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International Women's Day: Why "not for girls" matters - Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark
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sesquipedality
sesquipedality
International Women's Day: Why "not for girls" matters
Yorkie were the first to fall to this despicable marketing ploy, but in recent time we've seen what may now represent a genuine trend. I refer to products marketed as being "too manly for women". To the list of shame we must now add Snickers, McCoy's Crisps and (reportedly) Dr. Pepper. Seriously, people, this has to stop.

Doubtless this is the point where some readers will label me a humourless feminist for taking what are essentially light hearted campaigns too seriously. No-one's supposed to take Yorkie's "Not for Girls" slogan, seriously, and the ladies toilet sign in a red crossed circle logo is just poking gentle fun, right?

Wrong. Because the message is more than what you say. I can easily believe that these campaigns were intended by their designers to be entertaining attempts to appeal light heartedly to the (presumably) mostly male demographic they are trying to sell to. What's the harm, after all, because no-one is supposed to take it seriously? The problem is that there's an underlying message that is disruptive and unpleasant on several levels. Firstly there is an insidious reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Women can't like big chunky chocolate, or chunky crisps, or non diet pop, or calorie laden chocolate bars. Women who like these things are unfeminine - they should stick to their diet cola, Go Ahead Bars, and rice cakes, one supposes. It's not an intentional message in most cases, but that doesn't stop it being there.

Secondly, it reinforces the myth of the manly man. Those people who only exist in sitcoms, and whose entire life is Top Gear, drinks down the local, and football. These are American sitcom dads, eternal children helpless to run their own lives without the management skills of their sometimes shrewish yet nonetheless well meaning helpmeets. These aren't men, they're cardboard cut outs. And yet boys have this message reinforced through the media. Men do not feel pain, they do not talk about feelings, and they do not have interests outside of the traditional male arena. Knowing the name of a ballet step is enough to get you ejected from the fraternity, it would seem.

None of the men I know fit this mould. Some of them pretend to from time to time, but they're all nonetheless complex emotional human beings, unique and infinitely more interesting than the blokey bloke stereotype. Yet they face this pressure only to express themselves in a blokey way, for fear of ridicule from their peers. And all so someone can sell more chocolate bars. How is that right?

This ridicule has a more sinister message in that it reinforces the idea that "feminine" qualities are undesirable. And I use the word "feminine" in quotes, because these qualities are no more inherently female than the cardboard bloke ones are male. By saying that men should reject the "feminine", these ads are claiming that the domain of the woman is essentially worthless. The suffragettes would be terribly disappointed.

I am glad that most of my friends, male and female, have the strength not to follow the herd, but when we pretend that human beings are these simple boxes labelled "bloke" and "bird", we do the entire human race a disservice. We should be embracing the complexity, but in the name of a crude marketing demographic, we just keep trying to force everyone back into boxes that, if they ever had any meaning, ceased to do so fifty years ago.

Enough. Telling half the population you don't want their custom is bad marketing anyway, but the real danger comes from failing to acknowledge that men and women as people have far more in common than different. We're all doing our best to navigate through a tricky existence, and you, advertisers, aren't helping.
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Comments
ducklingsmith From: ducklingsmith Date: March 9th, 2011 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)
While I am in agreement with everything you say above, I at least have to thank you for stirring up happy memories of the Nestlé marketing team who came to our students' union when that Yorkie campaign first started running.

The Guild took their money to let them run an on-site marketing promotion for Yorkie without finding out what it actually entailed. They certainly found out once the astronomical quantities of complaints began to roll in; the marketeers were handing out free Yorkie bars, but only to male students, because Yorkie was "not for girls".

They were escorted off the premises by security after being thrown out for breach of the Guild equal ops charter. Yorkie may taste like cardboard, but schadenfreude is much, much sweeter.
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: March 9th, 2011 08:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Ha ha ha!!!!!!!

Thanks for sharing that story :D
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: March 9th, 2011 08:35 am (UTC) (Link)
This makes me happy.
lanfykins From: lanfykins Date: March 9th, 2011 07:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Well said.

...I used to really like Yorkies. But I haven't eaten one in years.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: March 9th, 2011 08:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I was disappointed I couldn't boycott Nestle more than I already was when the campaign started. I haven't had a Yorkie in almost 20 years.
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cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: March 9th, 2011 08:13 am (UTC) (Link)
*applause*
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metame From: metame Date: March 9th, 2011 09:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow... that McCoys site quiz is really messed up.
lnr From: lnr Date: March 9th, 2011 11:39 am (UTC) (Link)
There's a children's yogurt advert that's all mums on the end of string-and-yogurt-pot phones, it's still mums who go to Iceland too, and there's the washing powder adverts which are all about kids getting mucky where the girls are getting covered in chocolate doing the cooking and the boys are covered in mud in the garden. I swear that some of these things are getting *worse* in the last few years.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: March 9th, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting links, although the first comment on the second one makes me want to choke the poster. With a Yorkie.

(ObTwitterJokeTrial: I have no plans to commit murder on people being wrong on the Internet, with or without chocolate based weaponry.)
davywavy From: davywavy Date: March 9th, 2011 11:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't eat chocolate which is less than 50% cocoa solids, so I won't touch yorkie.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: March 9th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
A very moral stance, I feel.
davywavy From: davywavy Date: March 9th, 2011 11:33 am (UTC) (Link)
they're all nonetheless complex emotional human beings, unique and infinitely more interesting than the blokey bloke stereotype.

I'm bloody not.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: March 9th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
And neither is your wife.
the_pale_queen From: the_pale_queen Date: March 9th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hear bloody hear. People are people, not sodding plumbing, or the snacks they choose to put through it.
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