Thursday, May 26, 2005

Gender anxiety and marketing

I'm sure this is a tired question to people with hipper, more extensive familiarity with the delicacies of international cuisine, but what's the deal with Men's Pocky? It's a chocloate covered pretzel stick. What about this can women not handle? And what's up with the "Yorkie" candy bar from Nestle, which has emblazoned on its wrapper "It's NOT for girls" and even features a silhouette of a woman in a circle with a line through it in place of the O in its name. I'm not alone in my confusion. Nestle's marketing director explains it thus: "We felt we needed to take a stand for the British bloke and reclaim some things in his life, starting with his chocolate... Most men these days feel as if the world is changing around them and it has become less and less politically correct to have anything that is only for males. Yorkie feels that this is an important part of men's happiness and is starting the reclaiming process of making a particular chocolate just for men." That pretty much makes plain the risibility of accusations of "political correctness." When someone accuses someone else of political correctness, it usually means some reactionary attitude toward femininsm is lurking just below the surface. Oh no, these damned women are taking away our chocolate! What's next? Our penises?

Also, what these products point to is the marketing value of gender difference. These products are not subtle in anyway about it, the way most products that leverage gender are (i.e., virtually everything advertised in Stuff or Lucky magazines), but they are functioning from the same logic. Gender purports to be an absolute category, and ideology everywhere reinforces this, but in reality it is not so fixed and this ideological pressure makes us constantly anxious, constantly vulnerable to products like these, when presented in their subtler guises. Gender anxiety then becomes one of the typical byproducts of consumer capitalism, which is fueled by insecurity. The engines of the marketplace and the logic of profit always finds categories like gender to destabilize and exploit.

1 comment: