Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Problem With Gendered Products

Over break, I was talking to my older cousin, a 1st grade teacher in Colorado. She said she tries to be very sensitive to gender stereotypes in her classroom. In the beginning of the year she hands out pencils as a gift to her students. Some have dinosaurs or rockets and some have flowers or butterflies. She noticed the girls and boys trying to trade with one another, and then gave them a talk about how you shouldn’t care which pencil you recieved. There are no “boy” or “girl” pencils. This got me thinking about how so many products are needlessly gendered. 

Upon searching “gendered products” in Google images, I started coming up with some absurd results. These were a few of the images.

The language that was used to market the earplugs was very telling about how the market sells to women. The Women’s ear plugs say, “Beauty sleep is always in fashion.” A few other words I picked out right away were “pretty,” “pink,” and “silky.” The men’s ear plugs send a different message; they are “skull screws,” not just ear plugs. In the upper left corner they are named “hi-tech” ear plugs. The graphics are interesting to compare, too. A butterfly and a sleeping woman on the women's and a skull and screws on the men's. 
Companies do this to make more money off the same product, splitting their shoppers into two groups, boys and girls. This only is enforcing                                                                                           gender stereotypes we have. 

Another picture I found was gendered deodorant, another product that is gender-specific for no reason. The women’s deodorant is a light pink color and has a smooth look to it. The men’s has hard lines in the design and packaging and is taller and wider than the women’s one. 

These products could so easily be unisex, yet the market is taking advantage of our preexisting gender stereotypes and making a “boy” and “girl” version of every product out there. We see these issues with gender roles when we are kids: with boy and girl aisles in toy sections of stores. But they continue to be present afterwards in our products we choose to buy as adults. 


  1. Becca,
    These gendered products are extremely stereotypical. And from your anecdote at the beginning of your blog, I can see that these products are teaching kids unhealthy stereotypes at a very young age. I, myself, did a blog on campaigns specially geared towards women and found that marketers like to use the mantra, "shrink it and pink it" when thinking of what appeals to their female audience. I wonder what could be done to prevent this for future generations?

  2. I am not surprised to see gendered deodorant, because they smell different (which is still not necessary), but earplugs and pencils? This is teaching young girls and boys, like the first graders you mentioned, that everything has to be a "girl thing" or a boy thing", a "girl color" or a "boy color", etc. It would be very intereting to know whether other countries and societies needlessly gender as many products as the United States.

  3. To add to the gendered deodorant, price wise, the girl deodorant is more expensive than the boy deodorant. For example, in a Walgreens store I have recently been to, the girl deodorant is around 6-7 dollars while the boy deodorant is around 3-4 dollars. I also find it interesting how there is more titanium dioxide in the boy deodorant than the girl deodorant. Titanium dioxide is the most common active ingredient in most deodorants and usually boy deodorants have a more concentrated value of titanium dioxide in their product.

  4. Becca,

    Pretty good job blogging this semester. You've covered a wide range of topics, but your total number of posts is only 13 (6 this quarter). Think of the range you might have covered if you had posted more regularly.

    I like the ideas in this post very much, the gender bias you notice and the analysis of pictures and language. What is at stake though? What are the consequences of this clear bias? That discussion would take your post to different level. This might mean inserting a text -- a quote from a gender expert, statistics, etc -- so that you can link your good observations to a larger on-going conversation. Looking for texts to dialogue with is also the best means of finding new blog topics.

    Last: have you seen this Ellen bit on gender products?

    1. Thanks Mr. O'Connor, I have seen the Ellen bit, and was thinking about including the pens "for her" in my post. When Ellen mentions the pens coming in "both lady colors: pink and purple", that could have been an interesting thing to focus on- how much colors play a part in marketing to one gender.

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