Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Special Discrimination

As anyone who has ever known me would attest to, the two overwhelming character attributes that define who I am are that: (1) I am a big fan of breakfast cereals and (2) I am an ardent champion of gender equality. This is why I take particular exception to the overtly sexist, female only bias that Kellogg's Special K cereal has gradually taken over the last decade.

I have been a long time fan of Special K cereal growing up. I found its mildly sweetened rice flakes to be an agreeable median between the oppressively bland austerity of Corn Flakes and the sickeningly sugary decadence of Frosted Flakes. All through my childhood I do not recall any particular gender bias by the cereal. In fact I found the the minimalist white box with its lack of marketing copy or pictures of anything other than the cereal to be the paradigm (along side the even more severely bare bones Product 19) for neutral cereal packaging.

However, somewhere along the line, the marketing wizards at Kellogg's started focusing the brand at women, particularly women looking to lose weight, and it has been nothing but copy about dropping jean sizes, female empowerment, and pink upon pink upon pink. Suddenly eating a bowl of Special K felt like smoking Virginia Slims (also what's up that? Why is it "a woman's thing" anyway? Is it laced with estrogen or something?) You want a Special K challenge? Try to find one male face on the entire Special K product website. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not going off on some chauvinist Tim Allen "Last Man Standing" rant. Healthy diets and girl power and breast cancer awareness are all positive things but why is Special K exclusively about them. I think some women would raise eyebrows if Raisin Bran suddenly started putting Maxim-esque cover models on their boxes and carried coupons for men's watches and promoted increased prostate cancer awareness.

Additionally when did eating healthy become the near exclusive purview of women? Lord knows I could stand to lose a a jean size or two. Sure there's the whole unfair pressure of society on women's body sizes and all but at the very least they're eating things that are relatively good for them like Special K, poop inducing Activia yogurt, and anything with the word "low fat/low carb". Men are generally marketed things like Hungry Man Dinner, which seem intentionally designed to kill us.

This really goes to my main point that, while things like fashion and medicine and certain types of art maybe be gender specific, food most definitely should not (especially delicious lightly sweetened corn cereal with weird unholy bits of freeze dried strawberries in them). There is enough conflict between the genders already in this day in age, the least we can do it keep it out of the breakfast table.


  1. That Hungry Man nutrition label is the most terrifying thing I have ever seen.

  2. Still not the worst Hungry Man nutrition label I've seen on the internet.

  3. Sweet fucking Jesus. I stand corrected. THAT is the most terrifying thing I have ever seen.

  4. Thanks for this article, really.
    I'm a women, let's say feminist, and I also felt disturbed by those Special K cereals.
    I find Kellog's ads campaign very sexist, for both men and women. As a woman, they obsessively try to convince me that my only value as person resides in my weight and my appearance, trying also to attract me with stuff like lipsticks and various offers of beauty products. Maybe my life doesn't just stir around beauty, well?
    As a man, I would feel myself discriminated by a usually gender-neutral product which seems to be targeted only to women. Do not man have health concerns? Are there no men out there who want/need to loose weight/be fit?

    (Ironically enough, in my family is my husband who occasionally buys KSK, personally I find it far too sweetened.
    More ironic, they talk about 'loosing a jeans size, while it's well know that the most dangerous fat is not stored in the hips, but in belly.
    More more ironic, KSK has a nutritional value which is not very healthy itself, if compared with other breakfast cereals, at least the one I find here in Sweden).

    So, thank you again for this article, at least I'm not the only one who has such thoughts about these products.