Mina Green: Pepsi’s ‘Snacks For Women’ reinforces the history of sexism in public spaces

The Doritos debacle highlights the damage caused by micro sexism, writes Mina Green

Published 13th Feb 2018
Updated 13 th Feb 2018

Stuffing crisps into your mouth in a local park has now become an act of feminism.

Pepsi’s CEO Indra Nooyi’s comments regarding a Doritos product concept have recently gone viral.

In an interview on the Freakonomics radio show Nooyi suggested that the company has plans to create ‘lady-friendly’ Doritos that will be smaller in size than the current product, make less of a crunch and fit into a handbag.

Nooyi claims women prefer snacks that make less noise in public and allow more elegant consumption.

In the interview with Freakonomics radio Nooyi said: “When you eat out of a flex bag - one of our single-serve bags -  especially as you watch a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth, because they don't want to lose that taste of the flavour, and the broken chips in the bottom.

"Women would love to do the same, but they don't. They don't like to crunch too loudly in public.

"And they don't lick their fingers generously and they don't like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavour into their mouth.”

When asked by host Stephen Dubner if they were considering male and female versions of the crisps, Nooyi responded: “It's not a male and female as much as 'are there snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently?' And yes, we are looking at it, and we're getting ready to launch a bunch of them soon.

"For women, low-crunch, the full taste profile, not have so much of the flavour stick on the fingers, and how can you put it in a purse? Because women love to carry a snack in their purse.

"The whole design capability we built in PepsiCo was to allow design to work with innovation.”

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Though Pepsi has since confirmed that they aren’t moving forward with their ‘lady Doritos’, conveniently claiming it was all a mistake after receiving backlash on social media, the comments made by Nooyi can’t be ignored.

The idea that women don’t like to crunch too loudly when eating in public or lick Dorito dust from their fingers ‘with glee’ like men do implies a social meekness that accompanies femininity, that god forbid we quaff crisps in public and lessen our chances of finding a husband.

And though these comments received widespread criticism on social media, and thus can be easily be dismissed by people who find the gender politics surrounding deep fried corn snacks slightly perplexing and irrelevant, especially amidst bigger issues surfacing in feminist waters, such as the #metoo movement, comments like these from an international corporation influence our culture surrounding gender performance and archaic notions of femininity.

These small and seemingly trivial instances of sexism have a domino effect, leading to more concerning social conditioning that can’t simply be ridiculed on social media in order to be completely stamped out of society’s subconscious.

Implying that eating or making noise or expressing oneself as a woman in ordinary human ways in public is anti-feminine is the kind of idea that informs other behaviours for women when navigating the public sphere, behaviours that often must revolve around the needs of men.

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Some examples include urban planning designed around men and their work with transportation constructed in such a way that negates female safety.

The amount of space that a woman is expected to occupy in public is also starkly different to her male counterpart, evident in the previously normalised and now challenged issue of ‘man-spreading’.

So is what we are allowed to wear, since girls are sexualised in school and sent home for wearing outfits that are too distracting for boys, while women in work are told to wear heels or face being let go, proving that what we wear is more important than our education and careers.

Not only are we now confronting the idea that women must shrink themselves in public spaces, and challenging the notion that our appearance is more important than our character, but we’re also stating that we reserve the right like to inhale Doritos on the train like a starved lumberjack.

The current socio-political landscape is being uprooted and fresh terrain is being laid by defiant hands, hands belonging to both men and women who refuse to swallow out-dated ideals.

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By rejecting these kinds of gendered products we can emancipate women from censorship in public spaces and everyday life, and that’s why it’s important that we challenge instances of micro-sexism, to cultivate a society that allows women their voice, their snacks and their humanity.

• Mina Green is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in Glasgow

Mina is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in Glasgow. She’s written for a myriad of UK and US based publications including Little White Lies, Refinery29 and The Establishment, penning features, reviews and interviews surrounding food and drink, music, pop culture, film and feminism.
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