Musings on Gender Inequality in Marketing
I read an article in The Independent recently that caught my attention, titled ‘Eat, drink, man, woman: Is there such a thing as a gastronomic gender divide?’. It discusses how the marketing of food has taken advantage of society’s insistence on displaying the distinction between masculinity and femininity. In the modern era it is perfectly acceptable for men to enjoy strawberry ice cream and women to enjoy steak, but do we still subconsciously, or even consciously, perpetuate distinctions between gender on a daily basis through what we consume?
The article discusses cookbooks and restaurants that target male or female audiences. Strategies are constructed which promote, for example, masculinity and strength for men and femininity and daintiness for women. Because we want to encompass these stereotypes, we buy into it.
A compelling example of this was offered in the article. Ella Valentine eggs are marketed to a female audience, sold in a girly pink carton and labelled as ‘baking eggs’. The brand claims to ‘make your cakes fluffy and your desserts delicious’, and its vintage-y look makes it clear that their approach is to appeal to a female that wants to be a classic home maker. Of course, these eggs are exactly the same as any bog standard egg you would buy from Tesco, but the brand is ‘female-friendly’ and desirable for women. I’m pretty sure you would not see a man caught dead buying them.
Similarly, Dr. Pepper has approached its marketing strategy with a target audience in mind. It has launched a controversial campaign for Dr. Pepper Ten, a diet soda, with the slogan ‘It’s not for women’. Their strategy is to encourage men not to shy away from it just because it is a diet drink, which could threaten their masculinity, but what about all the women that this slogan is alienating? Are we supposed to find this humorous? Yorkie chocolate bars have the tagline ‘It’s not for girls’, which makes me wonder, what’s so wrong about something being for girls? This fear of men being considered girly reflects sexism in our society. It should not be an insult to be called feminine.
I think that the distinction between men and women’s tastes is at least mostly cultural. I think that men and women taste food the same way, but it is interesting that we’ve come to think of men enjoying ribs and women liking quiche. Our desire to fit into our gender roles has left us vulnerable to marketing strategies that go beyond our taste buds, feeding on our desires to project a certain image, which is is nothing new in the field of advertising.