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If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em??? Maybe not, in the Twenty-First Century…

August 25, 2008

I have often heard members of racial, gender or national origin minority groups say that they can make jokes featuring stereotypes about the minority groups to which they belong, but others can’t.

This begs the question – Is it OK for members of an historically-oppressed group to run the risk of possibly perpetuating that oppression by poking fun at themselves?

Not according to some who have seen the newly-developed marketing campaign of Schroder Joseph & Associates LLP, an all-female law firm in Buffalo, NY.

The Buffalo News and the ABA Journal recently reported that Schroder Joseph developed a series of advertisements touting “its woman power.” The firm’s advertising describes particular characteristics that are often attributed to professional women as negative stereotypes and instead plays them up as “feminine strengths.” For example, one ad reads: “Labor Pains? Talk to us. (We’re women … We get it.).” A second ad reads: “Sexual Harassment, Performance Issues, Discrimination, Dismissals and Disputes … (All in a day’s work for us.).”

Apparently, the ads have sparked debate across the Internet on legal blogs, websites such as adrants.com, an advertising industry website, and even the ABA’s own website, regarding their tastefulness.

Supporters view the ads as funny, innovative, creative and effective, while some critics claim the ads “perpetuate sexual stereotyping” and open the door to ads by male lawyers who will tout masculine virtues.

Schroder Joseph’s lead partner, Ginger Schroder, told that the marketing was not meant to create extensive debate on gender stereotypes or to take jabs at men, and she was surprised by the amount of debate generated by the campaign.

Personally, Schroder’s “surprise” surprises me – in a profession where women have fought to eliminate these stereotypes, how could one not expect to spark a debate when the stereotypes are voluntarily re-introduced?

For more information, check out The Buffalo News, “All-female Buffalo Law Firm Accentuates the Feminine in Its Ads, by Sharon Linstedt, and the ABA Journal, “Firm’s ‘Ever Argue With a Woman?’ Ad Provokes Debate on Stereotypes,” by Debra Cassens Weiss.

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