After my breakfast of Special K and Activia, but before my two-Luna Bar lunch, I sat down with a cup of Mother’s Milk lactation tea and reached between my legs to make sure the balls I was born with were still there. Yep. Despite two weeks of eating food made for women, my body hadn’t changed at all.
When I began my exploration of gendered food items, I was hoping for a dramatic payoff. Perhaps a set of fuzzy breasts sprouting from my chest, or some semblance of emotional intelligence, or at least a clearer understanding of how cereal, salad, and trail mix can be feminine. Instead, I got a pile of cardboard packaging and confirmation of my thesis: marketing something as “for women” -- the pinks and purples, the low-calorie labels, the suggestions that life is just sooooo crazy and women need to take a break with a thumbnail-sized brownie -- is the dumbest gimmick in food marketing.
You’re no doubt aware of Luna Bars, which have been around for 16 years and say right there on the wrapper that they’re a “whole nutrition bar for women.” A handful of other products, including Mother’s Milk tea and an untold number of chalky bars, take a similarly explicit approach. They’re typically fortified with extra calcium, vitamin D, or other nutrients ostensibly important to running a woman. But most of the food products that are “for women” stay away from mentioning nutrients. Like Activia and Special K, they’re pitched with ads full of women, touted as a convenient way to “have it all,” and always framed as a weapon in the never-ending fight against fat.
Why is this strategy (or, as my wife calls it, “the bullshit I’m subjected to”) so dumb? Because at best, even when these food products are fortified, the nutrients are seldom present in “enough quantity to actually do anything,” an expert said recently. And at worst, they minimize half the population by constantly calling them fat and turning them into a species that requires its own type of food.
Numerous women have already done better takedowns of "food for women" than I could have (see here, here, and here). But could they run this stuff -- and nothing but this stuff -- through a man’s digestive system for two straight weeks? Of course not. That’s where I came in.