By Rhea Mathur
Imagine walking into a store and asking for a packet of Doritos. As you wait, you are expecting a large packet of crispy, tangy, crunchy chips to snack on. Instead, you are given a small packet, marketed at the same price as the original, and are not even crunchy. They have been consciously prepared not to dirty your fingers, thus, saving women of the public embarrassment of licking their fingers. These chips are “lady-friendly” and in 2018, promote stereotyping and sexism that women have fought hard against for years.
The problem with gender marketing
Indra Nooyi is the first independent female director at the International Cricket Council. She is also the third wealthiest female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She is the current chairwoman at PepsiCo and has a salary of almost thirty million dollars. She is the CEO of the parent company of Doritos and incidentally, her company’s response to equal pay for women was the introduction of lady-friendly chips.
Nooyi claimed that women “don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously and they don’t like to pour the little-broken pieces and the flavour into their mouth”. According to Doritos, women also prefer chips that would fit into the small purse that women always carry.
The problem with Nooyi’s statement is that there are more than three billion women on this planet. While women with whom she is in constant contact might not like the “crunch”, the claim that all women dislike it makes it a stereotype. This stereotyping allows brands to introduce the idea of female-specific products, thus, differentiating between the behaviour, likes and dislikes of men and women.
Hence, while men are allowed to lick their fingers in public, women must eat the lady-friendly chips that will not require them to do so. This idea in itself is archaic, taking us back to a time where women were made to follow the rules of social conduct. Leaving no say with them in the decisions made for or around them, women were only supposed to be polite and look decent.
In 2018, women have a voice. They are no longer dominated by these patriarchal societal norms and have achieved heights that women were never expected to reach. Indra Nooyi herself is an example of a woman who has shattered these sexist expectations, thus achieving a net worth of more than one hundred and forty million dollars. Yet, her company’s idea of lady-friendly chips promotes the idea of polite women and carefree men.
Pink is for girls & blue is for boys
The idea of gender marketing is not new to the society. Although Doritos chose a more public route to introduce sexism, lots of companies have been using these strategies for decades.
Finding a perfume for women that comes in a black bottle with simple packaging is nearly impossible. So is looking for a product for a man that is supplied in a pink bottle with sparkles. The ostentatious packaging for women and the minimalistic packaging for men is nothing but another way to enforce gender stereotyping and sexism. It simply denotes that women around the world could not possibly be interested in a product that is not bejewelled. It simultaneously states that men could never be seen with a perfume with sparkles or rather implies that a man should not be seen with a packaging in pink with glitter. These rules and expectations set by brands allow them to control the perceived image of the genders.
So, for a woman, no matter whether she wants a perfume with a black cover, it is unavailable for her gender. Products then transgress from being person specific to gender specific. This promotes gender ideals and expectations; thus, supplementing the continual of extreme sexism in the society.
Red Bull dons a pink colour
An energy drink would seemingly have no correlation with colour. The sale of that product should depend on only taste and flavour. However, companies like Red Bull have a different opinion. According to Red Bull, a woman would not prefer to drink from the blue can which has the word “bull” in its name and is loaded with calories. Women would instead prefer the version called “Go Girl” which is packaged in pink. The packaging also advertises the gender it is for, the fact that it is sugar-free and most importantly, “lightly carbonated”. Since women dislike crunchy items, excessively fizzy items would naturally repel them.
The sexist, gender labelling mind-set that overtook the sensibilities of these companies proved to the world that there is a way for sight, taste, smell, sound, and touch—all to be gender specific. Thus, the naturally ‘diet conscious woman’ must choose the “lightly carbonated” Go Girl as she takes out from her purse the “lady-friendly” Doritos. Simply put, patriarchy is now available in all five senses.
Cadbury presents the ideal woman
Crispello, which surprisingly is not packaged in pink, is a “lighter way to eat chocolate”, according to Cadbury’s spokesperson. Again, companies press on the idea that women are more conscious of their diets and prefer the lower calorie alternative for even chocolate. Not only that, the chocolate also was cut into three. This, the spokesperson claimed, would “appeal to women because… they can consume a little at a time rather than in one go”. Referring back to Doritos, women thus wish to not “lick” their fingers and prefer to eat a little at a time. These ideals of a proper “lady” are hence constantly reinforced into the minds of the public.
This gender marketing, on the contrary, is hardly brand specific. Men and women’s electrical and shaving razors are always sold separately with different advertising strategies. This comes from the idea that shaving is an act of pride for a man but for women, it becomes a responsibility. For this reason, many brands only make razors for men. They also state that the razors would need to be sharper since men have harder skin and hence, cannot be used by women. These facts are far from actual science but describe the mindset of the public.
Innumerable examples abound
Worth mentioning are products like Sellotape’s Clear Tape—just for girls, Chick Beer: Sold in a purse-shaped pack of six, VonHaus Pink Home owner—a toolset for women, girl and boy M&Ms, and Bic pens “For her”. The feminine nature of these products is questionable but so is their necessity in general. Should these brands also be given the power to dictate the lifestyle and choices for women?
Are men not allowed to choose products that may contain “feminine” qualities? Also is the public as susceptible to this colour change as some companies claim? Sarah Goldthwait, the Director of Marketing at Powerful Yogurt stated that when “a man” walks “into the kitchen in the morning” and is faced with a decision to choose between “a Danish, a cereal box, or a very feminine-looking yogurt in the fridge, the yogurt is always going to lose out,” regardless of its protein content. Do men only choose the yoghurt with black package simply because it seems manly?
An attempt to normalcy
Though there is no end to such products and ideas, the release of such products does not go unquestioned. Doritos’ announcement received a public outcry. Celebrities, along with the public, used social media to voice their opinions. Kate Ford, an English actress, wrote on Twitter, “In response to Doritos lady-friendly chips, I shall be eating the biggest crisps I can find—crunching really loudly, burping, and carrying a packet of crisps as a handbag”.
High profile stores like Target have also now removed their gender-specific toys sections stating that children should be able to make their own decisions. In conclusion, while there is a change in the advertising for children, the marketing for adults remains unchanged. Hopefully, the comments and uproar from the public will force a change in these present mind-sets and companies will learn to evolve with time.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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