Marketing by Masculinizing the Feminine

Elliott J. sent in a comic by Kris Straub, who posts at chainsawsuit, making fun of the way that marketers often try to masculinize products that are associated with women, making them safe for men to consume:After reading the comic, I thought it would be fun to have a round-up of examples of masculinizing the feminine—that is, attempting to sell items to men through repackaging and renaming, drawing on ridiculous stereotypes of masculinity to assure men that they can use these products without becoming girly.

To start off, how might you sell nail polish to men? Call the brand Alphanail and associate the product with sex and warfare, of course, with, as submitter Gabriella says, “women as props and men as warriors”:

Clémentine C. noticed that Canova, a British company that sells candles, has a line of candles specifically for men, identifiable by the manly images and scents. While the other candles are given names like sweet pea or watermelon, the men’s versions have more detailed names, with allusions to “bringing out the dog in you,” “the sweet smell of success,” and “a splash of motor oil.”

The Cassis & Fig with Added Danger candle includes a silhouette of a woman behind a martini glass, reminiscent of a stripper pole:Jennifer W., Kirstie McC., Savannah G., Kristina K., Dmitriy T.M., and Scott C. informed us that CIL Paints, a Canadian company, is trying to masculinize paint colors. The website provides men with a range of colors for their “ultimate man caves.” Scott saw this ad for the line in Toronto’s Metro back in September:

What makes these colors masculine? A simple name change. The website helpfully translates the “real” names of their paints into man-speak:

According to a video created as part of the ad campaign, a quick name change instantaneously changes men’s perceptions, making them compliant with women’s wishes (“The colour she wants with a name he’ll agree to”):

Indeed, the central message is that men are incredibly stupid and easily duped; women just have to manipulate them a bit:

Now we’ve got the house painted; it’s time for some chores! Anjan G. let us know that appliance company Philips designed an iron just for men:

The man-friendly features on this “robust power tool for ironing,” described on the Philips website as the “Anodilium soleplate man iron,” include “more power, more steam, more performance” to give you “an endless excellent gliding experience.”

Now, let’s say that you’ve just ironed all your clothes with your ironing power tool, and now you want a little rest. Hmmm, you might think, I’d like a nice warm beverage, but I don’t want to appear girly. Thanks to Elisabeth M., we discovered that Man Teas has an answer for you, with their goal of making tea safe for men:

…most of the specialty teas out there have stuff like rosehips and lemon zest in them (what the hell is “zest” anyway?) and they are packaged and merchandised to appeal to women. What guy is going to pick up a box of Cozy Sleepytime Tea with a pajama’d teddy bear on it? Not this guy.

At least three different varieties of their teas are bacon-flavored. And to make sure every element of your tea-consuming experience is sufficiently manly, you can steep your tea is this manly T-Baggin Tea Bag:

And finally, along with your tea, perhaps you’d like some healthy cereal, but you’re worried that health foods are associated with women. Well, don’t worry; Tesco sells Chunky Muesli, a “cereal for men.” It’s made safe for men with construction-zone packaging:

Thanks to Sophie K. for sending us the photo!

This post originally appeared at Sociological Images, reprinted with permission.



  1. Let’s not forget Dr. Pepper 10. Take a look:

  2. notsoperfectme says:

    Have you guys forgotten Yorkie chocolate bars? They cut straight to the chase with their strap-line – “Not for girls”.

  3. It’s very funny and I love the cartoon but it’s beyond depessing that advertisers still work at the level of Barbie and Ken in the playground. Even more depressingly, they believe that it works and change will be hard to achieve. We have come a long way but there’s still a l-o-n-g way to go.

  4. I think it’s disgusting! More women need to be in advertising.

    • I agree…

    • More women need to be in many professions, from advertising to legislating.

    • While there are more men in advertising it isn’t an overpoweringly male field by any means. I don’t think these adds are this way because women aren’t involved. There are both men and women out there who support the stupid machismo male stereotypes that we see in these marketing examples. It seems more like those making these adds think men are stupid and insecure and many men are, that’s why things like this often work. It’s sad that manhood insecurities have produced men that are so afraid of being seen as girly that they have to act moronically “manly”.

  5. While I think this is silly, and I think it would be much better to simply work towards de-gendering things like muesli and tea candles altogether. There’s nothing inherently feminine about an infusion of leaves or ground up cereal or melted wax, it’s just stuff, the gender attribution is pointless.

    My other half is male, and wears nail-polish. We’re both goths. We don’t care if it’s branded as manly war-paint or called poppy-seed as long as it’s black 😛 Apparently it’s considered unmanly of my other half to wear mascara and eyeliner. He manages to look like he’s either walked out of a rock band or a horror movie – not exactly stereotypically girly territory. Personally I don’t see why self-adornment has to be gendered, until the 19thC it was quite common for men to be rather preened. Also, if I was off to warI’d probably not think about painting my nails for battle, more about checking equipment, having stuff that works, being practical, etc. I’m not a female soldier, but there might be regulations about wearing nail polish to war anyway…

    The whole duping men by re-naming the colours is stupid and an insult to men’s intelligence, as is thinking someone’s going to be put off a wall colour because of its name rather than just not liking the colour. It also assumes that women will want pink walls. Personally I think the sappy names for colours are annoying ANYWAY, I’d like them to stop trying to pander to what they incorrectly assume people like. I don’t care what it’s called, I care what it looks like, its coverage, opacity, finish and how long it lasts and how much it costs. It is just paint, after all.

    I want the “manly” iron, it looks far nicer than the horrid lilac and white thing I currently have.

    Men shouldn’t need to care about whether or not something is “girly” the same way women shouldn’t need to care if something is “manly”. That said, some guys genuinely like stereotypical “man-stuff” because it is actually the aesthetic they like, or the interests they like, or whatever, and not because they feel culturally pressured into it. I like cooking, but it’s not because I believe women belong in the kitchen, it’s because I find cookery enjoyable. I bet my Dad would love that “manly” candle with the car on it, he likes classic cars and cars in general, but he’d think the James Bond candle a bit daft because he doesn’t like Bond movies.

    Capitalism is silly, trying to create a new audience for a product by pandering to stereotypes (and thereby reinforcing them) or by trying to sell the idea that buying the old product wasn’t manly enough, so you need to buy the same product, rebranded, otherwise you’re being a sissy, and then the previous product for your wife, is daft. It also assumes that consumers are daft, which a lot of them seem to be (especially when people buy stupid quack products and pointless home efficiency gadgets) but isn’t the case for the majority. I’d like to think people have brains in their heads.

  6. phil ford says:

    That is some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen in months. Pathetic but funny nonetheless. I don’t know if this stuff is directed toward twelve-year-olds or what. I would think that cleaning under my fingernails would have a more positive impact on my chances for sex than nail-polish! To paraphrase an infamous ad, “We HAVEN’T come a long way, have we?”

    I particularily found the whole paint-color name ‘dilemma’ hilarious. Most of the names are bizarre but I have to admit I’d be pleasantly amused if I saw a color named ‘razor burn’ or ‘beer foam’ … it’d make me know they weren’t taking themselves TOO seriously.

    Thanks for posting. It got my 2012 off to a lighthearted start. – phil

  7. Is that ‘manly cereal’ supposed to look like a bag of dog food? I’ll stick with my Multi-Grain Cheerios, thanks (which, natch, is marketed exclusively to women).

  8. Pathetic.

  9. “The Cassis & Fig with Added Danger candle includes a silhouette of a woman behind a martini glass, reminiscent of a stripper pole” . . .

    FAIL. Gimme a break.

    A ‘stripper pole’? Please. That’s a martini, shaken, not stirred, and The Name is Bond … James Bond.


  10. I know this is depressing, but it made me laugh. Thank you. Also: as stupid as the “power-tool” iron is, should men be dumb enough to fall for this, I dunno… I’m lousy with shirts 🙂

  11. Honestly, as long as it makes the guys do chores, vacuum, do some ironing and clean up I’m OK with creating chore tools that fits them. If it gets the job done, why not?

  12. mssmith51 says:

    The recurring theme is that anything relating to females is inherently inferior.

  13. I’m surprised nobody has considered the conflation of “girly” and woman-marketed, both in the products and the article. There are a lot of women who don’t want to be considered “girly” too. I hate both stereotypes about what women are supposed to like, and how often that assumption is “girly,” presuming a certain level of immaturity. In other words, there’s a stereotype problem in two dimensions, one of gender and one of maturity; I think it’s important to recognize and consider them both, and how they color each other. If you’re not sure what I mean, think about the terms “manly,” “womanly,” “girly,” and “boyish,” and consider the different implications in the terms, especially as you’d apply them to men, women, boys, and girls.

  14. My favorite is Butch Bakery

    In their words “Our objective is simple. We’re men. Men who like cupcakes. Not the frilly pink-frosted sprinkles-and-unicorns kind of cupcakes. We make manly cupcakes. For manly men.”


  15. OMG did you see the AlphaNail website? One of the banners is a guy (with polish) carying a woman-as-prop ass first into the camera. Nice photoshop/airbrush job on her headless ass. They call doing a man’s nails “peacocking” and the banner for that says “Peacocking 101 – The Brightest Feathers Get the Tail.” Oh, and the colors are ugly and ridiculous.

    • i find the nailpolish marketing particularly humorous. when i was in high school my guy friends who wore nailpholish got kicked around constantly for being “fags”. now it’s peacocking? please. only reinforces my long held belief that the “manly men” have always just been jealous of the guys who never had their same image issues.

  16. Some of these ads/products are jokes, right?

    I mean, I know this trend is real. I’ve seen the weight watchers commercials, the light beer commercials, and of course the notorious diet Dr. Pepper one.

    But motor oil scented candles? That’s tongue-in-cheek.


  17. Hi. I’m actually the creator of My name is Frank, and I’m the Chief Executive Zoomdweebie behind Zoomdweebie’s Teas ( ManTeas is just one of our brands. I just wanted to say I think it’s amazing that so much interesting discussion has come from our little website. For the record, I’m not a misogynist or a homophobe. I just thought it might be interesting to appeal to an under-served segment of the tea drinking public. I’m not sure why it is, but upwards of 80% of the specialty tea market is comprised of women. I felt men needed a brand that represented their interests in a market that is increasingly biased towards women’s tastes. And I have a bit of a wicked dry sense of humor. We’ve had some of our customers boycott ALL of our brands because of our site. I realize that whatever I say, some people are going to choose to be offended, but I have to say that I’m actually proud of the fact that our site is a catalyst for meaningful conversations like the ones I see in the comments here. Have a TEAriffic day!

  18. These ads are so silly and childish, but I can say that I’ve known plenty of men (straight, gay, bisexual) that completely buy into heterosexist ideas of masculinity. I’ve often struggled with my self confidence because other people (men and women) can be very judgmental and cruel whenever I do or say something that isn’t “masculine”. How does loving flowers or romantic ballads make me any less of a man? It doesn’t. It just shows how far society has to go before we can let go of ridiculous ideas of how men and women should be.

  19. Kynthia Rosgeal says:

    Okay, after I got done throwing up I was reminded of the beer company that thought a terrific marketing strategy to get us “gals” drinking beer was to simply color it pink.

    Am thinking I need to send them the rant of the young woman at Toyz R wrong (I mean us) about some boys liking princesses and some girls liking action figures. If a pre schooler can figure it out why cant these overpaid mysogyni….oooohhhhhhh, Now I get it.

  20. Sucker punch is an awesome name for that color of paint, though.

  21. I predict that by the end of this year, men with small penises will be told to refer to their organs as “man clits”.

  22. As an unabashed car lover, I kinda want the “splash of motor oil” candle, gender bias be damned!

    Also, the nail polish thing, really? Wow. I can’t say I really wear nail polish (other than to mask the dirt/grease under my nails for something fancy where it would be seen as ill mannered to do show off said dirt.

    And I agree; I like the name Sucker Punch (and the colour isn’t bad either); I think my bed room is something similar to it.

  23. I’m proud to say that my hubby has absolutely no problem that our bedroom is two shades of very girly pink (without the fancy “man” name). He pretty much said that if it makes me happy, it makes him happy. So stick that in your juice box and suck it, Home Depot (which is actually where we bought our very pink paint).

    Although to be fair, usually I don’t overdo it on the pink. Our office is SciFi themed and our family room will be Irish pub themed when we’re done (both my ideas). But Sucker Punch is a pretty cool name for a paint (whoa…coming from a girl *gasp* :p).

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