In a recent Saturday Night Live skit, Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy is featured dragging the marketing behind men’s makeup.
While the SNL parody commercial was cut from airing for time, it can still be found on their YouTube channel. More importantly, this parody commercial brings up an interesting conversation about how products are sold to people of different genders. The ad is for a brand of cosmetics called ManStain, which is explicitly for men and is “totally not makeup.”
Even though a product can be used by any gender — skincare and cosmetics for example — they are often marketed towards one gender or another specifically. Gendered marketing is easy to spot if you look for it. Bold fonts with a black and grey color scheme for “masculine” products and bright colors or pastels for “feminine” items.
“Marketing to a person’s gender not only risks alienating other consumers, but it also shows a failure by the company to mine for deeper insights about its audience,” notes an article by the American Marketing Association.
According to the article, gender norms and expectations are becoming increasingly blurred. Our personal habits aren’t the thing that’s changing, but rather our perception of what is and is not for what gender. The article notes that what people buy has largely never depended on gender, but the personal interests and habits of individual people.
There is another reason to break out of the marketing binary too. Heavily gendered marketing reinforces negative stereotypes and outdated expectations.
History professor and director of the Museum of Sexist Objects Tracy Busch said that while it’s “not the 1950s aymore” there are still traces of forced gender norms throughout society.
“It’s just everywhere around you,” Busch said. “There are people telling you how you should be.”
In Busch’s eyes, it puts pressure on women to perform femininity and assumes them to be either trying to attract men’s attention, or homemakers and housewives. On the other side of the binary, it assumes that men are trying to attract attention of women and are either household breadwinners, or athletic bachelors.
Gendered marketing also does not address those who don’t fit within the gender binary.
“I don’t feel comfortable in a lot of sections in the store,” nuclear medicine technology senior Asher VanWasshenova said.
Many people with non-binary or otherwise gender nonconforming identities are simply left out in these conversations, according to VanWasshenova.
“Everything is sold as for men or for women, but I don’t really fit in with either, you know?” VanWasshenova said. “I just want to buy some soap, why it is so complicated?”