Gender Wars Enter the Potato Chip Aisle
We’re just not able to let go of the notion that you are what you eat. Companies are starting to pitch products to “satisfy the red-blooded appetite of the stereotypical male,” as the New York Daily News puts it: Ruffles is launching a line of gender-specific products geared to men that simply reinforce certain stereotypes about masculinity.
Under its “Ultimate Chips and Dips” line, Ruffles is making chips with ridges that are twice the size and depth as in their regular chips, with names like “Sweet & Smokin’ BBQ” and “Kickin’ Jalapeno Ranch.” The dip flavors include “Beef N’ Cheese” and “Smokehouse Bacon,” both of which are laced with bacon and cheese chunks. These marketed-as-manly products will be debuted at an event hosted by men’s magazine MAXIM’s Hot 100 party in New York.
Eating “in a manly way” doesn’t only have to “beefed up”: Soft drink companies are pitching Dr. Pepper 10, Pepsi Next and Coke Zero to “appeal to make consumers.”
On the one hand, a chip is a chip; is just more junk food that is contributing to the national obesity epidemic. On the other hand, marketers have done their homework. As Care2′s Cathryn Wellner recently wrote, a new study to be published in the October 2012 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research has found that, in Western cultures, meat eaters are perceived as “macho” and vegetarians as “wimps.” The New York Daily News points out that the diet soda industry has so far focused on its marketing efforts on calorie-conscious women but is now turning to men with products “marketed in a way that doesn’t offend their masculine sensibilities” with the Crystal Lite-like offerings and ads.
Ruffles’ “man chips” are a reminder of how deeply embedded certain notions of masculinity, and of femininity, are in our culture. Obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are health issues that more and more Americans face: To what extent do ingrained notions of what you “can” eat and what you “can’t” make it difficult for people to change their habits?
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Photo from quinn.anya via flickr