Editorial: Women want a female-friendly world, not female-friendly products

The New York Post reported Feb. 4 that Doritos, a subsidiary company of PepsiCo, was planning on making a “lady-friendly” version of their chips, referencing statements made by PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi in an interview on Jan. 31. Nooyi claimed the new chip would be less crunchy, because women “don’t like to crunch too loudly in public” and the packaging design would be altered because “women love to carry a snack in their purse.”

Backlash was immediate. So was a withdrawal of the claims by PepsiCo, followed by an affirmation from Doritos that “We already have Doritos for women — they’re called Doritos.” Although the reports on the launch of the new product were inaccurate, the mere concept of “Lady Doritos” was enough to start a conversation, and remind us of other purportedly “female-friendly” products that have been advertised or marketed in the past.

For example, a bill that was presented to the House Natural Resources Committee late last month requested that female hunters be allowed to wear pink hunting gear, rather than the required orange, citing women’s apparent desire “to always look and feel attractive (even while hunting).”

In yet another case, Reba McEntire was recently cast as KFC’s first female Colonel Sanders, although she appeared in the advertisement campaign dressed in a suit and donning a mustache and short haircut. She then spends the entire commercial trying to convince the fictional audience she is “definitely not a woman.”

Less recently, in 2012, the pen manufacturer BIC released their “BIC For Her” pens, with a “thin barrel to fit a women’s hand,” according to the company’s product listing on Amazon.

Products and bills like these, whether they are implemented or not, have the deleterious effect of furthering gender inequality by reinforcing outdated stereotypes and the strict binary divisions between men and women. Perhaps what is most problematic is the idea that people who wield a certain amount of influence think they can make sweeping claims about “what women want” or “how women are,” and expect everyone to play along.

The denigration of women in this sense digs deeper than an advertising campaign; it stems from sometimes unnoticed but profoundly ingrained gender roles that pervade societies everywhere.

Women are asking for a closing of the wage gap, taking a stand against sexual assault, and insisting upon equal treatment in all aspects of life. What have they received in return? A female Colonel Sanders, chips that can fit into a purse, and pink hunting gear.

In a time when women are fighting fervently for gender equality, the idea of making crunch-less chips because women “don’t like to crunch too loudly in public,” feels like a slap in the face.

It should be acknowledged that the voice behind these comments is in fact a woman. We argue, however, that this fact serves as a reminder that the diminution of women is not just a male problem, but a systemic one in which each individual has the opportunity to either participate or combat.

We urge University members — men and women — to be aware of the reinforcement of these stereotypes and how they further the gender divide, and to resist engaging with them.

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