Dark Side of the Aisle

20 February 2017

There’s a lot to be confused about in today’s world. The government’s doing something wrong, the environment’s doing something science-y, the economy keeps acting up. Despite all the mystification, when we enter a store and are faced by the aisles all uncertainty fades away. No more confusing shades of grey on these shelves, just two colours: pink and blue.  

For decades now the advertising industry has been making our lives easier by clearly specifying which products are for which side of the gender binary. Is the product pink, with flowers, butterflies or feminine font? Then it’s for girls, silly! How about if it’s black or navy, with hard angular lines and a sports-themed label? Duh! Definitely for boys!

But what if we could look beyond the packaging, to the product inside? After all, beauty is only skin-deep. As a female, with a bathroom full of pastels, beautifying scrubs and ‘sexy’ scented deodorant, it was time to cross over to the dark side. Or, at least the side with darker packaging. So I armed myself with three men’s products to put to the test. The task? Cleaning my feminine self. The results? Varied. The ride? Wild.


Product One: Dove Men+Care 2 in 1 Fresh Clean  $6.75

I was already familiar with this brand, owning several Dove products in pearly white bottles. But never like this before – goodbye girly white, hellooooo masculine silver. The description on the back of the bottle only increased the feeling that I was in a whole new world of toiletries: “Smokey BBQs. Muddy Pitches. A hot day. Men relax their way.” Maybe there was something to this advertising after all – as a woman these things didn’t seem particularly relaxing to me.

Bracing myself, I lathered up. The shampoo itself looked familiar, white and opaque. It foamed up just like any girly one would do.  While using it, I was overcome by an unfamiliar scent – this was no fruity or floral smell – this was menthol. With a mild craving for a cough lolly, I rinsed my hair.

Had I MAN-PROOFED my hair, as the bottle had promised? My hair both felt and looked no more man-proof than it did after my regular shampooing. Was my hair adequately cleaned, albeit slightly less shiny then usual? Yes!

Final Score: Three flexing biceps out of five

Product Two: Old Spice Swagger Body Wash $7.49

We’ve all seen the Old Spice ads – the “look at your man, now back to me” plea for men to stop using “lady-scented” hygiene products.  Of course any self-respecting man would run screaming (in an athletic, masculine, completely non-fragile way of course) from any smell from the wrong side of the gender binary. Smell like a man, man! I couldn’t wait to find out what sort of man I would become after using the body wash.

Squeezing the bright red bottle, the body wash itself oozed out in a lurid blue. It reminded me a little of bubble bath mixture. Smell like a bubble bath, man! The smell was fairly inoffensive, and after using this product my body felt exactly as clean as it has after literally every single body wash that I have ever used.
Final Score: Four mid-strength beers at the footy out of five  


Product Three: Norsca Men Instant Adrenaline $4.50     

Ah, deodorant: the completion of the essential hygiene products trifecta. My own relationship with men’s deodorant is perilous – a single whiff can induce flashbacks to year eight corridors perpetually foggy from clouds of Lynx Africa. Needless to say, as I stared down the flashy black and green can, I was nervous.

“Whether it’s taking it to the extreme in the outdoors or a high pressure deadline that makes your adrenaline pump…” the can read. No, Norsca, it’s the mere thought of spraying my soft, meek female pits with you that makes me sweat! Despite my foreboding, I liberally applied the deodorant and set off on my day.  

Number of sweaty pits: Zero

Number of induced flashbacks to pubescence: Countless    

Final score: Two and a half power tools out of five


Reflecting on my experience, I’m certainly cleaner, but am I any wiser? Each product I used was aimed exclusively at men, and each seemed very similar to what I use on a daily basis. The products claimed to cater to certain ‘masculine’ traits, ones that it was assumed I did not have. Don’t get me wrong, each did the job satisfactorily. But maybe it’s worth thinking about an industry that tells us so much on how to look, smell and even act based purely on our gender. At the very least, it might be worth spending a little more time choosing a product that actually is best for you, instead of one that just looks like it is.  


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