It’s amazing to how gender infects every part of our lives. I was reminded of this at work this week. I work at a YWCA in the anti-violence against women movement. So I work with all women but our maintenance staff consists of three men. They do basic plumbing, heavy lifting, and cleaning. As I left the elevator to head home, I noticed the following:
Notice the captioning on this cleaning bottle which reads: Alton’s Bathroom Weapon. It’s an interesting reclamination of masculinity within a job that where some duties are traditionally feminine such as cleaning a bathroom. It casts Alton as a warrior protecting the women of the YWCA from the invasion of germs. (Okay, maybe that’s a bit far but the use of aggression, weapon, is interesting here.) This instance of reframing traditionally feminine products within a masculine gender perspective is something that we have seen before within our capitalist culture. We can look at body wash for an example.
Body Wash for women
Notice the pink color which is used a lot when marketing to women, the shape and the overall delicate nature of the presentation on the bottle. It’s almost passive.
Body Wash for men
Notice the shape of the bottle, the grips on either side, the use of the color black, and the name, Snake Peel. It’s almost aggressive.
Basically this product is just soap and both genders require it in order to be a part of polite society. However, this form of masculine marketing is peculiarly interesting. We also see this in loofahs.
Loofah marketed to women
Loofah marketed to men called the Axe Detailer Shower Tool. (emphasis added) The language suggests something a man may use to wash their car. It even looks like a tire to me. (I bet if the two loofahs got in a fight that the detailer shower tool would totally kick that other loofah’s ass.)
There’s an interesting link here between this type of marketing and homophobia. Just imagine if a heterosexual man had the blue loofah hanging in his bathroom instead of the black detailing tool. The majority of individuals would immediately question his masculinity especially his male buddies. They would probably jokingly or seriously call him a fag. Products like this scream almost a comically exaggerated masculinity designed to protect men in situations like this one. Men are caught in a double bind. They must groom (a traditionally feminine constructed activity) but they can never be seen doing in a “womanly way.”
Is femininity and cleaning too closely tied for capitalism to create a space for manly cleaning supplies? Will we see 409 with a sniper scope on it’s nuzzle? Will taglines like murder the germs invading your home with the cleaning power of Pinesol appear? Will they create cleaning bottles in the shape of guns? Maybe cleaning rags will start being manufactured in the shape of breasts? Hmmmm. I think Alton is simply ahead of his time.
For more information about what marketing to men looks like, check out the following links.
Rebekah Carrow makes jewerly and loves the color purple.