Smells ‘n’ Such

I’ve always had an irritatingly strong sense of smell, but whatever the heck it is that’s been going on with my body these last few years has only amplified it. I’ve become hypersensitive to scents and sounds, especially “unnatural” ones. Because unnatural smells and sounds are sort of a major part of the world we live in, I think about them a lot.

Why are scents gendered? Why is anything gendered, but specifically: who decided that a guy shouldn’t smell like vanilla or citrus and instead decided that they should smell like “43 pistols firing simultaneously” or “a bear and a dragon sword fighting in an auto shop parking lot”?

If you smell like a fruit or a baked good, or even just the rinsed-away essence of your shampoo, the chances of me staring at you like this decrease exponentially.

I know that a huge part of gendered marketing comes at the expense of women. It’s hammered into our impressionable young skulls right off the bat that we should probably stop aging or changing in any way at around 16 years old, because the only way anyone will ever love you is if your face and body show no indication that you have ever experienced life.

It’s improving (slowly), but when you stop to look at what companies own the brands we consume, you’ll realize it could be corrected fairly quickly since they’re all owned by the same corporations.

That same company that recently started embracing body positivity and encouraging women to love their own skin (by purchasing their products, of course), is owned by the same people selling products that tell men that the only way to be a man is to be surrounded by 12 identical young women who are bringing him food and pampering him on command because he spritzed a new Truck Scented cologne on his neck before he walked in the door.

And it’s the consumption of this kind of media from an early age that tells us that it is both normal and encouraged to be like this, which means that a lot of people get very upset if you imply that food and beverages and scents and clothing and cars and sports shouldn’t be gendered. Is your son going to be any less of a man because he changed that doll’s diaper, Richard, or is he just going to be less annoying than you?

But on top of just being ridiculous and toxic, the way products are marketed to men vs women makes absolutely no sense.

My shampoo and conditioner cost $25 per bottle, each. I actually don’t think that’s too wild, since it lasts me several months and is specific to my hair type and the copious damage I do to it regularly, and also it smells nice. But it’s just shampoo. It is for my hair. The rivaling men’s subscription box “shower bundle” includes a 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner and a body wash for a whopping total of $14. They have different smells. They have different purposes. Why are they so much less expensive?

The aisles upon aisles of beauty products directed toward women are obscene. This 81-flower blend is formulated specifically for the square inch of forehead above your left eyebrow. To use, massage into the skin in a counterclockwise motion exactly 7 times or you will be ugly and smell bad.

Meanwhile, the one, much shorter aisle for men, is filled with multipurpose cleansers that all smell like sharks or flaming gasoline or the inside of a rifle. This 36-in-1 shampoo/conditioner/shaving cream/body wash/aftershave/stain remover/degreaser/paint thinner/adhesive contains six times the testosterone in each use than you will ever see anywhere else in your life!!!!

What does a shark smell like? Why did marketing companies decide that’s what men want?

the shark doesn’t like it. leave him alone

But the thing is that it shouldn’t be considered “feminine” to want to take care of your hair/skin/body/appearance. .Self care is human, not gendered, and removing all of the little biases is the first step in removing the big ones. Your shampoo that is also a conditioner and body wash and blinker fluid is probably not all that great for your skin or hair. On the flip side, you don’t need 63 different products to have a healthy epidermis.

If you want to keep using your 36-in-1, go for it. If you want to keep using a different lotion or potion for each section of your body, same to you. The idea that the number or flavor of soaps that we use has anything to do with the wild spectrum that is masculinity and femininity is truly bizarre.

And don’t even get me started on “man buns” and “man bags” or adding “man” in front of words that are considered typically feminine so that it becomes “okay” for men to use them. It’s a bun. It’s a bag. On the other hand, we use phrases like “girl boss” when women do things that are perceived as typically masculine – like being a supervisor or a manager or just a boss. The words and descriptors that we choose to use do matter, and do add up to a much larger picture.

i hope you are enjoying your man soup at your man table

If a guy wants to listen to Taylor Swift and have a real good cry in his car, he absolutely should. If a girl wants to watch a superhero movie without having to reiterate every version of the comic it’s based off of verbatim, that should be a given. I’m tired of this narrative that women liking something makes it inherently feminine and therefore “lesser” or bad. I’m tired of every female-centric movie being immediately dismissed with “I heard it’s not that good” or “it’s a chick flick” when it’s literally just as campy and weird as the first Ghostbusters movie, my dude – not everything has to be a cinematic masterpiece to be quality entertainment.

Mostly I’m tired of the idea that things have to be one way or another to be good or acceptable for anyone. Let people enjoy things. Go compliment your best friend, smell a flower, watch the 2016 Ghostbusters and stop fighting tigers in a gun shop to get your signature scent.

isn’t it though?


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