Skip to content
Breaking News Alert Trump Names J.D. Vance As His 2024 Running Mate

Is Mocking Women Really The Best Way To Sell Pantene Shampoo?

While it is annoying when people apologize too much, this feminist attack on courtesy — now commandeered by the capitalists at Pantene — has got to stop.


Pantene was riding the top of the advertising wave at the end of last year, with it’s perfectly timed “Labels Against Women”/”Whip It”/Shine Strong campaign. The advertisement, which garnered 46 million views on YouTube alone, was endorsed by none other than Sheryl “Lean In” Sandberg herself. It showed how when men and women do the same exact things, supposedly, men are praised and women are derided. So a confident executive is a “boss” as a man, but “bossy” when she’s a woman. An enthusiastic speaker is “persuasive” as a man, but “pushy” as a woman.

I didn’t enjoy that ad as much as everyone else and you can read my critique here: The Three Worst Things About The Pantene Ad Everyone Is Talking About.

In any case, the Pantene team is probably displeased with the less-than-stellar response they’re getting for their latest ad, which is built around a feminist talking point of recent vintage: #BanSorry (and not to sound like a broken drum but I didn’t like that campaign as much as everyone else and you can read my critique here: If Feminists Like Women, Why Are They Constantly Trying To Change Us?).

First, let’s check out the video:

The ad begins with a slur against women, asking, “Why are women always apologizing?”

I know! Aren’t women the worst? They’re so awful! Can’t ignore ’em, can’t put up with their non-stop apologizing! You are so right, Pantene! I hate women, too!

The ad then features a bunch of vignettes of these horrible, annoying, and yet drop-dead gorgeous women apologizing in ways that are highly mockable. My fave is when a male employee asks if he can “squeeze” in around a board meeting table and the woman next to him says “sorry” as she scoots down, followed by the next woman saying “sorry” as she scoots down, followed by the next woman saying “sorry” as she scoots down and the next woman saying “sorry” as she scoots down.

Women! They’re like men, only so much lamer and stupider, amiright Pantene?

One lovely lady whispers “sorry” as she pulls some covers her husband stole from her in the night. Another tells her husband to “go first” when they both start speaking over each other.

Then we cue the dramatic music that shows something different is going to happen. “Don’t be sorry,” we’re commanded. We are asked to re-imagine each situation with the same women not being cartoonishly awful!

But what’s kind of funny is that the new, improved version of the women isn’t so great either. We’re asked to applaud a woman for not giving up her use of the arm divider and a woman for saying “sorry, not sorry” to her husband as she hands off their shared prop child to him. “Sorry, not sorry,” says the wife who now doesn’t just pull back the covers her husband stole from her but goes ahead and takes them all. I am woman, hear me roar! And the man doesn’t even mind it, he spoons his wife in love. No word on why the woman was so wronged and angry when her husband stole the covers compared with why the man is so elated and spoon-y when his wife stole the covers. I’m sure it all makes sense in some ad executive’s world.

But the ad is not being embraced as enthusiastically as its predecessor, even as it racks up YouTube views. The New York Times has a piece rounding-up the reaction, which is decidedly mixed.

Here are three problems with the latest ad.

What’s Wrong With Being Polite?

With the full caveat that it is annoying when people apologize too much, this feminist attack on courtesy — now commandeered by the capitalists at Pantene — has got to stop.

The world doesn’t need more people acting like jerks. Our problem is not a surfeit of pleasantness. The feminist response to sex distinctions when it comes to stuff like men commandeering armrests and women yielding way should not be for women to copy men! It’s called being courteous. And I wish more people would get over themselves and freely apologize when they’re inconveniencing someone.

Because of the way women’s biology relates to the propagation of humanity — no small task, even if it’s marginalized by many elites — we tend to rock things that men tend not to rock. We nurture the ties that bind. We are tuned into interpersonal relationships. We manage conflicts. When we inconvenience people, we worry about it more.

I’m actually not of the mind that men and women need to act exactly the same in their vocations and relationships. I think that men and women being distinct is a feature, not a bug, of humanity. But if someone is going to change, why do feminists — and the capitalists who adopt their messaging — always seem to think women need to be more like men? Whether it’s about leaning in or not being pregnant or not letting children interfere too much with career or, now, not being polite — why is it always women who have to be more like men and not men who need to be more like women?

What’s With The Idea Only Women Are Polite?

And on that note, I can only assume Pantene is not marketed to Canadians. Full stop. Seriously, Pantene’s biggest Canadian competitor should just run the Pantene ad to drive down Pantene shares there.

Is Mocking Women The Best Way To Sell Product To Them?

It’s not just that Pantene is once again free-riding on stereotypes — under the guise of fighting same — that galls. It’s that the process requires mocking women for their stupidity.

I’m no marketing expert, but this is basically the equivalent of those pick-up artists who use “negging” as a means to getting the girl. Negging is where the pick-up loser says something like “you’re not bad looking for someone your age,” and then after harming said target’s self-esteem, manipulates her into going home with him. This Pantene ad is saying “you are a loser who everyone disrespects because you apologize so much” and then suggests that all will be better if you go home with a new shampoo.

Let’s hope the team at Pantene works out the kinks before the next ad comes out.

Follow Mollie on Twitter.