Monday, March 15, 2010

Wake up and smell the roses

The other night at soccer, when we started to break into two teams by choosing pinneys, we noticed that they hadn’t been washed from the week before. Gaak! Putting that thing on unwashed is akin to jumping into the trash compactor in Star Wars. I don’t stink that badly when I play do I? I guess I do. My husband, who smells me when I come home from soccer, assures me that I do. No one thinks it’s them, of course. One of the guys, Jason, even joked: I must be wearing Steve’s jersey from last week, cause I know I don’t stink this much.

But naturally, as a woman, I am supposed to glow, not sweat. Yeah, riiiiight. When I play indoor soccer, I bring a towel with me to mop up my face when I’m on a break, because this sweaty Betty sweats buckets. People like to buy into this notion though, those same women who convince themselves they’ve had exercise when they’ve spent part of hour lying on a mat, barely moving, while they do yoga (I know I am going to get in trouble for this); the ones who falsely compliment each other on their outfits- those women, the ones who like to pretend, are the ones being marketed to. Especially with deodorant. And, interestingly, I discovered that while men can buy deodorant, presumably to hide the smell of their sweat, women cannot. We can only buy anti-perspirant. It’s as though the whole idea of women exerting ourselves in the first place is repugnant. But deodorant or anti-perspirant, whichever you wear, I went to the drug store and wrote down all the scents I could find for men and women. Here is the list:

Smooth Blast
Pure Sport
Pacific Surge
Game Day
Aqua Reef
After Hours
Wild Rain
Arctic Ride
Cool Wave

Radiant Silk
Smooth Cashmere
Energizing Grapefruit and Lemongrass
Nectarine and White Ginger
Cucumber and Green Tea
Refreshingly Floral
Raspberry Burst
Wild Freesia
Sugar Plum
Rose Petal
Water Lilly

Look at this list! Who are we? I am ashamed to be a woman sometimes. How come they get “Stride” and we are stuck with the perhaps delicious but still sickeningly sweet “Nectarine and White Ginger”? I can’t be the only person who thinks Raspberry Burst sounds like gum. Must the Pacific surge for men only? Don’t they know women play sports too, and they might not necessarily all love to smell like flowers and foods filled with antioxidants? My husband, who is a writer and an intellectual, and whose exercise routine mostly consists of pacing back and forth, pulling on his beard while deep in thought, gets to buy “Game Day”, when the only game he’s probably played in the last twenty years is a few stressful matches of Go Fish with the kids.

Now, I’m no student of feminist theory, but it’s not difficult to see that in the armpit world, men get the powerful images of ocean and athleticism, and women get the delicate flowers on fragile stems and easily bruised fruit. The world loves binary opposites such as black and white, hot and cold, big and small – and this idea suggests that there is always an exact opposition at work – but must men and women be marketed to in this way? I’m no marketer, but I can think of some examples of situations in which women are very powerful:
- Bunting.
- Book clubs.
- Childbirth.

Now bunting, if you play mixed slo-pitch softball, that’s one of the most powerful tools in a woman’s arsenal. Men are not allowed to bunt, but women are, and when there is a runner on first base, and perhaps even third base, and less than two outs, and a woman is at bat, she should play to her strengths and bunt. Why? Well, the throw to first base from the catcher or pitcher will almost surely put her out. But that’s just one out. And the runner from first has moved to second, which is officially in scoring position, and the runner from third base may likely have run home by now, scoring. Stay with me here. Had she batted normally, there’s a big chance she may have hit into a double play, getting herself and that runner from first out. And women are typically followed in the batting order by men, who can typically bash the crap out of the ball a lot farther than we can, and then more runs come in. We get to influence the score in a very positive way when we bunt.

Book clubs are powerful for women too. Since Oprah revolutionized the book industry with her own book club suggestions, as dodgy as they may sometimes be, what has come out of this is a realization that women read many, many of the books out there, and so more books are being written for women, or perhaps even by women. And the books that women buy and read, the popular ones get made into multi-million dollar movies, get the picture. And once you’ve joined a book club, there’s a sense of entitlement that after work you need time away from your household chores and duties to read your book for the club, see, and that you should be allowed to get together once a month and drink way too much wine and talk about the book and sometimes lots of other stuff.

Next, childbirth. If you can think of another more powerful image for women, I’d like to hear it. We utter guttural moans and pace back and forth for hours in labour, until we produce human beings.

So, women can be powerful too. Can we translate these powerful ideas to the deodorant marketers? Can we make them admit that women might like to perspire, and then perhaps lightly cover it up, as men do, as opposed to pretending it doesn’t happen at all? Probably not. Imagine women’s deodorant named the following:
- Bunt to Avoid the Double Play
- Book Club for the Body
- Push
I just can’t see it happening. Well, maybe Push with Cranberry Extract.......


  1. Snarky comment: Why not Push with Placental Extract? On second thought, that would probably only work for marketing anti-oxident, anti-aging wrinkle cream...

    Non-snarky comment: YAY! I'm *so* happy to see you do this! (As I type I'm grinning in the idiotic way that only people I love and Jonathan Coulton songs can make me grin.)

  2. You always put a HUGE smile on my face! (I'm all about the PUSH deoderant btw)!!! Glad you've started a blog, I'll be following ... !

  3. So true. Defineitely "Push" - no extract.

    Looking forward to the next instalment.

  4. Hey soccer mom, no one is prohibiting you from buying and using men's deodorant. All that stuff is unisex. Men, on the other hand, risk alternately amused and pitying looks when they dump Floral Secret into their shopping carts alongside the spare ribs and magnum-sized condoms.

    PS - I think Lady Speed Stick makes a deodorant for the fairer sex. Just FYI.

  5. Thank you all for your kind comments. And Jim, I did look at all the Lady Speed Stick and I still can't find any deoderants marketed to women - only antiperspirants - however I found a new 'scent' which has a better name: "Urban Cool". It smells exactly like raspberry gum.