Whipping the Reasons behind the Labels: A Discourse Analysis of Pantene’s #WhipIt Campaign

Last March this year, Pantene released an ad campaign on labels featuring the stories of Denise Laurel and Kris Aquino. There are two types of videos for each, one that is shortened as TV commercial and the full story uploaded on YouTube.

[1] TV COMMERCIAL:

“Sayang daw ako ‘cause I’m a single mother,” Denise opens as a sad, mellow tune plays. “It’s a shame that there still is that double standard,” she continues then the tune slowly progresses into a happier melody as she says, “but to me it was challenge accepted” while hugging her son. “Can you whip it? ‘Cause I did.” #WHIPIT Pantene See the full story on YouTube – end commercial –

The first time I saw this commercial on television, it was interesting and the story left me hanging. It was really short, yet it left an emotional impact on me because I grew up in a family of single mothers. However, when I watched it over and over again, there is something wrong about it. When did “sayang” become a label? I am sure a lot of people define situations as “sayang” depending on the context, but as a label towards a person, “sayang” just because she is a single mother does not seem too degrading.

For me, saying that on TV means romanticizing that it is still a weakness and a common criticism towards women. What happened to the feminist movement that lasted over the years? I thought it has already been fought and established that being a single mother is not something a woman has to be ashamed of. I have witnessed a lot of single mothers in my life and they do not see that as a problem that could pull them down.

If we keep seeing this as a problem, it will take us longer to break through it and for everyone else to stop seeing it as a problem. The ad limits “sayang” to the fact that she is a single mother and only that. What is wrong in being a single mother? My grandma is a single mother, but she not only has the strength and resources to support her children, but also for her grandchildren.

[2] There is a purpose why a full story is available on YouTube. It completes the missing parts and explains texts that were taken out of context just to fit in a TV commercial’s duration limit.

TRANSCRIPT:

“It’s a shame that there still is that double standard,” Denise opens with the same sad piano tune, then the same line I just argued about comes, “Sayang daw ako, ‘cause I’m a single mother.” I do not want to start there again. “If a guy gets a girl pregnant, he’s a stud, right? But if a girl gets pregnant, malandi siya” Girl, why did you even state that? I am so disappointed. Stating that gives that lie more power. It is possible, that people still think that way, but reminding them is not helping in breaking that mindset. “When the news spread of my pregnancy people were like, ‘Sayang! She was at the top of her game’,” I could say that the comments were harsh. But if that’s what people were saying, then it was more of an expression rather than a label. What does she mean by ‘top of her game?’

What is bothering me is the fact that she is pointing these out when the issue is done. Bringing back what could have been to relive the glory days in order to get back on her feet, this is Denise’s version of comeback. Why point out what people think? This is really an act of self-pity seeking for sympathy from people on how she was ‘unfairly judged.’ “People immediately would make up stories about me or assume that I am malandi or a woman of the world.” Women generally do not deserve to be called that way, no one does. However, in Denise’s part, yes it is a sad, but it is difficult to avoid such judgments because she is a public personality.

For me, in choosing her as the endorser, this ad was clearly made to bring Denise back to showbiz after her pregnancy scandal because being in showbiz makes one more prone to scandals and public humiliation which also makes one more susceptible to labels. “Was I unfairly judged? Yes. But then, did it stop me? No. Um, did it make me stronger? Yes. And um, will it keep me going? Hell yes.” A lot of people are unfairly judged. In her case, she lives in the spotlight where anyone can judge her freely. What message is she trying to give to audiences who don’t live a showbiz life? It is not the same with ordinary people.

“Labels are a challenge. To me, it was challenge accepted I wanted to show people that no matter what happens to you, it should never stop you from being successful. In the end, I’ve got to do whatever I want to do and as an actress, I’ve never been happier. Being a single mom, it’s really empowering because there’s more purpose and nothing’s greater than a mother’s love. I’m blessed.”

This part sounds good, right? But if you’ll listen closely, you could hear abrupt shifts. The transition from one sentence to the other isn’t smooth, as if it was cut or edited. It is quite possible that words were taken out of context to sound more attractive, this is an advertisement anyway. They make things look “attractive” to gain more audiences and the hearts of consumers. “Sayang? I don’t think so. Can you whip it? ‘Cause I did.” Maybe she did, I don’t know her life, but what is she trying to tell other people? If whipping means telling your side of the story, she did succeed since her story is broadcasted as a commercial where people can see and hear even if they don’t want to.

[3] [4] “Bakit iba ang tingin pag lalake at iba sa babae?” Good question, Kris. Why? Well, although we think that patriarchy is strong in the Philippines, women have more rights than some other countries. Feminism is actually rising in the Philippines. Opinyonada, that’s what they call me.” For me, opinyonada is not the right label to fight against. I am starting to rethink Denise’s sayang is actually appropriate compared to opinyonada. I am pretty sure there are other labels of her that are appropriate if she’s trying to make a message about strength and fighting against labels.

“I think na hindi masama for you to stand up for what you think is right.” What is Kris really fighting for anyway? I don’t follow her and rarely watch her shows, but when I do, she usually talks about love life and mostly about herself. Even in discussing issues in the country, she never misses talking about herself. If she thinks that is right, I don’t want to judge her. I’ll try not to.

“And it takes a strong woman to speak her mind, ‘di ba? If a man is strong, then that’s an asset. Kasi pag women, if you’re strong, and you have strength, then malakas ang dating mo.” Any woman should speak her mind, not only the ‘strong’ ones. How is “being a strong woman” defined anyway? It is not stated, but the context depicts that a woman who speaks her mind (opinyonada) are strong women. You don’t have to be strong in order to speak your mind. If strength is defined as someone who easily speaks her mind with a confidence that can’t be contained, then that sets boundaries to those who are shy. I don’t know if Kris is emphasizing it or was just redundant in this line, ‘if you’re strong, and you have strength.’

“Labels are a challenge. It’s a mirror to you about whatever perceived imperfections you have.” Not all labels are those that define who we are. What is her point here? It’s as if the ad is implying that labels define who we are since they are ‘mirrors’ to us. Labels are opinions of other people on how they perceive us. They do not necessarily define who we are. Yes, labels are challenges, but not about us.

“And nasa ‘yo yan kung you’ll cower and be insecure.” This is The Kris Aquino telling us about being insecure. Sometimes I don’t know if she really speaks her mind every time she mentions about herself and the things that happen in her life or she is actually just insecure that’s why she always talk about herself. “Or you’re gonna say, no, what you’re telling me is a weakness is actually my strength.” A weakness is a weakness. Even in stating her weakness, she takes pride in it. We are all imperfect. We all have our strengths and weakness, that’s what makes us human.

“I told myself na, they can only hold it against me if it still holds value with me pero kung nilet-go ko na at hinayaan ko na, hindi na siya pwedeng ibato sa akin.” It’s funny how she mentions about letting go, when it takes her a long time and her own news coverage to breakdown about her problems. And the other thing I’ve learned for women out there is that it takes a very intelligent person to accept and intelligent woman. Can you whip it? ‘Cause I did.

If ‘whipping it’ means making a difference, a good impact, through a message to the people, then she didn’t ‘whip it.’ She’s been stating facts, yes, but never really gave any encouragement or inspiring messages to people, especially the women who struggle with stereotypical labels almost every day. Plus, this is Kris Aquino. I don’t know why the endorsers chose her and this story. There’s always so much behind those words, those scripted smiles, and messages they sent to the whole wide Internet. The only impact this ad gave me is being disturbed with how she failed to stand up for women when she was given a chance to be on a TV ad.


Works Cited:

[1] “Pantene Philippines | Denise Laurel Labelled “Sayang” #WHIPIT,” YouTube video 0:19, Posted by “Pantene Philippines,” March 16, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xYsvcKfq8E&index=4&list=UUdv66YhwoznPHTcuC7D0Lfw

[2] “Pantene Philippines | Denise Laurel rises above her labels #WHIPIT,” YouTube video, 1:34, Posted by “Pantene Philippines,” March 16, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xYsvcKfq8E&index=4&list=UUdv66YhwoznPHTcuC7D0Lfw

[3] “Pantene Philippines | Kris Aquino labelled “Opinyonada” #WHIPIT,” YouTube video, 0:15, Posted by “Pantene Philippines,” April 4, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9vfBIz0kNk&list=UUdv66YhwoznPHTcuC7D0Lfw&index=5

[4] “Pantene Philippines | Kris Aquino whips away her labels #WHIPIT,” YouTube video, 0:15 Posted by “Pantene Philippines,” March 28, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLTs94DSogQ&list=UUdv66YhwoznPHTcuC7D0Lfw&index=6

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