Lindsay Karchin: Social Responsibility: An Intersectional Analysis

pink wall and sign that says "sparks & honey"

Hi everyone! This summer, I am exploring the intersection of marketing, Corporate Social Responsibility and gender. Through a multi-faceted approach, I am considering themes of neoliberalism, perceptions of authenticity, hegemonic narratives and gendered language in relation to the realm of social responsibility.

In this first month of research, I have learned that social responsibility is not just a practice, but an incredibly nuanced concept that exists in many forms, and therefore needs to be approached with an open mind. As a result, I plan to develop a flexible definition of CSR to guide my research.

Though at first it was only a small section of my project, authenticity has become the central topic of my research thus far. I intend to approach authenticity as another fluid concept, particularly one that has changed over time—this will allow me to better contextualize my object of study, and analyze authenticity as it exists within the current neoliberal moment.

At this point in my research, I have been very fortunate to have been granted several interviews. I recently spoke with Allison Wehrley of McCann, who currently works in social strategy. For an update on cultural trends surrounding my research topic, I visited Sparks & Honey, a New York-based agency that tracks data to identify changing patterns in culture. After sitting in on their daily culture briefing, I was able to interview a cultural strategist about her views on gender and social responsibility in the beauty industry today, as well as how they may exist in the future. Additionally, I have spoken with representatives from Kenneth Cole and the Always brand. These conversations allowed me to gain insight about specific campaigns (such as the Always #LikeAGirl campaign) in relation to the companies’ socially responsible actions.

In the next few weeks, I will interview the CEO and several staff members at the GlamourGals Foundation, a nonprofit at which I currently volunteer. I hope to learn more about the nonprofit perspective and the private-nonprofit relationship. I intend to speak with several other professionals in the corporate world, and will continue to read literature on CSR.

I am happy with my progress so far, and am excited to see where this project takes me!

The main entrance to Sparks & Honey.
The office entrance to Sparks & Honey.
My literature for the summer!

2 thoughts on “Lindsay Karchin: Social Responsibility: An Intersectional Analysis

  1. I think it’s really interesting how the concept of “authenticity” has expanded over the work you’ve done on your project thus far. It’s also particularly interesting, as you said, in terms of companies focused on products and services for women. I didn’t realize that people could study these things! But it does feel like corporations have tried to commodify on social responsibility in the last few years. Take fashion companies, like Aerie, that run body positivity campaigns, thinking that they offer products for all as they continue to only operate for the few (you might be interested in this Revelist article regarding that specifically: As long as it looks as if a company is doing their part toward some sort of social cause, from the outside, I feel like that can be enough in their books. And how successful/progressive are these campaigns really if they aren’t working toward some tangible, beneficial goal rather than a nice sounding narrative? This might be a bit of a negative stretch on what you’re going for, but it’s really fascinating to me to think about how responsible these companies are actually being, or if their attempts are only being more damaging, especially in terms of how they target young women/femmes.

    1. Hi Rachel–thank you for the link! The role and perception of narratives is definitely an important part of my research. One of the biggest problems that I am finding is that tangible goals in relation to socially responsible work can be difficult to attain, mostly because they are often abstract and not easily quantifiable. (And authenticity/perceived authenticity come into play here as well). Your last point on the potential damage caused by CSR is something that I have been considering carefully, and will definitely be a large part of my paper. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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