Is #MasculinitySoFragile that some men feel the need to buy cosmetic and household products that correspond to the stereotypical image of their gender? You’ve probably seen these kinds of products with their dark packaging and bold, capitalized typeface. They pander to the most basic of social constructs: “Don’t worry, you can still be manly while washing your toilet or removing stains from your shirt”.
It seems that for them, only single males have the obligation to do their laundry, and they’ll be damned if there are puppies on the detergent bottle.
If toys for kids are more divided by gender today than ever before, the adults aren’t spared either. Do you remember this Dr. Pepper TEN spot? It highlighted the message that their soda is “Not for women” even though it’s a low calorie product…
Welcome to the Boys Club
Now the startup Hero Clean is hitting the American market, with a series of “man-inspired” household products. In its press release, Hero Clean mentions that their products are “designed, branded, packaged, and formulated for the 40 million men 21+ living alone in the United States”, and that they’re “for men, by men, with men in mind”. It seems that for them, only single males have the obligation to do their laundry, and they’ll be damned if there are puppies, flowers or babies on the bottle of detergent. Perhaps a majority of men prefer cleaning products that have a muskier smell (more cologne than perfume), but is it necessary for the handle to feel like a gas pump?
Other companies that are targeting men’s insecure self-image are classic brands like Kleenex or specialized ones like Matte for Men. What is misleading about Kleenex’s “Mansize” tissues is that they are billed as helping the whole family. Therefore, they assign gender to the concept of largeness, connecting it to the age-old view that being masculine means being larger than life with the ability to provide for those who depend on you. Welcome to the 50s, guys. Matte for Men has a minty-fresh lip balm on the market targeted toward suave, sophisticated men — protective lip care that women definitely wouldn’t enjoy… And we thought mint-flavors were adored by all!
But Then There’s the Price
Indeed, many male products like soaps, deodorants, creams, razors and perfumes are usually a little less expensive as those aimed at the fairer sex. This is probably driven by the idea that women pay more attention to their appearance and are therefore willing to pay a higher price to meet their needs. So, if you run into a retail store, keep in mind that moisturizing cream tubes shaped like beer cans or dish soap sponsored by a football player will probably be more affordable than their pink counterparts.
In the end, this differentiation of products results from a deep social construction of both men and women. Labels like “mansize” and “for men” help create a single image of what a “real” man should like and buy. For how long will these labels continue to stick on products that could be sold based on taste rather than gender stereotypes? #BecauseIts2016.