Clever marketing equals terrible culture
Tia Kutschera Fox, Contributor
Illustration by Jessica Viaje
Yoga, the ancient 3,000-year-old practice from India, has exploded in popularity in North America in the past few decades. However, while yoga is traditionally practiced by everyone, according to a 2015 survey by Yoga Alliance, twice as many women practice yoga as men in the US. This is probably partly due to the fact yoga has a reputation for not being a “good workout” (I would pay good money to watch male weightlifters try hot yoga), that you need to be flexible and that it’s a spiritual practice. The first is categorically untrue – it’s all about the kind of yoga you try. And being flexible makes it easier, but just like anything, the more you do it the better you get. The last one is traditionally true, but North America has taken yoga and put it’s own capitalist, yoga pants-wearing goat/beer/chicken nugget-yoga spin on it. You can do yoga that is just for the physical benefits or you can take a more spiritual class if you so choose. The point is, yoga is for everyone and there is a yoga class for every possible thing imaginable. But this is apparently not good enough for Oxygen Yoga, who have introduced their brand new Broga class! That’s right, you manly men who are way too manly to take a bendy touchy feely not-a-great-workout yoga class. There’s a class for you!
And thus now yoga has joined the swaths of pointlessly gendered things that have led to bizarre fragile masculinity issues. While there’s no one thing that is to blame for the development of toxic masculinity, it’s hard not to side-eye the aggressively gendered kids toys that teach people at an early age that inanimate objects must be matched with their gender identity. PSA: A girl does not need pink lego to enjoy lego. A boy playing with dolls doesn’t mean he’s being “girly” or “gay,” it means he is pretending to be a parent. What a concept. This paves the way for marketers to continue to market a regular thing that everyone can use and then market a second regular thing but for the other gender! This is commonly done to neutral items which then have a twin packaged in pink or pastel purple and advertised as for women. The more absurd the better apparently. Toothbrushes, tools, pens, earplugs, etc. all have their “for women” counterpart which also then implies that these items were not meant for women before. These versions are also usually more expensive. This phenomenon is called the pink tax.
But when the opposite happens it gets even weirder and can get downright upsetting. The general formula is to take the product, wrap it in grey and black and use overly aggressive adjectives and then voila! A man’s product is born. Chapstick (hilariously called “Manstick”), loofahs (called “dual-sided cleaning tools”), sunscreen for men (not getting skin cancer was definitely too girly before) and even Q-tips for men (also called a “tool”). Consumables aren’t safe either, producing gems like Brosé and bronuts (alcohol and food are so inherently womanly aren’t they?) No category is safe, nothing too neutral to be transformed into something men can safely use without becoming feminine by the mere presence of the object. It’s gotten to a point where masculinity is so fragile that some men refuse to wipe after pooping because they think it will make them gay, a situation that has been cheekily called “septic masculinity.” My condolences to their partners.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Marketers create and take advantage of these bizarre gender traps when really, if a man wants to smell like a “Cocoa Butter Kiss” deodorant, he damn well should be able to buy it and not feel obligated to buy “Primal Pit Paste.” If a woman wants to wear earplugs on the plane she should feel secure in knowing the regular earplugs will work just as well in her feminine ears than the neon pink ones, and will be nicer on her wallet. The only way to win against pointless marketing is to not play the game. I encourage any men out there who want to try yoga to go to a regular goddamn class. (Then afterwards maybe you can treat yourself to a bronut!)