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Gender Wars Enter the Potato Chip Aisle

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?

Related Care2 Coverage

Meat Eaters Are Macho; Vegetarians Are Wimpy

Would You Pay a 20% “Fat Tax”?

New Dr. Pepper Drink is “Not for Women”



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Photo from quinn.anya via flickr

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12:32AM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

Oh, so it's still the belief that men can be fat slobs and it's okay because they're "big teddy bears". Yet men suffer more heart problems and what not, so I think it's sexist against men, to sell these manly chips of bacon taco flavored this and that.

And for us women? We have sun chips, baked chips, pretzels, popcorn, etc... So does this make women smarter? If so, why are men "in charge" of everything?

6:51PM PDT on May 26, 2012

Deborah L.

Although potatoes are eaten as vegetables, strictly speaking they are not, they are 'tubers'. They are also in the category of starches. So what does that make them now? Oh, and why are vegetables feminine exactly?

7:21PM PDT on May 25, 2012

There is no such thing as food that appeals only to a man. It it looks good, tastes good etc., male or female will buy and eat it. This is dumb.

7:14AM PDT on May 24, 2012

This is hyped up advertising, nothing more, nothing less.

4:31AM PDT on May 24, 2012

I think it's a little fool-hearty to expect the human race to ever be free of sexist stereotypes. We can certainly CHANGE those stereotypes (compare stereotypes from the 40's to now) and evolve them to something, slightly less offensive but they'll always be there.

Should they be fueled by media and advertizing? Oh fuck no but until our society realizes that it can control what the media does, we're pretty much stuck with it.

9:28PM PDT on May 23, 2012

If I like them, I'll eat them, I don't care how they're marketed. It's about the flavour and the ingredients. Certain packaging might catch my eye, but once I read the ingredients I can easily change my mind and put it back on the shelf.

8:49PM PDT on May 23, 2012

Being healthy is...healthy for men and women, makes both genders strong! This is so strange, marketing some foods as "manly"

8:22PM PDT on May 23, 2012

Masculine potato chips, but aren't potatoes vegetables ? That would mean that these chips are really veggies, thus making this product a feminine product and not a masculine one.

5:51PM PDT on May 23, 2012

Macho Potato Chips!!! Really, Give me a break!

5:24PM PDT on May 23, 2012

Marketing always has some gimmick. Ads are made to make you buy things. With more guys doing shopping, it figures they would start pitching crap-food to guys.

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