Tag Archives: Shopping

Pinterest or Communism? Glass windows behind an Iron Curtain

The perception of Communism–particularly coming from the US, the global capital of red-baiting–is one of deprivation. Life under Marxist-Leninist command economy is miserable, repressive, defined by scarcity, and above all, drab. Those who could escape forced collectivizations had to deal with the more quotidian, grinding horror of state-enforced tedium.

That’s the message echoed in a title like “The Bleak Banality of Shopping in Communist Europe.” A piece that was recently shared with me by a fellow Amerikanka, the article highlights a new photobook, Window-Shopping through the Iron Curtain, detailing the lives of consumers within the Soviet bloc.

However, looking at the actual photos, it looks less like the hellish drudgery one might expect from Communism’s reputation. Instead of bleak banality, the photos look beautiful, in a very contemporary way. Shopping in Communism looks more like something out of one of Wes Anderson’s wet dreams. Continue reading

Advertisements

This Bulgarian yogurt for MEN is blowing my mind

Super macho yogurt is relatively new in America, but it’s already found a place here on our shelves:

IMG_0793

I wasn’t editorializing in the title, the promo literature puts MEN in all-caps. The Mars symbol in the E is their touch, too.

There are plenty of products that trickle-down this way, but this one is different. The marketing of yogurt is so different in the US and Bulgaria that globalization has put something on our shelves that’s even more absurd than yogurt for dudes is normally.

brogurt-rotator

Last year in the US, a company calling itself “Powerful Yogurt” released a product for men. You know it’s for men because it’s got macho things like contours of six-pack abs on the label and it comes in “man-size” 8-ounce servings. That’s two more ounces than regular yogurt, which is edible only to little titty babies. The black and red color scheme, steer’s-head logo, and announcement of its protein content make it look like an aluminum-capped cup of beef jerky, the macho-est food.

jacklinksimage2

Black/red! Steer’s-head! Protein! MEN!

In the last few years, marketers found themselves with a problem: men don’t buy yogurt. In the English-speaking world, yogurt has become the most feminine-gendered foodstuff, just edging out salad. Marketers spend billions of dollars getting women to fear being fat and steer them to low-calorie yogurt. Yogurt’s nutritional composition was feminized by linking it to the prevention of osteoporosis—just like it’s now being sold as a protein-rich food to make you swole.

Men are doing enough shopping these days that advertisers are scrambling to win them over with macho packaging, lest men be scared off by the femme motifs that dot supermarket shelves. Agribusiness marketing teams are victims of their own success, but they’re doing the best they can to butch-up the most feminine-coded product. Despite the snarky write-ups nicknaming it “brogurt,” it’s already working: just look (or don’t) at this Men’s Fitness write-up about how yogurt totally makes your balls bigger and helps you get chicks pregnant (tl;dr: scientists examine mouse nut to leverage anxieties about masculinity into yogurt sales).

Here’s the thing, though: in Bulgaria there’s no gender-stereotype associated with this product. Eastern European capitalism is interesting partly because it’s so new: marketing is less sophisticated to just such a degree that it creates a distancing effect. Since advertising is so new, they’ve missed out on a lot here–like the hyper-gendering of yogurt. Not only did Bulgaria never gender their yogurt, but yogurt is the most universal food in this country. It literally is: Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a world-famous strain of yogurt, is one of Bulgaria’s proudest achievements. In terms of national pride, yogurt ranks up there with the Cyrillic alphabet and the computer.

Most products don’t have an organic reason to exist, and probably a comfortable majority of things have been created to capitalize on fears inculcated in women. Look how shamelessly mad-men types invented the blue/pink color binary (in the 1940s) or cellulite (in the late ‘60s). MACHO YOGURT that’s NOT FOR SISSIES was invented to fill a niche that marketers created when they made yogurt too feminine. This product makes sense in the Anglophone context in which marketers made yogurt feminine in the first place. However, thanks to the wonders of globalization, it was plucked from America and replicated in Bulgaria. So now we have SUPER BUTCH yogurt here, for no reason. The weirdness of this product is a funny side-effect of globalization—but, then again, never underestimate the marketing power of overwrought appeals to macho bullshit.