Speaking of Women's Rights: DDP? RC? PC?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Let me just get it out of the way: I live in Seattle, and I don’t drink coffee. No, that’s not illegal; it’s just unusual. Don’t get the wrong idea, though: I am not caffeine-averse. Quite the contrary. My stimulant of choice is Diet Dr Pepper (or, as we call it around here, DDP).

So perhaps it’s not surprising that so many of my colleagues and friends sent me this article that describes Dr Pepper’s new advertising campaign promoting its new soft drink that is “too macho for women”. At first read, I was offended. "Here we go with more sex role stereotyping," I thought. For example, here’s how the packaging of the new product is described:

Unlike Diet Dr Pepper, Dr Pepper Ten has calories and sugar, and rather than the dainty tan bubbles on the diet can, Ten will be wrapped in gunmetal grey packaging.

Say, guys? Did you happen to notice that Dr Pepper has images of the seams of a football on the can, except when it has action figures from movies like “X-Men”? Not so very dainty or girly. Plus, I believe gunmetal grey was all over the Paris runways this season, so you’d better watch out for that high-fashion stigma.

To make it absolutely clear that Dr Pepper Ten is macho and male, there’s even a Facebook page that purports to be for men only, which includes an app that dispenses “man’ments” such as “Thou Shalt Not Pucker Up. Kissy faces are never manly,” and “Thou Shalt Not Make a ‘Man-Gagement’ Album. That is all.”

Of course my friends and I weren’t the only ones to take notice and even umbrage. There have been a number of articles dissecting the ad campaign as a reflection of the “mancession”, or as an indicator that the role of men in our society is under attack as never before: perhaps “corporate America (or its ad agencies) are attending to a male cry for help they’ve never heard before.” And as always in the world of marketing, there are analyses of whether this campaign will succeed better than Coke’s and Pepsi’s efforts to sell their products to men. Indeed, in the cut-throat world of soft drink commerce that is an important question.

After I received the articles from a fifth friend wanting to know what I, as an avowed feminist and advocate for women’s rights, and as a dedicated (not to say addicted) drinker of Diet Dr Pepper, thought of this, I sat down to try to figure it out. Was I offended by the stereotyping of men as avoiding movies with romance, or women not liking or understanding contact sports? Or, as Dr Pepper asserts in its press releases, was I simply amused, like so many other women? I am generally annoyed (if not enraged) by advertising campaigns that feed into sexist and racist stereotypes (please don’t tell me there’s a racism or immigrant element to this one; my brain will explode), so it seemed worth pondering.

Does this sort of thing harm women (or men, which is equally possible given the level of discourse)? Were all these articles and objections just political correctness gone too far? Are we reinforcing the notion that feminists and human rights activists have no sense of humor?

In the end, here’s the deal, at least from my perspective: It’s a SOFT DRINK, people. Consume it or don’t, but please, spend your energy on figuring out how to save our constitutional democracy, or helping Occupy Wall Street take its energy into policy action, or getting involved to stop global climate change, or fighting against real oppression of women.

I’m just sayin . . .