It’s marketing 101: If you can’t figure out a way to sell a product, slap the word “for men” or “for women” onto it, give it a coat of blue or pink paint, and watch the money roll in. Gendered marketing isn’t a new concept, and sometimes, it works fairly well.
Other times, not so much. Americans’ views on gender have shifted over the last few decades, and savvy marketers have taken notice.
“We are a country in transition,” said Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America, in a recent piece for MarketWatch. “The groundswell is toward this a-gender lifestyle where gender is something people can pick and choose.”
Salzman says that there’s a growing audience for gender-neutral products. However, some brands apparently didn’t get the memo. We searched Amazon to find some of the most needlessly gendered items on the site—and we weren’t quite prepared for what we found.
1. Guys, stop sneezing like a girl.
It’s happened to every man: You just finished installing a muffler or boxing a Communist when you realize that you’ve got a sneeze coming on. You reach for a tissue—which instantly disintegrates in your big, manly hands.
That’s apparently the thinking behind Kleenex Mansize. They’re bigger than normal Kleenex, and the box has a vaguely masculine design, but otherwise, they’re standard tissues. The product description notes that they’re “big enough for the whole family” and that the box “reinforces Kleenex’s heritage while drawing on the inspiration from the latest in men’s fashion and grooming.”
That’s nice, but…they’re just facial tissues.
Get this instead: Kleenex also has a Multicare line, which features chemical-free tissues that are 75 percent larger than those weak, puny tissues you’d find in other Kleenex boxes.
If you’ve got strong feelings about tissue aesthetics, you can pick from a variety of box designs. When you need larger tissues, these are a decent non-gendered choice.
2. Need to block out sound? Make sure you’ve got lady-friendly earplugs.
Sleep Pretty in Pink ear plugs use a slow-expanding foam to block out sound, and with a 32 noise reduction rating, they’re…perfectly normal earplugs.
The product description notes that they’re “petite sized [sic] for the smaller ear canals of women,” but since all polyurethane foam plugs expand to fill your entire ear canal, that’s not a particularly important feature.
The manufacturer also describes them as “attractive,” so if you’re buying ear plugs as some sort of a bizarre fashion statement, we suppose these are for you. If you’re a normal person, however, the hot pink color might be a bit loud for your tastes (pun intended).
Get this instead: Hearos earplugs are just as inexpensive, they’ve got the same noise reduction rating, and they’re made with an ultra-soft foam. Most importantly, they’re not made out of a bright pink material, so you can wear them in public without drawing attention to the fact that you’re wearing earplugs.
3. Women, if you’re looking for work gloves, make sure that they’re hot pink.
On paper, these look like decent gloves; they’ve got a terry cloth sweat-wipe area, rolltop fingertips, and a patented palm design for added durability. Our main issue: They’re called Tuff Chix, and they’re bright pink. The pink coloration for gendered products is pretty common, but why misspell both words of your brand name?
According to the reviews, these are decent work gloves, but they rip somewhat easily. So much for “tuff.”
Get this instead: You should buy work gloves suited to the actual work you’re doing; for instance, if you’re gardening pick up gardening gloves, and if you’re working with heavy metal, grab some nitrile gloves.
As far as general-purpose work gloves go, you can’t do too much better than the KINCO 1927KW, which features a heat-keep lining, a knit wrist, and durable pigskin materials. They’re actually tough (not “tuff”), and while they’re sized for men, they’ll fit onto a woman’s hand just as easily. Hey, they’re gloves—they’re not that complicated.
4. If you’re headed into the bathroom, make sure you’ve got some gender-specific wet wipes with you.
We’ll try to put this as discreetly as possible: Wet wipes can do a better job than toilet paper alone. With that said, there’s nothing drastically different about “dude” wet wipes and “not-dude” wet wipes.
The manufacturer notes that Dude Wipes “are 25 percent larger than the average flushable wet wipes,” but it’s not like regular wet wipes are that small in the first place. There’s also a weird appeal to the male ego towards the end of the product description: “Treat yourself, and your butt, like the king of the throne.”
Get this instead: Cottonelle Flushable Wipes do the same basic job as Dude Wipes, and they’re much less expensive. For about $12, you can get eight resealable packs, each of which contains 42 adult-sized wipes.
They immediately break down after flushing, so they’re safe for your plumbing, and they’re very lightly scented. You might not feel like “the king of the throne,” but you’ll feel clean, and you’ll save a decent amount of money.
5. That’s great and all, but what if you’re not going to the bathroom?
Well, we’ll pretend that you posed that rhetorical question literally. Dulcolax Pink is a laxative tablet for women. It’s pink, because women like pink, and it relieves constipation, because women hate constipation.
Take a couple of these, fall asleep watching your favorite romantic comedy, and you’ll wake up in a state of gastrointestinal ease. Try not to break a heel or smear your makeup while you’re running to the bathroom.
Get this instead: Dulcolax’s original laxative tablets contain the same active ingredient, and they’re significantly less expensive. Plus, you get more laxatives—100 tablets, as opposed to the 90-count provided by Dulcolax Pink.
Granted, they’re orange, not pink, so they may offend your delicate feminine sensibilities. If that happens, be sure to fan yourself while saying, “My heavens, I do believe I have a case of the vapours.”
6. Hey, girls, ever get intimidated by your boyfriend’s toolbox?
That’s another rhetorical question; of course you have.
Pink Power offers this six-piece screwdriver set for the low, low price of $14.99. As the manufacturer notes: “These screwdrivers are the perfect addition to any woman’s toolset and go great with any pink tool kit.”
Per the reviews, these are actually decent tools, they just happen to be pink—if you really want a pink screwdriver set, go ahead and order them with confidence (and if you’re a guy, don’t feel ashamed for picking up some decent pink screwdrivers at a fair price).
Get this instead: If you’d rather not have a pink toolset, you can get an 8-piece Craftsman screwdriver set for about $20.
They’re backed by Craftsman’s lifetime guarantee, which somehow doesn’t specify gender—if a tool breaks, you can get it replaced, and if you really want to, you can go ahead and paint them all pink.
7. Skincare products are usually gendered, but some brands go over the top.
Thrive, a natural face wash for men, claims to contain “powerful plants for adventurous skin.” Your tough, manly skin will be gently nurtured by the antioxidant-rich, antibacterial botanicals. Growl while you apply it, and it works even better.
Really, though, this seems like a perfectly fine face wash. Thrive also promotes sustainability, so we can’t complain about the “adventurous skin” line too much. We just wonder what makes this “for men,” exactly; it seems like perfectly fine face wash for anyone.
Get this instead: As we said, Thrive seems perfectly fine. If you’re looking for a non-gendered alternative, 365 Daily Facial Cleanser is less expensive, non-comedogenic (so it doesn’t feel greasy), and it has near-perfect reviews from users.
No word on whether it works on adventurous skin, but we’re going to go with “yes.”
8. What if that last moisturizer wasn’t manly enough for your manly, manly, man skin?
You might appreciate Lather & Wood’s Luxurious, Sophisticated Men’s Moisturizer for the Man’s Man. That’s the product name, according to the company’s Amazon page. Somehow, they said “man” three different times (and in three different ways).
It’s highly reviewed, and it contains a number of high-quality ingredients, including hyaluronic acid and organic jojoba oil. There are also two mustaches on the label. Now that’s manly.
Get this instead: Like we said, 365 Daily Facial Cleanser works just fine. Scroll on up and grab it—or, if you want a moisturizer with a pair of mustaches on its label, go ahead and get Lather & Wood, as it seems perfectly fine.
Let us know if it helps you cut down trees or something.
9. As we all know, only women have lips.
Men just have slightly soft bits of pink skin that cover their teeth. Call them “lips” if you’d like, but they’re totally different from those things that girls have.
Sometimes, guys’ lips get chapped, and until now, men have been forced to withstand the pain. Fortunately, Rugged & Dapper has introduced Lip Balm for Men, which bears the amazing tagline: “Skin fuel for men.”
It’s made of motor oil and athlete sweat, and—oh, sorry, it’s actually made with beeswax, vitamin E, and a blend of sunflower, jojoba and rosemary oil. Hey, that actually sounds sort of nice.
Get this instead: While “skin fuel for men” sounds nice, we prefer the classics. Burt’s Bees lip balm is made with all-natural ingredients, and its beeswax-based formula will keep your lips feeling fresh, hydrated, and healthy, even if you’ve spent all day fixing motorcycle engines or bench pressing grizzly bears.
It’s also less expensive than Rugged & Dapper’s lip balm.
10. Make sure your child is learning gender-appropriate piano solos.
Especially for Boys contains seven “entertaining and motivating” piano solos for late elementary school students. Selected by pianist Dennis Alexander, it contains such timeless classics as “Flight of the Totally Male Bumblebee with Really Big Muscles” and “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes (And When She Does, I Shall Kiss Her Thusly, For I Am a Proud Man).”
Okay, we don’t really know the titles of the pieces in this book, but we somehow doubt that piano pieces need to be gendered.
And just in case you thought the girls were left out, the same publisher offers Especially for Girls, which only contains six piano pieces.
“While girls certainly enjoy playing tender and romantic pieces, just as many enjoy playing pieces with robust sounds and exciting rhythms,” the book’s description reads. “This dynamic collection offers all of the above!”
Wow, it’s almost as if girls who enjoy playing the piano simply enjoy playing the piano.
Get this instead: Hal Leonard’s Journey Through the Classics series gradually leads students through a variety of classic piano pieces, eventually introducing masterworks from composers like Beethoven and Mozart. Book 2, listed below, is appropriate for late elementary students, and it doesn’t focus on gender.
Why not? Well, you play piano with your hands—your gender doesn’t really factor into the equation unless you’ve got a particularly clever means of working the sustain pedal.
11. Hammer (small) nails to hang pictures of your favorite pastoral scenes.
Women need their own tools. Those tools need to be hot pink. It’s simple science.
The IIT 88400 Ladies’ Claw Hammer features a vinyl cushion safety grip, heavy-duty steel construction, and a bright pink handled “so it’s easy to identify your tools.” Without the handle, you’d be forced to simply run around in a circle shouting “Heavens! Oh, sweet heavens!” until a man arrived and hammered your hammerables for you.
We love the customer question-and-answer section. Our favorite exchange:
“Q: Will the pink colour reduce the possibility of major home renovations diminishing my feminine appeal?”
“A: Absolutely. You may also develop muscles, and that’s no way to keep a man.”
While the overall reviews are positive, several reviewers noted poor overall balance and a “skunky, overwhelming” odor emanating from the package. That’s not very ladylike.
Get this instead: It costs and weighs more, but there’s nothing quite as dependable as an old-fashioned Estwing hammer. The single-piece forging ensures that your hammer never goes flying off the handle (hey, that’s where that phrase came from), and the patented shock reduction grip reduces vibration by 70 percent.
It’s perfectly balanced, made in the U.S.A., and versatile enough for any serious job. If you want to buy one hammer that will last you for the rest of your life, buy this one, then dye it pink so that you don’t immediately lose it.
12. Guys, you probably spend all of your time outdoors hunting for food to bring home to the tribe.
You need to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Unfortunately, most sunscreens are too puny to provide any real protection. Man skin deserves man lotion. Again, it’s science.
Banana Boat for Men “contains an odor-neutralizing ingredient with a manly scent,” so instead of smelling like bright sunshine, you’ll smell like motor oil and animal flesh. Slap on this SPF 30 sunscreen, and you’re ready to go foraging through the wilderness.
Get this instead: Look, there’s nothing wrong with Banana Boat for Men, per se, but there’s also nothing particularly feminine about the coconut scent used by most sunscreen lotions.
If you’re trying to avoid “smelling like sunscreen,” consider Vanicream Sport, which contains no fragrances, dyes, or masking fragrances of any kind. It’s non-comedogenic, so it doesn’t leave you feeling greasy, and it has a higher SPF rating than Banana Boat for Men.
13. What do you do if your little girl won’t eat her goldfish crackers?
“Give her something else to eat,” you say, “since Goldfish crackers aren’t particularly healthy in the first place.”
No. How incredibly wrong you are.
The obvious solution is to feed her pink crackers, which deliver all the nourishing cheese, salt, and carbohydrates of normal Goldfish, but with an extra dose of pink food coloring. One reviewer notes that they “taste and smell weird,” but we’re guessing that they’re just intimidated by the snack’s raw feminine energy.
Get this instead: Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks don’t contain any artificial flavors, synthetic colors, or high-fructose corn syrup, and they’re perfect as an afternoon treat.
They’re also gluten-free and vegan-friendly, unlike many gummy snacks, and because they’re shaped like little rabbits, they’re totally gender neutral. Plus, they taste good—that’s got to count for something.
14. Remember, parents: It’s never too early to start enforcing an unhealthy body image for your child.
This adorable little onesie says, “I hate my thighs,” and we don’t really have any jokes to sum up how it makes us feel. The joke, we suppose, is that babies don’t have the necessary knowledge of abstract concepts to actually hate their thighs, but they might hate their thighs if they were old enough to understand that baby thighs are naturally chunky.
Look, it’s not a great joke, and it really doesn’t land. It also appears poorly printed. Don’t get this romper.
Get this instead: We looked through dozens of baby rompers, and there are some pretty horrible ones out there—most of which are unnecessarily gendered. For instance, take the “If Your Dad Doesn’t Have A Beard, You Really Have Two Moms” onesie.
Ha! Get it? Because manly men have beards! We’ve got friends who have to shave in order to do oil rig work, and we’re sure that they’d love something like this.
Fortunately, there are plenty of decent choices. This unisex romper has a sloth on the front, and it’s adorable.
The product description notes that it’s appropriate for “floor walking, playing, sleeping, [or] casual wearing,” so it’s ready for anything a newborn would be able to throw at it. Most importantly, it won’t ruin all of your baby pictures with outdated stereotypes.
15. Most ballpoint pens are totally unacceptable for women.
That’s why women have so much trouble writing things down; who can bear the incredible heft of a normal pen for more than a few seconds, at the very most?
Maybe that’s why Amazon users love BIC for Her, a series of ballpoint pens with a “sleek pen silhouette and jeweled accents.” It also features a “soft contoured grip for all-day comfort,” as opposed to the gruff, sandpaper-like grips found on other writing utensils.
“These pens make me feel so feminine and desirable,” one reviewer wrote. “I can barely keep the men away when I’m holding one of these in my dainty hand. My husband has started to take fencing lessons just to keep the men away.”
Get this instead: The Pilot V5RT is the best-kept secret of…uh, people who use pens. It offers a smooth, skip-free writing experience, and the clear casing lets you know when you’re running out of ink.
It also features an extra-fine point, perfect for writing romantic poetry, scheduling gynecological visits, or doing any of the other five or six things that women do with pens. Oh, and guys can use it, too, we suppose.
16. It’s a well-known fact that fish respond better to properly gendered fishing poles.
This “ladies’ telescopic fishing rod” features some of the best product description text we’ve ever seen on Amazon. Our favorite line (we corrected the spelling, but left the grammar as-is):
“It is very important for professional fisherman is that have a suitable fishing gear. It is same to women. Here is suitable weight and size fishing pole for ladies fishing starter. Perfect gift for daughter’s birthday and Mother’s Day.”
Well, we’re certainly sold! It’s hot pink (of course) and it comes with a variety of lures, but unfortunately, no matching fingernail polish.
Get this instead: The NetAngler rod and reel kit comes with a high-quality telescoping pole, lures, line, and a cool carrier case. It has a power-drive gear, so it’s a decent choice for ocean fishing, and its carbon-fiber materials are both light and durable.
Be warned: If fish see a woman wielding this pole, they won’t go anywhere near it. Fish are pretty old school (pun intended).
17. This is probably the soap the mad men on Mad Men used.
Duke Cannon’s 10-ounce “Big American Brick of Soap” is out to Make Soap Great Again. It “smells like productivity” thanks to a hin of menthol and built-in exfoliants. “Why buy a dainty bar soap when you can buy a manly brick?” the manufacturer asks.
We can’t rail against the hypermasculine language too much, since a portion of the proceeds for each bar benefits U.S. veterans, but if you’re feeling emasculated by a typical bar of soap, you probably need therapy.
Get this instead: We’ve got nothing against Duke Cannon and his big, burly, American bar of ultra-productive soap, and given that it has excellent reviews, you can go ahead and pick it up if you’re so inclined.
A less expensive option is Kirk’s Original Coco Castile soap, which is hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and free from synthetic detergents.
18. Sometimes, you have to read the product description closely.
If you’re trying to avoid conventional deodorants, mineral salt sticks are a decent alternative. They help to deodorize sweat without blocking your sweat glands, and they’re completely free from aluminum chloride, parabens, and fragrances.
Crystal Deodorant offers separate products for men and for women, and as far as we can tell, they’re identical in almost every way. Their women’s deodorant comes with a purple applicator with a picture of a woman applying deodorant to a man, for some reason; the men’s deodorant has a black label, and shows the same man applying the deodorant to himself (while marveling at the size of his bicep, because men! Grunt, grunt).
Get this instead: But both are available in 4.25-ounce two-packs, and both have a single ingredient—natural mineral salts. The big difference is the price: The men’s version is $6 more.
Guys, get over yourselves and order the purple version. Otherwise, you’re just wasting money. If you’re really bothered by the idea of applying a “women’s deodorant,” you can have your girlfriend apply it while you marvel at the size of your bicep.
20. Looking for a healthy snack? Eat nuts—but eat the manliest nuts you can find.
Uh, we probably could have phrased that differently. Anyway, this “men’s trail mix” contains almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, hazelnuts, raisins, and dried cranberries.
We’re not sure what’s particularly masculine or feminine about that mix, but the word “MEN” is written in enormous blue letters on the box.
Get this instead: Raw Superfoods trail mix is less expensive, and it arguably features a better variety of snacks: Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, organic goji berries, organic goldenberries, organic white mulberries, raisins, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Grab a handful, then get back to doing manly stuff. Or womanly stuff. Or anything—it’s just a trail mix.
21. Organize your finances while looking at pretty floral graphics.
We’re guessing that someone at Mead came up with the “Organize-HER” pun, then decided to create a product around it because there’s really nothing overly feminine about this budget planner other than its pink/purple cover and flowery graphics.
Men, if you learn one thing from this list, we hope it’s this: It’s okay to like flowers. Flowers are just the exposed reproductive organs of plants—they don’t make you less of a man.
Anyway, the Organizher is a comprehensive financial tracker with a lot of stellar features. Its product description, on the other hand, is pretty patronizing:
“Being a mom is a full-time job. You’re the queen of budget tracking and meal planning, juggler of multiple schedules and deadlines, and an all-around miracle worker.”
We should note that this expense tracker doesn’t magically turn you into a mom when you buy it. In fact, it’s perfectly fine for single people—there’s a single column that tracks kid expenditures, but you can always use that to monitor your video game budget or anything else.
Get this instead: Actually, go ahead and get the Organizher. It’s a really decent expense tracker, and it’s only gendered via flowery graphics.
We use one in the office, and it works really nicely; in fact, we kind of dig the big, flowery designs. Inside, it has pockets for receipts and bills, and it’s laid out in a simple, effective way. If anything, it’s proof that gendering high-quality products only restricts your audience—it doesn’t change functionality at all.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got tampon receipts to organize.