Brawny, maker of extremely manly paper towels, has recently hopped aboard the gender-swap bus for International Women’s Day by switching the iconic once-mustachioed Brawny man with a lady. Not that the Brawny man — who lost his pornstache in 2003 — is going anywhere. He’ll just be sharing the spotlight with some awesome ladies as part of Brawny’s #StrengthHasNoGender campaign.
To kick it all off, Brawny released this video, which is actually pretty inspiring for something that advertises a product you use to mop up coffee or scrub at mystery stains in the bathroom, showcasing awesome moments for women in history intercut with general female badassery:
A trip to the Brawny site showcases four more videos with four incredible ladies from different backgrounds. There’s Swin Cash, a WNBA star; Linda Alvarado, the CEO of Alvarado Construction; a firefighter named Maureen Stoecklein; and the dean and president of the Morehouse School of Medicine, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, who is also the first woman of color to hold that position.
All these women are kicking ass and making names in fields regularly dominated by men, and they represent not just white women, but women of color, who have been sorely underrepresented everywhere, and not just in the high-stakes world of paper towel marketing. Dress them up in red-and-black flannel, and they’re just as brawny or brawnier than any lumbersexual to have ever graced the Brawny paper towels packaging.
The only thing is, they won’t be gracing the packaging. They’ll feature prominently across social media and on Brawny’s website, and that’s awesome, but you won’t be able to buy anything with a Brawny woman on it, and that’s actually a damn shame.
For years marketers have tried to sell ladies things by being condescending to us. There appears to be two types of ladies who use products: exasperated harridans with idiot families who make messes, and women who find the act of slowly wiping up spills, bleaching shower mold and dusting bookshelves so enticing as to be practically orgasmic.
Both are laughable, if only because what the Harried Shrews and the Ecstatic Hausfraus have in common is that they tend to clean in their Sunday best, which no one has done ever. Equally amusing — though in a laugh-till-you-dissolve-into-tears sort of way and not a funny-ha-ha kind of way — is how marketers occasionally stumble upon the idea that “hey, maybe women aren’t big idiots who want to watch caricatures of themselves clean in heels” and then act modestly surprised that it works.
If movies like Frozen and Mad Max: Fury Road teach us anything, it should be that there’s nothing groundbreaking about depictions of strong ladies raking in the dough. People want to see what they aspire to or consider themselves to already be — CEO, superhero, firefighter and lady who sprays freaking ice crystals from her palms. They don’t want to see something that makes her still unbalanced and under-recognized share of unpaid work look like a joke or a funny inevitable quirk.
Overall, cracking the tough nut of “selling crap to women” doesn’t seem to be that challenging of a task. Marketers want to make money. Women want to see actual women on TV and not mythical, spineless she-beasts who have little recourse when their fictional spouse — the equally insulting Idiot Baby Man — spills an entire jug of milk on the kitchen island other than to shake her head sadly and clean it up for him just like Mommy used to do.
Do both. Flip the script as Brawny has done by declaring what we’ve all known for ages — that #StrengthHasNoGender — and it’s more than possible to make boatloads of paper without insulting the people you’re hoping will give it to you.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below: