How Many Unnecessarily Gendered Items Are There in Sainsbury’s?

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On an overcast Monday afternoon, two Wessex Scene writers went shopping, on the lookout for some products on sale that might anger your resident feminist. From ‘pretty pink’ Pritt sticks to ‘Man Cave’ face wash, we did find some of what we were looking for.

Alice’s Findings: 

It must be said that unnecessarily gendered items were surprisingly hard to find in Sainsbury’s, Portswood. The first few aisles were disappointing regarding our aim, but pleasing to my values. I was not able to find many gendered food items, not even cereal or health bars. What I did find, however, was the well-known Yorkie bar.

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Satisfied that my local supermarket did not stock hoards of gendered items, I swanned into the toiletries section. I found what I was looking for.

Toiletries is where most gendered items were found, naturally. George and I were overwhelmed by the stacks of shower gel, razors, face wash, deodorant and shampoo all labelled ‘For Men’ in large standout white writing on a black background. The ladies’ items were soft and flowery with light colours such as white or pink.

I quickly decided that I would not buy deodorant for men, since I felt the smell was not to my taste. Who says I can’t smell like a man? No one. I still didn’t buy it.

What I did buy, however, was Xtreme 3 razors. In the picture below you can clearly see how two of the same product are very clearly aimed at one gender or the other. Both items do the same thing. The only difference is the packaging. I bought the one on the right.

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The ‘Man Cave’ facial wash was amongst an array of ‘Man Cave’ products including shower gel, shampoo and moisturiser. Surely facial wash shouldn’t be any different on a woman than a man? I bought it with satisfaction.

Finally, in my search for non-toiletries that might be gendered, I came across two things. The first was a ‘pretty pink’ Pritt stick with flowers on the packaging. I could not find a ‘manly’ Pritt stick anywhere. It felt dirty and patronising.

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The second was ‘Foot Silk’, just like normal foot spray like the blue bottle next to it, but smooth and silky and pink like how all women’s legs should be. Maybe I should make mine silky and soft with my Xtreme 3 Razors for men. Pfft, what patriarchy?

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Finally, I bought Kleenex ‘Man-Size’ tissues that are so manly and big that I could use a whole tissue as a tent. As I used them, my dainty female nose couldn’t take it.

George’s Findings:

Everyone wants you to buy their product, but whatever Sainsbury’s is selling under their own auspicious brand, was appropriately decorated for the food. The fruit, veg, meat, pasta – they all had very minimalistic presentation to focus on what was actually being sold. Food. This reassured us that perhaps heteronormativity wasn’t being taken to unbelievable heights in Southampton.

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Where patronisation really began was, of course, in the toiletries.

I’ve dyed my hair multiple times, but here only the extravagant Schwarzkopf colours seemed appropriate for me: a man backgrounded with bright pink hair on the packaging, foregrounding a woman. Every single time. If you wanted something more ordinary, you had to decide which white lady you wanted to be. Not only did none of L’Oreal’s hair dyes feature men on their packaging, none of them featured people of colour.

We found two different Wilkinson Sword disposable razor packs, both the exact same product style (Extreme 3). But whilst the men’s could be found in black and green, the women’s razors were not just pink, the packaging came in a soft, pastel-like green. Both razors were, apart from different handle lengths, exactly the same.

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Then came Oral-B toothpaste. One of their display boxes, labelled “Oral-B Pro-Expert”, featured a handsome man in a white coat, professional and trustworthy. Beneath this, “Oral-B 3D White Luxe”, featured Shakira of all people. Hers focussed on giving presumably female consumers “Visibly whiter teeth in 2 weeks”. Men, with their dentist design, would have to wait 3 weeks. It’s almost as if Oral-B know that women are under more pressures to live up to impossible beauty standards than men are.

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Fabric softeners and conditioners made up the friendliest-looking shelving unit that I’ve ever seen. Lenor really went for appealing to womankind’s inclination for soft, clean clothes. Two bottles even featured mildly culturally insensitive caricatures. What about the men I screamed? Am I not allowed to appreciate the tactility of the textiles that cover my testicles?

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These products were not intended for flavour, but function, and fairly luxurious ones at that. The few heteronormative foodstuffs we found were hardly explicit. Sure, the beef jerky was kept on the top shelf, with dark colours and big manly fonts and logo designs, but if any 6’ woman can get it down they can eat it. A few yoghurts were clearly directed at women – “Silky Smooth Caramel” are far more sensual words, although it’s hardly as if “silky smooth caramel” can’t be enjoyed by men – through language that was 100% targeted their way, based on ideas of the fairer sex’s more sensual instincts. Yet the “by Sainsbury’s Madeira cake with a heel and a clutch purse decorating it, with packaging proclaiming the “Time to Shop” really pushed things.

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In fact, apart from the almost intimidatingly masculine appearance of the “Fuel 10K: Protibrick” cereal packaging, the most explicitly gendered food items all seemed to qualify as luxuries. Because I’m hard-pressed to think of people who consider breakfast protein loading some sort of luxury.

 

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Wessex Scene Editor 2016-17 and Features Editor 2015-2016. History Student, Blog writer (http://emeraldalice.blogspot.co.uk/) and traveller. Student Brand Ambassador for the i Paper 2015-2016. Tea lover, cat enthusiast. @Alicetotheskies

Discussion2 Comments

  1. avatar

    ”Then came Oral-B toothpaste. One of their display boxes, labelled “Oral-B Pro-Expert”, featured a handsome man in a white coat, professional and trustworthy. Beneath this, “Oral-B 3D White Luxe”, featured Shakira of all people. Hers focussed on giving presumably female consumers “Visibly whiter teeth in 2 weeks”. Men, with their dentist design, would have to wait 3 weeks. It’s almost as if Oral-B know that women are under more pressures to live up to impossible beauty standards than men are”

    This article sums up everything that’s wrong with feminism. I can’t believe you’re correlating an advertising campaign from a box of toothpaste to a self confidence issue. Also, females are not obliged to live up to impossible beauty standards: whether they want to pursue the ‘perfect smile’ or whatever is up to them. And guess what? It’s the same for men too. Self consciousness is not a by-product of the ‘patriarchy’ (which doesn’t exist), it is dependent of the person in question: male or female. Pictures of men with perfect abs and dark, wavy hair are splattered around shopping centres, shop windows, etc, just as much as thin, athletic women are. If you’re influenced by an advertisement campaign, then that’s you’re problem, not the company’s.

    ”Fabric softeners and conditioners made up the friendliest-looking shelving unit that I’ve ever seen. Lenor really went for appealing to womankind’s inclination for soft, clean clothes. Two bottles even featured mildly culturally insensitive caricatures. What about the men I screamed? Am I not allowed to appreciate the tactility of the textiles that cover my testicles?”

    I’m looking closely at these fabric softeners and liquid and I’m not seeing a single picture of a woman on it. Nor a man. So that’s pretty gender neutral as far as I’m concerned. You saying that females are more inclined to wear or appreciate clean and soft clothes is actually misandry in itself. Because the product isn’t saying it, nor is it insinuating it: that’s just your biased spin on it. So well done on defeating your own argument on gender neutrality.

    ”Finally, I bought Kleenex ‘Man-Size’ tissues that are so manly and big that I could use a whole tissue as a tent. As I used them, my dainty female nose couldn’t take it”

    Men are scientifically proven to have bigger noses than women. Also, men are on average bigger than women. Hence why it said ‘man-size’ rather than ‘male’. Besides, it’s not stopping women from buying them is it? So where’s the issue? That’s right, there isn’t one. It’s almost like you’re deliberately trying to find a way to be offended.

    ”The ‘Man Cave’ facial wash was among an array of ‘Man Cave’ products including shower gel, shampoo and moisturizer. Surely facial wash shouldn’t be any different on a woman than a man? I bought it with satisfaction”.

    Well first of all, men and women generally like to smell of different smells, for whatever reason. I bet if you did a study, you’d find that if given with a choice of Impulse Peach and Vanilla or Lynx Africa to wear all day, women would choose the former. Many women like the musty smell of men, and men like the gentle, perfumed odour of women’s perfume on a woman. If companies went along your line of thinking, they would be making male deodorants which wouldn’t sell: ‘New Lynx mens’ range: Peach and Cherry Blossom’: What on earth would be the point in that? To make a point about gender? Please.

    ”In fact, apart from the almost intimidatingly masculine appearance of the “Fuel 10K: Protibrick” cereal packaging”

    The majority of people who buy this product will be men, as men are more likely to want to build muscle mass and do weights in the gym. This is a market strategy by the company which is going on facts and demographics. Also, I can guarantee that barely any women would be put off buying it if they really wanted it.

    ”The second was ‘Foot Silk’, just like normal foot spray like the blue bottle next to it, but smooth and silky and pink like how all women’s legs should be”

    It might have eluded you, but this product is to do with feet, not legs, so well done on doing on a completely non-related tangent. And people think womens’ legs are pink are they? I’m sure I could think of many people of different ethnicities who would disagree with that statement. In any sense, a majority of women want to have smooth and soft legs! It’s not the patriarchy that tells my girlfriend to shave her legs before an evening out, it’s her own choice! I couldn’t care either way.

    I need a drink…

  2. avatar

    Oh, and I would love to see what qualifies as a ‘culturally insensitive caricature’ from your standpoint. I assume you’ve interviewed a large amount of people (or even anyone) from other cultures to justify your statement have you?

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