I stopped at a café about a week ago to order a coffee;
“Can I have a cappuccino please?”
“What size would you like?”
“The man-size one please…”
“Okay, that’s $4.70” the young girl replied with a smile.
“Oh, I thought they were $4.10”
“That’s the regular size.”
“That’s the one I want.”
“Oh, sorry, I thought you wanted the largest one.”
Now chances were if I continued the conversation I wouldn’t be allowed back in that place but I went with the “man-sized” reply based solely on the fact that the woman in front of me ordered the large one. I love coffee, that is for sure, but I’m weary of ordering those large ones unless I’m going to order a double or triple shot because when they add the milk, it weakens the taste of coffee. You might as well order hot milk. But I digress.
I wasn’t intentionally screwing with this young lady but was conducting a somewhat brief and once off social experiment. I guess I should have been wearing a hidden Go-Pro or holding up my smart-phone and recording it so it could go viral on YouTube, but that wasn’t the point. So what was the point?
Good question. Now I hate when someone answers a question with another question, but I have to ask (and this IS the point to this story), what is Man-Sized? Furthermore, who is allowed to use or consume a ‘man sized” item or meal?
Earlier this year Smith’s released their Maxx potato chips in Australia. I remember seeing the bill posters in my local shopping centre before seeing the television advertisement and one thing stood out to me like a sore thumb; that is, “stamped” on the packet is “MAN SIZED BAG”. So what size is a “man sized” bag of potato chips? The Smith’s Maxx Ultimate BBQ Ribs Crinkle Chips are in a 200g bag. That’s 200 grams.
And this was the television advert that they ran with;
If you watch that advert on YouTube you will see some comments left by viewers of it;
Now if 200g is a man sized bag, what size could women consume? It seems that somewhere between Red Rock Deli’s 165g and Kettle’s 185g you’ll find the sizes that are suitable for women to consume. Neither of these sized packets have the words “man sized” stamped on them. Even Smith’s themselves in their “original cut” potato chips have a packet that is 175g and it is not stamped “man sized”, so we know that women can have that size too.
I quizzed a bunch of women about these “man sized” packets of chips (showing them a packet of the Salt & Vinegar variety) and asked as to whether it’s offensive to them. I had a dozen replies including;
“I saw a giant bag of Salt & Vinegar chips and I was all over it. Didn’t even notice the “marketing”.”
“Not at all. I have more important things in life to worry about. And I could easily eat the whole bag (insert smiley emoticon)”
“Heck no. I love these chips. They’re my favourite and I don’t give a fig who they’re marketed to lol.”
“I could easily tackle a bag that size, only not Salt n Vinegar. Makes my tongue go funny….oh, and don’t give a rats that it is man size.”
“Mmmmmm chippies…. *wipes drool*“
“No. But it looks delicious. Oh god, I want chips now.“
“Nope, not at all! There’s lots of things more worthy to be offended about rather than a packet of chips. (And when asked if she could eat the whole bag) Probably, I’m a big eater.”
Well ladies, that’s fine and all but… please don’t eat from that packet; you are making me feel less of a man. You’re making us all feel like we’re not “real men”. Well, I jest, you know that, but…
So what’s the big deal with calling something “man sized” I hear you ask. To me it’s what it conveys. It is another thing that young boys have to aspire to. Are they man enough to eat this? This advert for “Man Up Mondays” wants you to prove your manliness by eating these meals.
But what if you can’t? What does that say to our boys and young men? Normally I would put a link to one of my previous posts in the hope that you’ll click it and read what I have written previously on a topic, but this time, because I feel it’s important for you to have some context in which I write this post, I’m embedding a whole section from my 7 Things We Should and Shouldn’t Say To Boys post. I want to talk about just one aspect of that article I wrote and it’s about this phrase;
“Be a man.”
This is what I wrote about that…
I have had a post about this phrase in the draft section of my blog for almost a year. I wanted to write about the use of this phrase after I heard a dad say it to his son. When I heard it I whipped out my phone and emailed “be a man” to myself so that I could write a post about it when next I sat down to write. And when that opportunity came, I felt overwhelmed. It’s a bigger issue than what a one-thousand word post could allow. So I kept it in my drafts hoping to do research into the effects of that phrase.
One link that I had embedded within that post was to Joe Ehrmann’s brilliant TEDx Baltimore talk from January 2013 entitled “Be a Man” where he states;
“I want to say it’s the three scariest words that every man received in his lifetime…”
I am looking forward to seeing the documentary by film-maker Jennifer Siebel Newsom which is called “The Mask You Live In.” The film is due for release in 2015 and I believe that it will be an important tool for raising boys in these days of social awareness where connecting with like minded people is only a click away, but it only takes the same amount of clicks to come face-to-face with cyber-bullies with antiquated views of how a boy should act, and how he should feel. I have embedded the trailer for the film below, or you can watch it with an introductory forward by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and an interview with her here.
You might just see this as a clever marketing ploy to get macho men to buy the large bag, or to get women who can step up to the plate and take on the men thinking “screw you chip making people; I too can eat this bag of chips”, but it’s more than that. This type of marketing puts the thought of what it takes to be a man into the already fragile minds of the modern young man.
From the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website based on data collected in 2010;
“Young men suicide at a higher rate than young females. In 2008, men aged 20-24 years were particularly vulnerable to suicide, with a rate of around 19 suicides per 100,000 males in 2008. This is a higher rate than for young men aged 15-19 years (around 9 suicides per 100,000 men) or for young women (3 suicides per 100,000 women aged 15-19 years and 5 per 100,000 women aged 20-24 years).”
So why are young men taking their own lives?
In the same report from the ABS, they reported that men aged 40-44 years had the highest suicide rate at just over 26 deaths per 100,000 males. Studies have shown that men in this age bracket have committed or attempted to commit suicide due to being unemployed. Many of the studies have shown that fathers who are unable to provide for their family due to long term unemployment feel that they are being less of a man and therefore they are depressed and become mentally unstable.
Many of the young men who commit suicide do so because they feel like a failure as well. It’s often that they are not strong enough or not seen manly enough by their peers. Or maybe that’s just how they see themselves. Maybe it’s all in their head.
It’s just like the negative body issues that girls and young women face. The reality is, many girls I went to school with or women I converse with now who don’t think they are beautiful are more beautiful than they realise. And many women in the media have jumped on this knowing all too well that the female of our species needs to take a step back and re-evaluate what beauty is and stop believing the lies that the beauty industry are telling them.
And now it’s time for the males in our species to hear that they are being sold lies as well. Maybe it’s time to ditch the term “man-sized”.
As a footnote I thought I would share with you this picture I found on the Internet of the Starbucks coffee sizes and how someone has corrected them to reflect normal terms for those sizes (although interestingly enough, what they’ve labelled as small is actually a “regular” or even “large” in many coffee outlets in Australia). The funny thing is though, even though Starbucks have these whacky sounding names for their sizes, I was shocked* to find out that Venti is NOT Latin for man-sized.
*I wasn’t really shocked. Latin for man sized is homo amplitudo. I’m not too sure Starbuck are progressive enough to call a size homo amplitudo.
So what do you think? Am I right? Do you think the term man-sized conjures up an expectation that men must go large or go home?