The thorny issue of gender on this planet and in some ads

I bumped into this video on the issue of trans-gender toilets:

It’s odd that some places are fast to move towards the idea of a third gender when a recent YouGov/The Economist study in the US puts across the depressing fact that capital punishment is more morally acceptable than premarital sex or gay/lesbian relations:

Economist/YouGov Survey - US Election

One of the top comments on the YouTube video nailed it pretty well: “I want a no-gender toilet.” Though you could take it even further and try to raise a genderless child. Which is a bit extreme, but it does prove a point and it’s shifted the conversation a little bit. I liked this TEDxYouth@Manchester talk and the waterfall analogy:

“In many ways a waterfall is like the illusion of the self: is it not permanent, it is always changing and it is different at every single instance. But this doesn’t mean that a waterfall is an illusion or that it is not real. What it means is that we have to understand it as a history, as having certain things that are the same and as a process.”

I have a problem with products that are made with either women or men ‘in mind’ – ads are a different story given that ‘not for you’ can be a great thing to mine, depending on what effect you had in mind – anger one group to get the other’s attention. There’s Yorkie and I distinctly remember ‘FHM’ (For Him Magazine, to be reminded) had a 30% woman readership a few years back.

You can have a product that isn’t likely to be bought by women and I don’t know nearly enough about cars to make a judgement, though alienating them to the extreme takes you to a list of ‘Sexist ads made by total pigs‘, even if you’re on during the Superbowl:

The new Beetle has been hailed as a ‘masculine’ redesign – and in my non-expert eye it looks more and more like it’s blurring the lines between Porsche and VW. I like the look but most women have disagreed: this is not so girly! Yet I haven’t seen VW’s adverts saying it’s only for men. Anyway, cars are not my area of interest or expertise, but Harley Davidson did something similar a while ago: where other motorcycle manufacturers were cranking out less powerful bikes for women, Harley decided to educate them through garage party events for women and found that it’s the strategy that keeps on giving.

Or you could have a product made for men but with a voice that doesn’t anger anyone, yet still sells in a memorable way. ‘The man your man could smell like’.

Old Spice guy speaks to women who have forgotten what real ‘masculinity’ is like as it’s been drowned in an ocean of Biebers & sensitivity. It may be a product for men (can’t quite remember if the knowledge was that they wanted women to buy the deodorant for the men in their lives or for men to go and buy it themselves) but it has a voice that doesn’t offend: the end line is ‘Smell like a man, man’ even though it addresses the ladies. And everyone likes it, without any lines being blurred.

And the last interesting bit from lately is that Axe/Lynx recently came up with ‘Anarchy’. It’s said to be doing well among women in the US, better than among men in general (since YouGov started tracking the brand 2 years ago), though I think that’s an odd statement, depending on Unilever’s intent with the product:

Axe 'buzz' by gender

Buzz score asks respondents: “If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”

Sure, the ads are making women aware of a new product, but that’s sort of a given: Axe/Lynx didn’t used to exist in their mind as a female product. And it couldn’t be used as such in its existing scents. Now there’s this and ‘it’s OK’, whatever it smells like.

Whereas among men it became culturally ingrained as a the hormonal teenager fragrance and no ‘serious, grown man’ could smell of Axe (world wide) – so they’re not particularly psyched by the fact that there’s now a version for women, nor are they terribly moved by recent ads it would seem. That could explain the chart but I’ve no idea why they launched the product anyway: if it was to expand into the female deodorant market, not so bad (though not sure what sales look like). If it was to change men’s perceptions of it: meh. Not quite the Old Spice, which I would imagine has done well on both counts (improved both male & female perceptions, that is).

SMOGs & Unhealthy Baby Gender Obsessing

This term ‘SMOG‘ has been just recently coined around these parts, but at least now there’s a word for having a preference for girls over boys (like they do in Asia):

‘There’s an expression smogs – Smug Mums of Girls! I find that some mums who only have girls find boys annoying and are alarmed and judgmental about their behaviour. ‘I know too many mothers of girls (or SMOGs) who truly believe that boys are unpleasant, noisy, smelly creatures who just take the look off the place and generally get in the way.’

Meanwhile in China & India…

“In China, sons are increasingly seen as the greater financial burden. Faced with growing competition for brides, young men must save to buy an apartment before they can marry. Meanwhile, as growing industrialisation brings more job opportunities in factories, women’s economic value and independence has risen too.

The expansion of the social safety net into rural areas has changed the value of girls and boys, too. As pensions become more common, parents grow less eager to have sons. Women’s improving economic situation also provides more autonomy to support their own parents, compared to when they were dependent on their husbands. “Sons bring economic pressure … a daughter is a warm jacket for a mother when she is old,” says Zhang Yun, who lives in Shanghai.”

Heirs & Spares – FT.com

A strong socio-cultural preference for boys in conservative Asian societies is blamed for most of the sex selection. In overwhelmingly patriarchal India, dowry makes daughters expensive. China’s one-child policy is thought to be a trigger as women abort girls to have a single boy.”

Sex Selection – The Forgotten Story (BBC)

And an even more interesting quote coming from the UK on why you’d want a girl and not a boy, from someone who doesn’t sound like a SMOG:

“Other mothers have strong feelings about having one sex or the other. Heather had her daughter, Lily, after three sons. She admits to being “devastated” when she found out, at her 17-week scan, that she was having a girl. “It hadn’t been planned, but I felt that as long as I was having another boy I would cope,” she says. “I felt that I was pregnant for the first time again, carrying this alien being. I didn’t know what to prepare for. ” All the little girls I knew were manipulative, evil creatures hell bent on mental torture and showing off. “Although I am the same species I don’t recognise this different being quite yet.”

Sugar, Spice and All Things Nice