“GENTLEMEN, it’s time for us to be done with women’s cleaning products,” suggests the website for Hero Clean, a line of American products aimed at men that Elizabeth Sweet, a professor at the University of California, Davis, came upon while shopping in California. “No more pastel bottles with puppies, babies and dewy meadows.”

Only a tiny group of products merit distinction by gender. “Anything meant for your genitals,” says another gender expert, Lisa Wade of Occidental College. Yet needlessly gendered items are proliferating. Q-TIPS now offers “men’s ultimate” cotton swabs for men whose earwax would overwhelm ladylike swabs. A firm in California called Daisy Rock hawks hot pink sparkle-coated “girl guitars” to women. Banana Boat, a sunscreen brand, sells black bottles of sun lotion to men who can’t touch its less masculine orange packaging.

There has been a huge shift towards gendered marketing since the 1950s when even beauty products were often gender-neutral, says Ms Sweet. One theory is that because men and women are increasingly doing the same things, such as attending the same universities, doing the...Continue reading