As someone who lives her life treating gender like it’s merely a suggestion (because it is), I’ve grown quite accustomed to the way that marketing loves to divide the world up in order to trick us into giving them maximized profits. While my life history has made me perhaps more keenly aware of it, I’m hardly the first to notice, or even to break down why it happens. What I can do, however, is provide you with some examples of some ways that shoppers of any sex and gender can cut costs by cutting through gender roles.
A new addition to the slate of seemingly unnecessarily gendered products this year: sunscreen. Banana Boat has recently launched the all new Banana Boat For Men. This is apparently to combat the waves of sunburned men who have refused to use a product as girly and effete as Banana Boat Sport? I guess I find it hard to believe that there are legions of lobster-looking bros out there who have been adamant that they’d rather get skin cancer than put on any of that chick stuff, but apparently Banana Boat is banking on the idea that there are. Or more likely, they think that by creating the solution the problem will start to exist. All I know is I’ve been to plenty of beaches and I’ve never heard anyone complain about sissy sunscreen.
As an experiment, I went to my local CVS Pharmacy and picked up a bottle of spray-on Banana Boat For Men and Banana Boat Sport. Notice that the “For Men” bottle costs $12.49, while Banana Boat Sport costs $11.29, even though both are SPF 30, water resistant for 80 minutes and both six ounces. The only noticeable difference in the two bottles is that the metal on the For Men spray feels heavier. I left the store and sprayed the For Men bottle on half of my body, and the Sport bottle on the other half of my body. The For Men version boasts that it has “Triple Protection,” a misleading label that implies it is more heavy duty. If you look at the bottom of the label, like most sunscreens, it provides UV protection and hydrates the skin, but also boasts “odor protection.” At first, I thought that maybe Banana Boat had somehow mixed in some sort of body spray and that this was the big difference between “Sport” and “For Men,” but upon smelling my own skin I could discern no noticeable differences in regards to the smell on either side of my body, just the typical coconut scent found in most sunscreens.
Also, as much as I’d have loved the fun visual of my body being half red and half not, both seemed to handle their SPF the same way. Of course they did, because upon further inspection it turns out that both bottles have exactly the same ingredients, in the same order, even the same percentages of active ingredients. The logical loop here is that Banana Boat For Men’s real target market are not “tough” guys but actually insecure men who need the word man on their products in order to feel safe using them. Basically, if you’re man enough to need a men’s sunscreen, shouldn’t you also be man enough to not care what color the bottle is?
The fact is, when it comes to the battle against that giant, yellow, radiation emitting orb, “manning up” will cost you at least $1.20 more. It’s best to stick to the Banana Boat Sport. Or better yet, buy from another brand that hasn’t yet launched their gendered counterpart, or even the store-brand knockoffs which tend to be almost identical anyway. Or just lock yourself indoors and never set foot in the sun. It’s cool, vampires are super hot right now.
Rye Silverman is a writer and comedian based in Los Angeles. Rye has been seen on the Fusion channel, is a contributor to the Huffington Post and runs a blog about style, pop culture, and gender called Chick Like Me.