Encompassing over half the world’s population, yet still a mystery to the other, women continue to baffle the minds of marketers. Traditional 20th century advertising showed women in domestic roles, from preparing dinner for their husbands to opening a ketchup bottle all by herself! Although it may seem like we’ve come a long way, marketers still rely on these tired sexist stereotypes today. From Mitt Romney’s “binders of women” to the very idea of mansplaining, women are always on our minds. When done correctly, brands like Nutella are able to leverage an almost unanimous female approval (even with the ladies of ISIS). But with a recent emphasis on the spectrum of gender, is it still appropriate for marketers to categorize everybody into just two boxes?
Men’s Health learned last week that even its male readers are sick of the same, lazy assumptions about the opposite sex. The publication tweeted a link to an article titled, “The secret to talking sports with any woman.” The article, which has since been deleted, was a lazy attempt at gaining some male comradery with the same old “Women: can’t live with them, can’t live without them” trope that dates back to the time of Erasmus. Aside from taking their editorial advice from a 15th century Catholic priest, Men’s Health neglected to consult recent data that proves that increasing numbers of women watch sports. According to Bleacher Report, more women watch sports regularly (62%) than soap operas (42%). Also, fantasy football is becoming increasingly female, with a jump of 462,000 up to 6.2 million between 2012-2013. Not surprisingly, Cover Girl has embraced its brand as the “beauty sponsor of the NFL.”
During the two-hour period while the article was online, @MensHealthMag received more than 4,800 mentions, with an overwhelmingly unanimous negative sentiment. The magazine tweeted an apology and deleted an article, but some of the best retorts remain online. This article is discomforting, especially coming from a publication with “health” in its name. Even Deadspin sports poked fun at the mag’s gaffe, with the headline, “Women Hate Watching Sports, Says Men’s Health Magazine.”
With an increasing number of women casually watching sports and getting involved in a fantasy football league, Men’s Health missed the opportunity to create something revolutionary. As more women openly embrace sports, the real competition will be seeing which advertisers can keep up.