Z from It’s the Thought that Counts sent us this example of an identical product–mosquito repellent–packaged two different ways (found here). In the top example, the mostly blue package includes a male figure fishing and logos for hunting, camping, and fishing. In the bottom one, the mostly orange package includes a female figure, perhaps on a walk.
Rudbeckia Hirta explains:
Sold in the same anti-mosquito display. Same active ingredient. Same concentration of active ingredient. Same quantity in the package. Same price.
This reminds us that gender seems to be a salient variable no matter what the context, which goes to show how profoundly our psyches and cultures are organized by gender.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
thoughtcounts Z — June 5, 2009
Sorry if it was unclear in my email -- that explanation isn't mine, it's from the blog post where I found it. She goes by "Rudbeckia hirta" (that's a black-eyed susan, for any gardeners or botanists out there...).
Maggie — June 5, 2009
another example of unnecessary gendering by our industry. lovely.
klaus — June 5, 2009
as a sociologist, just do a research for what is used repelent by gender. ok.
Trabb's Boy — June 5, 2009
That really is stunning -- colour, font, the little curl behind the word "new" for the women and the bright bullet point-type reminders of times MEN will be outdoors. Makes me curious how the women's model didn't wind up in pink!
My guess was that this was market surveyed to death, and wound up with, yet again, a reaffirmation of stereotypes.
Here in Canada, before advertising for cigarettes was banned altogether, there was a period when advertisers were only allowed to show the product -- no "lifestyle" advertising. I don't think I'm ready to advocate that generally, as a way to reduce this kind of sexism, but it would probably help. It's something I think about in a lot of contexts, as advertising becomes more and more psychological manipulation and less and less a presentation of the merits of one product over another.
Titanis walleri — June 5, 2009
"She goes by “Rudbeckia hirta” (that’s a black-eyed susan, for any gardeners or botanists out there…)."
It's always nice to see people using scientific names as nicknames online...
Original Will — June 5, 2009
I'd be interested to know more about the marketing surveys that produced this kind of result. I wonder if the data really showed that separate packaging would sell better, or if someone at the company decided to have separate packaging first and then the surveys pointed toward these very stereotyped packages.
Vettekaas — June 5, 2009
aah this would have had me standing perplexed for about 15 min reading the packages to try to find out what the difference was. only then would I have noticed the pictures and shook my head. whatever happened to the green spray can of "off" with just pictures of trees on it?
and, more importantly, who would want to wear something that looks like a big plastic air freshener on their beltloop?
Lisa Wade, PhD — June 5, 2009
Thanks Z! Fixed.
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