walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

Marketing to Women

I was reading Nate's excellent blog, and telling R. the funny story of the RPG game going on over in the Nook Store comments (ah, brings me back to bb days at the UW, with nick wars). R. brought up, apropos of funny-stuff-in-reviews, the thing about Bic pens over on Amazon that worked its way around the online commentariat recently.

Sample coverage:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/08/bic-pens-for-her-draw-amazon-flames/

I rolled my eyes for the most part, but when it made it to MSM coverage and R. brought it up, I just snapped. So I'm going to describe a little of why I find the Bic Pen controversy so infuriating; if you read it, maybe you'll think a little before you start mocking the next thing marketed to women and/or in pastel colors. Also, remember that I actually have no discernible sense of humor.

(1) Most shit you can buy (outside of women's clothing and personal care products) is marketed to be neutral, that is, acceptable to male buyers. That's not much of a definition of neutral.

(2) If your sense of humor involves making fun of a marginalized group or stereotypes associated with a marginalized, You Are Not Funny. Think you are making fun of someone _else_ for making fun of a marginalized group or making fun of THEIR stereotypes? Better make sure it is not possible to confuse the two. cf. Stephen Colbert's chinese character. I like Colbert. I don't like Colbert when he's doing that routine. I know I'm not supposed to like Colbert when he's doing that routine, but I conflate that Colbert with all-Colberts and it makes it hard for me to watch the Colbert Report for days afterward. Just thinking about it makes me feel awful.

(3) It is possible to like pink, purple, glitter, pastel and so forth without necessarily invoking things like barefoot, pregnant, kitchen, eating disorders, etc.

(4) Items designed to fit an "average" person may not work well for everyone. While I recognize that we make fun of Big & Tall shops, that does not make poking fun at Women's Specific Design acceptable. Just because people make fat jokes at the expense of large men doesn't make it okay to make jokes about women.

Finally, and most importantly,

(5) If you are a member of a marginalized group, and you mock the accoutrements of a marginalized group in a venue that is not primarily occupied by that marginalized group, that doesn't make it OK. That probably means you are seeking status among the oppressors, which as a strategy for personal advancement is practical, but makes me cranky. (Telling bad-women-driver jokes to all women is very different from telling bad-women-driver jokes to a mixed audience. Not that bad-women-driver jokes are ever okay.)

Let's think about a world in which no one _ever_ marketed things specifically to women, if they had a market which could include men and women. Let's compare that to our world.

Now let's think about a world in which no one _ever_ marketed things specifically to men, if they had a market which could include men and women. Let's compare that to our world.

Which one is more like our world? Our whole world is tilted so hard over to make-it-for-men-and-women-will-buy-it that when someone makes-it-for-women-and-men-will-buy-it, people freak the fuck out. And that, My Dear, Dear Reader, is Wrong.

Really, it's a wonder that anything gets marketed to women, but the truth is that stuff marketed to women using pink/purple/pastel, or with women's-specific-design (smaller shoulders, smaller hands, shorter torso, etc.) sells (and not just to women, but never mind that right now because I honestly don't feel like being reminded of that David Sedaris thing). When I buy something with a practical use (a bicycle, backpack, re-usable grocery bag that packs up small), I desperately try to find something in purple (I will take pink as a much less good substitute). I love purple, but the real reason I do this is because Useful Things Are Borrowed and sometimes not returned. I'm willing, up to a point, to buy the equivalent for someone, but I'd rather do that after they compliment me on it and/or return it to me than constantly having to do the emergency-repurchase-after-flattering-theft incident. Hence, the pink/purple choices. I am not the only person doing this, so why are we attacking not-black, not-neutral color offerings if the purchasers are just trying to own something memorable enough that they can hang onto it? And if there is anything on the planet "stolen" more often than pens, I'm not sure what it is (coffee mugs in the break room? I had an electronics teacher who wrote "herpes" with a sharpie on the inside of his coffee mug. Never, ever, ever had to replace it. That guy was hysterical. He'd explain how capacitors work, demonstrate it, then ask someone in the classroom -- usually a football player -- to come up and touch one that he'd charged up. He didn't actually let them touch a charged one that I knew of, but the point he was making was DO NOT BE THIS GUY!).

Finally, the route to greater acceptance of colors like pink in our culture is NOT to reify the association of pink (or other pastels) and the oppression of women or stereotypes about women or whatever. The route to greater acceptance of colors like pink in our culture is to market the crap out of pink (purple, pastel, glitter, etc.) on useful objects. My son uses a pink scooter. My husband bought pink pruners. Really, marketing pink is one of those rare instances where what the Komen Foundation did was less obnoxious than what the snarkers on Amazon did.

But just barely, because identifying pink with breast cancer is problematic in its own right.
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