The SK-II #changedestiny campaign and the limits of commodity activism for women’s equality in neo/non-liberal China
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© 2018, © 2018 National Communication Association. This article examines one market-based intervention to combat gender discrimination in China, beauty brand SK-II’s #changedestiny campaign, and in particular an accompanying video, Marriage Market Takeover, which attempts to challenge the cultural stigma of “leftover women” (single women over 25). By mobilizing affect and highlighting the self-optimizing subject, SK-II, through the #changedestiny campaign, positions itself as a key instigator of women’s empowerment, and ultimately of not only familial, but also societal, change. In this regard, it follows the logic of what Banet-Weiser and Mukherjee (in Commodity activism: Cultural resistance in neoliberal times [NYU Press, 2012]) call commodity activism, or the merging of consumer behavior with efforts at social change within neoliberal brand culture. However, in a context we call “neo/non-liberal China,” modes of authoritarian and therapeutic governance intersect, and consumer subjects, not consumer citizens, are encouraged. We argue that through offering resistance to, and a resolution situated within familial relationships, the #changedestiny campaign does little to challenge the patriarchal “leftover women” discourse. We further argue that gender discrimination is raised in the #changedestiny campaign as a way to rationalize a neoliberal emphasis on consumption, self-care, and personal fulfillment, and that ultimately gender—as well as class—norms are reaffirmed despite the campaign’s efforts to promote meaningful social change.
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