Doritos Are Indian women still in the grip of female stereotype behavioural regime?

Melbourne, February 27: Speaking to a podcast Freakonomics Radio, Indra Nooyi, who was installed as president and C.E.O. of PepsiCo in October of 2006, and became chairman in May of 2007, described that the manner of women eating corn chips was different to men.

“As you watch a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth, because they don’t want to lose that taste of the flavour, and the broken chips in the bottom”.

Nooyi suggested that it could be discomforting for women to engage in a crunchy consumption in public with another wicked craving to lick on the flavour of Doritos from your fingers.

“Women would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously and they don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavour into their mouth.”

Nooyi went on to add that PepsiCo was working on the ‘low crunch’ female-friendly version of Doritos leading to speculation that her company would soon release a product catered to female customers.

Although, she added that “It’s not a male and female as much as, ‘Are there snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently?

“And yes, we are looking at it, and we’re getting ready to launch a bunch of them soon.”

“For women, low-crunch, the full taste profile, not have so much of the flavour stick on the fingers, and how can you put it in a purse? Because women love to carry a snack in their purse.”

However, her comments of ‘low crunch’ were construed as a specific product being designed by Doritos that was in sync with the chauvinist lore of ‘girls should be seen and not heard.’

Australian comedian Kathy Griffin took offence at the Nooyi’s unsaid marketing ploy for women to not be heard. “This may seem silly to some folks but at one point or another most women are told that they’re too loud, take up too much space, that we’re too much,” she tweeted.

After Nooyi’s comments sparked a global backlash and accusations of sexism from women, Doritos was forced to officially deny that it would ever release a ‘female-friendly’ version of Doritos. PepsiCo responded, denying any such product would be released.

“The reporting on a specific Doritos product for female consumers is inaccurate,” a spokeswoman said.

“We already have Doritos for women – they’re called Doritos, and they’re enjoyed by millions of people every day. At the same time, we know needs and preferences continue to evolve and we’re always looking for new ways to engage and delight our consumers.”

India born, Nooyi did Management Studies at prestigious IIM Kolkata and went on to do her second master’s degree from the Yale School of Management in 1980.

While in India, she played cricket and was the lead guitarist in an all-girl rock band.

She joined PepsiCo in 1994 as chief strategist before going on to become its C.E.O. She now oversees 260,000 global employees and a snack empire that includes chips, juices, and Soda.

Despite her educational and well-to-do social background, she has ushered in a question – the question of gradual acclimation to and acceptance of the fact that women are traditional petite and feminine beings and need to be still seen as one.

In a conservative Indian culture, it is easy for this mantra to taken literally and without question. But coming from a forbearer of successful women in the so-called men’s domain, it is strikingly ridiculous – especially in 2018.

We thought, we were done with the stereotyped Indian women, when in 2013, Ford Motors in India were in branding mode with a new ‘“Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra-large boot” advertising campaign.

The flyer illustrated three women tied up in the boot of a Ford Figo driven by the controversial then-Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Ford campaign flyer that was never released in India
Ford campaign flyer that was never released in India

Although the campaign was never publicly released, but Ford apologised and said that the copy had been leaked by an advertising agency.

While many Indian women like Nooyi, have taken conspicuous leadership positions in professional and public life, but many still face challenges of tearing up the cloak of the traditional ‘seen and not heard’ womenfolk of traditional Indian society.

While families, husbands and brothers are beginning to recognize their status, status of women in modern India is still a sort of paradox – a territory that is yet to be succinctly explained and changed within the societal frame.

It is women like Nooyi, who can be role models against the chauvinist beliefs, attitudes, and experiences.

Nidhi Mehta

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