Branding & Gender
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PRIDE

Episode · 8 months ago

Branding & Gender

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Today, commercials always have a target audience in mind. They’re thinking about who they have the best chance of selling their product to. Which is a common marketing tactic, but it’s rooted in gender ideologies. Tutus are for little girls, monster trucks are for boys, makeup is for women, you get the idea. Today, we’ve made a lot of gender progress. LEGOs has released lines of toys using only primary colors to prove that anyone can buy their products. Nerf even makes their own line of toy guns advertised just for girls. But it’s a bit lopsided. Why are so few products deemed as feminine being marketed for men? Today, we’re joined by Dr. Megan Mass who breaks down how commercials came to be driven by societal norms and heteronormativity. We’re also joined by Boy Smells co-founder Matthew Herman, who’s candle business celebrates those who challenge the gender binary.

Be sure to check out Boy Smells’ holiday collection of candles as well as their brand new fine fragrances line and their recently restocked collaboration with Kacey Musgraves. And follow them on IG! Your host is Levi Chambers, co-founder of Gayety. Follow the show and keep up with the conversation @Pride. Want more great shows from Straw Hut Media? Check out or website at strawhutmedia.com. Your producers are Levi Chambers, Maggie Boles, Ryan Tillotson and Edited by Silvana Alcala Have an interesting LGBTQ+ story to share? We might feature U! Email us at lgbtq@strawhutmedia.com. *This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media.

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Straw media. Today, commercials always have a target audience. In Mine. They're thinking about who they have the best chance of selling their product to, which is a common marketing tactic, but it's rooted in gender ideologies too. Too's are for little girls, monster trucks are for boys, makeup is for women. You get the idea. Today we've made a lot of progress in terms of gender. LEGOS has released lines of toys using only primary colors to prove that anyone can buy their products. But it's a bit lopsided. Why aren't more products traditionally targeted for women being marketed for men? Today we're joined by Dr Megan Mass, who breaks down why commercials are driven by societal norms and heteronormativity. We gotta make girls into ladies. You know, men, you know, are their pursuers, that these girls need to be virgins. That was extreme. So we have that need to really delineate the boys and the girls. Were also joined by Voice Smells Cofounder Matthew Herman, whose candle business celebrates those who challenge the gender binary. You know, it's like really about like embracing this kind of like spectrum of war thmin into more masculine values to get her in a prigrance, because I think that really reflects the identity of people today, or at least the people I look up to and love and identify with. Im Ly by Chambers, and this is pride. So I am Dr Megan Mos and I use she her pronouns. I'm an assistant...

...professor and Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University and I research something called sexual socialization. Sexual socialization sounds intimidating, but it's actually the process of acquiring knowledge about sex and sexuality over time and, as you can imagine, that's highly tied to gender socialization and gender identity and dynamics around that. We start looking at people in terms of gender at a very young age and it ties into how we try to differentiate everything in our lives. So round two, wish, three, ish. That's when we're really trying to put things in categories. These are plants, these are animals, this is food, and then we create more complex categories and toddler's and little kids love the boy girl category and then they start sort of applying it to everything, and so you can say that we're really learning about it. There might even be evidence of learning about it earlier than that, but my my understanding is a really kicks in the high gear right around when we're a toddler. First let's go through some vocabulary. Like what is objectification theory? It's a theory that at the very foundation of it is this idea that we can treat other human beings like they're not human. So we do a lot of this through other ring so we can objectify people in another country. We don't think of them as humans, so it's okay that we're going to war with them and people are dying and we take away somebody's humanity and it makes violence against them okay. It's a little bit easier for us to sort of Digest. So so that's basically objectification. is taking a human and turning them into an object. We do this a lot with sexualization. So sexual objectification would be sort of taking...

...the humanity out of somebody and turning them into a sexual object or something where sex happens to them. They're not a sexual subject who is participating with, you know, free will and pleasure and safety and is approaching sexual experience with their whole body. So we can objectify ourselves, we can objectify others and perhaps the best examples of objectification and objectification theory. We see an advertising where people a lot of times will become, you know, in human objects, like a girl, you know, sexual women will become the can of beer or will only be focused on her breasts and like an alcohol bottle in between them, or what, or would have you, and where we're not really considering the human being as a whole. Your example of that advertising would have kind of two effects. On someone who is attracted to that gender or that presentation of gender, they would be very attracted, and then someone who wants to be perceived as attractive may also then idolize those traits and want to replicate them to make them feel better about themselves or or that, you know, they are sexy or desired, and that would have some sort of a effect on gender as a whole, I would think. Oh for sure. I mean we we objectify men, women, Trans men, Trans women were doing more objectification across the board in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation expression. But traditionally and a lot of our media throughout the four these S S was...

...really focused on the sexual objectification of women and P and what are assuming from the audience are heterosexual, sisgendered women, and so we've kind of gotten to a point where it's sort of normative for us to see girls and women as these sexual, sort of made up presenting as sexually receptive and submissive kind of objects, and we are more used to seeing men, who we are assumed are susgendered heterosexual men, as you know, the cowboys and the writing, the motorcycle and the or the Dad who has a belly, but you know it's okay because it's a dad bought and you know, we're used to more seeing, more variation and more focus on what the the male in these advertisements or whether it's an image to a still image or film, what they're doing rather than what they look like. And then that kind of leads in then to heteronormativity theory, because those constructs of I guess you'd say Gender Than Influence the concept of the preferred like mode of sexual orientation. Is that right? Totally. So we do our you know, here's what a girl in a female is, here's what a boy male is, and so the preferred way is for girls and boys to be in their roles and then they can come together, and so we've and that is the heteronormativity where we just assume boys are marrying girls. Girls like boys, boys like girls, and we've got this submissive female, virginal, sexually inexperienced, you know, girl meets this...

...sexually experienced, maybe aggressive, older male and we like those sort of opposites, dichotomy kind of a thing going on for sure, and so we tend to apply those standards and norms across the board. Even with same sex couples. You know, we will get the questions that are like well, who's the man and this relationship? Or, you know, just assume that one partner, and even even among you know, even among gay and my sexual people themselves, will say, I feel like I have to adhere to some sort of gender role that is opposite or different than my partners, you know, gender identity or gender role, like we can't play the same roles in a relationship. So he to normat that would be another example of hero normativity, you know, occurring in gay spaces and so races where heterosexual people don't even, you know, live. So it's pervasive. So then the social norms theory would be essentially what you mentioned about that perception of like this is how it is. Yeah, so we have social norms. They are culturally determined and we learn that very quickly when we travel to other countries and you know some some in some countries you don't shake hands and you know it's other countries you know you kiss somebody on the lips even, you know, even if there are a stranger. You know those that would be an idea of a social norm or social norm around, you know, weddings, what happens at a wedding or what happens during a holiday, and those social norms can be obvious. And there's other social social norms that are more nuanced and they are playing out in all the little things that we do. And we learn these norms usually through trial and error, because we have friends who so,...

...for example, right now I have a daughter in kindergarten and she's learning that her, this new friend she's making like some of her clothes and doesn't like other, you know, her other clothes. So she's learning right now what the social norms for dress are in Kinnert and via this girl she's trying to be friends with. So that's how they are social using each other right now about gender through through social norms through sexual socialization. We attain a knowledge of what gender is and the stereotypes that come with acquiring this information from either societal influences or media consumption, like the adds we see on TV. Your coffee to very ex beautiful. You're welcome. How can such a pretty wife make such bad cofree? I heard that a lot of times. You will. You'll hear advertisers say they're just giving the people what they want, but I think it's fixed. So, mad men, the show is fictional. There's lots of, you know, examples of advertising we get, so we can kind of see behind the scenes of advertising in different ways. It might be accurate, it may not be, but we know that there is still there is still somebody who comes up with an idea and it's based off of their own experiences in designs. How do we convince somebody that they need to purchase this thing? Benne, lady, please, right now, at the end of all two I've set out a brand new can't myth, husband pleasing coffin soldiers, coffee mountain grown for richer flavor. They might not invent certain norms, but they will playoff of a desire to adhere to certain arms, and...

...so they might accelerated a little bit. And so we've had in you know, in modern society, certainly through like the Victorian era, and in the US we see a massive divergence in terms of heterosexual socialization. Making said advertisements began to target key audiences as early as the S, especially following the post World War II baby boom. And that would make sense because we've got all of these babies. So the advertisers know like Hey, we've got more babies than we've had and like two hundred years. So everybody's focused on babies right now. More babies meant more parents in the market for supplies for their little talks. But instead of targeting both parents, advertisers decided to focus their efforts on MOMS, specifically the white middle class housewives who had influence over the households finances. So advertisers really honed in on these stay at home mom this new, you know what's it called? Market of buyers, as the decision makers and the ones that could be really convinced that if you're going to be a good mom, you know you're going to get these products for your kids. Previously infant clothes were primarily white because they were easiest to clean. But when advertisers noticed a growing desire to differentiate the clothes, they jumped on it. And then now, if we're going to really capitalize on that, like you just said, we can get them to buy a whole new set of clothes, a whole new set of toys. Now we can even get you there's even boy and girl car seats, pink car seats and Blue Kursey. I mean you could even do they're doing it across the board, so that there's just more crap to my and a lot more gilt, you know, and...

...and they use the guilt like because mom Gil is real, that is, that's innate and and so using that, you know, advertisers can hone in on that and get people to think they need to buy all this stuff for boys and then buy a bunch of new stuff for if they have a girl. This led to even more gender targeting, like in the toy industry. Girls were told to play with Barbie dolls, while boys were shown legos and monster trucks and gi Joe Their study after study after study that shows that the the toys that we play with as kids matter and terms of the kinds of jobs we envision ourselves having or being able to attain. You know, kids that are given a different variety of toys can imagine. You know, boys are more likely to imagine themselves as carrying loving fathers and their future if they have baby dolls that they can play with. Girls are more likely to imagine themselves as being a scientist or an astronautter and engineer if they have blocks and and other types of engineering toys to play with. Megan says, are feelings towards body image are also affected by these brands. You know, superheroes. If you look at like Batman in the S, he kind of had like a little bit of a belly and his arms were pretty thin, and now is he's like enormous, you know, huge shoulders and arms and this teeny tiling little waste and just explosive. And so this concept of being like this super powerful, strong, violent dude as like the epitome and of Masculinity, is that's inherently supporting and praising violence. Or, you know, being this tiny little submissive, skinny Barbie. We see that associated with, you know,...

...having these really extreme ideals about being thin and dieting and eating disorders and being obsessed with being thin even from a young age for, you know, some girls. In recent years, advertisers have stayed away from gender targeting and have tried to create non gendered campaigns. Toy Manufacturing Company Mattel released a gender neutral Barbie in two thousand and nineteen, with a variety of a cessories, clothes and hair options. The doll can be a boy, a girl, neither or even both. It's an amazing step forward but, Megan says, we still have a ways to go. Where we see real change is if we can have this gender and heterosexual boys play with traditional barbies right, because what we've done is we've tend to just take out any kind of gender expression and we say like, okay. So basically what we're saying is being non binary is cool, like being gender neutral is cool, and yeah, that is important. That's much better than the binary of boy or girl, but we're still making femininity the bad, weaker, worse option, especially for boys, regardless of rather not they identify as you know, Trans girl or their assist gendered boy. We have to make, I think, advertisements and it has to be socially acceptable for boys to experiment, playing with dolls and dresses or being stay at home dad's or doing the feminine things for there to be real, you know, real change in terms of gender equality. So not just like the erasure of gender, but the tolerance of gender, and not just tolerance but like excitement or support of gender expression in many different ways.

When we come back, will meet Matthew Herman, the creator of boy smells, a brand that challenges the idea that men can't be feminine. Before the break, we spoke with Megan Mass and Assistant Professor at Michigan State University. Megan explained why advertisers chose to target gender and the effects this had on our society. But even as corporations move away from gendered brand campaigns in favor of gender neutral advertising, there's still a very important point that must be made. Men can be feminine too. I wanted to be able to claim that like feminine space for myself as someone you know, somebody who's is like he or they pronouns like I just felt like, you know, my Feminine Energy makes me the best man that I can be. That's like what makes me the best version of myself at does everything to do with my gender and that's what I really relate to. So it was, you know, not selfish, but it like really just reflected kind of like how we wanted to like view ourselves and fit into the world. Meet Matthew Herman, Fashion Designer and Cofounder of the candle company boy smells, and went to a school in United Kingdom called central St Martin's for fashion design and I basically looked up. We're all kind of my heroes went like Alexander McQueen and Phoebe philow and Salmacar me and you know, all of these kind of like fame designers all went to this one school and I was really important for me, if I was going to do fashion sign that I go there. So I moved to London and I lived there for about six years and I work for a designer called Giles Deacon there and then I moved back to the United States and my work for a few high and runway designers in New York City. Matthew then got a call from Nasty Gal, a Los Angeles based retailer who specializes in clothing for young women, founded by Sophia Amaru. So the company started out as an Ebay...

...store before becoming the successful retailer it is today, and that was kind of a whole moment. But it was great because I worked in a company that kind of deemstified on treprende worship and a very real way, and a part of company culture was to have a side hustle. Matthew was dating his partner David, and together they started throwing around ideas for a new product geared towards them. We had had some conversations early on, you know, and our relationship just about how we didn't feel art, didn't see ourselves and a lot of products and we didn't see ourselves and a lot of like retail experiences. And at that time, as a queer person, I think we were kind of going through like, you know, second coming of ages of sorts, where we're really kind of like peeling away the onion and trying to see, like who would we have been? And, if you know, our queerness had always been celebrated. They decided to focus on fragrance. Matthew enjoyed wearing floral sense that embraced his more feminine side. I think one thing that people don't think about is life those like all this implicit sexism and fragrance. Right. So, like men are supposed to smell like woods and musks because, like muster animalistic and wood is strong, you know, and women are supposed to smell like flowers or fruits because they're like delicate or sensitive or emotional. And really, like, you know, all human beings, regardless of gender, like have the ability to be assertive, they have the potential to tap into their emotions for for that to like guide their intuitions. And really, we need our capabilities and we need our emotions to be working together and not be isolated from one another, no matter you know who you are and how you identify. But instead of marketing a genderless fragrance that is designed for, quote, everyone, Matthew and David wanted their business to communicate to people that it's okay to break suicidal norms. And all my girlfriends of Hashion were wearing...

...like Tusk and leather by Tom Ford or likes on toll thirty three by Lo Levo, which are these traditionally like super masculine sense. And so, while I thought, like this brand is like really like has like Super Queer origins and maybe it's just for queer people, I was seeing like all of these like sish straight women who like love to wear a chunky rolex or like a boyfriend blazer, you know, like that, that they love boy smells, because it was like permission for them to to reclaim like this other side of the this power spectrum, on the other that was traditionally on the other side of the gender binaries. So creating boy smells and putting it in a pink box, we were really kind of like, you know, giving a sense of permission and teasing the gender binary and fragrance to really give like a sense of permission that like you can like any smell you want. When we first started, you know, we didn't know what we were doing. I mean, you know, we're two people from fashions. I'm going into fragrance. We already have like, you know, a total like feeling of like this imposter syndrome right, like going into a field that, like, you know, you have no business going into, or that's how you feel. So we were already like a little like trepidacious just about like is this going to work? Like we do we even know what we're doing. David Matthew were attending trade shows to try and convince stores to house their products. It was there they noticed their products were not understood by all generations for the first couple of years, or like Oh, you either get it or you don't get it. Regardless of the pushback, they continue to grow their brand and eventually they were adopted by a few premium fashion retailers like Nordstrom and Barney's. Boy Smells was evolving from an indie startup to an internationally recognized, award winning brand, and they did it by cornering a new generation of gender neutral consumers while...

...championing progender multiplicity. Gender full uses your gender, or how you've decided to express your gender, not based on your gender assigned to birth, but like it really uses gender as a point of like growth, self reflection and like at this point, like how your especially gender is up to you and like it's there is no proto call for it anymore. So gender fullness is a celebration of all different types of expression than like that's really when the brand took off, you know, like once we like really embraced the brand identity and like we're speaking externally about it more as when we had our biggest success when it comes to the branding of their product. Matthew says they stay away from those marketing ploys based on heteronormativity. You look at traditional fine fragrance ads and it's like, I don't know, you like spray this dull Jing of on a fragrance, all of sudden you're like having sex on a rock in a ball fee, you with some like model or something, you know. And I what I love is I feel like fragrance beauty is really shifting more towards like, you know, showing the truer, true beauty and letting that radiate versus, Hey, I'm going to put on this like face of makeup so I can attract someone and like disguise myself as being like prettier than I actually aim. Instead, he says, their products are all about the relationship people have with themselves. Like it, you should be able to like look in the mirror every day and like be like that's my ideal of beauty, and the only reason that we don't feel that is because we've been taught to by marketing that they're these other ideals of beauty that like, you don't fit into and that you need to buy these products so that you can fit into that box, and I think it is like queer individuals like we like recognize that every day, right, like we've all been like micro editing our personalities,...

...like you know, from childhood to like fit into other people's boxes or other people's expectations. The business began with candles being sold in a pink box, but is quickly grown into fragrances, an underwear line called UNMENTIONABLES and an upcoming toothpaste line. Each of these moments in your day, from brushing your teeth and putting on your Geodoran just spring fragrance on your body, to lighting the candle next to your bed, if those could all be like not throw away moments, but like identity affirming moments like that could be super powerful. Voicemels is just one example of a gender full company creating products that go beyond the gender binary. Megan says, the backlash against gendered advertisements has been going on since the S and s and continues to grow today. I think there is some pushback because we see the emergence of independent, you know, brands making like there's a clothing company called primary and it's trying to make close at arn't marketed based on gender we're seeing some some of that, like even the mattell Gender Neutral Barbie that I think we are seeing some of that. So I think it absolutely can be an Evan, a flow and we can pull back on this stuff more because there is a market and here, and here's where advertising is great and market research is great, there is a market for this stuff. There's millions of parents who do not want the be nice, you know, Daddy's a little princess shirts and I'm a tough monster, you know, dinosaur driving a tractor thing for their like. There's a lot of people who do not want that shit at all and who are willing to pay money to have other options. So and and market research tells us that. So...

...absolutely I think we can can pull back, maybe not completely, but definitely grow the space of in between Marger. For Matthew, he hopes to contribute to this growing space in between the binaries by creating new gender full products are gender full values can really tap into almost any products. So I think when we look at the medicine cabinet and like, you know, things in the shower, things that you use every day, we really want to bring that gender full perspective to the rest of the bathroom, because I don't know about you, but, like as a kid, I think I really, really, like a lot of you know, gender expectations were reinforced in the bathroom experience, whether that be like separate gender bathrooms or like the products that are in there, like, you know, all of that is like I remember like looking at like the Vanity and like my dad's stuff was just so different than my mom's stuff, you know, and like wanting to like dip into like perfume or like, you know, but also like things on, you know, the other side. I think that this unerfol perspective is like still very much missing from the rest of the bathroom space and we're really excited to explore other mediums by which we can, you know, express these values for our customer. For the holiday season, you can check out boy smells holiday collection of candles, as well as their brand new fine fragrances line and there recently restocked collaboration with Casey musgrakes. Just go to boy smelscom pride is a production of Strang at media. If you like to show leave us a rating...

...and a review on Apple, podcast, spotify or wherever you listen to podcast, then follow us on Instagram, twitter and facebook, APP pride and tune in weekly for new episodes. Be Sure to share this episode with your friends and subscribe for more stories from Amazing Queer people. If you'd like to connect with me, you can follow me everywhere at me by chambers. Pride is produced by me Le by Chambers, Maggie Bulls, Ryan Tillotson, Caitlyn mcdaniel and Brandon Marlowe, edited by Silvana, I'll call off, and Daniel Ferreira. Sound mixing by Silvana, I'll call up. Is there a part of you, the scientific part, that's like, let's watch this play out? Oh yeah, yeah, really, we're other moms to be like, the dress is fine, exactly. So I'm like, okay, so how? So tell me where about this conversation? Hey, she's like letting like she didn't like it. Yeah, like, how do you even about it? Yeah, but how do you know she doesn't like it? Does she tell you doesn't like it, or you know, does she like this other thing better? And so it's fascinating. Yeah,.

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