The XX Factor

That Bing Ad With Malala Yousafzai and Margaret Thatcher Is Weird

The search engine Bing would like to salute the heroic women of 2013. Malala Yousafzai, who “stood up to educate us all.” Margaret Thatcher, for “blazing a trail.” Adrianne Haslet-David, for “vowing to dance again” after she lost a foot in the Boston bombing. Diana Nyad, who “swam a really long way” (just kidding, who “persevered”). In its new commercial, which premiered during the Golden Globes Sunday night, Bing flashes images of these women, as well as of Gabrielle Giffords, Janet Yellen, Antoinette Tuff, Angela Merkel, Edith Windsor, Deb Cohan, and female troops, while girl-power anthemist Sara Bareilles sings “I wanna see you be brave” in the background.

The chancellor of Germany and a Pakistani teen activist are strange bedfellows, perhaps, but companies can cast a wide net when their only criteria for inclusion are “female” and “famous.” (I would have loved to eavesdrop on the brainstorming session for this ad: People being brave? Too broad. Women under 30 being brave in a safari context? I don’t know, it seems sort of arbitrary.) As I’ve written before, I have no qualms about businesses using feminism to sell me things, if the spots are smart or provocative—but Bing’s is not. Does the search engine want to be congratulated for noticing that women accomplished stuff this year? Are we supposed to believe that there’s something particularly woman-friendly about Bing? Ah, but at least these names are searchable! Just enter “Margaret Thatcher feminism” and see what comes up.

Perhaps, as the smaller and more social search engine in a world dominated by Google, Bing identifies with the female plight, such as it is. Bing knows the pain of marginalization and the importance of “dancing to inspire us all.” Maybe we ladies do need to celebrate one another more, as Bing urges us to do. But how? To find out, I typed “how to celebrate each other” into I got the same results as when I typed it into Google. Oh well. Here’s to another year of bravery!