The new “manned-up” VW Beetle is in the news again and J. Dawn Carlson, a PhD Candidate at UC Berkeley, asked us to write about it.  We covered it in July of 2010, but figured this was a good excuse to revisit the post.

The VW Bug was introduced in 1938 for economical, powerful, fast, and sustained driving on the German Autobahn.  Later it jumped shores and became an icon of the California surfer lifestyle:

(source)

The New Beetle, however, introduced in 1998, quickly became associated with women because of its bubbly body and pastel colors and built-in flower vase (note: readers suggest it always had a flower vase):

(source)

Feminized products, however, don’t sell well with men (or some women) because femininity is stigmatizing.  Accordingly, the Beetle is re-vamping its image; it’s getting a “sex change” for 2011.  Brit S. pointed us to a story in the Anaheim Examiner detailing this surgery.  Jim Cherry writes:

New Beetle is about to get a testosterone injection. A mean-looking chopped top, 200 H.P. motor, widened stance, and a larger interior will transform the quintessential chick car into a rock-hard rock star.

So being mean-looking, wider, and larger (with a Porsche engine) are all equated with masculinity, a characteristic that will supposedly improve the cars appeal to men (and non-girly women).  Here’s what the new testosterone-injected Beetle will look like (in red, of course):

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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