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Marketing to Women

pialamode314's picture

I had an interesting experience over my Thanksgiving break. I've had the same phone for several years now and was due for an upgrade, so while I was home I went to the store to get a new phone. I am not well versed on what new phones are out and which ones are best, so naturally I asked someone at the store to help me out and give me an idea of what phones I should look at based on some preconceived ideas I had of what I wanted. The guy who helped me was very friendly, but at one point, he began telling me about a phone in the store that "girls really love." He kept telling me that "girls love this phone because it's very thin so they can fit it in their supertight jeans." Now if this salesman had known anything about me, he would have known that was the quickest way to piss me off and lose that sale. He repeated that statement to me about 3 or 4 times as I was looking around at other phones, and it made me super uncomfortable. First of all, I was pissed that he was stereotyping young women and me (though I wasn't even wearing tight jeans at the time so okay...). Secondly, I was pissed that he saw me as a female customer and assumed that because of that, I didn't care much about the technology, I just cared about the aesthetics of the phone, because of course no woman in her right mind would be interested in technological details! In fact, to make matters worse, while he told me over and over again about how I might like this phone because I'm a "girl" and the phone is sleek and pretty, he spoke directly to my dad, who was with me at the time, anytime he began to explain the technology behind the phone - because my dad is a man and obviously can understand that talk much better than me, a shallow, feeble-minded "girl". (My dad told me afterwards he could see me silently fuming throughout this whole thing.) Anyway, all of this got me thinking and I ended up doing a google search to see what kinds of information was out there on "marketing to women", and I ended up finding a lot of websites with "tips" on how to market to women as oppose to men. In one webpage (which I'll link below), there is a quote from a writer on how to design marketing websites for women: 

"The female of the species likes and appreciates—you might even say she demands—clean. It’s hard-wired. 'Clean' and 'unclean' register for most women instantaneously. For a majority of the world’s females, Am I in a clean environment? is an intuition, an undercurrent, a sixth sense, a vibe they pick up… Clean matters to women—can I be any more clear?"

This sort of statement might seem harmless, but in reality it just reinforces stereotypical gender roles - women are the ones who do the cleaning in a household, women care more about appearance than content, etc. This kind of thinking perpetuates gender stereotypes, and unfortunately is still a huge part of marketing and business. Anyway, my rant is over.


Cat's picture

Silent Settings

You mention a lot of research in your article, which was really interesting (because numbers can lie, but sometimes they point to valuable analysis). But, the most interesting thing about your scenario is that it happens to me all of the time. Someone genders me as a woman, without me actually telling them that's how I identify (which seeems to have happened to you here, too). Then, I get worse products or things catered to imaginary needs or a lot of mansplaining or zero attention at all, because they think that I'm a woman. You said that you were silently fuming, which is how I usually deal with it, too. But I wonder what Brown or Sommer or Lourde would think of that silence. Are you or I not confronting someone because we're scared, or because we'll get misrepresented? Are we aiding the system because we're not correcting misconceptions?

I did some research of my own about the buying power that women have. I turned up similar statistics as the article that you cite, that women make 85% of the buying decisions in the US and 65% globally (Koplovitz). But I also found statistics pointing to a vast underrepresentation of women on the boards of retail and consumer products companies. The percentage of women holding the board seats of tech companies is even lower, at 3% (Koplovitz). So, there isn't just silence during cissexist and sexist marketing ploys, but when the products are being developed, marketing campaigns are started, and the staff training is devised. That's not really a silence Brown or Sommer or Lourde talked about in the passages of theirs that we've read for class--a silence not as an individual choice, but an institutionalized silence brought about not from a presence choosing not to participate, but from a sheer, across-the-board absence.