‘A Bic For Women’

‘A ball pen essentially for women!’

This is (somewhat incredibly) the tagline of Bic For Hera range of biro pens that – despite the widespread online ridicule maker Bic came under for its heavy gender branding – are still marketed as being for women only.

Coca-ColaThe Amazon reviews for the Bic For Her range of pens found internet fame this summer as women relished the opportunity to hit back at what was essentially sexist stupidity. After all, this is a biro we’re talking about here. That’s being pitched as for women only. Yeah.

The lady-friendly pen, with its comfortable grip and available in a stylish pink as well as the standard blue and black cases, actually inspired comedian Bridget Christie to create the critically-acclaimed comedy show ‘A Bic For Her.’

Bic have unfortunately learnt the hard way that – in the information age – feminism, satire and in some cases absolute ridicule are never far away, and that marketing items that have little or nothing to do with gender identity to a specific group is a sure-fire way to attract mockery. But it seems Bic aren’t the only company to continue to market their products in this way…

A recent example I’ve noticed has been the Micropedi, which is being advertised heavily across the Channel 4 television network. The lengthy advert – which advertises a device for removing hard skin from the bottom of feet – suddenly changes towards the end of the slot, when the ‘Micropedi Man’ appears.

The only discernable difference between the Micropedi and Micropedi Man? The ‘male version’ is black, and slightly smaller. The function is apparently the same, and the fact is that until this add-on at the end of the advert, the product has not been gender identified in any way. This makes little sense to me, though I am fairly certain that somewhere in the country there will be a couple with two Micropedi’s in the bathroom cupboard – one For Him, and one For Her.

As a graduate currently working in a sandwich shop, I have observed that even among soft drinks there is a definite gender bias in play. Coca-Cola have seemingly cracked the gender-divided market without attracting ridicule. Coke Zero is marketed as a man’s drink, with advertisements featuring heroic men escaping from ladies’ bedrooms after one night stands, whereas Diet Coke is a drink for women who enjoy giggling in the office and ogling topless men.

Despite the fact that both of these drinks are sugar-free alternatives to traditional Coca-Cola – and there is some confusion as to what the difference between the two is - it seems a gender difference has been forced into the market. And it has worked – in my personal experience, men are much more likely to ask for a Coke Zero, and women will often choose an entirely different beverage if we’re out of Diet.

Despite it’s often apparent silliness, gendered marketing apparently does - in some cases – wield power. As with Coca-Cola, the world lets a lot of it slip by unnoticed, but thankfully the responses to products such as the Bic for Her are starting to show that there are switched-on, savvy consumers out there, quite willing to point out the garbage advertising forced upon us in the name of profit. Bravo.

Photograph by Jonas Nilsson.

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