Are you the kind of person who likes to noisily tear open a bag of chips and wolf down its contents, enthusiastically crunching each wafer and licking the leftover masala off your fingers and, sometimes, even off the packet once the last chip is gone? Obviously, you’re not a woman. Women don’t do that. They don’t crunch loudly. Or lick their fingers. Or even like bag packets of snacks. That’s what PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi says; yes, the woman whom India is so, so proud of, and never misses a chance to claim as its own.
In a recent podcast on Freakonomics Radio (an American public radio programme that discusses socioeconomic issues for a general audience), Nooyi suggested that her company may manufacture a new line of Doritos (tortilla chips) just for women. Why? Because women cannot eat crunchy, noisy chips in public or lick the flavour left behind by the wafers off their fingers like men do. “As you watch a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag, they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth because they don’t want to lose that taste. ...Women would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public,” is what Nooyi said.
So what’s the way out, according to the CEO? Supposedly low-crunch, low-masala chips that offer ladies a delicately clean eating experience. That’s not all. Because “women love to carry a snack in their purse,” the chips will be poured into neat little packs (perhaps pretty in pink) that can fit neatly into our bejeweled batuas. While I’d like to believe that Nooyi was basing her comments on market research that shows men are more comfortable than women while crunching loudly and licking their fingers in public (obviously none of my female friends was included in the study), I personally find the whole idea of chips separated-and-sold-by-sex nauseating. Actually, why chips alone? There are already too many advantages that men enjoy. Do we now want women to feel that it’s not all right for them to even eat the same things as men? Next we will be stuck with ‘Biryani for Bibis’, or ‘Baby Laddoos for Ladies’.
Marketing history shows women don’t particularly want a special ‘lady’ version of any of their favourite products. Remember Scheu Analog’s pink diamond turntable for women or, worse, Gaudi’s rhinestone-studded, pink (but, of course) video camera which came with the quilting of a Chanel bag? The most derided women’s product offering in recent times, however, must be the pastel-hued ‘For Her’ pens launched by stationery manufacturer Bic in 2012. The ballpoint biros, in hues like lavender and the ubiquitous pink, were marketed as “elegant pens with a thin barrel” that were “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand”, and came in an “attractive barrel design.” The campaign bombed before the marketing ink had even died on the page. For now, let’s wait and see if Nooyi gets to have her chips and eat them too.