After walking out of my sociology class on a Thursday evening, I realized how most things in every aspect of our lives are gender polarized. By gender polarized, I mean the organization of social life around male-female ideals, influencing every aspect of our lives. For example, toiletries at supermarkets are separated into male-female categories. We generally don’t give that much thought into these socially constructed and categorized products, as they seem to be ‘natural.’ However, these are socially constructed in order for us, the consumers, to learn the expectations of being a male and female. In a sociological perspective, they are agents of socialization: the process by which we develop a sense of self and learn the ways of the society in which we live in. The male-female categories of toiletries may also be commercialization of gender ideals: the process of introducing and marketing products for consumers to achieve masculine and feminine ideals.
In order to investigate more into commercialization of gender ideals, I went to Shoprite Supermarket. Toiletries such as shampoos, deodorants, soaps and even hair dyes were categorized by gender. Most products were advertising and promising the consumers to achieve femininity and masculinity. Since the sales depend on buyers, they would convince the consumers on buying products that play on their insecurities that would conform their gender ideals. For example, on one of the male deodorants said, “ Stay dry, and stay focused on her.” In addition, masculine products and packages were color coordinated; male products were mostly in bold colors such as blue, green and black, whereas, the female products were in light and feminine colors such as pink, yellow and purple.
One major theme I noticed while taking pictures was how the manufacturers are trying to create new markets especially for the males, as the female market is flooded with all kinds of product. This is because the amounts of money females spend on toiletries and cosmetics have reached its limit. Therefore, searches for new products for males are emerging in the market. However, one major issue for marketers is to ‘masculinize’ feminine products. For instance, on the package for a hair dye for men said,” only for men” with an image of a masculine male.
Toiletries are only one example of gender polarization and separate male-female categories, ideals and spaces. This social construction is instructive as it serves to be an agent of socialization and teaches us how to be a male and female.