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11 September 2012

More Manly by Being Less Man

Weight Watchers is joining the gendering craze with Weight Watchers Online for Men:

Catchphrase: "Lose like a man!"

I was also told in a testimonial that "I can eat burgers and drink beer and still lose weight!" We've known for quite some time that conceptions of the body and beauty are highly gendered. I have memories of being told by female family members as a teenager that I looked thin and should eat more, even as I approached a BMI of 35, while my actually-thin teenage sister was encouraged to exercise and diet.

There is a great irony in what marketers are attempting to do with campaigns like that of Weight Watchers above. In trying to open markets for their products and services, companies need to overcome our gendered beliefs (e.g. weight loss is feminine), but instead of challenging this gendering, they reinforce it by marketing gender-specific versions of the same service/product. The big question, then, is whether redefining gendered expectations is more efficient than challenging them. My guess is that challenging would be far more economical in the long run.

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