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Jane Walker whisky? No, thank you

What most of the advertising around International Women’s Day manages to wilfully ignore is that using it to sell everything from spa discounts to scotch is quite entirely antithetical to the principles of Women’s Day. The history of the suffrage movement is a history of struggle against exactly such stereotyping and patronising behaviour

editorials Updated: Mar 05, 2018 12:50 IST
Diageo plans to roll out a Jane Walker edition of Johnnie Walker for a limited run
Diageo plans to roll out a Jane Walker edition of Johnnie Walker for a limited run(AJohnnie Walker via AP)

In a misplaced attempt to woo women, Diageo has decided to launch a special edition of its Johnnie Walker brand just in time for International Women’s Day, featuring a female logo – called Jane Walker. This is another in the tradition of what has been called “pinking” of products to make them seem woman friendly (It was only last month that Doritos decided to make chips for women that would be in smaller packets to fit in a petite lady’s handbag and make less “crunch noise”, presumably so as to ensure that women could eat chips while remaining ladylike). Stephanie Jacoby, vice- president of Johnnie Walker in the US, was even quoted as saying that “scotch as a category is seen as particularly intimidating by women.” There appeared to be no explanation about how or why scotch would be more intimidating than, say, wine. Perhaps we should just celebrate that women are now important enough as consumers that even whiskey brands feel that they must appeal specifically to them to sell more cases.

What most of the advertising around International Women’s Day manages to wilfully ignore is that using the occasion to sell everything from spa discounts to scotch is quite entirely antithetical to the principles behind it. The history of the suffrage movement is a history of struggle against exactly such stereotyping and patronising behaviour. There is also the small point of how many brands use gender stereotyping as an excuse to simply raise the price of a product that is packaged for women. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs in 2015 conducted a study of gender pricing; and found that out of nearly 800 products that had different versions for women and men, in every industry products designed for women cost (on average) 7% more, without necessarily having any features that were different, except for packaging.

For there to be real change, some of the things we need to talk about this International Women’s Day are the problems with such gender-based marketing, the gender pay gap, the lack of women in decision-making positions in all industries, and the pressures of conforming to heteronormative ideals of gender. Let’s raise a toast to that.