Have a box of tissues at hand before you begin reading this – but make sure you pick the ones for your gender.
First launched in 1956, Kleenex ‘Mansize’ tissues came with the tagline “confidently strong, comfortingly soft” or “strength you can trust”, depending on which pack you purchased. Sounds ridiculous, sexist, exclusionary and antiquated? We sure think so. After all, do men even need tissues? Do ‘real’ men even cry? The few that do probably wipe their tears or blow their noses with sandpaper.
In 2018, buoyed by social media furore led by a mother whose four year old son saw a pack of Kleenex ‘Mansize’ and asked her if “girls, boys & mummies use them?” – the company rebranded this product as Kleenex Extra Large. The brand’s parent company came forth to clarify, “Kimberly Clark in no way suggests that being both soft and strong is an exclusively masculine trait.”
It took them 62 years. Unfortunately, in solving one problem, they unwittingly perpetrated another – giving fuel to the fire that is men’s preoccupation with size. But that’s a topic for another day.
Gendered classification of products isn’t new. Companies have branded and marketed items that are of common use based solely on the gender binary. In this way, if you are a man you must purchase the blue version of the same thing that a woman may purchase a pink version of. God forbid you prefer floral patterns to checks, and pretty pastels to greys and blues. Not only is this kind of marketing extremely exclusionary to non-binary people but also bolsters the stereotypes typically associated with masculinity and femininity. Of course, companies do not stop there and no lines are drawn at simply branding and marketing. For instance, ‘feminine’ products and/or services marketed to women are usually priced higher than those for men, also popularly known as the ‘pink tax’.
If you’re feeling particularly masculine tonight, Kleenex ‘Mansize’ tissues are (un)surprisingly still available on Amazon for $11.98. Or if you’re looking to shatter gender stereotypes, pick up any tissue that isn’t rough on your nose. After all, that is the higher calling of a piece of disposable paper meant to clean, right? And that is all that should matter.