Gender equality advanced just a little bit further this week, with the discovery of a yogurt marketed specifically to men. The website for Powerful Yogurt—nicknamed "brogurt" by Grub Street and the Atlantic Wire—exhorts aspiring bodybuilders to "find your inner abs."
Those of you who haven't spent much time reflecting on the sexual politics of fermented milk might not have realized that men needed their own yogurt brand. But as the aspiring Susan Bro Anthonys at Powerful Yogurt explain in a helpful infographic, normal yogurt is apparently just for women.
"Your wife and sister aren't the only ones who can take yogurt to work with them," according to the infographic. "Protein-packed Powerful Yogurt can help fuel you through your workday or even that pick-up game with the guys."
"Brogurt" seems unlikely to revolutionize yogurt consumption, but it is part of a broader trend that sociologist Gwen Sharp has been valiantly tracking at the blog Sociological Images: The proliferation of products that arbitrarily reinforce gender stereotypes, or try create new ones. For example, marketers have inexplicably determined that normal scented candles and tea bags are too effeminate for real men—so instead they've created candles scented "with a splash of motor oil" and a "T-Baggin Tea Bag" shaped like a pair of testes. Ear plug manufacturers have also decided that women and men each need ear plugs suited to their specific needs—which basically just means one set of pink ear plugs and one called "skull screws". Even Barnes and Noble is selling book sets of "classics for boys" and "classics for girls," because girls have no reason to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and boys should evidently steer clear of The Wind in the Willows.
Both market skeptics and market proponents will sometimes argue that the market has a way of dissolving old social bonds and prejudices—that all which is solid melts into air when exposed to rational market distribution. But the way these products reinforce gender essentialism suggests that the truth is actually a little more complicated than that.
While the market's ceaseless drive towards novelty sometimes erodes old social conventions (such as when the public relations genius Edward Bernays marketed cigarettes to women by linking smoking to the burgeoning suffragette movement), it can also reinforce them. Powerful Yogurt is a good example: Instead of trying to diminish whatever insecurity and ingrained biases keep some men away from "normal" Greek yogurt, the company instead capitalizes on it.