Picture of Asphalt with 'Men' and 'Women' sprayed into the ground with opposing arrows

Do Your Products Reinforce Stereotypes?

I don’t spend a lot of time in tourist shops. I visit one whenever I travel assuming all the rest carry a variation of products with the town/city/state/country name. The exception is Skagway, Alaska.  For the past decade, I have made an annual trip with my run team for the start of the Klondike Road Relay, arriving in town around 2pm and leaving around 8pm when our first runner takes off. In between that time, I stop off at the local bike shop and then help my teammate find gifts for her six kids.

This year the gifts all had the kids names on them–a key chain, a license plate, a necklace, etc. Browsing a carousel with hunting knives, I realized they only featured boys names. I pointed this out to my teammate who knew I was two seconds from feminist outrage. In my mind, this store clearly saw hunting as a boys-only activity simply because it did not feature any girls names on the knives.

And in Alaska girls are just as likely to hunt as boys. Trust me.

For the sake of my teammate, I withheld further commentary until we left the store, though I did note none of the staff appeared under the age of 65. Considering Alaska’s history, I can’t imagine that women hunted less when they were young, but who knows…

My teammate teased me as we walked out the door. “This is going to be a blog post, isn’t it?”

Still indigent about what I perceived as a sexist slight, I responded, “You bet it is.”

I have no proof that the boys-only product reflected any sexist perspective on the part of the store. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evaluate the products you carry and make adjustments where necessary. If you did your homework, then you should have a good handle on the ideologies of your target markets. Make sure your products don’t offend those ideologies.  At the same time, expect customers outside your target market to criticize you for carrying products that clash with their beliefs. You can’t please everyone. Just ask the Colorado cake baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple.

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