Gender Marketing: Now Stinking Up the Room with Candles!
By Suzanne Reisman on November 20, 2012
BlogHer Original Post
Before reading further, take a good look at the picture. It blends oddly well with the purple leather chair that my husband bought through Craig's List several years ago, so you may have to squint. Also, you may refuse to believe the image your eyeballs are sending to your brain. That's OK. I'll wait.
Right. Yes, this is of a semi-new Yankee Candle called "Man Town." Yes, this is the scent. "Man Town." Yes, the label has a remote pointed at a TV with a basketball game on it. My husband actually brought this thing home from an investor conference he attended, along with Rich Cohen's latest non-fiction title which has a cover depicting a phallic banana (you can read a review of the book at Praise, Truth and Help), and I swear to you, a $10 gift card for Hot Topic.
So man candles. This is what we've come to now. I smelled this candle, which was on the (I'll say it again) purple leather chair that my husband bought (and incidentally, subsequently bought a purple couch to match), and it smelled like a regular scented candle. There wasn't anything I noticed that made it particularly "manly" or deserving of the stupid name "Man Town" (and what the fuck is that, anyway?). It doesn't smell like sweaty jock strap or whatever. In fact, Yankee Candle says it is a "masculine blend of spices, woods and musk," and suggests that one can escape to his man cave with it. I suppose they did not call it "Man Cave" because - and I am not gonna lie - I do not think of "spices, woods and musk" when I think of "man caves." I think of pizza, mustiness (because caves smell musty), beer, and the aforementioned sweaty jock strap. Yes, this is a stereotype, but I also feel like the entire concept of "man caves" is a stupidly stereotypical concept of men and their supposed limited capacities to live like civilized people. Glad that Yankee Candle is pandering to this idea.
Yet it seems pointless. Men who already like scented candles strike me as not terribly likely to be swayed by something called "Man Town," or the other scents in the Man Candle collection, "2x4," "First Down," and "Riding Mower." I suspect that those men who think scented candles are for the ladies are just going to think these Man Candles are ridiculous. Well, at least the pricing is fair: Man Candles cost the same as uh, regular candles, which is not always the case when we see gendered products.
I refer now to the Bic Pen for Ladies debacle from a few months ago. To recap, Bic introduced a special pen for women since we clearly can't handle pens designed for no specific gender. The reviews of this product on Amazon are gut-bustingly hilarious. But, as Balancing Jane pointed out, there is a far bigger issue here: Bic for Ladies costs more for no apparent reason. She noted:
This isn't just a matter of pandering, either. Often, these "For Her" products cost more. As Jezebel showed in a breakdown of the cost of Bic's "For Her" pens, women wanting to buy the "appropriate" pens will be paying 70% more for the privilege. Consumer Reports shows that women are often paying 50% more for beauty products that are identical to the brand's same product for men. Everything from deodorant to shaving cream to razor blades are put in a prettier package and sold for more hard-earned cash.
So it is really, really interesting that when Yankee Candle decided to target men with special products, they also decided not to rip them off, isn't it? I have completely ranted about the deodorant issue (Deodorant Discrimination Stinks - I see that I like associating smelly products with gender marketing, huh?), and have blown my stack about the price discrimination that pervades society (the #1 way to save money: don't be female), but I kind of expected that a reverse gender marketing campaign might try and take advantage of men and charge them more. I guess I was wrong.
Anyway, even though I am a lady and thus supposed to innately love scented candles and other "air fresheners," I find that they burn my sinuses with their artificial cloyingness, so I was not thrilled to have "Man Town" brought into my home. Maybe I would have liked it better had it smelled like sweaty jock straps and remote controls, if remote controls actually smell distinctive. (I think they do not, but perhaps I am not endowed with the right olfactory prowess.) I was relieved when my hubby took "Man Town" to his office for the sake of irony, and I filed the phallic banana book in the bookcase. As for the Hot Topic gift card, I might have to find some Goth-y teenager and transfer the unscented bounty to someone who might appreciate it more. I am pleased, though, that their website has a category for items that are unisex.