It was a stereotype two-for-one in the Daily Mail recently, with the pair of equally-insulting ideas that women are bossy control freaks and men are incapable of making themselves remotely presentable:
Two thirds of women will try to change a new partner’s appearance (and it only takes six months to morph him into Mr Right)
Women seeking the perfect partner are not looking for Mr Right – they want to find the man they can turn into Mr Right.
Two-thirds of women admit trying to transform their boyfriend’s appearance, a study reveals.
They buy £500 worth of clothes and spend more than six months buffing and grooming their man – often to make him look more like their favourite celebrity.
More than a third (36 per cent) admit they were ‘embarrassed and ashamed’ to be seen in public with their boyfriend at the start of their relationship.
Source: Daily Mail, 31st October 2013
Were this genuine research, it may be worth speculating as to why the women in question would be dating men they were ashamed to be seen with – but we won’t do that, because that’s precisely what the PR team behind this story want you to do. Even counteracting nonsense in an article helps perpetuate the conversation, keeping the original article in the news or social media cycle.
As with so many Bad PR stories, the main message is the brand name in the story; the content is merely the delivery mechanism. I genuinely can’t stress that enough – if you take one thing away from my blog, let it be that fact.
So, if discussing and dissecting the content of an article is often playing into the hands of the team who seeded the story in the first place, how do we counteract this kind of PR? Simple: by making it transparent. These stories exist only to get a brand name into the press without being as obvious as an advert; therefore their power can be taken away by highlighting that they really are nothing more than advertising. Specifically, in this case, for a clothing retailer:
Gary Kibble, from online retailer Littlewoods.com, which surveyed 2,000 women, said: ‘It definitely shows the high standards we set for ourselves and the expectations we have for our relationships.’
Littlewoods, the catalogue and online retailer, think it’s absolutely fine to sell clothing by perpetuating the stereotype of women changing their men, with the associated idea that a man can and should be ‘changed’ (even changed into ‘Mr Right’, as the article states). How much that means for women who feel their man isn’t ‘right’ is something to be debated elsewhere, as is the patronising notion that men aren’t ‘right’ unless they meet certain standards. Insulting stereotypes cut both ways, to the benefit of neither.
Still, they might help Littlewoods shift a few extra pairs of chinos, so it’s all OK – right?