Gendered marketing: It’s not just for girls
Life as a woman is difficult. The diet of salad and Ryvita; the pressure at work to play with Maltesers in a coquettish manner; the endless hours spent worrying about being bloated, consuming endless tubs of yoghurt to counteract the bloat. If there’s one thing advertising tells us about women, it’s that we bloody love yoghurt.
Of course, it isn’t only women that advertising patronises and panders to because of gender. Marketing aimed at men is just as infantilising, portraying men as inept, incapable, cock-driven numbskulls who blunder helplessly from one moment of life to the next. Every product consumed is made into a tiresome test of masculinity: Can you eat this thing even though it’s massive? Can you lift this despite it being irritatingly cumbersome? How many blades does your razor have? Only four?! What a wuss, mine has seventeen.
The most over-the-top man-marketing is plastered across the products that are “traditionally” seen as appealing to women. After all, why should men feel feminised or subjugated by a shower gel? Real men don’t smell of roses! Real men smell of fennel and bricks.
Foods are another big player in the “prove your masculinity” stakes: if it isn’t bigger than your fist, what self-respecting man would ever want to force it down his gullet? That means we end up with things like:
All Bran for Women. Feeling bloated? Sluggish? All Bran will give you the energy to cope with all that tricky multitasking. Why not try it with some yoghurt?
All Bran for Men. MAN BRAN! MASSIVE CHUNKS OF BRAN SO HUGE YOU CAN BARELY FIT THEM IN YOUR GOB! THIS CEREAL TRULY IS A CHALLENGE!
These aren’t real blurbs, but you might not have realised that straight away – and that is the problem.
So after diligent research (Research = asking my twitter feed, then fiddling about on Google for a bit. I’m a blogger, not a statistician), here are a few of my favourite examples of manbranding:
Rocks! For your face! This exfoliating scrub is currently in my bathroom, and features the impeccable strapline “Exfoliation is not just for girls” The website displays a scrolling marquee of men playing rugby and doing extreme sports, pumping their fists and grinning inanely into the camera. It also features “The Man Blog”, which it describes as “A monthly man blog for men about manly things”.
A monthly man blog. For men. About manly things.
The thing that I like best about this advertising campaign is its subtlety.
No, it isn’t a parody; this is an actual real thing that Jordan’s Cereal marketed back in 2008. They were pretty canny with the packaging for this one; it basically looks like a Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodle, which is great as – from a distance – none of your bros will realise that you’re actually eating a tub of girly-grain. The packet also features SUPER-MANLY CAPITAL LETTERS; the sort of letters that will smack you one if they catch you looking at them funny.
This one’s actually quite worrying, with its creeping implications of misogyny. “MAN, IT USED TO BE THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD”, the website roars. It’s those manly capital letters again. “Man has lost his place in the world and his place in the fridge.” That’ll be those damn women then, hogging the vegetable drawer of life.
They go on to give us a handy list of ‘man-tips’, all of which ooze sexual-insecurity. “A man shouldn’t share an umbrella with another man. Ever”, for example, and “It’s ok for a man to carry a bag, but never a ‘man bag’”. And it seems Mammoth have finally found a way to make yoghurt more manly: “BEAT HUNGER WITH A SPOON”. Go on, beat it. Beat it right up. Shove it against a wall. Punch it in the face. That’ll learn it.
I know I’m not the only person who doesn’t find anything familiar in either of the two opposing demographics being presented to me; perhaps it’s a radical stance, but personally I eat because I’m hungry, and shower because it’s socially unacceptable for me to smell bad. Neither of which has anything to do with my gender. There are myriad day-to-day issues actually facing me as a woman which I’d love to see portrayed more in the media but unfortunately, we tend to hear much more about the dreaded bloat.
This sort of gendered marketing does nobody any favours. And it’s now so prevalent that we barely even notice its presence. It perpetuates the ‘Men are from Mars/Women are from Venus’ idea and makes it increasingly difficult to empathise with one another, whipping us up into a War of the Sexes and making men feel guilty and emasculated if they so much as step into Boots. And as can be seen from the ‘Mammoth Supply’ example, there’s a darker reading to it, too; an insidious, inflammatory rhetoric that implies that people of any genders or sexualities other than “straight/male” are a threat to masculinity. It might seem like a bit of harmless fun, but marketing like this can be as damaging as it is insulting. And we should all – women and men – be insulted by it.Tagged in: advertising, feminism, gendered advertising, marketing, misogyny
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