WALMART is generally getting some pretty great PR at the minute for the planned introduction of their women-owned logo, which launches in the US in September and will inevitably make its way across the pond, so hats off to them for what I guess can be considered as a successful campaign. They want to get talked about. They want to be perceived as forward-thinking and female-friendly by the average shopper, who spends perhaps around 5-10 seconds per product choice in their store. They want to hit those headlines, in an in-it-together, all-mums-on-board kind of way. So, mission accomplished.
What wasn’t in their objective list, no doubt, is actually to do something which will empower women. Or, in fact, any of their customers. They are not looking to really give their average customer, be it Joe or Jane, any kind of credit whatsoever, make anybody think twice about the hazy, grey world of sexism and prejudice or bring two genders even a smidgen closer to that elusive equal balance. This state of society does not affect Walmart’s bottom line, but they believe that acting upon their recent findings will. Therefore, they are framing it in the most sugar-coated way they can to pull the wool over the eyes of the watching world.
Here’s the ‘facts’. Walmart has conducted a survey on males and females aged between 18-34 years old, the results of which apparently show that 90% of female respondents would actively prefer to buy a product over competing items if it was made by women or women-owned companies. From here, Walmart logically (and I use this term very loosely and not entirely without sarcasm) decided that they had to act, to empower women everywhere with this incredible knowledge.
Subsequently, this fall will see the introduction of their new ‘women-owned’ logo on products made by companies that are at least 55% female owned. The logo itself resembles a circle of women, with their arms around one another. Because, that’s right ladies, we need to look out for each other. Sisters are doing it for themselves and Walmart really cares.
From what I’ve seen, this ground-breaking range will consist of the likes of lingerie, condiments and disinfectant products. Now, of course, the product selection is bang on because women love underwear, cooking and cleaning, amirite? Riiight – but let’s give Walmart the benefit of the doubt here and assume that there are more products. Things which are slightly less stereotyped, perhaps basic groceries like eggs or bread or tech products.
I still don’t want to buy them because they are made by women. I certainly don’t want to buy them because they say they are made by women. Now before people get up in arms about this, I’m a feminist. I vote, I work and I own my own bank account. But I don’t buy products based on the genitals of the people who make them. In fact, I’m not sure that’s a very ‘feminist’ thing to do at all. I think it’s a bit of a bloody stupid thing to do. A much better buying criteria, one would think, is that the product is good value, high quality, fit for purpose.
The most frustrating thing is that this is promoted – and received – as an anti-sexism movement. It is positioned as though it will empower female businesses, promising that it will deliver benefits for female suppliers and customers alike. In actual fact, it could (and should) be argued that it patronises female businesses and customers, not to mention alienating the male demographic that walk through their doors. If a customer’s main reason for buying one product over another is the gender of the manufacturing company, then they should think again. This behaviour is sexist.
Putting a label on it, brazenly, to encourage women to buy from women, to ‘support’ women, is even worse. This is not supporting women, or equality, or business. This is purely supporting Walmart, in this case by taking advantage of everyone else duped into their chain.
A little trick can be employed to navigate the choppy, contested and often-deceptive seas of equality, feminism or whatever other names it is given, and clearly mark the bullshit from the bravery. What if the tables were turned?
With this in mind, what if there was a ‘men-owned’ logo on grocery store products, to encourage men to buy from other men. It would piss off a lot of people. It would be deemed sexist. It could even create quite a scandal, on a slow news day. The headlines, I’d argue, would be a hell of a lot less positive. But because women are still seen as the underdog, that’s ok. Hey – they aren’t really in competition with the boys, are they? Why not; let Walmart throw them a bone.
I hope that Walmart’s female suppliers have the sense and confidence in their business to want their customers to buy their products based on their merits, not their gender. I hope they realise that by adding that logo, they are slapping lipstick and a miniskirt on a bag of crisps. In terms of the customers, I hope they see through this silly and sexist campaign and show Walmart that gender has no place in business.
So thanks, Walmart, but no thanks. That’s why I don’t want to buy products made by women.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan