Feminist Philosophers

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Kleenex for men July 30, 2009

Filed under: gendered products — Jender @ 9:31 am
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Gendered products week continues with an item familiar to UK readers but (as far as I know) still unfamiliar to US readers. (I’ve no idea at all about elsewhere– do tell!)
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28 Responses to “Kleenex for men”

  1. TheLady Says:

    Gendered product week is good fun, but I’d like you to take on some of the less easy targets. Sparkly cellotape and pink earplugs are easy to pick on because they’re new additions to the gendered marketing pantheon, but what about consumer products that have been around for so long that we’ve forgotten to think about their gendered nature?

    For example, what’s so specific about shampoo that it needs to come in for men and for women options? Why should relatively shapeless articles of clothing, like socks, wooly hats and mufflers, or bathrobes, be gendered? Who needs ladies’ running shoes and Wellington boots? A quick survey of some of these products reveals that while the ladies’ version is more expensive (esp. in toiletries), it’s seen as lower status: things are always marketed to men as being Max-this and Super-that, playing on the underlying idea that they deserve more bang for their consumer buck.

  2. Jender Says:

    Excellent points, Lady, but it’s hard to know where to start with that, and it would take far longer than a week! Still, will have a think…

  3. lp Says:

    we’re preparing for the birth of our second, and i’ve had a look thru a catalog of baby gear from a company that i bought from when child number 1 was born. it’s amazing how many of their products are the same as 3ish years ago, only now they have a pink option and a blue option, where the used to only have one colour. mad things, like place mats and special hair washing jugs. why does a hair washing jug for a toddler need to be gender-specific??

    i think gendered selling is definitely on the upswing over the last few years. it’s disturbing. three years ago i wouldn’t have believed you if you told me it was going to get worse!

  4. lp Says:

    oh also: we had to buy a new car seat. i bought one off ebay. i ended up with a pink car seat, simply because i realised in watching the auctions that the ‘girl’ seats consistently went for 20%ish less than either the black seats or the ‘boy’ seats. curious. are people more likely to buy new for a girl? or are the less likely to buy gendered for a girl? (that seems unlikely…)

  5. Noble Savage Says:

    I can think of a few reasons why shampoo would be marketed differently to women and men, the biggest one being that society places much more value on a woman’s hair and how healthy and styled it appears, whereas men need only worry about it being clean and combed. Women also tend to have much more hair on their heads than men, which generally requires more maintenance. Of course, if such value *wasn’t* placed on our hair then you could argue that there should be no difference in products, but at the moment there ARE differences and so I can see why shampoo manufacturers feel they need to promise different results to each gender. Things like ear plugs and Kleenex could not conceivably be used differently by one gender than the other so I think those actually *are* better examples of ridiculous gendered products.

    As for why pink carseats are less than items that come in neutral colours, I would hazard a guess that many parents don’t like to buy gender specific equipment such as carseats, pushchairs, etc.. because they would like to reuse them for subsequent children who may be of the opposite gender.

  6. Tom Morris Says:

    I don’t understand “Man Size” tissues. Are male noses bigger than female noses and thus necessitate larger tissues?

    The current gendered product thing which I find particularly infuriating is in technology. This blog covered ‘Della’, Dell’s now-cancelled “laptops for ladies” promotion (the laptops are still available in pink, but just aren’t sold specifically for women). But there’s a whole range of “gadgets for girl geeks” blogs which fawn over mobile phones, PDAs, smartphones, laptops, MP3 players and accessories in pink. The women I know who are into gadgets couldn’t care less about the colour: they care about getting the best technology and getting value for money. It’s too easy: go to Amazon’s electronics section and search for “girly”.

    Also: just found golf bags and clubs available in “girly pink”.

  7. Bakka Says:

    @ TheLady, I agree with you that it is good to look at the things that are so gendered that we tend to even forget that they are. When I went to China, there was gendered mouthwash in my hotel. I thought this was so funny I took a picture of it. I then realized that it is not really so weird to gender mouthwash given how many other products are gendered. I bought the mouthwash and brought it home as a reminder of how it is easier to see ridiculous gendering in other cultures than in your own.

    @ Nobel Savage I think another reason to market shampoo and other toiletries to men and women is so that heterosexuals buy two instead of one of each product.

    Your explanation for the car seat doesn’t make sense to me (although it would make sense to go for neutral in order to reuse them), because lp notes that the “boy” gendered car seat sells for the same as the neutral (black) car seat.

  8. Jender Says:

    Bakka, nice point about noticing gendered products in other cultures! But a possible response re the car seat: It is far more acceptable do dress a girl in blue than a boy in pink. Maybe same goes for for car seats.

  9. hippocampa Says:

    I have been puzzled about shaving devices.
    I think Philips ladyshaves were the first one that were electric razors particularly designed for women and there is a salient difference with men’s electric razors that Peter Paul Verbeek pointed out: electric razors for men are screwed shut, so they can be opened for repairs (men can repair stuff, right?). Ladyshaves are sealed shut and cannot be opened. Together with the soft couloured cases, that’s sort of a double whammy!
    Are female hair and skin so different though that they need their own devices?

  10. Matt Says:

    I think they should market these tissues a scratchy, for real men who don’t need some soft, girly tissue.

    I don’t know if women’s electric razors are in fact different in design of the cutting parts, but beards are usually a different sort of coarsness than many other types of body hair, so there might be plausible differences. And, many modern women’s electric razors are made to be used in the shower. That could plausibly justify sealing them shut, to keep water out. (Some men’s razors are for use in the shower, too, but fewer, I think.)

    Many of the differences for toiletries have to do w/ smell. I usually buy non-scented or mild scented things so don’t care. (I used secret deoderent for a while, figuring that if it was strong enough for a man and cost a dollar less than the other stuff I’d give it a try. “Ph balance” aside it seemed to work.)

    On socks, apart from the design differences, I expect that the difference has to do w/ sizes. Many socks are marketed by shoe size and of course there are differences in sizing for men and women. I guess both could be listed, but I’m not sure if it would be any advantage. Also, for non-athletic socks, the differences in the type of foot-wear men and women wear is important for the sock type, too, I’d think.

  11. stoat Says:

    @TM: I always thought (my rude mind? – no (or at least, not only); it was suggested by some comedy shows (the excellent ‘Peep Show’ amongst them)) that the man size tissues were for excretions originating from places other than the nose…

    (sorry!)

  12. Jender Says:

    Stoat, I don’t know why that never occurred to me. Matt, v. nice point– they should be scratchy!

  13. jj Says:

    As President Obama reminded us, many people think of dogs as doubly gendered (not his words). Thus a male dog can be a ‘girly’ dog.

  14. Liberal Says:

    Correct me if i’m missing something important here, but what’s wrong with males and females being both equal AND different? I like steak and I like chocolate, but that doesn’t mean that these foods are interchangable.

    What is the harm of having something like a fragrance designed to be more appealing to one sex than the other? if a man wants to wear a pink frilly shirt, each to their own, but pretending that males and females are simply the same I think would make the world more boring.

    i welcome other views, maybe I have the wrong gist of this tread.

  15. lp Says:

    yes, stoat’s account of the man size tissues is what i always assumed.

    hipp & matt: i very recently bowed to pressure and bought a (manual) girl razor. it actually makes a huge difference. it’s angled properly for reaching down to legs, rather than shaving the face. charitably, the electric ones could be likewise differently angled?

  16. hippocampa Says:

    hehe lp, but there are also different razors for parts of the body that seem to me to be a) of similar hair structure, and b) of equal impossibility to reach well.
    Now, I don’t want to get bogged down in the do’s and don’ts and why’s of shaving one’s privates, but I am seriously puzzled as why there are different technological implements for those parts.

    Matt, but those early ladyshaves certainly weren’t made for use in the shower! And I just went to inspect mr Hippocampus’ philishave which is waterproof… and that can be screwed open. Verbeek indicated it was because the designers just didn’t think it was necessary to make it so because women don’t repair stuff. I am not sure if he verified that.

    Regarding the tissues… does it say anywhere that those tissues are actually larger? and if not…. why are you all assuming this! you sexists :P

  17. lga Says:

    My husband uses paper towels to blow his nose, claiming that tissues are too insubstantial. I wonder if these tissues would be more appealing to him.

  18. lp Says:

    hipp: the man tissues come in gigantic boxes, so you know right from the get-go that what’s different about them is that they’re huge. (by the by, american tourists go nuts for them. they’re always sold in oxford street gift shops, etc. don’t know whether this is like bakka’s chinese mouth wash, or whether american tourists take them to be for ‘non-nose’ wiping. in my home town in the midwest, the existence of man tissues is invariably one of the five facts any given person knows about england. v amusing.)

    are there razors marketed for men’s pubic shaving?? i saw one the other day for women (tho, i don’t think they came right out and said it was for pubic hair–oh no wait, they said “bikini area”), but i don’t think i’ve ever seen the world of consumer goods acknowledge a market for man “bikini” grooming. (?)

  19. lp Says:

    oh! i just noticed jender calling the tissues unknown in america. this might say something about the humour level of the americans each of us knows ;-).

  20. Jender Says:

    Nah, it says something about my hyperbole. My friends and relatives love them too.

  21. Matt Says:

    I’ve seen a youtube video for a “body grooming” razor marketed at least as much for men (the video is of a man) as for women. It suggested, via the “clever” use of fruit, that it’s good for using on your “carrot” and “kiwis” (and for women, on the “peach”.) It claims that this is good to add an “extra visible inch”. Having gone to the beach out at Fire Island last weekend I think that this is becoming somewhat more common, though the Fire Island crowd is perhaps not representative of all of the US.

  22. lp Says:

    interesting. i don’t know whether it’s only fair that men should be saddled with these expectations, too, or that it’s sad that it’s engulfing both men and women now.

  23. Matt Says:

    It’s here:

    I must admit to finding it fairly amusing, though I don’t think I’ll start using such a product any time soon.

  24. Bakka Says:

    @ Matt, I found that commercial really funny too! I am wondering, though, is the “peach” the code for women, or perhaps rather the code for ‘bum’?

  25. Erin Says:

    I assumed that the peach alludes to one’s pits.

  26. Matt Says:

    Bakka- I guess that in context it makes more sense as the bum. I’d assumed it was for the “bikini area” at first because of hearing such a fruit used to describe the area, but it would be odd in the context of selling the razor to men, so you’re probably right.

  27. [...] only reason I can think of for why this product exists (other than to give feminists a shit haemorrhage) is to provide ample absorbency for our manly volumes of [...]


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