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.