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    Archive for the ‘gender’ Category

    “Man Food”, “Woman Food”: A Very Profitable Food Industry Scam

    When it comes to marketing food, sex sells.  Well, gender, really.

    Food companies love to market what I refer to as “gendered foods”; that is, products that perpetuate the classic (and socially constructed) “this is for boys, this is for girls” dichotomy.

    Despite their proclamations of “addressing a particular concern” to a particular segment of the population, these gendered products are, in all actuality, “unisex” ones backed with highly gendered marketing campaigns.  In a 2009 post, I briefly touched upon “his” and “hers” vitamins.  This time around, let’s examine three of the bigger gendered food players.

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    Pepsi Max is for Men, Dammit!

    DSC02552

    Food and Gender exhibit: 24,607,186,037

    I recently shared this most amusing photograph of a Pepsi Max billboard in Los Angeles (kindly submitted by a Small Bites reader).

    Executives at Pepsi are hoping the soft drink — a one-calorie diet soda with twice the caffeine of regular Diet Pepsi and spiked with ginseng, 1999’s hottest herbal supplement — will become a hit among men who… are currently too ashamed to order sodas with the word “diet” in them?

    The billboard in question, bearing the tagline “the first diet cola for men”, showed a Pepsi Max can crushed by what we assume was a strong and burly male hand.

    As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough (artificial sweeteners, last I heard, were gender-neutral), I was exposed to more of the Pepsi Max multi-million dollar publicity machine this past weekend in New York City.

    I was casually strolling the Meatpacking District (think celeb hotspot, a la “OMG, this is the restaurant where Lindsay Lohan puked in the plants after losing the dance-off to Paris Hilton!”) Friday night when I came across approximately fifteen high-end sports car parked along the sidewalk, all bearing the Pepsi Max logo.

    One block down, outside the trendy Gansevoort Hotel (ready for another OMG! moment?  The rooftop bar is where an episode of The Real Housewives of New York City was filmed!), stood the Pepsi Max Fantasy World truck.DSC02559

    The back third of the truck was all glass, where an underpaid college student with aspirations to be a model type danced “provocatively” (by that I mean looked bored stiff while occasionally moving her hips and running her fingers through her hair.)

    To gain access to the rest of the truck, where only five people were allowed at one time, you were required to get a poker chip (get it?  it’s for men!) from one of ten promoters.

    They were easy to spot — tall, slightly underfed, way too excited about Pepsi Max, and sporting baby tees with the soft drink’s logo on them.

    After a ten minute wait in line, I handed my poker chip to a burly bodyguard type and hopped on the truck.  A girl closed the door and shimmied as she pulled back a curtain and asked, “Are you ready to have your fantasies fulfilled?”

    Apparently, Pepsi Max’s idea of a fantasy is playing a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em in a makeshift bar (decorated with sports memorabilia because, for the 1,786,937th time, this particular concoction of high fructose corn syrup and carbonation is for men) while a cocktail waitress serves cans of Pepsi Max.

    The winner of the hand was gifted a T-shirt and a deck of cards, while everyone else walked away with a deck of cards.  I am sure it is absolutely coincidental that they look like a pack of cigarettes.

    Oh, and who can miss the ever-so-subtle “I scored” double entendre.

    DSC02566Undoubtedly, Pepsi wants heterosexual males drinking Pepsi Max.  And, apparently, their marketing team decided to pay an homage to Married With Children’s Al Bundy.

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    What Gender Is Your Soda?

    roadtrip-los-angeles-001Last week, one of my posts analyzed the cultural and gendered implications of President Obama’s hamburger run featured in the NBC White House special.

    Whether or not they agreed with my my viewpoint of what I perceived as subtle messages sent out by the Obama camp by selecting Five Guys hamburger chain as their to-go lunch spot, many readers have mentioned they have become more aware of the social constructions and symbolisms attributed to food.

    In any case, Small Bites reader Quinn Andrus was reminded of my “food and gender” post (and generous enough to e-mail me!) when she came across the billboard you see in the accompanying picture while traveling in Los Angeles.

    Apparently, even soda is gendered (or at least that’s what Pepsi wants male consumers to believe).

    To prove this point, the ad features a crushed soda can (Arrrrggghhh!  Me man.  Me mad soda is done.  Me crush can!!!).

    What apparently makes this zero-calorie, sugar-free soda “manly” is its increased caffeine content.  Interestingly enough, Pepsi Max wasn’t advertised this way under its previous name — Diet Pepsi Max.

    So, basically, we come back to the idea of heathy eating and caloric restriction as “womanly.”  A “real man” would never be seen drinking something with the word Diet on it.  Apparently, playing into those stereotypes makes some advertising executives very rich, folks.

    And while we’re on the topic of gender, how amazing is the advertisement directly below the Pepsi ad?  Why do I have a feeling it’s not a coincidence, either?

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