeing two men who are no doubt mansplaining something to her.
And in one of the most interesting details of the ad, it suggests its ideal audience is other women, and even young girls. Three women walk into a restaurant like they own the place, eating heartily and as one picks her teeth using a knife as a mirror, and a little girl at another table watches rapt in fascination.
Combining a number of trends we’re following at sparks & honey, from Power Woman, Unapologetic, Perceptual Diversity, Outsiders Welcome and Blurred ID, this H&M fall 2016 ad shows that paying attention to the details of culture pays off.