On Gender Roles and Gendered Products

Today I received a package from Sephora I had been expecting, containing some foundation I wanted to try. Sephora also does this cool thing where they give you three free samples with every purchase, so I selected some sample perfumes and added them to my cart. One of these three perfumes was “Versace pour homme,”which basically means that it’s Versace for men. So I sprayed some on my wrist and it smelled so good that I considered investing in a bottle of it in some point in the future. But then I starting thinking about how annoying it is that we gender perfumes. It’s not only for men. Anybody who likes the scent can purchase it. But this is just part of a bigger issue. Our society so strongly feels the urge to gender everything and make a clear distinction between what is “for girls” and what is “for boys.” Because god forbid a guy bought a razor “for women” he would instantly become emasculated. And oh how sad that would be, to be compared to or even be considered a girl.

The social conditioning of gender roles and gendered products is literally introduced into our lives since birth. Boys get wrapped up in blue blankets, and pink is exclusively for girls. Little girls are urged to play with dolls and wear tutus and become obsessed with Disney princesses. Boys should play with hot wheels and Leggos and try out for the little league team. And it’s not as if this behavior and way of thinking is innate. It is learned behavior and ideology. Five-year-old girls don’t have this innate sense to play house or want to be a ballerina when they grow up. We are taught this through observation and guidance. No one ever questions if their little boy prefers pink or blue. It’s just not an option. Fathers automatically assume that their daughter doesn’t want to play catch because she is female. Never giving her the opportunity to decide whether or not she likes sports is what continues this cycle.

And of course people will tell me to not care so much, that it doesn’t really matter. But it does. It shapes the way we view men and women, the way we stereotype, and assume these roles solely based on gender identity. I’m a woman and I like “men’s cologne”. I like dressing comfy and not giving a shit about appearing as a “proper lady”. I’m also gay. But I wear makeup and jewelry. I’ll even occasionally wear stilettos (although that is usually reserved for weddings). What it means to be a man or a woman is not determined through how the media dictates what we should wear, buy, do, or even look like. That is something entirely up to the individual. And I am certainly including transgender folks in this argument. They should not be required to “pass” as a certain gender in order to be respected. Surgery and hormones cost a lot of money, which many trans people don’t have. And someone’s biological make up should certainly not determine their worth, i.e. the overpowering and smothering patriarchy. And of course if you are someone who fits into these specific gender roles that is perfectly okay. There is only a problem if it is not your choice and is forced upon you throughout your entire childhood and adult life. So if you are looking for any rolls to choose in the future, I’d go with sushi.


Author: Catherine Caruso

Writer of words. Lover of dogs.

42 thoughts on “On Gender Roles and Gendered Products”

  1. Apparently the gender colour thing only came into societies values in the early 20th century – before that everyone wore what ever. Personally i love seeing males in pink!

    1. Yes, I learned this not too long ago as well. I don’t like pink (well, maybe fuchsia) my favourite colour is red.

  2. Great post! It all is quite ridiculous. Thankfully I am now liberated from all this by virtue of identifying as Agender. Nonetheless, everyone should be free to wear, play with or behave in a way that best reflects who they are without regard to gender.

    1. Exactly! I didn’t talk about non binary genders because a) most people have no idea what that is and b) there aren’t really any prescribed roles. Thanks for reading

  3. I was thinking the other day (after I saw a picture of Jayden Smith in a skirt) that there was a time when women were considered blasphemous for wearing trousers. Maybe in time it will become just as accepted for Western males to wear skirts. But as the mother of two boys, I have to disagree with you slightly on it all being nurture, not nature. A lot of it is. The majority of it is. But there are differences between sexes and some of that stereotypical behavior can be innate. I fought against that notion when my first son was born. No blue, only neutral colors, gender neutral toys etc. Despite all of that, by the time he was crawling he was already obsessed with wheels (stroller wheels, bus wheels, whatever wheels he could find). By four he was turning sticks into weapons (and that was something I actively discouraged rather than not just pushing or introducing). I guess my point is that yes, it’s very important not to label by gender and not to assign meaning or value judgement by gender, but that we also have to take into account that just because males and females (whether you’re talking sex or gender) are different, doesn’t mean that they should be confined or judged or discriminated against because of that. So you’re right–why does a perfume (or cologne–different words even) have to have the words ‘for men’ on there? At 10 and 7 now, they almost never say something is for girls or boys–if they do, they immediately get a lecture from me–plus a lesson in women’s history thrown in for good measure ;-).

    1. Well yes there definitely are people who fit into their assigned gender role for the most part without much help from society. But I’m glad you’re taking that approach with your sons.

  4. I loved your article !!! I believe the younger generation will help change how the older generations set things in stone ! It would be nice not to have preconceived notions about a persons gender.
    Lets also add color,ethnic background and religion.

  5. There is also the matter of species. I met a woman who doesn’t like people ~ but I like her. So I’ve become a rabbit. Now we get along fine… You think?

    1. Haha. Funny! But you shouldn’t have to change so people will like you. I think you should become a person again. There are definite perks to being human. Like pizza. Rabbits can’t eat pizza.

  6. Very interesting post! I grew up with brothers, and was quite a “tomboy.” However, it was very clear to me early on that there were designated roles for boys and girls, including what they could and couldn’t wear. In our modern society, these distinctions are promoted largely to feed consumerism and increase product sales.

  7. Agree completely. I’ve always worn what I wanted to wear and I shop in men’s and women’s departments. If someone doesn’t like it that’s their problem. I agree about the perfume and cologne as well. I love Polo for men, it’s all citrus and fresh scents. Great post and I’m with you all the way.

  8. I agree with this post. I think it is too exhausting for one to worry about how they appear to others–whether they are living within specific gender stereotypes. I think people should be who they want to be and ignore those who make a big deal about it. I really don’t understand why certain activities, fashion, etc. has to be reserved for certain genders.

  9. 30 years ago people were complaining about enforced gender roles, and I thought things may change for the better, but then the Spice Girls came along with their pseudo-feminism and millions of little girls took to proving that they were more degenerate than their male counterparts, and thought that by doing so they had achieved sexual equality.. All they were really doing was rebelling against the stereotyped female image, instead of finding out who they really were.
    And much of what feminists had achieved was instantly wiped out. Parents went straight back to pink and blue, to Barbie and Action Man. Sickening!
    My dad taught me carpentry and building as a child. At school I wondered what was wrong with the other girls and why they never climbed trees. Nobody told me that boys were meant to play football while girls had to talk to dolls and do weird stuff with make-up.

  10. Hi rejectreality101. At the end of the day we are human whatever form we choose to be. Each should be treated equally is my attitude to this short life. Thank you for liking my poem Route! Peace and Best Wishes. The Foureyed Poet.

  11. Another great article on something that I personally feel very strongly about! The gendered nature of society is exceedingly frustrating to me as a straight male who loves to wear what is traditionally considered “female” clothing. It never ceases to amaze me how absolutely focused society is on the gender or perceived gender of an individual, and whether or not they are adhering to their assigned gender role.

  12. I’m convinced that very little about who we are, what we like, and how we act is defined at birth by our sex any more than it is by our size, shape, or color—never mind by the philosophical, political, religious, or social beliefs of those around us! We just are who we are, and outside forces gradually try to reinforce or change any aspects depending upon whether or not they’re deemed ‘right’ by *others*. Who we are, I think, changes over our lifetimes as well, but how much we get to simply grow into who we are over that time and how much we do adapt is determined both by our own will and choices and, unfortunately, those imposed on us like that pink-blue silliness.

    When I read great posts like yours I’m simply reminded how fortunate I am that both my partner and I were raised in environments that allowed us to embrace the inner selves that don’t fit any prescribed gender, race, religious, or other roles perfectly at any given time. Great material for meditation here!


  13. Growing up I drove my mother crazy, I never liked anything girly, I loved playing with trucks and animals , not dolls. I too like comfy clothing though I am not gay. I try to look at a persons heart not the clothing or the labels tha have been stuck on them .

    1. Exactly! It’s sad that so many people can’t see past the labels and societal expectations

  14. Well said. I agree with you completely. From birth we have gender rules shoved down our throats on the basis of what genitals we have, and it shouldn’t be that way. Children’s ability to like colors, toys, sports, and they way they interact shouldn’t be based on their gender.

  15. I’ve read about this in sociology before but you put it so eloquently. I completely agree with you. A lot of people grow up unable to define who they are because it goes against what society expects them to be and keeps trying to shove down their throats. Gender is just one example, but a pretty big one. The cologne thing is interesting; my mom likes to wear old spice deodorant and my dad wears dove. I don’t know how that got started, I guess that’s just what works for them. I can’t lie though, I saw a guy in a skirt once and it took me completely by surprise, like my brain didn’t know what to do with the image. I think if more of us had the courage to do something like that, then with time, we’d get used to it and think of it as normal.

    1. I had the same experience when I saw a guy in a skirt. I was a little taken aback, but I didn’t have an actual problem with it. These things just need to be normalized.

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