I hope I can get through typing this for the quindillionth time without falling asleezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (dang!), but here's the thing: Women are people. Just people. Not precious flowers, not nurturing earth mothers, not manic pixies or Jackie Os with impeccable Chanel vaginas. PEOPLE. Therefore, it is okay for women to just use the regular-people things. We do not need a "woman version" of every single product, and we do not need to market things "toward women" as though a "woman" is a monolithic force. Women are diverse. Women have interests. Women build things and read comic books and like pink stuff or don't, depending on which specific woman they happen to be! Is this making sense?
Nevertheless, marketing marches on. A round-up in Time this week highlights a whole crop of new lady-products, from fruit-flavored beer to sparkly NFL earrings. And also this:
Dudes have been encouraged to aggressively "Snap into a Slim Jim" for years. Recently, though, a softer side to jerky is being presented. Bombshell Jerky, billed as "The Best Beef Jerky for Women" and the "perfect snack for the gal on the go," launched last year with flavors such as Harvest Cherry Maple Turkey and the spicy Firecracker Links. "I like my beef jerky the way I like my men…hot," says the Bombshell spokesmodel. "That's why I go for the flavors that knock your socks off."
YOU GUYS. It's "The Best Beef Jerky for Women." THE BEST BEEF JERKY FOR WOMEN. I can only speculate as to how this beef jerky is better "for women" than other beef jerkies. I hope it comes pre-chewed for my delicate spun-sugar lady-jaw! I hope it's pH-balanced so it doesn't upset my vaginal flora! I hope it's fucking pink! Look, lady-beef-jerky, I'm crazy now. I went crazy. The sane part of my brain died and now I'm going to go sit in a culvert and eat frogs until the rest of me dies too. (Sorry, real quick, my vagina wants to know—do these frogs come in pomegranate?)
And then this:
"Many [women] shy away from clubby steakhouses, especially dining rooms dominated by men," notes the New York Times. And that's why the Ruth's Chris Steak Houses chain is actively trying to reach out to women by adding new cocktails (pomegranate martinis, strawberry basil gimlets) and smaller sharing plates to menus, as well as advertising in women's magazines and hosting special events about topics like women and entrepreneurship.
Here's where a little bit of nuance comes in. "Advertising in women's magazines and hosting special events about topics like women and entrepreneurship"? Great! That sounds great. Go nuts. I personally would never go to a "special event" about "women and entrepreneurship" at a steakhouse (because CHOPPED IS ON), but it is not patronizing, paternalistic bullcorn. Congrats. Pomegranate martinis, though—can women not have a goddamn mint julep or whatever? (Also, everyone on earth, you don't need to make ALL YOUR SHIT pomegranate. Chill.)
And more nuance here:
Female motorcycle ownership has increased 45% in recent years, at least partially due to lighter, female-friendly models such as California Scooter's Baby Doll, a pink-and-white bike with a lower seat height.
Lower seat height? Great! That is a practical concern that actually makes sense, and might actually improve women's enjoyment of motorcycling. Things like "lower seat height," as a "woman thing," make sense. Things like "pink and white" are arbitrary and borderline insulting. And then...they had to name it the "Baby Doll." You know that kind of the entire point of the past century of "women's lib" has been to promote the notion that women are neither babies nor dolls, right? Women have more than just those two choices. Except, I guess, when it comes to marketing. More pink pomegranate baby doll jerky jewels for everyone, suckers!!!
Obviously it's stupid to rail against marketing—because marketing is just a means to an end and I'm sure this kind of marketing works. It works on a certain subset of women (fun fact: those women? Also people!), at least. The problem is that women like me, and like all the women I know—the women who don't belong to that limited subset—are tired of that subset speaking for all of us and representing/cementing what it means to be a woman. Because marketing doesn't exist in a vacuum, and the more women who are happy to be treated like baby dolls, the more society treats us all like baby dolls. It's exhausting. I want to be able to like what I like (some of which is pink!) without that contributing to preconceived notions about womanhood itself.
As I've written before (and again), hard-selling women on pinkified lady-bullshit is a condescending, self-perpetuating cycle, in which we convince women that they're obsessed with pink shit by incessantly telling them to buy pink shit, which they then assume they must be obsessed with because—look!—they just bought it! And then the men at the steakhouse can chuckle and adjust their penises and go, "Heh heh. Cute. It thinks it's people." "Look at its cute little pink motorcycle. It's like a man, but not quite." But sorry, I want equality—I don't want "not quite."