Bite me: The gendering of food leaves a bad taste in my mouth

Karlee Johnson

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Did you know that I can’t drink Dr. Pepper because I have a vagina? It’s true!

Dr. Pepper Ten is only ten calories because it has managed to convert the other 90 calories found in an ordinary Dr. Pepper into testosterone. That’s where that bold flavor comes in. The ad campaign for Ten, which hasn’t had much of a follow up since its provocative beginnings last year, is pretty clear in its message: ladies, don’t go near this stuff (Seriously, don’t try it. It tastes like action movies and sports and other things women don’t like. It’s actually not possible to digest unless you have a Y chromosome).

If you needed anymore warning, the spokesman at the end of the commercial will be happy to enlighten you: “It’s not for women!”

We see food gendered in the media all the time (only women eat yogurt, you know), but most of what we see is much more subtle (read: subliminal).

How did Dr. Pepper so miss the mark? Seriously, who are they trying to appeal to? Maybe because I’m so clearly not their target audience I just don’t get it, but I find it hard to believe that any man watching this commercial is thinking, “Here, here! Now that’s the drink for me! Those ladies should get back to their pocket books and knitting needles and stay away from my manly diet soda!”

This is a different kind of gendering of food than I’m used to. According to the gospel of Carl’s Jr., only men and hot women like fast food. While Carl’s Jr. has no doubt been the reigning champ of objectification in food commercials over the past few years, they’ve recently taken a different approach through transparency.

“We believe in putting hot models in our commercials,” preaches the generic, absolutely realistic female Carl’s Jr. employee. “Because ugly ones don’t sell burgers.”

Thanks Carl. Now that you’re disclosing your advertising secrets with me, I can see that you respect me as a consumer. And because it was a woman telling me it was okay to objectify another woman, that’s just the affirmation I needed to keep chomping away in the name of corporate meatiness.

If you thought eating was a man’s sport, you’d be wrong. Don’t worry, for there is a shining beacon that there is gender equality in the food pyramid. Its name? Chocolate.

Let’s take a cue from Dove Chocolate, a company who knows that it has an exclusively female clientele. Apart from the commercials that feature females creaming their pants (sorry, pant-ies) after just one bite of chocolate, Dove does this sweet thing of replacing your best gal pal, leaving an encouraging saying on the inside of their wrappers. “You go girl! You deserve this!” is actually Dove-speak for “Your ovaries need this, woman.” Finally, someone gets me! I needed the affirmation that, as a woman, I had earned the right to eat candy. Am I right, ladies?

Why did Dr. Pepper feel the need to reclaim men’s rights to diet soda? I don’t know. Nor did I think that right was ever taken away from them. While male body image issues should be taken seriously, delivering a message to drink diet soda in such a hyper-masculine way is hardly the solution. Women aren’t the enemy here; the enemy in this situation is the soda company that gives you permission, that thinks it necessary to affirm male consumers masculinity, in order to target them with their diet products.