The XX Factor

Ladies Only: Butt Wipes

Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Julieanne Smolinski at xoJane has a question: Why do the ads for Cottonelle butt wipes only target women?  Are we really to believe that only women desire freedom from fear of skidmarks and dingleberries?  Why wouldn’t a man be interested in having the manly exit ramp be equally clear of obstruction?  After investigating the situation, Julieanne determines that this is yet another in a long line of ads that imply that women are especially dirty creatures who need to go that extra mile so we don’t stink up the joint with our lady filth.  This strikes me as a good analysis of the situation, but I have a few more theories as to what drove these marketers to advertise this presumably gender-neutral product strictly to women.  

Theory #1: Purses. I’m looking at this product and feeling this isn’t something you just keep around your home base bathroom.  After all, should you have a particularly unpleasant bout with Number Two at home, your shower is right there to help you return your crack to its pristine state.  No, this product is something you have on the road, when all your best planning fails you and you find yourself face-to-face with scratchy, public restroom toilet paper and a desire to get out of the bathroom quickly before anyone figures out that you’re doing more than powdering your nose.  While both men and women probably have this situation crop up periodically, only women have a cavernous bag with them where they can fit the solution.  Purses probably explain 50 percent of what causes marketers to decide a gender-neutral product is a lady product.  I’d bet travel tissues are advertised the same way.  

Theory #2: Sex.  Anal sex has grown really popular amongst the straight people of America.  However, when I say “anal sex,” I mean sex involving lady anuses.  The final frontier in the bedroom is still straight-man-crack.  Marketers have to know women are exponentially more likely to have someone paying close attention to their exhaust pipes some time between taking a dump and being able to have a thorough shower, and so that’s who they’re treating as their target audience.  

Of course, this may just be part of a larger advertising shift towards primarily addressing women in all poo-related capacities.  Women are most of the characters in toilet paper commercials, fiber commercials, digestion drug commercials, and of course, women are basically all the characters in yogurt commercials that promise their product will help make the plate-to-toilet process that much easier for you.  Of course, why that is probably requires another in-depth examination of advertising prejudices altogether.