Lady Doritos? Right Next to My Pink Pens and Girly Beer

Controversial Lady Doritos, Image Obtained from The Daily Beast

The time around the Superbowl seems to be riddled with PR and advertising news, whether they are scandals or stories of success. This year, one of the stories that stood out from the rest was the accidental announcement of a brand new “Lady Doritos” line, intended to solve the issues that women supposedly have with eating chips: the loud crunch, dust on the fingers, and how to fit the snack in a purse.

I had heard of the scandal before this assignment, and my first thought, as a PR major, was, “Who on Earth let this CEO talk about this product?” In the various PR classes I’ve taken, we have learned that one of the biggest aspects of being a PR agent is advising the leaders of the company you work for, specifically to avoid crisis situations such as these. Either the CEO hadn’t been given a briefing before the interview, ignored the advise of her PR agents, or a PR agent failed to do their job. In today’s political and social climate, it is surprising to me that any large organization would think that a gendered-food product would receive anything but back lash. I do not think that the company had a good idea of their prospective audience, for this reason.

A Washington Post article, written about the issue on Feb. 5 of this year, describes how even if PepsiCo conducted research which indicates that women prefer quieter and cleaner snacks, those preferences are based on sexist societal gender norms which allow men more freedom, even the freedom to eat a messy snack in a messy way, and I have to agree.

If I were working for Pepsi, I would publicly address the issue on popular social media feeds to insure the public that the product isn’t real. In today’s world, issues hardly ever get slipped under the rug; an apology is needed if a company wants to avoid permanent damage.

When asked if any companies have ever correctly done gendered products, I have to revert back to the thinking done in the Washington Post article which describes how differences in product choice, correlated with gender, most likely arise due to socially constructed gender norms, and not due to actual biological preferences. Due to this, aside from clothing, I would argue that no company has ever done gendered products “right.” Products that are marketed toward a specific gender inherently must use gender norms in that marketing.

 

 

Ugandan Elephants

When I walked into Gould Hall, I did not know what I was expecting. I certainly did not foresee a relatively empty room, with colorful animals and cloths right outside. At first, I was unsure if I was in the location, as the engineering hall seemed an odd choice for a talk on Ugandan peace building. However, once I walked through the double doors to the lecture room, I knew immediately that I was in the right place. Pictures and typed paragraphs surrounded the room on all sides, detailing the lives of women I would never know, who were already so much braver than myself. From their biographical snippets, I learned a small portion of their stories: how they were kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and made into child brides, forced to bear and care for children when they were not even full adults.

However, one of the most striking aspects of their stories were their (generally) hopefully outlooks, primarily due to Sister Rosemary and the opportunities that she provides. Crucially, Sister Rosemary creates jobs for the young women, including making stuffed animals and purses. In fact, these vary products were the colorful animals and cloths that I witnessed just outside the room.

It was impossible to read their stories and not visit the little table off to the side that carried the fruits of their labor, their hopes for the future. On the table itself were little giraffes and elephants, with beautiful bracelets and necklaces surrounding them. Ultimately, I bought two stuffed elephants: one for me, and one for my mother. In the women’s stories, their mothers, and the larger theme of motherhood, was a constant, as many lost theirs or were otherwise unable to be with them. It gave me perspective on my mother’s role in my own life, and it reinforced how lucky I am to have a mother figure who is so present and active in my life. It seemed like the right thing to do to give her one of the elephants as a thank you for her continued support and presence.

Image result for uganda elephant stuffed animals

(Photo from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/320670435949168125/)

Modern Women

I am a woman. I grew up knowing that pink was the proper color for me, that I should one day look like a Barbie doll, and that boys were gross. These were all parts of my childhood, though I later grew to realize their inaccuracies. As I grew older I believed that I could be a scientist, author, lawyer, even a corporate executive if I were willing to put in the time and effort to succeed. Now, I know that, although I can be whatever I want, I will have to be willing to work harder than my male peers and make sacrifices that a lot of my female peers will choose not to make. We’re all “equal,” but in a tie between me and an equally qualified male, I lose. All of these are facets of my life as a modern American woman. However, I’m not staying here. I have flying to do. Birds aren’t meant to stay in a single tree their whole lives. So what does it mean to be a modern woman somewhere else?

The other day, I attended a lecture on gender in contemporary China given by Kevin Carrico, who focuses his research on China and the dichotomy between tradition and progress in modern Chinese culture. He was telling us about “Ladies’ Academies,” finishing schools of sorts scattered across China. In these institutions, men graciously transform wild modern women into pure, traditional Chinese women. These young ladies learn important feminine skills like cooking, embroidery, and a deep understanding of the Chinese classics that define a women’s place. Dr. Carrico went to one of these academies to talk to the men who ran it. They explained that these academies were necessary because the balance of yin and yang was off; that women had ceased to be women and thus men were turning to gambling and alcohol and prostitutes to satisfy the emptiness in their homes. Apparently, all problems in modern Chinese culture can be traced to this failure of women to keep to their sphere. Men in all these changes have been the victims. And what of the women who come to these schools? Many are seeking to make themselves more attractive to men in order to find a husband.

I’ve wondered before how my life is going to play out. I don’t want to raise a family or stay at home, yet many of my beliefs and values are very conservative. The balance between liberal goals and conservative values will always be a difficult line for me to walk, and it will only get harder as I one day begin to look for another to share this journey with me, so I understand the motives of these young ladies. However, the idea of preying on fears of solitude in order to promote a worldview that treats women as a scapegoat for all society’s problems is sickening. The world has changed over the past centuries—this is a fact. Not every change has been good, but that doesn’t mean all progress is evil either. Perhaps the changed role of women has been one of the factors in the larger societal changes, but no problem is simple enough to assign all blame to a single player.

The lecture made me stop and reconsider my own place again. My role as a modern woman is infinitely more complex than I had imagined. I will spend my life fighting to be seen as me, Kestrel, not as a faceless woman, modern or otherwise. I believe that my gender is part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me. I can be strong and a leader and successful. I can be ambitious and put aside the idea of raising a family in favor of building a name in the world. Does that make me some sort of societal ill, upsetting the delicate balance of the universe? I’d like to think the universe is much less sensitive than we humans are. If the universe does in fact care about the minutiae of what I do with my life, I think we may have bigger problems than me choosing not to be a housewife.