Monday, August 08, 2016

Secondary sex characteristics, consumer version

There’s dopey TV commercial for Summer’s Eve ‘feminine hygiene wash’ that I’ve seen a couple of times of late. Apparently it’s been around for years, but as happens so often with pop and consumer culture, I’m late to this particular par-tay.

Anyway, in the ad, a woman informs her husband, who’s showering away, that the body wash he’s using was designed to clean the “V”. He hot foots it out of the shower and starts chopping wood and crushing beer cans and doing all sorts of manly things, presumably while resisting the urge to look down to make sure that his bout with Summer’s Eve hasn’t washed or withered his man thang away.

Whatever the merits of using feminine hygiene products like Summer’s Eve – and I will say that I come down on the side that using unnecessary chemicals that may be carcinogenic is a must avoid – there are some products that are absolutely gender-distinct. Like tampons. And Viagra. Like Jockey shots. And bras.

Then there are those items - plenty of them - that, for whatever reason, are pitched to one gender or the other. Think Ford F150. Think elder-care services.

But most things we buy are, when it comes to use, gender-neutral.

The Summer’s Eve ad came to mind when I saw an article in The Economist, “His and Hers”, that talked about how so many products are “needlessly gendered,” and not just products of the pink-and-purple-bikes for girls variety. (Not to mention Hello Kitty guns.)

I wasn’t aware, for instance, that you can now get Q-TIPS for men. And that Bic offers pink and purple Bic for Her pens. There’s yogurt in black tubs for men.

Hero Clean is a full line of cleaning products – laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, odor spray – built for men.120880171

According to their web site, necessity was the father of this invention, which came about after a thwarted shopping trip:

After trying in vain to find one that didn’t smell offensively sweet or floral – it dawned on me that everything in the laundry and cleaning products aisles was fragranced, branded, packaged, and marketed to and for women.  None of it smelled good to me.  I wasn’t vibing the cute characters or flowers on the labels.

Well, I’m with our hero in that I don’t want my products to “smell offensively sweet or floral,” either. But it’s not all that difficult to find products that don’t “vibe” cute characters or flowers. Case in point, I give you my laundry products.

Sure, there’s a picture of a women on that bottle of Sport-Wash to the left20160807_155947. But she looks more like a marathoner to me than a cute character or a delicate flower. I will admit that the Bounce is of the “Free and Gentle” variety, and perhaps “gentle” would be off putting to a manly man. But I was focused on the “free”: free of dyes, smells, etc. There’s nothing here that screams girly-girl, and that goes double for my household cleaner product array as well.

Anyway, it seems as if gender-linked products are proliferating.

One theory is that because men and women are increasingly doing the same things, such as attending the same universities, doing the same jobs and household duties, marketers see a chance to appeal to an older instinct, for differentiation. (Source: The Economist.)

Appealing to this ‘older instinct’ seems pretty wasteful to me. But it’s not out and out offensive. Unlike:

Some firms are even trying to charge women more for the same products. A 2015 study in New York city found that women’s products cost more two-fifths of the time.

I’m not sure if it’s still the case, but my dry cleaner used to charge more to light-starch-hanger a woman’s blouse than they did a man’s shirt. So I started telling them that my blouses were shirts. Which they were. Why should I pay more for my light-starch-hanger LL Bean shirts than my husband was paying for his?

But am I paying more for my razor blades than the guys do, just because my razor handle is turquoise? How about shaving cream? What I’m using now is generic CVS brand, Just the Basics. But it’s “just for woman.” Next time I’m at CVS, I’ll have to see if it costs more than “just for men”, and whether there’s any difference in the chemical composition.

I can definitely see pitching some products separately. Few men are going to want to pick up a package of Lady Clairol, even if they’d end up with a better color than they get from Just for Men.

But mostly…

And, no, I don’t want to pay MORE for the same things.

Sheesh. We can’t get equal pay for equal work, and now we find out we don’t even get equal price for equal product.

Think I’ll take to my fainting couch with a bottle of cute and cuddly pink smelling salts.

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