Strong & Powerful Or Glam & Gorgeous: How Shower Gel Got Sexist

photographed by Brayden Olson
Women are notoriously required to pay more if they want to buy "feminine" (read: pink) versions of products, and the so-called "pink tax" has become common knowledge in recent years. Brands like Boots and Tesco may have taken steps to abolish it and consumers are increasingly aware of the problem, but new research shows that women are still paying up to 35% more for basic toiletries, from razors to deodorants and moisturisers.
It's not just sexist pricing that refuses to die – sexist advertising also remains rife and it's an issue that's back in the news this week. 49-year-old Philip Green, a father of two daughters from Hertfordshire, accused Radox of sexism on Twitter after spotting the difference in how it markets its shower gels to men and women.
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"Hi @RadoxUK," he tweeted, alongside a photo of the brand's shower gel 'for men' that features a range of gendered adjectives typically used to perpetuate heteronormative masculinity. "FYI my wife and daughters are sporty, heroic, powerful and strong. Won't be buying your products until the 'men' is removed from these labels. @sainsburys please stop selling them," followed by the #EverydaySexism hashtag.
While the brand said on Twitter on Monday that it would be taking Green's considerations into account for "future labelling and launches", a company spokesperson rebutted his claims of sexism, telling MailOnline: "'We have a wide range of products available, that can be used by both men and women, and that meet a variety of different needs."
However, when you consider the adjectives used to describe the other half of its range ("gorgeous", "glam" and "bubbly"), it's difficult to see how this wouldn't simply serve to bolster stereotypical gender norms. Radox is far from alone in this though. Can you imagine a man being used to advertise shampoo in the same way that Herbal Essences used women? The brand's now-infamous TV ads showed women virtually orgasming from its products and painted a bizarre picture of female sexuality.
It was only last month that a US razor company became the first to take the (supposedly bold) step of showing a woman shaving actual hair as opposed to an already silky smooth leg, as if the first women only sprouted body hair in 2018. And we can't ignore the scrupulous way sanitary products have long been advertised – without a drop of actual period blood – suggesting there's something off putting about the way the female body (and, er, the continuation of the human race) works.
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But at least the likes of Billie (the brand behind the razor ad) and Bodyform, which became the first brand in the UK to ever show realistic period blood on TV last year, are pressing for an end to sexist advertising, and the issue has escalated beyond individual brands, too.
Advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Agency announced that it would be banning "harmful gender stereotyping" from this year, finally acknowledging the obvious truth that such ads "can contribute to harm for adults and children by limiting how people see themselves, how others see them, and potentially restricting the life decisions they take." And what a relief, because who really has the time to simulate an orgasm every time they wash their hair?
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